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  #1  
Old 12-26-2018, 09:59 PM
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Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

As life changes, so does one’s perception of paradise. When I moved to Montana as a 20 year old college kid, I knew I had found paradise. I was a diehard skier that could not wait for winter to come and lamented when each season was over. Thankfully, there were other outdoor activities to keep a young person occupied until the next ski season. For more than 40 years I've worked and played in southwest Montana, and it’s been sheer paradise. But as many of us know, perceptions of what constitutes the good life change as one gets older. I still like to do some skiing but the long winters are getting tiresome, and our activities are shifting to warmer season sports like mountain biking, camping, motorcycling, and walking the dog. Sorry for the long intro, but this brings me to subject of this thread: where to go from here? For this I am asking for your help in identifying potential retirement communities in the western US.

For a couple years now Karin and I have been searching for a place to move that has a more mild climate and where the predominant season is summer as opposed to the nearly nine months of winter in Montana. We don’t want to be in a large city, but want decent amenities, like good restaurants. Below is a list (roughly in order of preference) of the towns we’ve considered. Without getting into our detailed criteria list, I’d like to know what your favorite areas are here in the west, and perhaps your thoughts on these towns. Any ideas you can provide will be greatly appreciated. And remember that you’re welcome to stay with us in Helena, Montana and enjoy great locally-made whiskey and great wide-open roads, not necessarily in that order. Thanks.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Medford, Oregon
Fruita, Colorado
Corvallis Oregon
Santa Maria, California
Payson, Arizona
Ashland, Oregon
Flagstaff, Arizona
Carson City, Nevada
Show Low, Arizona
Fort Collins, Colorado
Redmond, Oregon
Montrose, Colorado
Alta, Wyoming
Bend, Oregon
Durango, Colorado Whitefish, Montana
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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Old 12-27-2018, 06:19 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Doesn't Colorado, Wyoming and Montana have long cold winters? With those areas looks like you're trading one cold climate for another. Oregon and California are to liberal for me so I couldn't recommend living there although Cali is a gorgeous state with awesome motorcycle roads and a warm climate so long as you're in Southern California.

If you want more warm months than cold I'd focus on anything south of I-10. I just spent 7 days in Tucson, AZ and had a great time. The average temperature each day was 70 degrees and sunny, two days it was cloudy but the temperature still rose to 60 degrees. Tucson is a medium sized city with lots of decent restaurants. A three bedroom, 1.5 bath, home with garage in a good neighborhood will run you about $150k. There are more expensive areas if you can afford it and less expensive areas if you want to pay less. Most of Tucson is safe but like any city there is a seedy side of town. Lots of scenery and lots of good motorcycle roads around Tucson. If I could afford a winter home it would be in Tucson.

I'd also look at TX, I've visited San Antonio and enjoyed my stay but I'm not familiar enough with the area to know cost of living expenses. I passed through Las Cruces, NM on my way to Tucson and it seemed like a nice area.
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Old 12-27-2018, 06:27 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Def look at Texas, the different regions of the state each offer a very different experience. You have the bonus of no state income tax.
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Old 12-27-2018, 10:06 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Hi Bobby, the Wifey are in a similar decision making process as you. We currently live in Central Illinois.

In the late 70s, I lived in Las Vegas NV for 3.5 yrs while stationed at Nellis AFB. Therefore, I'm familiar with the southwestern US climate.

Last Summer (July 2018) Wifey and I spent 9 days in Payson AZ, they call it "Rim Country", checking out "the lay of the land" so to speak. Nice conservative community there with tons of outdoor recreation. We also checked out Show Low AZ for a couple days, they call it "the White Mountains".

Since that visit we've focused on Show Low and Pinetop/Lakeside AZ. We're going to Show Low in March 2019 for a week to get a better focus on all the amenities/services/living costs/taxes/etc. If all goes well we'll be moving there sometime next year.

Forum Member "Kneedragger" lives in Show Low so hope to meet up with him for some riding. I also have a long time Riding Bud who lives in Mesa AZ. And there's Craig in Phoenix and there's a forum member (name escapes me right now) who lives in Payson AZ. So, I hope to be going on rides with old and new Riding Buds.
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Old 12-27-2018, 11:17 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Yes, Wyoming and Colorado have long, cold winters like Montana. The reason Telluride Colorado made the list is becuase it is located right on the edge of the Colorado Plateau (at elevation and not down on the desert). So one can live at a low to mid elevation and avoid the extreme hot of the desert and cold of the mountains. A major criteria for us is climate. We've looked at Tucson and places like that but the summers are just too damn hot. High on my list is the Flagstaff area: moderate temperatures, skiiing, college town, affordable. I recently talked to Charlie (aka kneedragger) because he just moved to Show Low Arizona and that is very appealing. It is on the edge of the Colorado Pleateau so is at a mid elevation. Very affordable and beautiful landscape. Payson Arizona has some of the same charaterisitcs. Nice places for sure. Anywhere in a true desert, like the Mojave, won't make the final cut....just too hot in the summer.

