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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.