By now, most of our friends are aware that Betsy and I have moved to Spokane Valley from our home in Puyallup, WA. We are frequently asked as to why we moved, and as to why we chose to move to Spokane Valley. The easiest way to explain the situation is to run through the history of the move, beginning in early June.
June of 2021 brought some interesting challenges to Betsy and me. I had determined to take off for 4-6 more weeks to get in more miles of the PCT. I was going to resume the hike from two years ago at Walker Pass, and seek to get as many miles as possible for me. The challenges were mounting, as the temperature throughout the west coast was much higher than normal and water was going to be an ever-present concern, especially for the first 40 miles, before I reached the high Sierra. So, with great enthusiasm, I hopped on the Amtrak train and headed out to Bakersfield. When the train reached Klamath Falls, the conductor announced that a fire in northern California had engulfed the tracks and burned out a trestle, so we had to turn back. Talk about popping a balloon! Months of training and no way to reasonably get to the trailhead in the time that my permit allowed. So, I did a short backpack with Sam Flanagan, and sulked. I made a number of suggestions for adventures with Betsy (my best friend… also my wife) but received the same answer back every time. “If we leave now the flowers will die, the garden will die, the grass will die”. “We can’t leave our home!”. Mein Gott!!!!!! Betsy and I both realized that we were prisoners of our home. As our frustration fulminated, we slowly began to think of an idea that had been mulling for about a year now that we were retired. Why don’t we move?
Move? To where? And under what conditions? Clearly, we needed a set of criteria for deciding the conditions under which we would move. It was at this time that Betsy and I learned that our kid brother Gaylon was going to move to Ocala, Florida. Soon after that, my (nearly twin) brother Lew announced that he was flying with his wife Carol to Ocala to possibly lay money down on a new home in the 55+ community called On Top of the World (OTOW). That sounded exciting but Betsy and I weren’t really sure that it would be our style. We lived for two years in Biloxi, MS, and had been to Florida a few times, so weren’t quite as snared by the enchantments of Florida.
Meanwhile, we met with a realtor that we had known from church for 5-10 years, and she felt that we could get good value for our home, but that we needed to reduce the clutter before it would be most marketable. For me, this meant boxing up much of our stuff and getting rid of bad furniture and stuff that was really nothing but junk. Multiple trips to the junkyard were experienced. The stuff of ours that we knew we needed to liquidate but was of high value were distributed among our children in the Washington State area. In the meantime, our refrigerator died, and our microwave went on the blink. We had already ordered nice replacements before we anticipated selling our house. As the time came nearer to having the house on the market, there became a problem of fitting the new microwave into the existing space of the old microwave. We purchased the appliances from Wiers (an awesome company), but the installer, young and enthusiastic but inexperienced dude did a horrid job on the installation. In a last-ditch frantic move, Weirs sent out an experienced installer and with some makeshift solutions, ended up with an attractive installation. We needed our shower glass replaced, and the upstairs bedroom rugs replaced. The bedroom rugs ultimately ended up being replaced after the fact. Meanwhile, we spent the full month of July and half of August doing nothing but packing, working on the house, and preparing the house for a sale.
But, where were we going to move? Options abounded. Should we stay in Puyallup? Should we move to Ocala? Belize? We seriously considered many options. The first option that seemed reasonable was to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, close to Rachel. Rachel naturally wanted us to move across the street from her in a retirement facility. For various reasons, this did not click with us. We looked intensely at which states are good states to retire in, and the list was somewhat short, the ones for us being South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Idaho. Washington actually is NOT a bad state to retire in. They do not have inheritance and other death taxes. Iowa actually was quite low on the list of states that were favorable retirement states. We looked for 55+ communities in South Dakota, of which there were none. We looked for both houses and apartments, as well as what the Sioux Falls community would be like. We were ever so close to purchasing plane tickets to Sioux Falls when the words of my father became loud and clear to me. Our family moved from the midwest to California in 1962 because dad was totally sick of the winters. He had to get out of the midwest. Then, I looked at what old folk in Iowa and South Dakota do in winter. They sunbird to Texas or Florida. I had NO interest in sunbird-ing. So, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota option died quickly. Florida came up next. We examined both retirement communities as well as houses/apartments outside of the 55+ environment. I concluded that Lakeland, Florida would probably be my first choice. There were no choice retirement communities in that area, but there were nice apartments to accommodate us. It was at this point that I realized that the highest elevation in Florida was about 345 feet above sea level, but most of southern Florida barely achieves 50 feet elevation. There were no mountains in Florida. There were not even any hills. Florida was flat and I needed mountains. It just wasn’t the right fit for us.
