Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


610 Snowbirding

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

“Birding” asked the guy making keys at Ace Hardware. Surprised at the expression stated as a question I quickly recovered with “Yes”. Yes we are birding: Snowbirding. We have gone south for the winter.

For those of you who are thinking of making the change I want to share some of my thoughts and experiences.

We have traveled south for a few weeks the past several years. Nothing big or serious. More like a road trip. We did stay last year in Tucson for almost a month. That was our longest visit to the sun.

This year we decided to extend if we could. My wife has had thirty years of rain and clouds in our hometown. She says it is about enough and if we can she would sure like to have some sun for a few months in the dark winter months.

After exploring various possibilities online we landed in Green Valley, AZ. It is just 25 miles south of Tucson. I have a brother and his wife who moved there just one year ago. We started our search looking for a home exchange. That quickly turned futile. We then looked for rental condo or house for a two or three month stay. We figured that is about as much as our budget would allow and about all the time we would want to be away from our home place.

In late October we started looking online for rentals in Tucson and Green Valley. We were too late. Places were taken for Jan through March. We found slim pickings. Nothing we were ready to accept. Then my sister-in-law sent us a section of the local paper listing rental units there. Two or three looked promising. We called immediately and found one that seemed great. My sister-in-law made a visit and took some pictures that day; gave her appraisal and we rented it. And we are very glad we did.

Next step: prepare to leave our house unattended or rented for the time period. We cautiously listed our house for rent and had a few offers but none that sounded good to us. We decided to just leave it empty. We got some light switches that would turn on and off automatically and some very close neighbors and friends that keep a close eye on the house and would water the plants. We went online and placed a forwarding address for our mail to the postal service. We packed and repacked for two days and then called a cab.

We flew – which I do not like to do – for environmental reasons. But we had driven south several times and though we had enjoyed the road trips our car is getting older and we drive very slowly. It takes us six days, at least, to drive one way. That is a total of at least 12 days of gas, food and lodging through country we have traveled many times. We had gathered free miles on an airline that could take us right to Tucson for almost no money. We took to the air.

We had to catch a 5am flight. Not a good time to leave but it resulted in a perfect time to arrive. We hailed another cab for a short ride to a car rental company in Green Valley where AAA had arranged for a two and one-half month long term rental. The rental price was over $500.00 cheaper in Green Valley than at the airport. You might want to keep this in mind.

After getting the car we called the owner and were in the house within an hour. We dumped our bags. Took a nap (most important things first) and then headed to the nearest grocery store.

The house is fully furnished and I mean fully. But it did not come with food. We loaded up our first trip to the store but we did have to visit it again for each of the next three or four days. It is amazing what one depends on daily in the kitchen. This was a challenge for us since we can walk to a great grocery store at home and we do so almost every day. It is like a pantry in house. We are not use to taking a car to buy groceries. And I don’t like it either. But we are renting in the midst of a car culture environment here. A car is needed to go almost any place.

We went for a walk in the nearby desert the second day. Our bodies were starved for movement. We also got a tenant membership in our Green Valley Social Centers. This allows us daily access to many activities including several fitness centers, swimming pools, billiard halls, tennis courts, wood shops, etc. Lots of social events like dances, lectures, tours, etc. More stuff than we will be able to attend. More than we want to attend. We first wanted to just get moving again and then feel the warmth of the sun. We did both.

People are very, very friendly. I guess it is because almost no one has been born here but they have come here from somewhere else. Just like us. I have never seen a place where everyone speaks and smiles upon meeting. Maybe we are just lucky but if so I will take it and run. The friendliness that is the good part.

This is a 55 years and older restricted housing community. Everyone is old. That bothers me somewhat. I guess I am the same as everyone else but it seems weird to see so many people of the same age group and rarely anyone looking younger than 60. I don’t like it either. That is one of the negatives for me. I’m sure many people like it though. They don’t have to put up with loud music, people yelling on the streets, kids on skateboards and roller blades or even bicycles, etc. I have not seen any homeless people here or any – maybe one or two – minorities. It is not a diverse community. I don’t like that either.

Our house is in one of several gated communities. They each function through a homeowners association. They pave their roads, provide garbage and recycling, some sort of security(I’m not sure about all of this yet). The county provides arterials to link every one and get to the interstate. These roads are terrible. The people will not pay taxes to maintain them in good condition. I heard that a one cent a gallon gas tax was proposed in the last election for strictly road improvements and it was defeated. I don’t understand why people don’t want to pay taxes. We get things for our money. Lots of things we just don’t really think about.

There is much more to say about being a snowbird but this is about enough for this week. I may keep on this topic for a while just to try to give a more complete picture of what life is like for a “bird”.

Let me add that the sun feels so good in the middle of winter.

This is Retirement Talk.

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