I retired nearly three years ago. In June, Laura merged her business with a large company from Chicago. She is, she says, finally ready to slow down. So we decided to make our move. Easy, right? No. This has been an odd, stressful and unsettling several months for us.
We've felt as though we are standing at an open door, peering into a fog, unable to make out any detail of what lies out there in the gloom.
Nevertheless, bold steps through that door seemed called for. So we took several. The first thing we did was sell our house. OK, fine. Now we're basically homeless. Unless we find somewhere else to live. Quickly. And we had to contemplate actually, you know, moving. Not easy, as we've been here in this house for 32 years. The inertia is considerable.
But let's go back a ways. I've been loosely planning and scheming for this for about four years, using Google and more to scan areas that might be a good fit for us - a good fit for the way we live, and for the way we want to live.
Over the course of that time, we have taken a number of road trips to check out areas that looked interesting. We both really like California's Gold Country. It holds great allure because it is close to Laura's sister and to the family ranch, which the two of them own. And it's close to the sites of California's most romantic and historic works - the California Gold Rush and the construction, over the Sierras, of the Central Pacific Railroad, the western half of the Transcontinental Railroad. I'm absolutely nutty about the histories of both and have been looking forward to exploring the landscape of both, camera in hand, in great detail.
But we also both also love central Oregon, the area around Bend. It is very beautiful and has everything we need. Including rivers for fly fishing (me) and for kayaking (Laura). And glorious clean air and bright sunlight. And a relaxed way of life. And smiling, polite people. And great restaurants. And abundant culture. And Trader Joe's. And Whole Foods. And Barnes & Noble. And excellent medical care. But it is a long way away from family. So even though there is a handy airport that will make commuting to see clients easy, we took the Bend option off the table.
We homed in on Placerville and El Dorado Hills, which possess the elements we wanted. Over the course of three or four trips, we looked at many properties. ElDo Hills emerged as our favorite of the two. But EDH, while beautiful, is mostly composed of tract houses. The older areas are great and contain some nice homes, homes we would be proud to own. But there wasn't anything at all like that available when we finally got serious. So we looked at a gaggle of newer homes.
What we found were houses tightly packed together on microscopic yards, rather like puppies snuggling in a small basket. It brought to mind Malvina Reynolds' wonderful tune, "Little boxes, on a hilltop, little boxes made of ticky-tacky ... and they all look just the same." But what really put us off was the seeming low-rent nature of the cabinetry, door and appliances. I mean, good god, these are expensive homes.
Laura for sure was just not going for it. She requires quality and craftsmanship, dammit! And some space! So did I. So we determined that we would explore our second option. Bend was back on the table.
Actually, our second choice was my first choice. I am eager to put behind me California's ugly sprawl, its density, its traffic, its drought, and its constant threat of both wildfires and earthquakes. But I was also eager to be completely sure that Laura was getting a home she really loved in a place she really loved. So when we moved on up the road to Bend for another look-see, our fate was hers to decide.
We now have visited the place three times in the last year, thinking that things just might come to this, and lemme tell you, it is flat wonderful. During this last trip, we spent the better part of two days looking at some really nice homes, each one seemingly nicer than its predecessor. Our Realtor is a very patient guy.
But before we looked at houses, I had a clue that this might just be a done deal. As we drove north and crossed into Oregon, it was clear that the landscape here are not nearly as stressed as it is in California, that the drought there, while present, is not nearly as grim as it is southward. During the drive, comparing the lushness of Oregon to California's parched and depleted landscape, Laura commented several times, "This is so beautiful!" And it was.
So we looked at houses until our eyes crossed. Homeless, remember? After serious serious confabulation about the homes we'd seen, we arrived at two final candidates. We spent part of an evening parked near our first choice in Bend itself, a gorgeous home with a nice big yard in a forested area, built with craftsmanship and care.
Uh-oh. Good thing we looked. This was a family area, filled with kids, bikes, campers, pickup trucks, noise. We both badly wanted more serenity than this wonderful home offered.
So we got serious about our second choice, a newly upgraded custom home on the 13th fairway of a golf resort out about 15 minutes north of Bend. We looked at it. Then returned the next day to look more carefully. And we made an offer. Which was accepted.
This place, our new home, is very beautiful. It has two stories, but with the master suite on the main floor. Though we wanted some size, it is larger than we thought we wanted. Why size? Shouldn't we be downsizing? Hey, we have lived for 32 years in a 1400-foot home. Beautiful and charming as it is, it is small. We wanted more space, more room. This place offers that. Our visitors know that our two extra bedrooms here in Glendale really are our offices/studios. Come stay with us, as we love for people to do, you get to sleep on a sofa bed in the larger of the two. Good, for sure, but not optimal. And you get to share our house's one bathroom with everyone else here. Also not optimal.
Ah, but now we have four bedrooms and three bathrooms! Think of that! The luxury! We also have a huge carefully and sympathetically landscaped yard. With all this space and garden, is almost as though we will be living in a great, rambling, French chateau. But we won't be. We will be living in a modern, airy home that is filled with sunlight. We are both so excited that we can hardly stand it.
We also are so stressed by all this that we can hardly stand it. Will both homes stand up to the inspection process? Will contingencies on both homes be lifted? Will everything go as planned? How many times will I sign all the necessary documents in the wrong place? Will Rio and Vivian, our two wonderful cats, make the trip north without driving us, and themselves, crazy?
We will be very glad indeed when both deals close and when we arrive, and happier still when the moving truck shows up several days later with all our stuff. With luck, we will be completely moved in and settled, with the place completely furnished and decorated, by Thanksgiving.
I'm imagining Christmas there, with the lights from the tree glowing through the vast and expansive front windows, great smells wafting forth from Laura's beautiful new kitchen.
And it snows there. Might we have snow for the holidays? We might.
So, right. Lots of stress now, lots of things to do. And the escrow clock is ticking.
When we decided to sell and move, we really had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. We will be happy when it's over. And happy in the knowledge that this is a good thing, a thing done at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons.
Or is it? We continue to question this, especially when we see the reactions of friends who are sad that we leaving. But the answers always come up the same. It's the right move for us, at the right time, to the right place. Oregon.
I hear that incoming Californians are required to spend time in an Oregon re-education camp. How to slow down, how to wear fleece, how to choose rainwear instead of umbrellas, how to be - well, nice. Fine. I'll do that. Then I'll be able to grumble, along with the rest of our new neighbors, "Dad-gummed, Californians, coming' here, drinkin' our beer, buyin' our houses...!
So, there we are. I will not be able to crawl around in old '49er mines or hike the CPRR's original right of way. And Laura will be farther away from her sister and their ranch than she might wish to be. But these aren't overwhelming problems.
That said, there is lots of stuff for us to do here - hiking, biking, skiing, fishing, kayaking and much more. Including a huge annual folk festival in Sisters, maybe 20 minutes away. And Laura is looking forward to much more golf and much more painting when she's not working. Tell me this isn't right up our alley. We are confident that this is a better deal for us both.
So now, at last, we have a clearer picture of What Comes Next. It looks pretty damned fine, as it includes beautiful country, nice people, good beer, and even banjos and guitars. We hope you visit us so that you can be a part of it, too.