Well, my column-writing vacation had ended. Gotta get back on the ol’ computer and start pumping out this weekly message even though I’m enjoying a 2-month warm-weather “snowbirding” vacation in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona.
Ol’ Nevah and I are safely ensconced in a rented “Casita” in Gilbert, a southeastern suburb of Phoenix. As I write this the Flint Hills of Kansas are in the midst of a winter storm. Glad I’m here.
Just to help you catch up to speed on our trip out here, if you’re interested, here’s a bit of a travelogue. If you’re not interested, I’d suggest you go put another stick of wood on the fire.
On our way out, we changed our normal route through western Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle and opted instead to head west at Wellington, Kan., to Medicine Lodge, where we turned south to Alva, Okla. After driving through the Northwestern Oklahoma State University campus, we drove to Waynoka and stopped for a short and chilly walk through the Little Sahara Desert State Park. Quite a pile of sand for Okie Land.
Next we stopped near Woodward and looked over the Boiling Springs State Park. The water at the spring wasn’t hot nor boiling, but it looked like it was boiling as it emerged into a shallow sand-filled well. After a stop in Woodward, we headed to Pampa, Texas, for the night.
Next morning we stopped in Amarillo, Texas, and toured the American Quarter Horse Museum and Heritage Center. I got to see Hall of Fame portraits of old Kansas friend, Guy Ray Rutland; Walter Merrick, whom I did a story about decades ago, and Three Bars, the Thoroughbred stallion who ushered in the Quarter Horse racing industry. He was standing at Merrick’s ranch at Sayre, Okla., and was in his final breeding season when I got to see him..
We spent our second and third nights mooching off of old fishing buddy, Albie Kirky, in Albuquerque, N.M. Good friends, good memories, free lodging and good Mexican food are always appreciated.
On Sunday, Jan. 5, we headed for Phoenix, turning south off the interstate to snowy Payson before dropping into the warmth of the Valley of The Sun. We met our two-month landlords and got moved into our comfy Casita. It’s in an upscale quiet-as-a-mouse housing development. The landlords are transplants from Milwaukee, Wisc., and friendly, helpful folks.
Before I get into the sights and attractions we’ve seen, I want to set a little background. If there’s proof positive that the economy is booming, it’s the greater Phoenix area. Read that 190 folks are moving to the area every single day. Also, in 2019 the area created more than 70,000 new jobs. Seems that every door and every delivery vehicle has a “help wanted” or “hiring” sign on it.
To make way for all the population growth, the housing being built is unbelievable. Houses and apartments are going up everywhere in 40 and 80 acre tracts. You can’t drive a mile without seeing a massive new housing development. The ground is flat, so the developers start out putting up an 8-foot decorative concrete block fence around the perimeter. Then the houses go up dozens at a time.
I don’t know where all the water for the future is coming from, but supposedly the developers can’t break ground until they’ve secured at least enuf water for the next century. Personally, I think that is a big charade. Only time will tell. One thing for sure, the housing recession that devastated Phoenix 15 years ago is now a forgotten memory.
As for costs of living here, rental rates are substantially higher than the Midwest. Restaurant prices are 20-30% higher, but supermarket prices are about the same. Gasoline is 60-80-cents higher than in the Flint Hills.
But, on the bright side, my favorite liquid refreshments are way cheaper here — probably 30 percent at least. Every day there are full page ads in the paper for wine and other spirits. Property taxes are substantially lower, as are movie theater tickets. Admission fees for various sites and attractions are about the same.
The roads and streets down here are wide, smooth, and attractive. Seems every major street has a wide set-back along both sides. Turn areas a wide and have easy access in traffic. Schools are new and spacious.
One last thing, I used to come to the Phoenix frequently on bizness 40 years. What was the city limits then is now 15-20 miles inside the city. That’s how much this area has grown since then.
We’ve been here more than two weeks and have only had two days of less than ideal weather. The weather forecasters on TV must have the easiest jobs in the city. They could just put this daily forecast on tape and play it day after day: “Temperature around 40 when you wake up, rising to 60 by noon and to 70-75 by 4 p.m., with no clouds, no rain, and no wind.”
The weather here prompted me to write this aggie limerick about it.
An Arizona weatherman named Bliss
Made forecasts that were never amiss.
On TV every day,
He had this to say:
“Today’s weather will be what it is.”
Those are my words with no wisdom for this week. Have a good ‘un.