And the road goes on forever...

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Contemplating Change: Over Wisconsin?

 It took about three weeks after my fall for my worst achy parts to mitigate their painful moves. I now understand better how falls are so devastating to older  people. 

I love Wisconsin; actually, we both do. We enjoy the laid-back lifestyle, the people, the ruralness of almost the entire state, the quirkiness of the culture, the low cost of living. I do enjoy the change of seasons and I don’t mind the depth of the cold, but something that is bothering me more and more is the length of the winters. It’s still tolerable now, but what about as we age? Being shut in due to the pandemic has only magnified the feeling. 

Marc complains that I just like to move every so often, and he likely has me there! My grass is always greener somewhere else. I have learned there is no perfect place though; there is probably going to be a season which will be uncomfortable—too hot or too cold. The question now becomes is there a shorter uncomfortable season somewhere? 

When one is doing research on places to retire to, it seems like with so many states there should be numerous ones that could jump out as “potentials”. That’s what it was like for me when I started delving in to real estate cost, sales taxes, income taxes, property taxes, DMV fees, utility costs and all the other costs associated with maintaining life in an area. That only covers the practical considerations and doesn’t address the more esoteric things like lifestyle, climate, ambiance of the scenery, recreational activities, proximity of good health care, and lastly, decent people we may have something in common with. 

So, as I go through the process with several states that seem to be popular with the Boomer retirement crowd, I find I am whittling the list down rapidly. One driving factor for us is preferring to be by major water bodies or an ocean yet still finding affordable property. The two don’t seem to go hand in hand in very many locales. And no, Florida is not in contention! Actually, anything too southern is not in the running for us; it’s just too hot and humid for our tastes. The southwest is too arid and hot and I suspect may experience severe draught and water shortages in the near-term future, which won’t bode well for its millions of residents. Not someplace we want to have our worldly wealth tied to either, in the event of catastrophic water problems. The recent political problems and the astronomical real estate prices in the PNW and west, definitely rule out that swath of the country. Actually, real estate pricing is just a runaway train right now in any location it seems. 

We thought about Maine for a long time but then wondered, other than the ocean, why exchange one wintery location for another just the same? One consideration is that our daughter and son-in-law just moved near Greenville, SC and I figure being somewhat close to them in future years as we age could be of benefit. But after looking at SC and NC, neither one really appealed to me and were much more expensive than I had suspected. 

A place I keep bouncing back to is the area near Williamsburg, VA where we spent about a five-week stint in back in ’12. Across to the middle peninsula via toll bridge from York is the very historic Gloucester County, first settled in the early 1600’s. The area is rural; farming and fishing based, yet has excellent proximity to water recreation, good shopping and medical care. Bare land parcels are fairly reasonable in price considering they can be so close to the ocean. We’ve decided it deserves a closer look again so we made reservations for two weeks at a shoreside campground in April. Maybe that will answer some questions. 

The one major hurdle to VA is the personal property tax there, which is punitive to newer vehicles since it goes as a percentage of value. It is somewhat offset however, by extremely low real estate property taxes (as compared to WI). I just have to keep reminding myself that there is no free lunch; you pay one way or another. VA is also much more densely populated but in this corner of the world outside of the hustle of big cities I don’t think it would be noticed too much. Where we would notice it would be in comparing outdoor recreation—it would take long driving days to get to any remote wilderness camping like we can experience in the Upper Peninsula living here. On the other hand, it would allow Marc to do his favorite activities of harvesting seafood, kayaking, and fishing only minutes away. And there could be new types of recreation in visiting and touring all the historical attractions, including visiting all of DC’s offerings. 

Looming as the biggest concern of all, is do we have it in us to build another place from scratch? Even the thought at our age is extremely daunting. We have the rough outline of what we want. Marc wants a large pole barn type shop where all his stuff and the vehicles can be safely tucked away out of sight. I want a very small cottage style home ranging 700 to no more than 1000 square feet. This will work best for that final home which should allow us to age in place for as long as possible, require minimal maintenance and upkeep, and be low on utilities and taxes. As a last resort if we are not capable of an entire build, we could always place a manufactured home and have someone build Marc a pole barn shell which he could finish out as he desired. 

