Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter Escape with a Purpose

It’s always been our plan to stay in Chicago for just a few years – until we’ve “done” the city, and get weary of the expense, the crowds, and the politics. It’s probably not the greatest place for old-age retirement (although you might be surprised how many retirement communities there are here). So when we moved to Chicago, we decided that every year we need to make at least one trip to the southwest to scout our permanent home locale. It turns out that late winter is a good time to go; allowing us to temporarily escape the effects of cabin fever brought on by the brutally long season of cold, gray, snowy misery.

Last year, we took advantage of one of Southwest’s “Gotta Get Away” fares and flew out to Albuquerque for a week. We stayed at a Homewood Suites property on the north side of the city, and made several day trips to Santa Fe. The weather was fantastic, and we had a good time exploring the area. Pulte Homes has a beautiful planned community in Rio Rancho, and we looked at their model homes to get a sense of what was available in the area. It was very encouraging. There were 3 homes we both liked, ranging from $150,000 to $230,000. We liked Albuquerque and haven’t ruled it out, but aren’t totally convinced it’s the right place for us. Santa Fe is really appealing, but much pricier.

This year we plan to drive out to Prescott, Arizona to check it out. Prescott is in the high desert, 99 miles north of Phoenix. The population is just over 40,000, but it boasts several museums, a courthouse square near the restaurants and shops on “Whiskey Row”, summer concerts, a regional hospital, golf courses, and several colleges/universities. We could even scout the Cubs during spring training in Mesa. It’s an easy drive to Flagstaff, Sedona, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and even Las Vegas. We’ve booked four nights in a Bed & Breakfast, and plan to spend a few hours with a realtor to scope out the housing. I’m working on convincing Ron that we should bring our golf clubs and get in a round or two. A side trip to the Grand Canyon for some hiking and photo opportunities on the rim trails will wrap up the trip before we start the drive home.

How will we know when we have found the right place to settle? We want the dry air of the desert, but not the harshest heat…four seasons without extremes…outdoor recreation opportunities…cultural activities…a reasonable cost of living…the easy pace of a small town, with easy access to a big city. I think we’ll know what’s right when we see it. We’ll keep you posted.


  1. as a notive arizonan- i LOVE prescott! when we lived in vegas, we would drive to tucson thru prescott. i think you will love it. it is a much smaller city, but it is lovely and within driving distance to much bigger places. have fun!

  2. Let me know if you find Nirvana. Barry and I have had the same "where should we retire" discussions. We're biased toward the Southwest too (Santa Fe is our favorite place, but too pricy as you noted.) Tucson is good, high desert, has a university and the nearby artist colony of Tubac. Ruidoso, NM looks nice, but it's in the middle of nowhere. Austin has decent weather, hills and a big lake (Travis) nearby - not to mention a big university and the state capital. We've been through Prescott, but never stopped to explore. Let me know how you like it. Of course if all of the Baby Boomers retire out there, quality of life will be miserable. How do you figure out which towns will be ruined by an overflow of Boomers?