Yeah, It’s Been a While

For those of you who are counting it’s been more than a month since our last post. I have started to do more stuff on Facebook and Instagram as it’s a bit more immediate and takes less preparation (less writing too!). So, this post might be just a bit long as I catch up.

We’ve had a few visitors, including our Grandkids and Jocelyn for a couple of days as well as Jason followed by the Freak of Nature, Sylvia’s Dad, and Joan.

The grandkids were here to  celebrate Ayden’s and Jocelyn’s birthdays and had a great visit with them and Jocelyn’s folks. We even bought a new toy, an Ice Cream Maker so we could produce some frozen Non-Dairy treats that Ayden can eat. I think we were classified as having  hero status when we kept serving the kids Ice Cream cones, but isn’t that what grandparents do? 

 
With all the flooding here in the Okanagan Valley there wasn’t a chance to do anything on the water with the kids except wonder about what might have been. They didn’t look impressed.

 

Next we had our neighbours over for dinner to welcome them to the community. Since they’ve been here for a year it was about time. Roland and Brenda are fun people, and we had a great night. We even tried out a special ice cream dish made with Avocados. It looked far better than it tasted, unfortunately.

Then we were pleased to entertain Jason for a  short time; he  had a few days in Canada as he needed to be in Calgary to tie up some business and popped in for a visit. We put him to work for a bit cleaning up some of our pictures that we planned to print on canvas. More on that later.

We also had a short visit with Full Time Rv’ers, Mr. and Mrs. Maxx of the blog, Maxx Trails. We had visited with them this winter while they were staying in Apache Junction and were pleased to invite them to our home. It turns out that Mr. Maxx was an electrician in his former life and his company did the wiring for our house. He actually knew our place well, and I have an invoice in the files we inherited with the house that he had signed.

We’ve had lots of feathered friends visiting us this spring. The Finches and Hummingbirds have spent some time arguing over the sugar water in our feeder. It’s made for some interesting viewing.

We’ve also had a family of Big Horned owls appear in the ravine behind our house. They’ve been fun to watch, but have made it rather quiet at times in the ravine, as the other birds have kept their heads down. IMG_4287

IMG_4304

Our yard is looking pretty good this spring, and the cool wet weather early on has helped out a lot. The typical Okanagan heat is starting to show up, and things are drying out, but not before we’ve had a chance to enjoy the flowers.


The newest aquatic feature in the valley this summer are Sand Bags. All told, they’ve placed 1.7  million of them along the lake and creeks around here. Now that the water is finally receding, they need to find a place to put all the sand. They don’t want it put in the lake as it might be contaminated, but now that the forest fire season is starting, all the forestry interns they were using to fill the sandbags are being redeployed to the forests. I think it might be a while before they’re all picked up.


Now’s the time for Pictures of our Pictures. For a couple of years we’ve wanted to mount some of our better pictures and when Jason was here we put him to work and he cleaned up some of them for us. We ended up mounting 7 pictures ranging from 16×20 inches (the Quail) to 24×36 inches (the Heart and the Indian Paintbrush). They look great, far better in person than they will on the blog, so if you want to see them, come on by for a visit.

IMG_4308

One of our resident Quail sitting in our Clematis. What a fat little guy.

IMG_4312

Indian Paintbrush in Colorado.

IMG_4313

Columbine in Colorado. We’ve planted a bunch of these and hopefully we can show them off next year.

IMG_4320

Antelope Canyon in Arizona.

IMG_4327

KVR Rail Trail near Kelowna. That’s Jocelyn and the boys in the pic.

IMG_4329

A cute bird from Colorado. Jason did a lot of work in this picture taking out the imperfections in the various leaves among other things.


Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona. We hiked this creek in 2016.

So along with our regular days of Pickleball, Softball, Music concerts and keeping up with the yard work that’s what our month has been. I make no promises that we won’t be another month before we put together another blog. We hope you have a great summer. We’re pretty sure we will.

Advertisements

OK. I Think We’re Finally Done.

We’ve been renovating our yard since 2014 to attempt to make it more user friendly and less maintenance intensive. We thought we were finished the major work last year when we celebrated pulling out the last of the plants we didn’t like and spreading the last of 22 yards of gravel we’d bought over 3 years. The last section was below the rock wall in our backyard.