I’ll update the blog on vacation if we have internet or sometime after arrival back home to keep you apprised of our thoughts! Here’s our new better built screen room we’ll be taking along…


Monday, February 15, 2021

Let the Demo Begin

 At some point this winter it dawned on Marc that the old Travel Supreme contained lots of useful real maple wood for his various projects. He's virtually been using it as a free lumber store as he's robbed the veneer sheets and drawers and drawer faces for his basement workshop. It may all look a hodgepodge but he swears it brings better order to his mania! In addition to the storage, he has worked tirelessly to get his dust collection system operative and that has helped to finally mitigate the flying dust upstairs and also eased his ability to breathe downstairs. 

The Travel Supreme meantime, now looks a total mess. Once we have all the interior parts scavenged, we should be able to get the exterior sawn into small pieces and hauled to the dump at some point this summer. The major portion then remaining will be the frame and axles which we'll sell. 

Wisconsin has certainly partaken of the ice box temperatures affecting much of the rest of the nation this month. We've had many -35 degree nights and days not reaching even double digits. We often don't even leave the house for a week at a time. 

Part of the reason for that however, is also because I suffered a bad fall on the ice one day. We were out delivering auction items to the winners of the Humane Society online auction, when both hands full of bags, I stepped on clear ice on the cement walkway and watched in horror as my feet flew up in front of my face and down I went flat on my back and tailbone. Writhing in extreme pain, I screamed for Marc as I couldn't even catch my breath, let alone get myself up. 

I'm pretty sure I suffered a concussion, my wrist was badly sprained, elbows bruised, chest muscles torn apart, and tailbone prevented barely any movement. I was a mess and couldn't move for nearly two days. Things are improving but very slowly, particularly the tailbone and wrist. I had an xray of the wrist and it's not broken but it still remains weak and badly swollen and it's been almost two weeks. Naturally it's my dominant hand. The only saving grace is that all of the items Marc and I contributed to the auction, including his birdhouses, brought in $416 to the shelter so that part was very heartwarming and worthwhile. 

It may be time for a re-evaluation around here. We love Wisconsin, but is it a good choice for a "forever" home?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Happy Holidays!


Here's hoping everyone finds a little joy and peace this holiday season! Let's look ahead to a new and better year....

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Going to the Dark Side


Ah, the winter of our discontent continues, stuck inside by Covid protocol, even if not by winter weather.

Any time that happens, I seem to move to thoughts of rearranging furniture or changing things up. I’ve often heard it said if one chooses to go bold with décor do it in a small room where the impact either won’t be huge or is easily changed. To that end, I decided to paint my small half bath off our master bedroom. Yes, I know; who in this day and age only has a half bath rather than a sumptuous spa master loaded with deep soaking tub, clear frameless tiled walk-in shower, two sinks, furniture-like linen closet and window which looks out to some garden oasis? I spend very little time in the bathroom so a fancy one has very little priority in my life. This house was built on a strict budget with the idea we don’t need that much space, but as we age, we will need low utility bills, lower taxes, low maintenance and low upkeep. The last thing I want to do in my 70’s and 80’s is clean a huge house!

So, my tiny half bath went from a mild pastel aqua and seashore décor to a deep charcoal grey/brown with white ceiling and cabinetry. And man, does it now pop! I love the change! See for yourself.

Decor is yet to be determined and I need to replace the aqua paisley rug to something more suitable. It's strange that the dark color actually accentuated the tall ceiling even more (we have nine foot ceilings). Starting with the color choice:

No turning back now:

It's not all been about me remodeling either! Marc's been hard at work on several projects at once. He finally decided to move forward with building our pantry off our hallway, which sits over the basement stairwell. And while he was at it, he got busy enclosing the stairs with a backplate and completed the sheetrock, taping and mudding of the stairwell. He still needs to build a faceplate and doors for the pantry but we are already using it and it is so much handier than running down into the basement all the time. 

The Humane Society that I volunteer for has had a tough time this year with its fundraising activities, since all major events have been cancelled, so we brainstorm every month via Zoom as to what we can do instead. Coming up in January will be a large online auction of craft items, to which I will be donating many of my handmade items: jewelry, fabric baskets, and art quilts. I suggested Marc join in with his handmade bird houses, which he makes out of all his scrap lumber. 

