The Villages is a developed community that began in the early 1970’s by a Michigan businessman named Harold Schwartz.
It can look a little homogeneous, but everything from the lawns, roads, and golf courses is beautifully maintained. It looks a little like Disney World. And its all very affordable. You can buy a small 2 bedroom Villa for about $150,000 or a 3 bedroom Designer home for about $225,000. For those wanting more, there are custom Premier homes that go anywhere from $350,000 to $800,000.
There are two town centers in The Villages; Spanish Springs and Lake Sumter landing. They were built by the developer and each has a design theme.
During our stay we tried to take advantage of what The Villages offered. We took three dance classes (West Coast Swing, Country 2 Step, and Beginner Line Dancing) offer by The Villages Lifelong College. The dance classes were fun and the instructors were very good, but taking three classes each week sort of overloaded our brains when it came to remembering all the moves. Things tended to blend together when I’d do a Swing move while 2 Stepping. But we had fun and laughed a lot as we screwed up the moves.
Most everyone I met in the Villages was engaging and very happy. When you passed people out walking or saw someone in their driveway they’d always say hi or wave. With most people being retired and not having to work, I’m sure that was a factor. Being in warm lovely sunny place was probably another factor. And with most bars, country clubs, and restaurants having 2-1 drink specials all day long, that could have been another factor. I met 10-15 new people every week. All were engaging and nice folks. The people I met were great ambassadors for the Villages. A sample of a few of the memorable folks I met are described below.
There was Nancy and Mark who I met on the golf course one day. They have lived in the Villages for nine years and are in their late 60’s. I remembered Nancy because on the second hole I landed my drive in a huge sand trap. It took me three trys to get the ball out of the trap. When I finally got the ball on the green, she came up to me, stood in front of my face, and chewed me out for not following thru on my swing. “You didn’t follow thru on your swing. You just didn’t follow thru!!!” she said. I didn’t know what to say to this lady who was in my face giving me hell for not swinging my club right. Instinctively, all I could think was that I should say “Yes Mom, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”, but I just said “Yup”. I figured Nancy's motherly instincts had got the best of her when she gave me the advice and I now remember it each time I land in a trap. Nancy’s advice was sound; the ball does come out of the sand when you swing all the way thru the ball.
There was Jack and Marjorie who I also met on the golf course. Jack and Marjorie have been spending winters in the Villages for the past 5 years and had just bought a home so they could spend six months out of each year in The Villages. They play golf every day and both hit the ball very well. We were playing with another fellow named Doug. Doug and Jack were talking about retiring and Doug happened to mention something about being born in 1943. Jack stopped and looked at him and said “I graduated from high school in 1943!”. When I heard this my mind quickly did the math and figured out that Jack was 85. He didn’t look anywhere near 85 years old; maybe more like early 70. It made me think and hope that I’m out playing golf everyday when I’m 85.
I played golf with Eddy on a cold windy day. Eddy is a short stocky man from New Jersey. He has lived full time in The Villages for the past 5 years. Eddy is sort of a character and each time he spoke he sounded just like Joe Pesci. If I closed my eyes and listened to Eddy, I swore I was in the movie “Good Fella’s”. Budda Boom Budda Bing. It was a riot listening to him each time he said “I can’t believe it's so freaking cold!“ Eddy hit the ball pretty good and usually out drove me. He floored me when he said “Once I turned 70, my game went to freaking hell!”. Eddy was a good golfer and must have been really great in his younger years.
I met Barbara while I was eating lunch at the local sports bar watching the Patriots get beat by the Ravens. Barbara took the seat next to me at the bar crowded with Patriot fans. Barbara is a retired school teacher. She is divorced and has been living full time in the Villages for the past 2 years. Like most of the snowbirds in the bar, Barbara is a huge Patriots fan. I happened to ask her how she likes living in the Villages. She told me that once she retired, she was living alone and would spend most of her time indoors watching sports on TV. She said “Jim, in the winter I’d spend each week-end on the couch watching 4 football games and 8 basketball games”. “I came down here and now I’m in three golf leagues and play golf every day”. “I can’t imagine going back to my old life” she said. It was a great endorsement for The Villages.
I enjoyed my time in the Villages. It was a different lifestyle than I am used to, but one that I enjoyed. I was active everyday doing something. It was nice being able to spend so much time outside during the winter months. It was easy to get involved in any group or club. I learned some new things and constantly interacted with nice people. It was nice having everything so close and convenient. Oscar could take me anywhere I needed to go. I could walk to the library or supermarket in 10 mins. The local sports bar was a 5 min cart ride. I had six golf courses within a 10 min cart ride. If I wanted to play golf, I would just get on the computer and request a tee time. The local town square was a 15 min ride in Oscar. Most franchise restaurants and stores were nearby. The local pool was a 5 min walk. I could have overloaded myself with more activities and clubs, if I wanted, but the golfing, dancing, walking, and bike riding was enough.
The only downside that I perceived during my stay was that I spent most of my time on leisure type activities. It was fun for two months, but I could sense myself getting a little bored as we came to the end of our stay. I hadn’t picked up a hammer, cut a piece of wood, made an investment decision, or fixed anything in weeks and was getting anxious to doing something productive. By the end of our stay I was looking forward to going home but also looking forward to coming back next year.
Our neighbor, Tony from Wisconsin, told me that the worse day I’ll have in The Villages will be the day I leave. He was right.