Imagining Ourselves as Snowbirds in Mesa

For the last eight days I’ve been with my lovely wife in Mesa, Arizona, staying in a “55-and-older” RV park.  Her aunt has a trailer in this Snowbird destination, which she only uses for three months each winter to escape the brutal Canadian winters.  We invaded this modest little hideaway a week before she arrived and had the unit all to ourselves.  This was our test to see if Snowbird living might work for us as well.

I had mixed feelings long before we arrived in her aunt’s senior-living Mecca.  I must report that it was a nonstop learning experience from the time I drove into the park until the day I left.  Being surrounded by seniors sounded clean and peaceful.  Although my wife doesn’t quality, I easily fit into the Snowbird demographic and wondered if it might really be a slice of heaven for us to enjoy in our advancing years.  I came into it with an open mind, just wanting to take it all in.

Arriving well after dark, my initial impression was incredibly positive.  Although the temperature in Mesa was not any warmer that evening than the dark misery we we had just flown out of in Washington State, it was a lovely sight to behold.  Palm trees and Christmas lights illuminated the entire RV park, especially along the main drag, almost like entering the a clean carnival midway.  No trash in the streets, no homeless encampments, and no snow.  It definitely had it’s own beauty.

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Considering my wife and I were caged up in this small trailer for eight days, we got along fairly well.  At least we had a furnace that worked.  Even though the temperature dropped below freezing that night, we got up the next morning and walked every street.  During the week we spent time in the pool, the bar, the restaurant and even the billiards hall.  Although I never even put on the two pairs of short I brought with me, we attempted to immerse ourselves completely into the Arizona senior living experience.

I had anticipated that the absence of underage residents would be the most attractive reason for wanting to move into such an area.  But a personal observation I made years ago came to me the next morning as we walked around the grounds:  “There’s no fool worse than an old fool.”  Golf carts zooming up and down the streets, drivers taking unnecessarily wide turns in their SUV’s, and parking in ways to create complete blockage of traffic, these were the first red flags. My tolerance level really started dropping off after my wife was almost run down by a distracted driver of a speeding cart.  We ended up taking more walks along the canal bank, which was safer and much more pleasant.

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Looking at orange trees as we walked in the cold along a canal bank

Being the irritable shopper that I am, our first trip to the grocery store really helped set the tone for the remainder of our visit.  We meandered through the huge building around crowded, narrow aisles filled with people who seemed to have nothing but time on their hands.  Often there were groups of two or three shopping carts supporting the forearms of older shoppers who apparently had not seen each other for decades.  Attempting to interrupt these reunions would be thoughtless and rude, no matter how important the need to for olive oil.  We made many wide circles around the traffic to get to our destinations before looking for shortest checkout lines, which we never seemed to locate.

Once out of the huge store, we repeated the same process, except this time with cars instead of shopping carts.  I was constantly on edge, watching for sudden stops and other surprises.  I must admit it wasn’t that much different than watching out for stoned drivers in Washington State, where marijuana is now legal.  Apparently, no matter where you go, there are drivers who live in their own little world.

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I like the way my wife’s hair stands out in this shot, right before sunset.

Getting away from it all was difficult.  For whatever reason, I picked Camelback Mountain in Phoenix as one of our hikes.  It was certainly beautiful, but of course, being in the middle of the metro area, it was quite crowded.  It was nice once the majority of water bottle-carrying “hikers” gave up about half-way, leaving a little room for more dedicated hikers to enjoy the trail and view.  Hardly any were without hydration, even on a 20 minute climb in 50 degree weather!

I’m keeping it short today, but there is no shortage of topics that I could cover regarding our trip, which may resurface once I get settled back in.  Suffice it to say, we decided that the crowded senior lifestyle is just not for us.  I was so relieved to get back home to my dogs and grandson, and the first thing we did upon our regrouping was walk the dogs down the hill to see the JP, our neighbor’s horse.  It was nice to be in familiar surroundings again.  My wife and I are gypsies and we can live anywhere, but now I know it probably won’t be in a crowded RV park, even if for only three months out of the year.