Still needing to add more to our yard, he literally started a production line of bird houses and has had fun embellishing them. We will be donating three to the shelter cause, two of which will be his cork creations. I made a joke to him one day: "Oh, how the mighty have fallen. You've gone from building 100,000 square foot assisted living facilities to bird houses!" Ain't life a bitch sometimes.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Fall 2020, Part 2


From Moose Rapids, we took off headed north and hit Lake Superior at the town of Baraga. We passed several campgrounds I had noted but earlier calls had ascertained that some were down rugged, long dirt roads and not being sure of access or turn around space, we bypassed. And thus, a few miles later we headed east on highway M26 on the lower Keweenaw Peninsula. Our destination was a small state forest campground of nine sites, situated on a lovely small lake.

We easily found it down a nice dirt road and were thrilled to see only one other camper there; a family in a popup enjoying a last weekend of camping. Although we passed a fair share of RVers out enjoying leaf peeping in the Yooper, the campgrounds were all blissfully mostly empty. It might have been the weather forecast. The entire trip held temps mainly in the 40’s and 50’s, with some periods of heavy rain. We don’t mind this kind of Fall camping however, finding the days when we must remain inside a cozy experience of cooking, reading, game playing, snuggly naps, and playing with the cats. Having changed out the RV furniture to comfy recliners, and having the ability to then turn the chairs to whichever window features the best view is the bomb as they say!

As an aside, we thoroughly enjoyed this small state forest campground and definitely want to return with the kayaks at a future date. Especially now knowing they stock it with Rainbow trout!

(Yes, this is often my lap during colder weather as all three cats feel a need to spend time with me at the same moment!)

We chose the very best Fall sunny day to drive into the peninsula’s largest town of Houghton/Hancock (pop. 8000) and are so glad we did! Cresting the hill and looking down into town I was gob smacked at the charm of it all, as white houses stood out against a brilliantly colored hillside spilling down to glistening water. It totally reminded me of New England! It only got better as we approached the old downtown section, which the town has preserved in a neat fashion, with riverside parks, free parking and marvelous old stone buildings. Even though it was a Sunday and most shops closed, we could sense that the place had a real heart and soul and liveliness to it, not seen in many towns of the UP. Maybe that’s because it has a couple of renown universities. 

From downtown, we wandered across the famous old lift bridge, spanning Portage Lake, dredged in 1860. This is actually a canal made for shipping purposes, which allowed larger ships access from both Lake Huron to the east and Lake Superior to the west. This bridge is pretty fascinating as it features the main deck (car travel) and a lower one for rail traffic. Now however, the lower deck is used only during winter for snowmobile traffic—how cool is that?

This area is historically an old mining town, at one time the largest producer of copper in the country, and we were able to freely visit a couple of the ghosts of yesteryear. We always love exploring old ruins and this was no exception! We finished up our lovely sojourn in Houghton with a take-out fresh lake fish sandwich; I had whitefish and Marc had the perch, both deep fried and so yummy!


(This section of the Atlantic mine ran from 1845-1945.)

This was to be our last good weather day in the UP and although we stayed until Tuesday as now the only campers at Emily Lake, we decided to take two days heading home. At this point we were only about two hours from the WI border, crossing into Land ‘O Lakes near Eagle River; always a beautiful little town. We decided to check out a county campground at Jack Lake, out of Antigo, which was due to close that weekend. We had our pick of sites so got one snuggled up as close as possible to the charming lake. If a person could snag a few spots lakeside, some of which are first-come, some reserved, it would make for good kayaking right from camp. However, at $30/night with electric (water and dump station available), it’s not a place we would normally choose to stay given the cost and likely fullness of sites during summer. Turns were fairly tight for a rig our size and I suspect it would normally be full of families as there were many amenities, including boat launch, hiking trails, disc golf and playground. It is however, conveniently close to home at around a two-hour drive.

Arriving home, we cleaned and buttoned up the RV for winter storage and did the same thing to the garden. Our weather is rapidly turning cold and we suspect we are not far from our first snowfall, which just might arrive by Sunday. The Northwoods has already gotten its fair share and we made our escape from the UP just in time to miss their first snowfall. Alas, sorry to see season’s end but we experienced some good camping trips this summer and now must bundle up and in for our long winter.

On the home front, Marc is still unemployed and enjoying semi-retirement. He has made the conscious choice not to work at this time, due to rampant Covid numbers in this state. He has several home projects to tackle this winter hopefully, but all in all, we suspect a long, quiet winter so my updates may be few and far between. Rest assured however, when there is something to share, I will be back!