Although Alta Wyoming has cold temps in winter it made the list for two basic reasons: Targhee ski area is right up the road and it gets 400+ inches of snow each year. Powder skiiing is a serious addiction. I swear it tickles the same parts of the brain that some drugs do. I would drive 3 hours in a blizzard if I knew there would be good powder skiing. The other reason Wyoming is on the list is because it rates as most tax-friendly to retirees, according to Kiplingers. I would save approximately 15K a year on my overall tax burden living in Wyoming; same with Nevada. Texas is also tax-friendly so will have to consider that.

I'm not afraid of the progressive liberals so Oregon and California are not off the table. Taxes would not be any better than in Montana (not tax-friendly here). I have a couple riding buddies that have houses in Nevada and call that their permanent residence, but spend 10+ months here in Montana. Works well for them, but not sure my wife would buy into it. Southern Oregon, like around Medford might work as the Rouge Riveer Valley in relatively dry (only 20 inches of rain) and sunny and it has a moderate climate. Crowded there though. From the Medford area it's easy to acces eastern Oregon. I have gone to BMW rallies in John Day Oregon for years and I swear the roads in that part of the state are fabulous. It must be their large tax base that allows the highway department to keep their roads, even in rural area, well maintained. If you have not ridden in eastern Oregon you should really try it sometime.

Santa Maria Californnia probably has the best climate of all the towns on the list, and is relatively affordable compared to San Luis Obispo and other towns in southern Cali. Crowded there though.
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Old 12-27-2018, 01:11 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobby
Yes, Wyoming and Colorado have long, cold winters like Montana......

Not really. Of all your selections I'd say that Montrose, CO, is the best in terms of being close to skiing and world class MC riding not to mention year long outdoor activities like hiking and bicycling. I'm a serious alpine skier and love to mountain bike. I think the best example of outdoor activities in central Colorado I can offer is this; a few years back over a three day weekend in February, I golfed on a Friday, skied at Breckenridge (100 miles away) on a Saturday, and went for a nice long ride on Sunday. What could be better??

That said, Colorado's environment can be a contrast of extremes and isn't boring. Stay away from Gunnison and Fort Collins. Both are cold in the winter and very expensive. Durango is a stupid expensive place to live or can be depending in your lifestyle but it's also full of Texans.
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Old 12-27-2018, 01:29 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Went to the rally in Paonia last year. Good time. Should have ridden down to Montrose and checked it out. Will have to do some research on that area. I was in Durango a few years ago and found it to be crazy expensive. What about Pagosa Springs? Seems like a decent climate there and housing prices are not too bad.
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Old 12-27-2018, 01:37 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Interesting topic as my wife and I have been having this conversation regularly of late. At the moment I feel like I do live in paradise, I'm a walk away from a gorgeous beach, the summer temps, rarely exceed 85, and the coldest morning dead of winter is 45 and soon to 60 or so thereafter, rarely rains, 30 minutes away for some exquisite riding, a 5 hour drive to Mammoth Mountain for skiing, its a great ski area. There is every available amenity close at hand, decent live theater, concerts, etc. I'm a democrat so the politics of the CA metropolitan areas suit me well - keep in mind CA is a very large state and the more rural areas are notoriously conservative.

Downside, too many people, traffic can be a bear, taxes, and the exceedingly high cost of housing, I could not afford to live where I live if I was trying to buy in now - upside, my house is worth sooo much more than I paid for it that it makes the concept of moving someplace less costly an attractive option.

Now if I could only find a place with the climate and access to motorcycling, culture and all the rest at a more reasonable cost of living, I'd be there. Like I told my mother recently, "I love you dearly, but in my next life I'm picking rich parents!"

Santa Maria is quite nice but you'll want to look as close to the coast as you can get because even a short distance inland gets very toasty in the long summer.
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Old 12-27-2018, 02:16 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Pagosa Springs isn't too bad cost of living-wise but that depends on your retirement goals and how you want to live.

I'm working towards having my primary residence paid off by the time I'm ready to move or even before if my business continues to prosper. I'd have a paid off home were it not for a divorce in '05 but that's the way it goes....