Over the course of last summer we kept looking at the remaining Junipers and not liking what we saw. We also found that the Bark mulch we placed around the Junipers kept falling onto the gravel and didn’t look great. Then when we got home from Arizona we found that our neighbourhood deer had done such a great job over the winter shaping the cedars at the top to look like skeletons that we decided to pull everything out.

What we haven’t had was a lot of time to get this work done. With playing softball two days a week and trying to get in some pickleball between rainstorms there hasn’t been much of an opportunity until this last week when I began pulling everything out and reshaping the dirt to accept a bunch of new bushes. We finished spreading another 2.5 yards of gravel yesterday, and are much happier now that we are actually, finally, completely finished. Hopefully.


Last winter was pretty hard on our yard, and the Clematis on the left looks pretty rough compared to past years. The cool spring has also meant that we haven’t got many flowers to show off. Usually by now we have lots of roses and peonies to share, but we haven’t hardly seen any buds appear yet this year. Our vegetable garden was pretty far behind as well, and then on the weekend I noticed a Marmot slinking out of our yard at breakfast time. It seems they like tender young plants, and our beets, kale, cilantro and lettuce were just about chewed down to the ground. I spread some deer repellant on the garden with the hope that I could save some plants, but it didn’t work, as the marmot came back and finished off any little sprigs he’d left behind. All we have left in the garden is Garlic and bare dirt. I guess it’s time to get the slingshot out and try and scare him off. 

The softball team is going OK. We haven’t won many games, only 2, but we’re having fun. Just to show you how desperate we are, they had me pitching in the last game after our regular pitcher had to leave. It didn’t go well, but then again, all I have ever pitched is for batting practice and it showed, as the other team hit everything I lofted at them. Oh well, better luck next time…..

We Don’t Seem To Have Good Luck with Carpet.

For those of you not bored with the minutiae of our lives you may remember us purchasing new area rugs last month. The carpet in our eating area didn’t last a day before being replaced, but we were quite pleased with the one in the Living Room. 

Unfortunately, two of the corners started to unravel within a couple of weeks and we had to return it. It was just like the sweaters your Grandmother used to knit you. Once the first stitch lets go, there’s no stopping the rest from unravelling.

Unfortunately we were unable to get an exact replacement, so had to go shopping again. This is what we ended up with. 


It’s not nearly as colourful as the previous one, but it looks good anyway.

My previous post about living the Snowbird life missed a few points as it was getting to be verrrry long. One was about Health Insurance costs. These grow steadily as you age, but it helps to be healthy if you can arrange it. Last year at age 60, and with no pre-existing conditions or prescribed medications Sylvia and I purchased 90 day multi-trip coverage before we went south for just over $400 total for both of us.  That was about 2/3’s of our previous year’s costs for a 150 day package. We have to head back to Canada Mid-Winter to make this work, but as we are planning to head home each year for a short visit with Sylvia’s folks for the foreseeable future that works out well. 

Some friends of our who are older than us, and have pre-existing conditions that raise the costs of health coverage dramatically, do this process every year as they find the savings on insurance pay for the airfare and more. You only have to be back in Canada for a cup of coffee to reset the 90 day clock. 

As I said earlier, the costs rise quickly as you age, and especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. My Godparents are in their mid 80’s and have a number of health issues, but still head to Mesa for 5 months every winter as it beats being in Edmonton. Two years ago their insurance costs were $19,000. I think when our costs get that high we won’t be heading South anymore!

I also know people who head to Mexico every winter and only buy enough insurance to cover their transit time through the USA, and none for their time in Mexico. Medical costs there are very affordable, unlike the Excited States.

I was asked a question about the process of crossing the border. The Canadian Snowbird Association instructs us to bring along a number of documents, including credit card receipts, property tax records, bank and financial records and several others. We have brought these documents with us every year, but have never been asked for any of them. The year we don’t have them with us is the year we’ll be asked for them I suppose. 