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Grandson happy to be outside, chasing after Champ

I was pleased that my three year old walking partner remembered the horse’s name, JP, but he wasn’t sure what the fun, mushy stuff was that he splashed with each step.  I told him, “That’s mud”, and asked him to repeat it several times, until I was sure he had it memorized.  It’s a word that will always come in handy.  I could tell he was really getting into it.

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Stomping in the “Mud”

Nice to be back, catching up on blogs and even getting out a post of my own. I don’t anticipate ever trying anything like the senior RV park experience again. I already knew that that being away makes me appreciate being home even more. I’m still not sure what the next step towards retirement living will be, but I’m open to trying something else next time.  Maybe a place that’s warm all the time with less traffic and at least a few toddlers around.

It’s great being home.

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17 thoughts on “Imagining Ourselves as Snowbirds in Mesa

  1. Great post Des, made me laugh quite a lot and no, can’t see you living there!
    The bit about the stoned drivers made me laugh, as a Brit I would be very interested to hear what the pros and cons have been of legalisation.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Happy New Year, Des! I share your critical views on places that are dedicated seniors’ retreats. Your experiences in Mesa were definitely not pleasant. In my humble opinion, all age groups for living a real life belong together. Children are part of our lives and should be included. I am glad you are back to the place where you belong, Des.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Peter! Funny how I was so looking forward to trying out the Snowbird experiment, and what a letdown it was for both of us. We still had a wonderful time, but we came back with the knowledge of how this lifestyle works for many people, but never would for us. It was a truly interesting trip. Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed the holidays with your family, Peter!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s funny, Ralph! You just taught me a valuable new acronym! I may be a dangerous OAP myself, but at least my wife and I are still cognizant enough to be on guard. We had a couple of close calls but luckily both made it back home in one piece!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminded me of dear friends who sold their condo in Florida(which all East Coast retirees see as Eden). They got tired of exactly the same things you write about. Terrible drivers, terrible shopping, but worst of all the incessant gossiping about each other. I had no idea that elders would regress to middle school behavior, but apparently with time on their hands they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Elizabeth. I’m glad to learn that others have experienced the same thing. I was constantly on guard, listening for careening carts, bikes or cars in this crowded place. And yes, I definitely experienced some “middle school behavior” (love that!) that I’m still trying to process. It was fun, but I’m so glad to be back home!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like a good idea. Besides, it’s a real disappointment when it’s just as cold in the “destination” as it is back home. Better to just hunker down for the winter!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My husband’s brother and his wife go out to Arizona every winter to spend time with their friends there. (Their friends stay for the entire winter, they just rent a trailer for a few weeks.) They love it and are always urging us to come visit them there. I admit it didn’t sound like much fun to me, and we always decline. I’m so glad I read your post. It justifies our decision, big time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s funny, Ann! I didn’t mean to poison the waters, but in reality, I’m still not really sure what happened last week! All I know is I’m glad to be home and don’t plan on spending any more money on this particular mode of winter vacationing again. Let us know if you and your husband ever give in and go visit your friends in AZ!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll let you know, but I really don’t think that’s gonna happen! We only have so much time and money to spend on vacation, and neither one of us think it sounds like fun…. Visiting Arizona, yes. Staying in a trailer in a senior community, no. LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I imagine even though pot is legal, driving under the influence isn’t. Same as drinking is legal but drink-driving isn’t. On the one hand, I’m sorry your trip didn’t work out, on the other it wasn’t for long, there were bits you did enjoy, & it was a short insight into an experience worth having and not repeating 😉

    Mud is great! I still love mud 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal, but the problem is that there are no set legal limits to what constitutes “impairment”, like there is with alcohol. Plus, THC stays in the blood stream for a long time and is metabolized much slower that alcohol. This brings up all kinds of interesting questions that I’ve thought about addressing here on WordPress.
      I admit, I love mud too! It’s not great when it is the primary road surface getting to your house, but if it really bothered me that much I’d have it graveled over. I can tell, our grandson was sure enjoying it! Thanks for reading, Nik, always nice to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I’d be with you, Des, on this one. Too many people packed close in and too small a place to live. I need a bit of space.

    As for jumping in the mud, I am sure my grandson would agree. Mud is fun!! Mom, maybe not so much. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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