Moving and finding good services

I feel like I have moved a million times in my life. One of the most memorable was in junior high. I got so stressed out on my first day of school I actually started crying in gym class. The stress was just too much when I couldn’t find my next classroom, and everyone else seemed to know exactly where they were going.

That’s one of the reasons why I am so glad my final move is finally behind me. How do I know? Because after two years here, I have finally found someone who can cut my hair properly.

Yes, one of the toughest parts of moving is lining up all the service people you will need in your new area to make you feel comfortable doing things like buying the foods you love, grooming your dog, getting a great massage, and loving your new haircut.

In a combination of two tiny towns with a total of less than 4,000 people, good services can be hard to find. That was one of my original reasons for trying to make friends here, for good referrals! Since we only have two grocery stores and one dog groomer in the entire county, that search was easy. But I had to try three different hair stylists to find one I really like.

Medical services have been much more complicated. One of the reasons we thought this area was a good choice was because there is an emergency room, a small hospital and a nursing home nearby. Come to find out the service is very good at these places, but the financial end of things is completely screwed up, to the point where many will not go there simply because they mess up the billing so badly.

If you receive a bill ever, it is usually far more than six months later, so you can’t even remember what you went to the doctor for, and they always mess up the insurance payments. We’ve started driving 40 minutes to Colorado City or even as far as Pueblo for medical care, mainly because things are too messed up here! Alas, the many things you don’t find out until after you move somewhere new.

shoulder-massageI still haven’t found a good massage therapist around here, and I really need one! I had the most incredible one up in Loveland. She was such a good friend and master masseuse. No one else can even come close!

How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?

It’s a long story, one I can now share with you in my new memoir!

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A Happy New Day at Hippie Days in Gardner Colorado!

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For ten years now, the tiny town of Gardner has hosted “Hippie Days.” What’s that? A two day meeting of the minds, or as the organizers like to call it:                                 “A NO BAD VIBES Music Festival.”

For the past two years we haven’t been able to attend. Last year we were moving the end of July, but this year we finally made it!

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Here’s the first, and one of the coolest things we saw! This 1961 VW van was on the way to the junk yard when these folks picked it up for $113. It was stripped down, but they now tow it around with a water bed in the back. How cool is that?

IMGP5259We saw lots of booths selling hippie things like tie-dye clothes, jewelry, glassware…

IMGP5268… and a FREE concert all day and all night! The whole thing is free,

IMGP5281even the camping in the back of the venue.

This, of course, made me start thinking, my own personal addiction. How come I’ve never related to hippies? First of all I was born a little late for the whole hippie movement, and second I’ve always been too serious and scholarly for that lifestyle.

We still have one of the original hippie communes in our county, and some of the residents have lived there most of their lives. It’s hard for me to imagine living out in the country with no land ownership, building your own home, etc.

IMGP5253But I did LOVE that purple van with its COOL shiny crystal balls!

How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?

I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:

A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Postscript, June 2018: There was no Hippie Days last summer. New word: Hippie Days will be held on July 27th and 28th in Gardner this summer!

 

High in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains: Foothills versus Mountain Living in Southern Colorado

Yesterday was so interesting! We visited some new friends who have lived up above 8,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains west of here for the past few years. Loved hearing their stories about living up high.

I know many have romantic visions of life up in those beautiful mountains, but remember this too:

Manuel's snow tractor

The approach to their house is a windy, dirt road off of a major highway, a road they and their few neighbors must maintain, unlike the county road we live off of, 15 miles west of Walsenburg. Once they came home a few years ago and there was 6 feet of snow on this road. They couldn’t go home!

We heard stories about when the deep snows come, and the big state highway snowplows plow their road closed! That’s why they need to maintain snow-moving equipment themselves….imagine that!

snow over the windows

I asked them how deep the snow gets up there, and they decided one picture was worth a thousand words!

WOW! We have had a few snows of a foot or so, but nothing like this! They told us stories of  a few snowstorms where they shoveled for eight hours straight. If they didn’t have heavy equipment they wouldn’t be able to get out for weeks!

Their property includes an old straw-bale cabin on a mine site plus 100 acres. Their water comes from a spring nearby, and what delicious water it is! They heat with a large wood stove, which requires a great amount of log splitting to prepare for the winter cold. They have electric service, mainly because the costs of returning renewal energy back to the grid here requires outrageous fees and insurance requirements, and going off grid presents other problems with reliability and initial  installation costs. We are stuck here until better energy storage solutions are developed worldwide.