One thing I haven’t covered yet is renting a vacation home. We don’t have any experience with this ourselves, but have friends who’ve rented 5th wheel trailers, Mobile Homes, Park Models and 3 bedroom homes in various locales. The costs for this run between $1800 and $2500+ a month, but in the case of RV’s or Park Models this will include the monthly site rental and allow you full access to a park’s facilities. Yuma is cheaper than Desert Hot Springs which is cheaper than Phoenix, and the west side of Phoenix seems to be a bit more expensive than the East side. Of course, if you’re made of Money, you can buy a nice house right on a Fairway in Mesa for about $400K or about $275K out where we hang out.  

One option several people use for defraying costs is to rent out their home on a short term basis. Some friends make use of house-sitters to just look after their place for the winter, but we know several couples in the Okanagan who make a good buck renting their homes for the winter to Albertans trying to get away from the cold. (That process works great until you have to come home for some unforeseen reason and can’t get back into your home.)

I hope this has been helpful, but remember that these scenarios only relate to our experiences and travels. We have by no means experienced everything that the Snowbird lifestyle has to offer, and won’t deny that other people’s experiences, while different than ours, are no less enjoyable. We’ve found our niche, and have set down some roots in Gold Canyon. There’s no reason to expect that you won’t be able to do the same for less or more money anywhere there’s lots of sunshine to enjoy.

The How and Why

This post is in response to a few friends asking questions this winter about why we have chosen to spend our winters in Gold Canyon, and the mechanics and finances of our winter getaways. 

First though, I should let you know that the flooding that’s happening in the Okanagan Valley hasn’t affected us at all, but friends of ours have had issues, to the point of being evacuated. Colin and Contessa of 5C’s blog live right on Duck Lake and their yard is under water. They have moved into their RV and found the last available RV site in the city. Barry and Cindy from Canyon Vista live in the same complex, and are likely rather soggy. 

Maxx Trails are a couple we met this winter, and they are camp hosts at Bear Creek Park not far from our home, and while they are safe, there has been a lot of damage to campsites in the park from the creek overflowing and knocking down trees.

And to make matters much worse 😉 the Pickleball courts in Kelowna flooded on the weekend. This didn’t affect our courts here in West Kelowna, but it meant a LOT of people who normally play in town made their way across the bridge and played with us. The 6 courts we have were all full, and we had more than a dozen people waiting to play at any given time. It’s nice to be popular, but we all ended up sitting too long between games.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. You may recall that Sylvia and I purchased a Park Model this winter in Canyon Vistas, a park where we have spent the last 6 winters in our nine year old 5th Wheel trailer. One of the reasons for the purchase is that we were looking into getting a newer, larger trailer, and the new home was in the ballpark of the costs for a new trailer. We looked semi-seriously at a 38 foot 2015 Mobile Suites unit this winter. It was nice, but would be difficult to park at our Kelowna home, and was 10K more than the Park Model we bought. 

By the way, a Park Model (PM) is just a glorified trailer that has been skirted and secured to a concrete foundation. They are normally 12′ by 36′, and arrive onsite on wheels. Once located in place, the axles are unbolted from the PM, the wheels are removed from the axles, and the axles are left in place in case you ever want or need to move the unit. All the additional awnings, storage or living rooms added to the PM are built just like any house. Our contractor is going to remove the metal awning pictured below and replace it with a regular truss roof.


When we bought our trailer back in our working days, a co-worker nicknamed it the Taj Mahal, as it was larger than any of the weekend trailers or campers owned by people we worked with. It was and is a great size, and I am happy we weren’t hauling anything larger on our trip across Canada, but living in 250 square feet for almost 5 months a year was getting a bit wearisome. We have several friends who live in smaller spaces though, and as long as your trailer is 22 feet long it will be welcome in most RV parks.

The new place is about 400 sq ft now, and we are intending to add 380 sq ft plus a nice large deck to watch the Superstition Mountains from. And yes, we’ve both been to the top of these little hills.


I have never posted a detailed accounting of our costs for our winter escape, but you can find details from other bloggers here and here. Our experiences are that we always have more money in our Savings account at the end of the winter than we do when we leave in the fall. It costs us about $3500 (all figures in US $) to reserve an RV site for 5 months, and about $400 to stop in RV parks on the way down and back. On top of that, depending on the route we take, we spend between $800 and $1000 for fuel to get the trailer down and back. Other than those expenses everything else we spend is something we would likely be purchasing whether we were in Arizona or BC, and since pretty well all consumables are cheaper down South we’re far ahead of the game. And those hard costs of less than $5000 are likely less than it would cost for a 2 week vacation in Hawaii and we get 20 weeks of sunshine and fun for the investment. 

