Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors and Retirees

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Episode 112 Road Trip Part 5  – Actualization, or Starting Out

The thermometer in the house read 58 degrees at six in the morning. This was the day we were to leave on our extended road trip. The furnace was off and the temperature was 8 degrees outside. Everything would freeze unless something changed. A winter storm had come and iced all the roads. More snow was predicted and we felt pressed to get south before the next wave hit. We planned on getting an early start so that we could drive during day light hours. Is this an omen of how our plans for this trip might play out? I figured out the furnace problem – it was frozen up. Yes, froze up. It seems like water pipes should freeze; not the furnace. But, our furnace is a fairly new one – low energy ratings. It produces water as it burns natural gas. The water must be exhausted and thus a thin plastic pipe runs from the furnace up and across the roof of the garage and exits out the side wall and then continues on down to within a few inches of the ground. Ice had built up during this unusually cold spell and froze the end of the pipe. Water couldn’t get out. The furnace automatically shut down. We were cold and getting colder.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Weather doesn’t give anyone priority; even retired folks. Our long planned journey was on the edge. Figuring out the furnace problem was relatively easy since it had happened just three days earlier and I had watched the plumbing and heating guy fix it. It didn’t take me thirty minutes. If it freezes again we will depend on our trusty neighbor to call the plumbing company. By eight-thirty we were headed south. Eugene, Oregon was our goal for the day. We usually avoid Interstate 5 and head either east to the other side of the mountains or west to the coast to avoid Seattle and Portland. The traffic is usually unbearable for me, but since it was a Saturday we figured traffic to be fairly light in Seattle and Portland. We were right. I’m not sure if it was because of the day of the week or the miserable driving conditions.

Snow and ice covered most of the road. Some places were worse than others. Cars were in the ditch. In some areas, trucks were required to chain up. Police cars were frequent and lights were flashing. People were off the road. Some cars were turned completely upside down. We probably saw fifty cars stuck in the snow or totally wrecked. The tow trucks were busy. We inched along sometimes not ten miles per hour. We were glad we had the all wheel drive car. It tracked very well. I don’t think we spun a tire during the entire drive. Perhaps all of my years living in Alaska helped me navigate the rough spots.

We ended the day at a Phoenix motel in Eugene. A quick workout in the exercise room was followed by a great dinner at the Ambrosia an Italian restaurant right down town. We had been to Eugene several times. We considered it as a possible retirement town.  I still think it would be a good place for that. It has a viable downtown, a stimulating University, bus service and taxi cabs, and great trails and bike paths. The climate is moderate with the exception of some summer high temperatures which were enough to force it out of final consideration for us. I’m just not much of a hot weather guy.

Dawn saw us on wet paving headed south again. This was much better. It was pure rain; no snow. The traffic was much lighter. I have nothing but good things to say about I-5 south of Eugene and North of Red Bluff, California. The views are tremendous. If one wanted a picture to depict a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, this would be a good place to snap one. Two high mountain passes highlight the drive. Although last time we came this way we had to go back and buy some chains for the sever snow conditions. This time it was clear sailing.

By evening we were in Red Bluff and working out in an exercise room at a Hampton Inn. We had looked for old hotels both here and in Eugene before and have had no luck so our trip started with two nights in motels. The places were clean, roomy and not expensive – less than ninety dollars each.

Driving in to Red Bluff we saw a sign for William Eli State Park. I wondered what this was all about so we followed the signs and stopped. It was a great place. No one was there. We walked around and looked in the windows. This guy built the first adobe house in California here on the banks of the Sacramento River. It has been completely restored or maintained. He went on to become the first territorial governor of California. The buildings were impressive but my eyes went right to a massive oak tree that grew next to the house. It was so impressive that we went back the following morning for one last look. A park ranger happened to be there. “Lefty” told me that the tree was estimated to be four hundred years old. That was about the times Jamestown was founded.  Lefty and I measured the circumference of the tree – 21 feet. We will see how it stands in comparison to others on this trip.

This is our last day in Sutter Creek, California. We have been enjoying our daughter’s home and family for what will be one full week tomorrow. Brenda has indulged her grandmother needs. We have opened Christmas presents; eaten way to much good food, and enjoyed each others company. Tomorrow we travel on south. Next extended stop will be in Phoenix, Arizona. We will travel a bit north and then east and try to avoid Interstates for a while. I know that highway 395 that runs along the east side of the Sierras is a beautiful drive. That’s the way we will head with the dawn.

The Sierra foothills, where our daughter lives, are filled with curving roads, pine covered forests and houses on acreages. Here is the place for you if you’re looking for gardening, writing, painting, solitude and driving. I have a hard time with this type of living. It is predicated on your own independent use of the automobile. It is a necessity. There are few sidewalks, or bike trails; none that I saw. Bikers are forced to use these little narrow winding roads that have absolutely no shoulder. It looks incredibly dangerous to me. This is California which has gained worldwide fame as the home of the automobile or car culture. It is very evident everywhere. If you don’t mind driving, or you like to drive, then this may be a very good place to retire. There is no bus service, taxi service or mass transit.

The climate again is one that attracts. It does not get real cold and it doesn’t rain a great deal. It does get hot in the summer. One very positive attribute of the area is its’ beautiful rolling country side. Oak trees mix with pine and pastures mix with vineyards. Small towns lie along low creek bottoms. It is place for minding your own business and letting others mind theirs. I’m not sure about developing a sense of community or a sense of belonging. It appears to me that it would be difficult for those to be strong. And they are very important to me and my ideal retirement location.

A big plus to retiring in this area is the proximity to the Sierra Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Within an hour you can be in the Sierras and within three hours you can be at the coast. San Francisco is a world class city and to live within an easy half days drive has to be a plus.

I tried to get an interview with a neighbor concerning retirement in the Sierra foothills but failed. I guess they have company and it is a busy time of year. I hope to get one in Phoenix.

This is retirement talk.