Anyway, my retirement town will have to have decent medical facilities. A good friend from the motorcycle world retired to Montrose this past Spring from SoCal. He bought his home in '06 and rented it over the years. It's now worth more than twice what he paid for it
(1800SF, 3 BR, 2 BA, 3 car) because the town has quietly become a retirement mecca. He tells me that the best hospital is about an hour away in Grand Junction but Montrose can handle the majority of issues. I know this may seem off to the younger readers of this thread but trust me, access to decent health care facilities definitely creeps into one's thinking as one gets older.
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Old 12-27-2018, 03:43 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

I think that most of on this site are a bit older and can relate to the need for good medical service in the not too distant future. Many of our friends are dealing with this issue with their aging parents. One of our goals is to move to a place where it's easier to live as elderly people, and to make the move soon so we can become part of the community, and before it's a necessity.
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Old 12-27-2018, 04:52 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

In an effort to decide what is most important to me Karin and to sort through all the competing interests that we each have, we built a spreadsheet in Excel. Sounds tedious and boring I know, but bare with me for a second. Below are the criteria we think are important; these are climate, cost of living, community, recreation, location and nearness to old friends. Most of the criteria have sub-criteria for a little more refinement. Total possible points are 213. As you can see, climate is the biggest factor for us, but cost of living, community, and recreation are also important. The point distribution can of course be adjusted depending on preferences (or changing preferences when discussing it with spouse). If anyone is interested in the full spreadsheet with the towns listed above, just PM me with your email.


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Old 12-27-2018, 06:53 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Bobby, I guess many of us as we age have these thoughts. I look at every place I go with the thought, can I live here? So far, friends and being the keeper of the family house, make me stay here and just plan extended stay trips. It would be wonderful to hit the Lotto and buy a few homes around the world.
Good Luck

PMS: Have you considered other countries?
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Old 12-28-2018, 12:19 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Medford, Oregon, capital of poison oak.

Santa Fe, New Mexico is my recommendation. requirements, a good medical center. food you like and people you fit in with.

If you really want to know my hearts desire is San Diego, ca. but the taxes and congestion have killed it. I grew up there as a kid. Lost memories.
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Old 12-28-2018, 07:27 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beech
Medford, Oregon, capital of poison oak.

Santa Fe, New Mexico is my recommendation. requirements, a good medical center. food you like and people you fit in with.

If you really want to know my hearts desire is San Diego, ca. but the taxes and congestion have killed it. I grew up there as a kid. Lost memories.
Backpacked three times at the Boy Scouts Philmont Camp in Cimarron, New Mexico. Loved the hot, dry days and cool nights. San Diego has the best weather on continental USA. My heart goes out to you for "taxes and congestion" killing of your hometown.
I live in Staten Island, NY and the Verrazano Bridge opened up SI to development. Prior to the bridge it was the SI ferry or bridges via NJ to Manhattan and kept SI "isolated" from the crowd. The whole metro area has become a disaster as far as vehicle travel. Come to SI over one of the New Jersey bridges without EZ Pass and be prepared to cough up $15.00. The VZ is $17.00 without EZ Pass. AND IT'S NOT GETTING BETTER. NYC is winning the "race to the bottom".
At least San Diego has the weather.
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Old 12-28-2018, 09:33 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Medford and Ashland Oregon are pretty close to the same community, land is still fairly cheap and amenities are close by. Lots of hiking, mountain biking and plenty of places to walk the dog.
Bend is a bit more in the sticks but a gorgeous place.
My sister and BIL live in Ashland and have another house in Medford. They moved from Medford to buy land and found a great place with 25ac that abuts BLM.
The whole state is crazy democrats but other than that, it's a gorgeous place.
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Old 12-28-2018, 10:45 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

I'll put in a good word for NW Washington State. Places like Bellingham, Anacortes. Mt Vernon and outlying towns. Might rain some ( 40 inches for the year on my weather station ) but never gets real cold in the winter and we get a lot of good riding weather from spring to fall. Mt Baker is a well known ski area and there are miles and miles of mountain biking and hiking. Got the San Juan Islands for boating etc. Bellingham and Mt Vernon both have well respected medical services. Lots of good restaurants. Midway between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C when you get the urge to go to the big city. Some of the best motorcycle roads in our back yard with much more within an easy day's ride. And Beech changes tires for a pittance.......
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Old 12-28-2018, 08:24 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete_Tallahassee
friends and being the keeper of the family house, make me stay here and just plan extended stay trips.
PMS: Have you considered other countries?
Friends are a big consideration; not to be given up lightly. With that said, we're pretty outgoing so making new friends won't be a problem. We try to do extended trip, especially to the southwest in the pring. By spring I mean from mid March to mid June when it can frequntly be cold and rainy. International? yes we have considered that as my wife's family live in Germany and Argentina. We visisted Portugal last year and that is high on the list: beautiful weather, friendly, inexpensive. Pretty nice.
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Old 12-28-2018, 08:34 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beech
Medford, Oregon, capital of poison oak.

Santa Fe, New Mexico is my recommendation. requirements, a good medical center. food you like and people you fit in with.

If you really want to know my hearts desire is San Diego, ca. but the taxes and congestion have killed it. I grew up there as a kid. Lost memories.