Phoenix is one of the sunniest places in the US, with 300 or more sunny days per year. The weather is a bit inconsistent year to year though. Most years the weather ranges from 75 to 85 Farenheit every day, with overnight temps in the high 30’s in January and Mid 50’s by late March. We have seen some snow in the past, although not this year, and we’ve also seen 100 degrees a few times. Some years have been warmer than this past winter, but I was surprised to learn that 2016 – 17 was one of the warmer average winters on record. This had more to do with very few really cold overnight temps than warm days. Most of our hiking days were very comfortable though, not too hot, and not that cold either. And no matter how cool we may have felt the winter to be, nobody in Western Canada felt the least bit sorry for us, did you?

We have latched onto Canyon Vistas (CV)for several good reasons. It is situated close to Phoenix so we can attend all sorts of Music, Cultural and Sports events, including Live Music Performances, Great Plays, Nascar races, Golf Tournaments, College Bowl games, NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB Spring Training games if we so wish. The quality of the music and theatre is first class, and the price is cheap in comparison to what we pay in Canada. We see about 4 plays a year for $22 a ticket, and over the years have gone to Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton and Joe Bonamassa concerts among several others.

As far as Sports, Football is expensive, Baseball is cheap, and Hockey is ridiculously cheap compared to Canada. Prime lower bowl tickets to see the Arizona Coyotes range from $60 to $125 depending on the opposition. Original 6 teams, or Canadian teams are expensive, but I recall paying $115 a ticket about 16 years ago for Nose-bleed Second balcony tickets to take my Dad to a Canucks game in Vancouver. I shudder to think what they would cost today. 

CV is also next to the Mountains and the Desert so we can explore to our heart’s content. We have made Great friends in the park, and every year we visit with Winter friends during the Summer. We are involved in Hiking, Pickleball and Softball all winter. We have gained the reputation in our corner of the park as ‘The Couple Who Are Never There’, as we’re always off doing something fun. Part of the reason for that is that we can’t do much entertaining in our trailers confined space.

There are also lots of activities organized by the RV park, many of which are free or very minimal cost. This is only a partial list from their website:

-Afternoon happy hours -Arts and crafts room -Ballroom -Billiards room-Bocce ball-Card room -Ceramics -China painting -Church service (Non-denominational) -Clubhouse- Computer lab -Computer classes -Dance classes -Educational and fitness classes -Fitness center -Geo-caching -Golfing -Hiking -Jam sessions -Ladder golf -Lapidary -Library -Line dancing and lessons Massage Therapy -Pickleball courts -Ping pong -Pitch & putt -Poker -Pottery/ceramics -Quilting and sewing room -Red hats -Scrapbooking -Shuffleboard courts -Softball -Stained glass -Swimming pools and spa -Tai Chi -Tennis courts -Travel agent -Walking paths -Water aerobics -Woodcarving room -Zumba

If you’re bored at any time during a winter in CV it’s your own fault. If you like peace and quiet that’s available too, in that the sites in our park are relatively large compared to many parks, and you can always find a spot to hide away out of sight. Mind you, one of the great things about RVing is that you can meet your neighbours pretty easily, and most RV’ers are pretty good people. For those of you who are easily bored, there’s always Golf, as there are an untold number of courses in the Phoenix area, and several RV parks and Mobile Home communities have courses built into their complexes.

There are a multitude of other ways to spend a Winter in Arizona though. In our park the purchase price of a Park Model ranges from $35K to $135K, and we have to lease the land for about $5500 a year plus around $700 in Property taxes. There are lots of parks where older units can be bought for as little as $6000, but in most cases you get what you pay for. The cheaper parks are usually much older and much closer quarters. You can also find older Mobile Homes parks where people are trying to give units away for next to nothing if you take over the lease payments. Again, you get what you pay for, but my buddy Croft has parked his Motorhome in one such park in Mesa the past few years, and they really seem to like it. It’s also cheap, leaving lots of money for Croft to spend on those things that are important to him. I believe that is seafood, booze and RV repairs, but I could be mistaken.

