Snowbirds for a week

Castlegar News semi-weekly columnist shares details of a sunny week away

I never really understood what a “snowbird” was.  Having worked all my life, I never had the opportunity to go south in the winter and check out “snowbirding.” But recently I took to wings and flew down to investigate.

I discovered there’s an entirely other life down south waiting for seniors and retirees. Whether the destination is the Phoenix area or Palm Springs or a spot in Mexico, the accommodation is not expensive, the food is cheap, and the entertainment is reasonably priced. It doesn’t cost a small fortune to seek the sun all winter.

Upon our arrival in Phoenix, our friends took us to their townhouse – probably small compared to the nests some snowbirds are living in.  However, it is quite liveable with two bedrooms, a large living room, a comfortable kitchen, a dining area, a laundry area, and a closed in garage. It has two courtyards – one enclosed called an Arizona room and another open to the sun.

Given the slumped economic situation in Arizona right now, our friends picked up this lovely nest for not much more than a song. As part of our week with them, we had a look at some of the many nests available in the Phoenix area and noted how low the prices were.

As part of our friends’ situation, they have the right to use seven different recreation sites. Most of the recreational activities are free or at minimal cost if you live in the area. So we had access to huge enclosed waterparks where we waded along walking channels, swam pool lengths, and simply tanned in the available sun.

My friend and I spent parts of two days golfing at one of the many golf courses nearby. At the same time, my wife and her friend putted their way around a mini-golf extravaganza at the nearest complex. These activities were not free, but they were amazingly inexpensive.

There were elderly people everywhere, and clearly we felt we were among the youngest there. I found it interesting that most of the seniors owned golf carts they used to travel around the area – particularly from their homes to the golf courses and to the recreation sites.

It was peculiar to watch a golf cart pass us as we drove in my friend’s SUV. Then we used my friend’s golf cart two mornings to roar through the streets and over to the golf course we were playing. Golf carts sat in most driveways along the route.

An interesting diversion we discovered was to attend estate sales. Elderly people die or change their minds about where they’re living, and so they or their children put everything up for sale. Because we are interested in antiques and unique items, we went out of our way to attend several estate sales in the houses themselves. It was enjoyable going through an entire household of items all priced to sell.

During the week, we attended a marvelous Piano Man tribute held at the nearby Skye Auditorium. Here we listened to an incredible singer and pianist (the owner of Skye Place) and his band re-enacting Elton John and Billy Joel’s music. I have been to tributes before, some so-so, but this one was magnificent.

During the week, we took a side-tour up to Laughlin, Nevada, to do a bit of gambling. Then we meandered down to Lake Havasu to have a look at the old London Bridge brought to America brick by brick. It was pleasant following the ribbon of the Colorado River south, and on one highway, we were in Nevada, then California, and back into Arizona.

The whole trip was energizing and filled with sunlight. Truly, we will have to consider becoming snowbirds.