A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
I am going to take you on a trip from St. George UT, in the southwest corner of the state, to the Salt Lake Valley along I-15, one of the major transcontinental routes linking to I-70 east to Denver in mid-state, and I-80 east through Wyoming at Salt Lake. This photo is of the landscape immediately north of St. George. All photos were taken through the windshield at a speed of either 76 or 81 miles per hour, depending on posted speed, since my sons allow one mph leeway to obey the law. They were taken with a Canon 7D with telephoto lens. I will be dragging this trip out for awhile. For those who drive the I-15 corridor often, you may gain a new appreciation for the scenery that we all tend to take for granted. For flatlanders and friends from around the world, you can visualize more clearly what it is like to live in a landscape dominated by mountains. Enjoy the trip.
Another trip to the Salt Lake Valley along I-15 netted numerous more photos. All were taken through the windshield at a speed, my son assures me, only one mile per hour over the 80 mph speed limit in some sections of I-15. A few bugs (as in insect smashes) will show up in some of the photos. Here is the first photo. Others will follow
The uninitiated may think that life is a breeze to be a snowbird, fleeing south when the North turns cold, and fleeing North when the south turns into a furnace. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Here is a partial list of stuff I have to do to go back north as the temperatures in St. George begin crowding 100:
Find the box of books I brought to St. George last winter expecting to read them and never unpacked them, leaving them in the box so they would be easier to haul back north again.
Change addresses on about 30 or 40 periodicals. Typically, five or six of them never get changed and I never see them again.
Put the TV and internet on vacation hold. Apparently this cannot be done until ten minutes before you want this hold to take effect.
Stop the newspapers. Last year, the newspaper carrier kept delivering the papers a couple of weeks after we told them to stop delivering them.
Start the newspapers up North.
Change the telephone service between the two phones. Some times this gets taken care of, some times it does not. Depends on whether any one does what they are supposed to do.
Start the internet up North.
Making changes in TV, phone, cell phone, and internet typically takes a couple of hours on the phone listening to "you're call is terribly, terribly important to us, and that is why we make you wait forever to talk to a robot while you listen to this goshawful noise and clamor that is supposed to be music." Then, listen to the following list of 27 options. No, no, I just want to talk to a human being and not a robot and tell them what I need to do. We're sorry, you can only talk to robots. Do you mind if we put you on hold for a few moments while we look up your account? Help yourself, I say. A half hour later, after finishing their lunch or whatever, we get "I'll have to transfer you over to xyz department because I don't handle that stuff; translated, meaning I don't know what the heck I am doing because I have only been imprisoned in this cubicle for two days and I have no idea what to tell you. Another half hour of listening to noise. Are you having a party there, I ask, since it really sounds loud, and the answer is it's always noisy here because these cubicles are not very high and we are really packed in here. I felt like asking, "where do you keep the robot?" About two hours later and I have been assured that my tv, internet, phone, cell phone, etc., have all been put on hold in one place and started up in another. I have heard that song before, only getting to the other place and having to call up saying, "I thought the internet, or whatever, was supposed to be hooked up today," whereupon the voice on the other end may say, "I have no record of that." Believe me, this has all happened before.
Now on to the post office, where the kindly postal clerk was obviously being besieged with snowbirds changing their mail delivery from the hot place to the cold place, only to get frustrated filling out the forms. Three years ago, we didn't get our mail forwarded for three months because the sorting center for USPS erroneously kept our old address card and did not substitute the new one.
Then it's just a minor matter to throw out all the crud that has accumulated for six months. It is useful, however, to have an opportunity to go through the pile of to-do stuff I brought down here that needed urgent attention and which I never got around to giving it any (attention) due to my busy, busy schedule as an emeritus full professor of economics. So now I have to haul all this stuff back up north again with the hopes I might get inspired to look at it there. If anything is really important, some one is being paid to call and bug you about it a half dozen times, anyway.
Whatever else you do, take all battery chargers, phone chargers, a bushel of computer cables, software backups. It helps to put a tape ID on the cords saying where the heck they are attached to so you don't have to say bad words at the other end trying to hook all this electronic stuff back up again.
Clean out fridge, pantry, freezer; toss out all frozen remnants you never got around to eating.
Mop and vacuum all floors.
Check tire pressure and car. My neighbor snowbird from Chicago was ready to leave the other day, all loaded and primed, and his car wouldn't start. It was a hybrid with a dead battery. And he being a professor of engineering.
Figure out how to get all your junk into two cars.
Hop on I-15 headed north, preparing to stop in Beaver at the cheese factory, and Santaquin at the apple barn. Wave at all snowbirds with Montana, North Dakota, and Canadian license plates as the parade of fifth wheels, travel trailers, mobile homes, etc., clogs I-15.
Arrive at destination. Unload junk. Wonder why you went to all this effort. Check TV, internet, phone, etc., to see if people did what they said they would do. Lots of luck needed here. Turn on water, AC, etc., making sure everything works and you don't need the plumbers and air conditioner guys the first day you are back.
Check to see what time Matlock comes on.
Wait five or six months and go through all of this torture again.
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.
This short stretch of highway through the Virgin River Canyon south of St. George Ut was blasted from solid rock, and was, at the time, purported to be the most expensive stretch of the interstate highway system ever built.