Another option is purchasing a RV Pad in a park that has sites for sale and placing an RV or Park Model on it. We’ve been in a few of these communities, and sites range from $50 – 70K in most places in Mesa/Apache Junction, although sites are cheaper further out of town. Some of them come complete with a trailer for these prices, but the trailers won’t be new, or nice. 

There are also many RV parks in the area that have lower site rental and purchase costs than ours, and we have visited several of them where friends were staying, or where I have played Softball. Some are nice, some are not, but all of them have residents who really enjoy what they have to offer. We run into people all the time who rave about their community, and wouldn’t think of moving somewhere else. 

Another option that we have seen is for people to purchase an RV and store it during the Off-Season in Arizona. There are lots of services (or friends with Pick-Ups and Hitches) that will move a trailer onto a site for you. Purchase costs in Arizona are cheap, especially in late Spring once the Snowbirds have gone home and the market has dried up. That same pricing structure applies to Homes and Park Models, as several sales happened in our park after we left in early April.

All the info I have provided is specific to RV living in the East end of the Valley, but there are many other communities which provide the same opportunities. These include Casa Grande, Coolidge, Surprise, Florence, Gilbert, Chandler and even Yuma and the Palm Springs area as well as many others. We have visited most of these, or have friends and acquaintances who swear they’re the best places to spend a winter. The bottom line is you really can’t go far wrong anywhere if you want to escape a Canadian Winter. 

Hopefully we have been able to answer some of your questions about the How and Why of our winters in Arizona, and if you have any specific questions, just post a comment, and we’ll try and answer them.

When Cousins Come Visit

We were pleased to have 3 of Sylvia’s cousins come for a visit and lunch on Friday. Cousin Peter and Susan live in St Catherine’s and we’ve been to their home a couple of times. They also try and head west at least every second year as they have a son in Winterpeg and most of the rest of Peter’s family is in BC.

They were joined by Peter’s Sister Anne and her husband John who moved to Kelowna last summer. We haven’t had a chance to catch up with them since they moved here so it was high time we remedied that. As well, Deb and Wes who also moved here last year rounded out the mini reunion. A good time was had by all, and Sylvia survived the day without any panic Smile. (you do know that she frets about making sure everything is perfect, don’t you?)

Lunch was great. It was even a nice day which made the pic kind of difficult.

IMG_4262

The ladies. That’s Deb, Susan and Anne. Yes, Sylvia and Deb could be sisters……In fact, Sylvia borrowed Deb’s Wedding Dress 40+ years ago and there was some discussion on whether it would still fit them. I’m sue it would.

IMG_4265

Wes, Peter and John.

IMG_4266

Peter and Anne are the children of Sylvia’s oldest Aunt, and grew up with Sylvia’s Mom who was the youngest in the family.

IMG_4269

And that’s the whole bunch.

IMG_4271

Peter and Susan are here through the weekend, and on Monday head to the Lower Mainland to see their remaining 3 Aunts and an Uncle who all live there. They will be staying with Sylvia’s Mom.

Careful What You Wish For?

Well, I made the softball team. They decided to bring in 4 new players this year, and told a couple of guys from  previous years that they are now spares. I did mention that this is a competitive team, didn’t I?

Now the fun begins, as I was emailed the schedule and between now and the end of August there are 25 Double Header games scheduled plus at least a couple of tournaments. I think I’m gonna be busy.

I was informed when I made contact with the team that most of our games would be played close by in West Kelowna. When I got the schedule yesterday it turns out that 10 dates are in West Kelowna, 10 are in Kelowna (about 15 minutes from home) and 5 are in Vernon, about 45 minutes away. From what I’ve seen of the ballfields so far, they’re going to be great to play on, with real warning tracks and flat outfields. The grass is also a lot thicker than what we see in Arizona, at least so far this spring. Things will likely change when the typical dry hot weather arrives for summer.

At least the team is carrying 14 players, plus a handful of spares, so if something comes up I can bow out for a game or two. I’ve already had to reschedule some medical appointments, as I was not planning on having two days a week tied up. Pickleball will likely suffer a bit too, but we don’t have a huge project scheduled as far as Yardwork goes this summer although that can change in a heartbeat.

Let the games begin!