Gators and lizards and bugs. Oh, my!
Greg and Vikki Winkler, a couple of relatively recent transplants from Wisconsin, have written a book about their experiences moving here and the adjustments they’ve had to make to the climate, the customs and the creatures.
It could be said they’ve had to climb a few hills. But, of course, Florida doesn’t have any hills.
They are, by their own account, Punta Gorda residents who are still saying, “Whew” – from escaping the cold north and the trials of assimilating to Florida.
The book, “Welcome to Florida (WTF) Our Journey to Paradise,” is a humorous look at their life in Florida. They got the idea by telling friends anecdotes about their experiences – Vikki’s run-in with fire ants, Greg’s unprovoked murder of a snake, his abrupt meeting with a well-landscaped mailbox, their séance at the DMV.
The friends told them they should write it all down. So, they did. And out came the book, just published by Newman Springs, 114 pages complete with a glossary of Florida terms in the back. Humidity is not in there; no-see-ums, is.
“We just started writing down things that happened,” Greg said the other day over drinks at the Tiki Bar in Punta Gorda. “It’s just little stories of different things that happened. We had no idea what a fire ant was. Vikki was the first one to get bit by one. She’s very allergic. She’s substitute teaching. She goes to class and her foot is oozing.”
Good thing it was just an ant.
“We call everything we do an adventure,” said Vikki, her foot healed. “We had these bizarre adventures. We talked to other people we met, neighbors from New York and other places. And they would tell us that this happened to them, that happened to them. They kept telling us we should write it down.”
Greg teaches at Florida SouthWestern State Collegiate High School and just finished his first season as the boys’ soccer coach at Charlotte High School. He also coached more than 20 years in Wisconsin. He wrote another book, “Coaching a Season of Significance,” and he offers his services on the internet as a motivational speaker (www.gregwinkler.net).
The book is “about fleeing the north,” Greg said. “The week that we left, we had three weeks in a row when the regular temperature didn’t get above zero. We had a week of 50-below wind chills. It was ridiculous. We were stuck in the house.”
The couple, who have four grown sons, seem to have gotten the hang of this Florida thing. They hang out at the Tiki Bar on Charlotte Harbor. He writes for Parrot magazine. They moved to Punta Gorda in July 2015, so they’re acquainted with summer. They were here for Irma, so they’re acquainted with hurricanes.
The gators, the fire ants, the left turns from the middle lane on 41, are all just part of life now. They’re a local couple who plan to do a book signing at the Key Lime Festival at Fishermen’s Village on May 11.
Is there a more credible stamp of assimilation than a public appearance at Fishermen’s Village?
“Now,” Greg said, “we’re outside in January. I ride my bike a lot. We love the beach.”