Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 561 Snowbird

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Snowbirds. That's what they call all the folks from the north who travel to the south and sunshine each winter. These are almost all retired people. They are the only ones who can afford the time away from a job or career for any length of time. We have been retired for just over thirty years and have never joined the migration. (For those of you who have not followed all of these podcasts I know that sounds like a long time to be retired but it is true. We retired early, – unusually early - after a very lucky break with our careers in Alaska.) At any rate, here we are starting our third week in Tucson, Arizona.

Lots of hard rain, dark nights and cold weather made my wife a little more assertive than usual in suggesting that we escape the normal winter with at least one month of living in a warm climate. We picked Arizona because it is in the west and we could drive there. I don't much care for the whole airline process and I do like a slow, leisurely road trip. We drove out of wet and cold Bellingham, Washington just before Christmas.

We stopped and spent Christmas with our daughter and family in the foothills of the Sierras in California. Then we were off for a month of warm, clear weather. A month is a relatively short time to do this sort of thing. Most folks come for 4 to 6 months. And that is just for the first few years. Then they buy a place and extend into full time residence. I'm starting to see why.

We started this process by cruising AirB&B and finding a small apartment right in the city. We tend to like being in a city where we can bike and yet enjoy the amenities that a city offers. Tucson is famous as a bike friendly place and it has a major university which is always a drawing card for us. We just find the cultural amenities that accompany a university to always be appealing. Plus the energy provided by a large gathering of young people seems to invigorate us.

We found the apartment for us. It is located in the city, close to bike trails and a neighborhood that allows us to walk to a park and all sorts of shopping amenities. The park was another drawing card for us. We really lucked out when we found there was a large public recreation center in the park. We have been going there two days a week for strength workouts.

And sunshine has blessed us every day of our visit – so far. A couple of days ago it clouded up and a light rain fell for and hour or so. That was it. The sky has been clear all the rest of the time with the temperature in the 70's during the day.

We have loved each and every day. And what have we done other than enjoy the balmy weather. We visited the Sonora Desert Museum, The Sonora Desert Art Museum, attended a Jazz Festive jam, attended a performance of the MOMIX dance company on campus, explored the Creative Photography Center on campus, biked almost every day, and extended our sleep time until we are fully rested each and every day. What is not to like.

We also enjoyed a late night dinner with a former barista from Bellingham who just happened to be passing through town for a few days. We have tried to eat out much more than we usually do. Brenda is a great cook and enjoys it but this is suppose to be a vacation; a time to do something different. So we have explored the area for different types of food and it has been rewarding. Not every time – but most of the time.

We also managed an overnight to Ajo, Arizona and Organ Pipe National Monument. Ajo is a small town south and west of Tucson. It is a young artist mecca. We loved the little place and its friendly people. We found lodging in a refurbished school house which was one of the most charming places we have ever found lodging anywhere. It was unique. Great trip!

Another activity that has crept into our days is looking at houses to buy. Not that we plan on buying one but we might decide to do that sometime. We find it fun to see a house for sale – or not for sale – that appeals to us and then whip out the phone and click on the Zillow apt. You may or may not be familiar with it but it is an apt that allows you to click in almost any address in the country and have a picture and form appear for that address. It will tell you what the house sold for and many details about it. We always find it interesting to compare prices with those that we are use to in the Pacific Northwest. Let me just say housing prices and taxes are much lower around here.

Looking at real estate is always good for conversation. Look at this, look at that and then compare with other places. I have a brother, age 79, who has been a snow bird for ten years. He bought a mobile home in Apache Junction. He loves to bike and loves the sun. Just a couple of months ago he and his wife bought a house south of Tucson in Green Valley. The moving van is arriving with all of their furniture this very day. They are very excited about this new phase in life. They will have all of the good biking and sunshine he desires and they have an incredible view of the Santa Rita Mountains.

Are we tempted by all of this? We are. Especially when we check the forecast back home and see constant rain and temperatures in the forties.  

A couple of factors give us doubts: good friends at home and the pleasure we take from living in a beautiful place right now. Bellingham, Washington has a great deal to make it the perfect place to live. Those two factors may very well keep us in place. But during the winter months it is hard to say no to the sun.

Perhaps this little monologue will help you picture the life of a snowbird a bit better. I hope so. I know I am getting a little old to consider moving again but as my daughter always tells me, “Dad, don't wait too long”.

This is Retirement Talk.

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