We've made three trips to the Medford/Ashland area in the last couple years and find that area really appealing. The Rouge River Valley is an anomoly in Oregon. Its in the rain shadow of the coastal mountains and has a 'Mediterrainean' kind of climate. It only gets 20" of rain and virtually no snow in the valley. My wife really likes the area for the cliamte, resturants, outdoor activities, and the university in Ashland. I can't argue with her logic (would never do that), but point out the very high housing cost, at least in Ashland, and how crowded it is. I am lobbying for a moderate climate desert environment, like in Santa Fe and Flagstaff. But I think I'm losing the battle. Another option in Oregon is Corvalis. More rain, but lower cost of living compared to Ashland.
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Old 12-28-2018, 08:36 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonK100RS
The whole state is crazy democrats but other than that, it's a gorgeous place.
I'm a democrat so I think what you mean is 'the whole state is crazy democrats AND it's a gorgeous place.[/quote]
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Old 12-28-2018, 08:40 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howkan
I'll put in a good word for NW Washington State. Places like Bellingham, Anacortes. Mt Vernon and outlying towns. Might rain some ( 40 inches for the year on my weather station ) but never gets real cold in the winter and we get a lot of good riding weather from spring to fall. Mt Baker is a well known ski area and there are miles and miles of mountain biking and hiking. Got the San Juan Islands for boating etc. Bellingham and Mt Vernon both have well respected medical services. Lots of good restaurants. Midway between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C when you get the urge to go to the big city. Some of the best motorcycle roads in our back yard with much more within an easy day's ride. And Beech changes tires for a pittance.......

NW Washington is fabulous for sure. We have friends there and love visiting that area. Gorgeuos and tons of stuff to do. Did a sea kayak trip in the San Juan islands a few years ago and had great time.
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Old 12-30-2018, 11:37 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Bobby, my wife and I went through this process a few years ago, and systematically (same as you are) eliminated all but one of a dozen areas. Good luck with this fun process.
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Old 12-31-2018, 02:20 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

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Originally Posted by jargon
Bobby, my wife and I went through this process a few years ago, and systematically (same as you are) eliminated all but one of a dozen areas. Good luck with this fun process.
So John, what were the places you considered and are you living in the number one place?
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Old 12-31-2018, 04:54 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

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Originally Posted by bobby
So John, what were the places you considered and are you living in the number one place?
Bobby, we made a list of places we liked, then elimated sytematically: Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, Eastern Tennessee, Florida, Delaware, Maryland, Northern Georgia, both ends of North Carolina.

We love the water and mountains. We considered owning a summer and winter home.
Must have: easy access to airport, hospital, low property and income taxes, easy travel to NJ Shore for the wife boss.

After all considerations, we decided on one house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where I can put a fishing boat at my own dock out my back door. We bought the house 4 years ago, rent it year round and the cash flow will fund a remodel. We’ll move when my wife separates from her company of 40 years, the sooner the better. I’m ready to go. Instead of owning a second home, we will simply choose different destinations each year and spend a month there.

The biggest surprise was we agreed on just about everything during this process.
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Old 01-01-2019, 10:49 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

John. Great plan; I'm envious. We're not quite as far along in the process of determining the overall best place for the home base. Need to check out a couple areas at different times of the year. After ski season we'll be heading for the desert for a couple weeks to bike and then to Oregon again until temp are consistently warm here. So we'll see. We've thought about just downsizing here and spending the three months of late winter someplace warm. The trouble with that is that Montana is not tax friendly for retirees. And health care is not the best.
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Old 01-01-2019, 04:23 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobby
John. Great plan; I'm envious. We're not quite as far along in the process of determining the overall best place for the home base. Need to check out a couple areas at different times of the year. After ski season we'll be heading for the desert for a couple weeks to bike and then to Oregon again until temp are consistently warm here. So we'll see. We've thought about just downsizing here and spending the three months of late winter someplace warm. The trouble with that is that Montana is not tax friendly for retirees. And health care is not the best.
You’ll get there.

We had a lot of fun with the process.
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Old 01-01-2019, 05:52 PM
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Question Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

Any advice if considering somewhere near the coast?
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Old 01-01-2019, 09:04 PM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

I've only looked at the west coast. California has the milder climate. Northern California would provide a more 4 season climate. Cost of living, taxes and population density deter us from California. Northwest Washington is beautiful and a bit more cost friendly compared to California. I think places like Newport or Florence Oregon would be nice. Lots of rain and cool weather during the winter though. Spring, summer, and fall there has been fantastic when I've visited.
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Old 03-25-2019, 11:49 AM
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Re: Changes in the Perception of the Good Life

We'll, the decision has been made: were moving from Montana to SW Oregon this year. Looking forward to a mild climate and year round bicycle and motorcycle riding. So if you're coming through Montana this summer and need a place to stay don't hesitate to contact me. I have a nice place in Helena with a studio apartment in the garage.
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