Video-chat with a Snowbird

March 4, 2012

My sister Glenda’s rapidly settling into life in central Florida, where she has rented a home and golf cart for a couple of months in a gated community. I decided to find out about Snowbird life by asking her about her electric vehicle (EV). She shouted answers into the screen of her laptop over a fresh breeze. To gain Internet access she parks her cart close to the clubhouse to pick up wireless reception. Spotting her online, I called her on voice, then switched to video. At that point Glenda stood up and showed me around the cart and the adjacent area with the camera on her laptop. She took great pride in reaching around the display to point out the little Canadian flag on her cart.

1. What services does the electric vehicle provide for you?

All transportation within the park, which means I cannot go out on the highway. If I could I would go shopping with it, but I can’t.

I go to everybody’s houses, to the pool, to open houses, I run all dreadful errands, like delivering grapefruit off my tree to those who want it, and I check out all of the houses for sale and nobody knows that I am doing it. Of course if I were a golfer the cart would be crucial. For me it’s just fundamental. There’s a difference. Sometimes I am challenged to a race by 80 and 90-year-olds who want attention because to them I appear young.

Yesterday was interesting. Connie and I were travelling in tandem and Carol turned out of a side street and cut us off. Three of us were stopped talking in the middle of the road on all different angles. A truck came along, so we pulled into Mary-Anne’s driveway and the renter came out to find out what’s going on, so before long we were all sitting in our golf carts, engaged in a four-way conversation.

Most people have a Canadian flag, sometimes teamed up with their provincial flag on their cart. I’m going to buy some Canadian paraphernalia at the Dollar Store for next winter.

2. In what situations does the EV do a better job than a car?

What I like best is that there are no noise or fumes. It’s very easy to drive. When all of the carts are lined up they take very little space in comparison to the car parking lot. There’s no privacy and so you can wheel up beside somebody and chat. An old guy this morning was taking his dog for a joyride in the rain. Dogs love their chariots.

3. How well accepted is the EV in your environment?

Listen, it’s major for fun. There’s also the functional aspect, but I would suggest you really need one here in order to maximize the pleasure. Some owners of adjoining houses pour shared concrete runways for the carts so that the driveway isn’t blocked.

4. Do you have to break the law in order to drive your EV?

No. But if I were to look at the regulations, you need to be 16 with a driver’s license, and you’re only allowed two riders on a regular golf cart. Some put their kids where the golf bags go, but you don’t want to have an accident.

5. What changes would be required to allow the use of a similar EV in the Smiths Falls area?

I would only be able to use it on my property, and that would be confining. We’d need a change of mentality because cars would over-run you on the Golf Club Road. The same applies for the ZENN electric car produced in Quebec for $12 k but we aren’t allowed to drive it. That’s what I’d love to have to go shopping.

They have the laws in place for EV’s on low-speed roads in Quebec and B.C., but not in Ontario. I would love one of those cars. They’re designed with lots of space for groceries, and they’re easy to park.

6. Do you miss a gas engine when using your EV?

Absolutely not. I don’t miss the price, either. I like the roof over my head. This one is well designed and I have a windshield if I want it and a fold-down cover at back, but I don’t have side curtains.

7. How would you improve your current ride?

Ideally EVs would come in designer colours. Your house should match your golf cart, or at least the shutters should. I’m sitting next to this EZ-Go and it’s white and black like mine, but it has a burled elm dashboard, and I’m turning green with envy here, looking at that dashboard.

I don’t have signal lights, so I have to use hand signals. I can’t quite remember what they are, so I just turn around and wave.

8. So life in the sunny south is good?

It’s gorgeous here at this time of year. I’m surrounded by hibiscus plants and palm trees. The house backs up onto an orange grove at the back and the third hole of a golf course at the side. What’s not to love?

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