Saturday, April 23, 2016

Driving through the war zone

Looking for a Retirement Place – Episode 3

We had been thinking about scouting out another place while our French class was on hiatus for a couple of weeks.  The thought was to drive to a town called Nacogdoches, Texas, a couple of hours away, which was listed in our 100 Best Places book, and check it out. But the days we thought about doing that were affected by some of the rotten weather we have been having this spring. I would rather not have grapefruit sized hail hit my car out in the middle of East Texas and then have to figure out what to do next.  So the window of opportunity closed.

There are ads in the paper all the time for a place called Robson Ranch, located near Denton, Texas.  Denton is (or was) an hour or so away from here, to the north and west. Robson Ranch is another one of these age-restricted places where there are lots of activities to keep the residents busy.  The company has only one community in Texas, but has half a dozen more in Arizona, so we thought we could learn something that might be applicable to both places.  I contacted the company on-line and got a call back from some guy in Arizona.  He set up an appointment for us to have a day visit to the place in Denton.  They can do up to three days at a time, where you pay something for the privilege, but that is more for people from out of town.

So on a Friday in April, we drove to Robson Ranch.  The ranch is close to I-35W.  I-35 is split between Dallas and Fort Worth, so there is an I-35E and an I-35W.  It does not indicate direction but relative location. It also helps to confuse newcomers beyond belief – imagine it’s your first time in a city and there’s a sign that says I-35E North.  Where the hell does it go?  I-35 is the NAFTA highway, and it was built way too small to handle the volume it has now. So the I-35E part, the part that goes through Dallas, is being widened.  The result is that the driving conditions between the Bush Turnpike, where we got on I-35E, and Denton, where we looped over to I-35W, are slightly worse than in Kabul, Afghanistan, and maybe a little bit better than Aleppo, Syria.  I’m just glad it wasn’t raining.

We arrived at Robson Ranch and went to the sales center.  A very tall man came out and introduced himself as Tall Bill.  He is 6’9”. I said I was short Jim, and introduced even shorter Jody.  We chatted for a while in his office, and he explained some things we didn’t know.  Unlike Sun City, the age restriction for Robson is 40 years rather than 55.  This means about a third of the residents are still working, and the place is livelier than a typical retirement community where people are sitting around waiting to die. The minimum age for a son or daughter living there is nineteen.  Bill took us through four models, of different sizes.  The construction quality is excellent, much better than our current house. They have very good energy efficiency, high ceilings, vinyl clad double pane windows, mostly three car garages, although some are set up for a golf cart instead of a car. The place looks well thought out – 36 different options are available for the various models.

Some of the models were quite a bit smaller than our current house, but the layouts are so well designed you don’t notice.  Even the larger ones have a bar-style eating area in the kitchen and a dining room. 

The community has all manner of activities, an indoor heated pool, a very nice outdoor pool, a golf course, softball field, community garden, lots of clubs for various interests. 

BUT – it’s in Texas, where 100 degrees in July and August will take it out of you.  And I wonder about whether being a little more north and a little higher elevation will cause more of the s word.

They gave us a coupon for a free lunch for two, which we used at the golf course clubhouse. The regular restaurant is being renovated.  The golf course restaurant had a pretty limited menu but what we had was good.  The golf course itself looked pretty wide open, but I think the main hazard is back yards.

After lunch, a bit leg-weary, we went through the models we hadn't seen, and reviewed the ones we had, and ranked the ones we liked best.  Later, after we got home, we looked at the prices.  These homes are not cheap - as Bill said, it's all top of the line.

Driving home we took a different, longer, but less interesting route. More like pre-war Baghdad.

I think I like Robson Ranch better than Sun City Texas.  But we will look some more.

As an aside - Tall Bill drives a Smart Car.  Can you believe it?  I know the Smart has more leg room than most, since it has no back.  Also, he worked for a time in Japan, and a colleague of his was 7' tall. He said they stopped traffic, and caused a couple of wrecks.  If you ever go to Robson Ranch in Denton, ask for Tall Bill.  Everyone knows him.