One phase of growing older is that of becoming a snow bird if you originally live in a cold, snowy, icy, dreary winter climate. Like the geese and the real snow birds, people snow birds fly south in the winter as soon as it turns cold "up north", and then fly north as soon as it turns hot "down south." Sooner or later, of course, snow birds grow older if they can stay alive, and then making the transition becomes more difficult. But as long as we can figure out some way to get back and forth, we love to continue our snow bird existence.
Some problems exist in being a snow bird. To spend six months here and six months there, you have to have virtually two of everything that you need for daily existence--two frying pans, four tv remotes (two each for two people), two sets of everything else. Such existence also means two repair bills for everything that stops working, two homeowner's fees, two bills for about everything. We have had our south snowbird condo home now for sixteen years, buying it on impulse one hot day in August when the St. George temp was about 116 degrees. I have made a lot of impulsive decisions, but this decision was one of the best ones we ever made. We love St. George. The red rock country of southern Utah is among the most beautiful places on earth. St. George is an uncomplicated town that has continually upgraded its facilities until it now has about every fast food place known to man. Plus the medical and health facilties here are unequaled, even in larger cities. The caliber of medical specialties in cardiovascular, nephrology, oncology, dermatology, and about every other specialty is simply outstanding, making it unnecessary to return to doctors "up north" for medical care. In fact, we prefer most of our doctors and care facilities in St. George to those elsewhere. The St. George hospital, Dixie Regional Medical Center is outstanding, serving as a regional facility drawing patients from the entire area of southern Utah, northern Arizona, and the corner of Nevada. As we meet people who have driven long distances to get to St. George for regular medical care, we are reminded that choice of a retirement destination has all too often avoided the issue of potential necessary medical care and we are grateful to be in St. George just minutes away from our medical care givers.
Grocery and gas prices tend to run a tad higher in St. George than they are in Salt Lake and other snowbird destination places farther north. Getting used to such prices always is a bit of a jolt after returning from a six months' absence. About every other restaurant is a Mexican restaurant, with a smattering of everything else. More than a couple of decades ago, K-Mart was the only "big-box" store in St. George, but we now have two WalMarts, a Costco, BigLots, and other large chain specialty stores which again draw from a large regional geographic area. I am told that the one St. George WalMart has one of the highest volumes in the WalMart chain, augmented by the large bulk quantity sales to polygamous families from Colorado City and Hildale on the Colorado-Arizona border (not members of the LDS Church). Women in long pioneer dresses and long plaited braids are often shopping in clusters, trailed some times by groups of children in identical dresses or shirts and jeans. They rarely speak to anyone else, so it doesn't do much good to try and be friendly to them.
Proximity to Zion's National Park, Bryce Canyon, and a multitude of over scenic spots of breathtaking beauty is a huge draw for southwestern Utah, as well as a more salubrious winter climate. Unfortunately, the winter St. George climate is not as balmy as in the Phoenix area, but getting to Phoenix from the north is a real pain, as there is no really convenient north-south route to get there. St. George, on the other hand, is only a few hours away from Salt Lake on I-15.
Now our streets are becoming abandoned in our condo community in St. George as everyone is packing up their pickup trucks, SUVs, cars, and whatever else to flee north once more for family, familiar haunts, and to escape the summer furnace of St. George heat. Our Michigan neighbor just left this morning. We miss this couple because they always do a lot of the work when we have community functions at the club house. Our Chicago neighbor, a retired Northwestern U professor, is leaving in a couple of days. Our neighbor across the street for 16 years sadly sold his place to a new couple who aren't quite retired yet, so they are rarely here. Our orthopedic surgeon friend down the street is leaving in a couple of weeks. Our North Carolina friends left a couple of weeks ago. (You may ask, how did someone from North Carolina end up in St. George UT for the winters?) The Montana folks have hied themselves back to Montana. The artery through Utah, I-15, is clogged some days with huge pickup trucks pulling "fifth wheels", mobile homes, camper pickups, and about everything you could sleep and live in for a few months to come to Arizona, Nevada, and southwestern Utah to get away from the miseries of cold winter and their effects on arthritis and aching and aging joints and bodies. The presence of Canadian license plates on I-15 is especially noticeable, as Canadians hurry back to make sure they keep the required residency requirement for Canadian health insurance.
Soon my wife and I will join the northward throng, the geese, the birds, and the remaining snow birds on this northern trek. We always look forward to returning north as long as the snowy and cold season is over, and we always look forward to coming back south when the first cold day of winter returns. But one day, we all have to decide, stay north and freeze, or stay south and fry, if we are still hanging around this mortal earth and mobility has creaked to an end. What then? We don't quite know yet.