Thursday, March 3, 2016

Southern Exposure

Looking for a retirement place – Episode 2

Not long after returning from Port Townsend, after a quick visit to New York for a sad family occasion, we took a short trip to Georgetown, Texas.  Our goal was a place called Sun City, Texas, which sounds hokey, but, when you get there, it isn’t. 

For this trip, we elected to drive. The alternative would have been to fly to Austin, then rent a car and drive to Georgetown, but with all the hassles of air travel these days, it was an absolutely easy decision to drive.  The drive was interesting, though, because we had to drive through Dallas and get to I-35 heading south.  I-35 is a strange beast, because both Dallas and Fort Worth wanted the interstate, so it splits into I-35E and I-35W.  Both of these run north and south.  So you see signs for I-35E N, I-35E S.  It takes some getting used to.  I-35 is the NAFTA highway, the primary route for freight and the like from Mexico into the US.  It was built many years ago as a four lane divided highway, but after NAFTA it was overwhelmed with traffic.  The road is eight lanes through most of Dallas, and shrinks down to four.  Then at Hillsboro, Texas, I-35E and I-35W (the one for Fort Worth) combine, and we get six lanes.  Eventually, six becomes four, because the expansion is not yet complete.

When you are in the area that is being worked on, you have what I call the no-sneeze zones.  There are concrete barriers alongside the main lanes, on both sides, and the shoulders are not worthy of the name. It made for an interesting drive.

We found Sun City with no difficulty.  We had arranged to rent a small house for a night, which (they said) came with a full refrigerator.  First we went to the main office, and they said we could walk through the Model Park, a street with examples of each floor plan they offer.  The houses are very variable, so some of the models were over the top, with a second story, etc.  But it was interesting to look at them.  Click here to see some sample floor plans. Everything is of course immaculate in model homes.  We were really impressed with the open floor plans and especially the huge, modern kitchens.  

One problem we had is that we were trying to envision our setup in these houses.  Our house in Richardson is a four-bedroom, but we use one bedroom as an office and one bedroom as a den, which is where we watch TV.  The only houses that offered similar setups had more square feet than our current house.  I was hoping to downsize, not upsize!

Our one bedroom house at Sun City was actually pretty nice, well furnished, but the refrigerator was empty.  We found our way over to a convenience store to get some snacks.  We had imported some wine from home.  The office gave us our choice of a bottle of red or a bottle of white Texas wine.  We chose red, took one sip, and threw it in the trash.  I wouldn’t even pour it down the sink for fear it might melt the plumbingit was so harsh.  The house had wi-fi.  It looked like a model they don’t sell any more, having two full bathrooms and one bedroom.  It had a second living area which could have been a guest bedroom.  They also provided a golf cart which we could use to poke around, but the weather was a little cool for that.  

We had dinner at one of the golf course restaurants, and it was clean and bright, and the food was pretty good, but the service was clueless. But it was a Monday. 

The next day we had a tour provided by a resident, a volunteer, who took us around to see the various amenities.  Sun City has three golf courses, and a couple of activity centers with indoor and outdoor pools.  There are also lots of facilities for hobbyists, wood work, stitchery of any kind, stained glass, art work, libraries, etc.  There are clubs for languages, clubs for people from wherever you came from, dozens of other clubs.  The community is for people 55 and up, and we seemed to be in the age range of most of the people there.  I have to say I was really surprised at how much they have going on.  Here is a link to their activities.

We are considering Sun City Texas as a possible retirement location.  It is far enough south to avoid the snow and ice issues that sometimes cause problems for us here in Richardson (but not this year).  But there are two other problems that affect living in Sun City that also affect us here:  one is July, and the other is August. But this one is still in the mix.