The natural beauty of their landscape is beyond words and, did I mention, they have no water or heating bills… They maintain a number of wildlife cameras and see so many different animals around their home. Bears are so commonplace that they have named a few of them! It’s a wonderful place that requires a lot of work to maintain.

We recently built a passive solar home right at 7,000 feet and are told by our new friends that we are really saving a lot of money in the winter by absorbing the sun’s heat directly into our insulated slab, which helps to hold the daily sun’s heat within our home overnight.

solar water tubesWe hope to add a few of these solar thermal water tubes to our home soon to increase our thermal mass and help to moderate temperature swings both in the winter and summer. Beyond solar, we depend on Cadet forced-air electric wall heaters on thermostats for all of our winter heating needs. They usual turn themselves on during the night and turn off soon after the sun comes up most days. In the summer, the positioning and excellent insulation in our new home keeps us cooler than most without the need for air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in every room.

We have rarely been “snowed in” this past winter, but we did purchase a Subaru and love how well it works on steep snowy roads. Overall, we’re glad we chose a lower elevation. I can’t breathe any higher! We’re doing great right where we are!

memoir of retirement 2016We are newcomers to rural Colorado, so after two years I compiled a book about the total experience of moving here to build passive solar  in the foothills:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado Please feel free to contact me directly for copies of any of my books! MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

A Few Lifestyle Differences Between City and Rural Folks in Colorado

After 60 years of living in cities, I moved to rural Colorado 2 years ago. Here are some of the differences I have observed between those who choose to live in or near cities, and those who seek out the rural areas of our country.

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The most obvious difference is a love of silence and nature. We had my brother John here for the past few weeks and he spent almost all of his waking hours sitting outside observing the birds, the plants, the bugs, the clouds and the weather. I told you before that I call him “Mother Nature’s Son” and for good reason. Rural America is only for those who greatly prefer a natural setting to high stress, traffic, noise, hustle and bustle and an incredible array of shopping options.

Our sense of time and relaxation is different here. Sure there are lots of hard-working people in the outback, but time takes on a different meaning here. The only people here who are in a great hurry are the outsiders, the locals live on a more relaxed schedule. No hurry to get on to the next task, take your time and do it right. As I mentioned previously when I wrote about the only time we went back to Fort Collins in our two years here:

“I saw people everywhere waiting for something, a place to park, a place to sit in a restaurant, a chance to go through the next stop light, an opportunity to pay for their purchase.” 

Sunflowers on a county road

My commute to La Veta….

Even today, I still find myself sometimes getting anxious when I’m preparing to go somewhere in town. Will it be crowded? Will I be able to get in? And then I arrive and there is hardly anybody there. It takes time to adjust to little traffic and no big rush.

One wonderful, interesting result of no longer sitting in traffic with my foot on the brake constantly, no more right knee pain! I injured that knee in a ski accident in high school, and was planning on treating the long-term pain with surgery before I moved here. Now, my knee is fine.

One discovery for me has been how important religion is out here in the country. I have found one of the great delineators between people is what church you attend, or if you are even religious. In discussions with new people, church almost always comes up. My religion is nature and the earth is my church. Some here can understand that perspective and many cannot. They would prefer that I come to their church.

The other important issue locally seems to be whether you smoke marijuana or not. In some cases I have begun friendships only to find them backing away when the subject of marijuana comes up.

As far as new friendships go, I would say rural people are more hesitant to welcome newcomers into their life. I have heard that they like to wait a few years to see if you will be sticking around before actually becoming friends. And then there are those who came here for the purpose of being alone permanently.

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Overall I am surprised at how different rural living can be. It has certainly changed me in so many good ways. I have so much less anxiety and stress, that I almost cannot tolerate how bad I feel when I go to even small cities. I feel my anxiety level rising immediately…

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I now fully embrace my love of silence and nature, so I will continue my quest for like-minded souls in this area.

 

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)I’m new to southern Colorado. After two years I decided to compile a book about the ups and downs of moving from Fort Collins Colorado to west of Walsenburg to build a passive solar retirement home:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books!   Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Blogging Boomers Mid-Winter Edition

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We’re stuck in a beautiful snow storm in the foothills just east of the magnificent Sangre de Cristo mountain range in southern Colorado today. If you can think of a nicer place to be stuck, please share.

I am here today to share with you the works of a few of my favorite boomer blogger friends, and ask you a question at the end of this post.

Number one is from Linda Myers. She has a timeshare dilemma — too many to use. Go see her dilemma over at her Bag Lady in Waiting Blog. 