Texas became a consideration. At this time, we were still thinking of 55+ communities. San Antonio and Austin had some nice options, but something wasn’t clicking with us. We looked hard at Arizona, both in the Prescott area as well as in the greater Phoenix/Maricopa County area. Slowly, the idea of living in a 55+ community with nothing but a bunch of old farts just didn’t appeal to me. We couldn’t do it. But, we realized that Las Vegas had many 55+ community options as well as apartments. Las Vegas seemed like a hyper-sleazy town, but we broke down and went to visit it. This was at the same time as our house was going on the market, so when we returned, we would learn as to whether the house sold or not. Betsy and I were both pleasantly pleased with Las Vegas. Outside of the strip and North Las Vegas, it had a nice feel similar to that of Phoenix or Scottsdale. There were mountains which were beautiful. Nevada was an inexpensive, low-tax state. It all seemed like the right choice, and we located several apartments that we thought would be perfect for us. But, the last day, after we had viewed several apartments, we took a drive out to Hoover dam. It was an impressive facility, but we noted that the level of water in Lake Mead was half of what it should be. The southwest was running out of water! We still had a level of unease about the whole prospect of moving to Las Vegas, though we both were thoroughly impressed with the area and the possible accommodations. Our two conclusions in Las Vegas were that we truly did NOT want to live in a 55+ community and that we really weren’t ready to immediately purchase another home. As the trauma of selling a home became more intense, it only strengthened our resolve to stay in an apartment for a while until we could see more clearly what we should do.
On the plane flight back from Las Vegas, we discussed the possibility of putting down the money for the apartment we liked most in Las Vegas, but I then suggested that perhaps we should check out Spokane. As an aside, two other areas were under consideration. The first was various places in Idaho, but those thoughts were squelched by several issues: 1. Betsy did not wish to live in a remote location, 2. Housing prices were insane, especially in Northern Idaho, which was being bought up by Cafilornians. 3. The Boise area had low appeal to both Betsy and me. The other area under consideration for me was the Reno, Nevada area. I would have loved this area, but Betsy did not agree with my assessment, so Reno was tabled.
Two other issues were of concern for Betsy and me. The first is that we were concerned about finding a good church where we moved. Hopefully, this church would be a church of the Reformed persuasion. There was a PCA church in Las Vegas that Betsy and I attended for the Sunday we were there, but we really didn’t care for it. There was something just not right about it. We knew that there was a CREC church in Spokane, though we weren’t sure whether the Doug Wilson influence would so heavily prevail over the church as to make it an uncomfortable situation for us. I love the fact that Doug Wilson has held his ground against liberalism. I detest that Doug Wilson has what seems to be an obnoxious, confronting personality. The other issue was that of being able to easily travel, especially with a mind toward seeing grandchildren. Both Las Vegas and Spokane seemed to fit that bill with good airports, as Spokane had regular flights to many of the major cities in the western US, and to get to Rachel in Iowa would be easy, as well as the 5-hour drive to western Washington would be to see Jon, Sarah, or Diane.
Arriving home from Las Vegas, we learned that we had an acceptable offer on our home. This put much greater pressure on us to find a place to move to. The inspection report was borderline insane. Often there was no correlation with reality, and often the defects were so poorly defined as to be meaningless. Otherwise, the report requested items like cleaning out the rain gutters which had almost nothing in them. Though I was borderline furious at the inspector and ready to report him to the state, it was explained that this was just the norm for the real estate market. It really should be named the fake estate market, because that’s what it is. Using the realtor’s husband (whom I knew well) we were able to accomplish the various repairs in order to get the house acceptable to the buyer. In the tense days between the offer and final closure on the sale, Betsy and I took an overnight trip to Spokane to see several apartments. The apartments all seemed quite nice but we located one that we especially liked and made an offer on it that day. Soon afterward, our house closed and we were moving.
We left our home a week before the formal closure. My brother Gaylon drove up from Vancouver, WA, and was able to help us load a 20′ UHaul and get everything moved in a single load. Amazingly, Gaylon was able to fill every square inch of space in that truck, we were filled to the brim, barely shutting the truck door with all of our stuff. Sarah and her dear family were able to meet us in Spokane and help unload the truck so that it could be returned to UHaul. A final trip by me back to Puyallup and a meeting with the realtor left us to say our last goodbyes. A large sum of money was soon identified in our banking account.