Over at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Blog, things are hot and cold. Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, almost had a kitchen fire, so she writes about tips for preventing kitchen fires.  On the cold front, she writes about how older adults can prevent hypothermia during the winter by wearing a hat inside and keeping the temperature at at least 68 degrees.

Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting, is traveling once again this week, and discusses the difficulties of finding great eateries on a cross country road trip. Go read about some of her disappointments in Dining Along the Road, especially when traveling off the beaten path.

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I have been noticing an interest among my readers in the process we went through in moving from suburbia to rural Colorado, so I wrote about the wins and losses we have experienced in the past two years. 

Near the end of this piece I ask my readers whether age 60 is too old to make new friends. Please send me a comment with your own opinion on this issue. I am really curious what others have to say about this!

Wins and losses when moving from Fort Collins to a small town in Colorado

320 W. 2nd St. Walsenburg

We moved from Fort Collins to Walsenburg in June of 2014 to build a direct gain passive solar home in the foothills west of Walsenburg. We rented a hundred-year-old house in town for 13 months while building our own version of a retirement dream home. There would be few surprises when we finally arrived in our new home, but assumptions made about living in Walsenburg certainly did add up.

When you decide to move to a very small town after living in the city most of your life, false assumptions can be made. After all, you really don’t know exactly what to expect, because you have never lived in a tiny town before.

The first mistake we made was assuming that rentals would be available in both La Veta and Walsenburg in June. We discovered the end of May there were none we would even consider living in, and we were closing on our house the middle of June! We quickly made friends with Susie, the primary realtor in Walsenburg, and offered her a hefty bonus if she would find us something quick.

We also assumed utilities would be much cheaper in a small town, but we were wrong about that too. We did call the utility departments for both La Veta and Walsenburg before renting, and quickly discovered that only propane heating was available in La Veta. That would add up quite quickly in this cold part of the county, so we began leaning more towards Walsenburg in our selection process.

One thing we never would have guessed is that city water in Walsenburg would cost over $60 a month BEFORE you figured in how much you used that month! This town has lost about a third of its population in the past decade, so their water capacity is far larger than they need or can pay for, one reason why they are welcoming marijuana grow operations at present.

We did find a decent house to rent just in time, but it was so small we had to find additional storage for some of our furniture. The local realtor helped us with that too.

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Work finally began on our new passive solar home in December 2014!

One total win for us was how friendly and welcoming our new landlord Bob was. He helped us whenever he could, and even provided new music for us to listen to as we explored our new home county. He then invited us up to his commune home near Gardner, where he has lived since the 1970s. The people who live in the communes in the northern part of Huerfano county have been so friendly and welcoming!

Another total win has been the quiet beauty of this part of Colorado. The views are phenomenal down here, and the weather is just a bit milder than up north. We love it! It’s definitely big sky country!

Most of the people we have met here have been friendly at least at first, although most seem hesitant to truly welcome us. Most don’t seem to want to be friends. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I have heard a few interesting explanations so far!

I wrote quite a bit about making friends here in my new memoir, out now! When asked whether it was OK to write about how others have treated you, Anne Lamott said,

“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

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Sunrises are outrageous at 7,000 feet with no neighbors!

It’s been a long & winding road to this wonderful home in the foothills below those beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains, one I’d love to share with you!

 

Moving somewhere new and making friends

making friendsMoving is never easy, at least not in my experience, and I have changed residences more times than I can count at this point in my life.  That is probably why most older Americans don’t move past a certain age.  That, plus the enormous amount of energy needed to change homes!

Recently we moved from Fort Collins, CO, a major metro area, to a very small town in southern Colorado, population 3,000.  Contrary to what I had expected, it is not easy making friends in small towns.  Yes, most are friendly when you first meet them on the street, but becoming friends is a whole different concept.

Whenever I meet people I feel I have some connection with anywhere here or in La Veta, I offer them my card with my contact information.  In four months here, none have ever called me back.  This is a time when having a primary relationship with your husband is essential.  I think it would have been very tough to move here without one!  And since we don’t have jobs here in town, the people we do meet are limited.

baby buddiesLuckily our new landlord has been friendly and welcoming.  He has made us music CDs and invited us out to his country home twice, even offering us produce from his garden.  Every other social situation here has gone nowhere.

Yes, everyone is busy in the summer months especially here.  Everyone has their lives and priorities.  But please be aware when you meet someone new to town, they could probably use a friend.  Were you ever new in town?