In Spokane Valley, we now had to create a home. The first chore was to discover the community that we were living in. There was a trail 10 minutes walking distance from our home which followed the Spokane River from Couer d’Alene to past Spokane. Betsy and I took off twice, first walking east toward Idaho, and then walking west toward Spokane. The trail was nicely kept up. Later, I was able to bicycle up to Coeur d’Alene and another day bicycle into Spokane to the Expo ’74 grounds. It was easy to see that cycling was a very acceptable activity in this community, and the potential for going much further afield was there. There are also an abundance of hiking trails in the vicinity. Closer to home, the apartment complex had a pool which we were able to use several times before settling in for the winter. There is a limited exercise facility in the complex which I’ve been able to use at least several times a week. Betsy also signed up for the YMCA, which is only several miles away. There is a shopping mall in the vicinity of our neighborhood, which we recently ventured into. It is big and beautiful, with more shops than appeared on the outside. Indeed, all the shopping, restaurants, and other amenities that we had in Puyallup are also close, but without the devilish traffic issues of Puyallup.
Getting all of our boxes unpacked has been a month-long plus ordeal. Thankfully, nothing was broken, and only several items remain unlocated. We discovered that we simply had way too much stuff. Did we need an extra set of dishes (which we never used anyway) for special occasions? Did we need 20+ wine glasses? Did we need 7-8 cookie pans? The list could go on and on, not only in the kitchen but for every room of the house. Truth be told, it has been a cathartic and wonderful feeling to get rid of all of your junk. We gave away much furniture that we knew would not be necessary after the move, but there was much furniture that we actually needed, mostly for efficient storage. We needed some bookshelves, pantry shelves, a tv stand, and various types of dressers and armoires. All of these arrived by Federal Express in very heavy boxes and demanded hours to assemble. Assembly was easy but took up much time. Once pictures were replaced on the wall and my cuckoo clock hung, it finally began to feel like home again.
Another issue was that of getting reconnected to the world. Betsy and I decided to drop our landline telephone and were able to maintain contact with the outside world with our trusty iPhones. Our only choice for internet connection was through Xfinity (Comcast) which I truly did not like. We did not sign up for extra sewage to come across our cable lines but were able to get our entertainment system rewired, which included a connection via an Apple computer to the broader internet. Lastly, I determined to start up my blog page. Hours and multiple evenings were spent trying to resolve the bugs. I decided to off-load my page to an internet service, which is relatively inexpensive, yet provided a little more protection against data loss. Sad to say, but I had to finally conclude that somehow I lost my entire webpage contents from the past 15 or more years. I’m sure the CIA has it stored somewhere in their vaults in Utah, but I’m not going to bother them to get it back.
The future now sits before us. This weekend will be our first trip back to Puyallup since leaving. We’ll be attending the funeral of a dear friend of ours, Delores Tulfo. We will also be seeing family at the Puyallup Oktoberfest where a friend of mine (Lyle Schaefer) will be performing with his polka band. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to see Dr. Peters as well as to make it to church. In the coming weeks, I will be helping Gaylon move to Ocala, Florida. We will combine that with a trip to Iowa to see Rachel, and will probably report that trip as a single blog entry.
On the home front, we still have many chores. We are still waiting for newly purchased furniture to be delivered, in order to complete the assembly of our home. We would like to get to know our neighbors better. We would like to develop a much stronger relationship with a church. We attended the Christ Church in Spokane and liked it, though there will be much that we will need to get used to. They take pride in their music, though I consider it to be strange, and could be of a much higher quality. The preaching is good. The church seems to attract those with a very specific mindset that is a bit foreign to our thinking, such as them wondering why we are doing what we are doing by moving to Spokane. I haven’t seen much with men’s activities, and the ladies’ activities center around crafts which doesn’t catch Betsy at all. Perhaps it is the church still emerging from the Wuhan virus era. Perhaps. The greatest draw of the church is that it has not given in to the liberalism that is destroying most churches in America. It would be easy for us to adapt to any church including a Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, or generic church, though our heart merges most with those who hold a Reformed theological mindset and where God is truly honored and the Scriptures truly honored.
Winter is setting in, and we haven’t lived for over 30 years in an area where it assuredly snows every winter. Will I take up cross country skiing again? Snow-shoeing? Do I dare ride my mountain bike in the snow, like many do around here? What about the PCT? Can I possibly resume the hike next year? Can I resume at Walker Pass like I intended to do this year? Will I be able to get to know the trails in this area? Idaho has much beautiful backpacking opportunities, but how will I go about getting to know the trails? Will there be backpacking folk interested in joining me? Will Betsy adapt to the area? Will we be able to find activities that we enjoy doing together? Only time will tell. At this point, we are completely happy and content with the decision we made to move to Spokane. We have no clue as to whether we’ll stay here or move on. We are happy that we don’t have the restraining ties of a home to limit our options. Maybe we’ll end up in the flatlands of Florida with a purchased home? Maybe we’ll end up back in western Washington? Only God knows.