Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaching for Retirement

As my husband begins to prepare for retirement, we have been talking a lot about where we want to live. Staying in our house, much as we have loved it for the past 31 years, is not the best option. First of all, at some point the 2 1/2 stories will be too much for us. The upkeep and maintenance are already more that we want to undertake, and the taxes and insurance here are killers. So...if you know you will want to/have to move, where do you go?

While it is possible that we will remain in this state, we are exploring other options. We have eliminated places that are too hot, such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas, as well as states that are just too expensive such as California. We don't want to live any further north than we are now, but we still want to experience some of the four seasons. North Carolina and Tennessee have both made our initial short list.

Lambert St. Louis Airport
Last week we spent 7 days in North Carolina. Uncertain as to whether we would prefer lake or mountain views, I lined up an itinerary that offered some of both. We began in Charlotte for a number of reasons. It has a wonderful international airport, which we always have to fly through when traveling abroad. Why not live there and eliminate one stop on foreign trips?

Charlotte is a large city (population around 800,000) with many of the cultural institutions and activities we have grown to appreciate in our current hometown. With that comes great medical care, which will become more important as we age. We don't want to live right in Charlotte, but instead wanted to look at the six lakes that surround the area. After 2 days, we knew that none of these lakes were what we were looking for in terms of livability. They are located off of narrow, winding roads with no amenities nearby. I don't want to have to drive an hour to buy a loaf of bread, go to a store, or see a doctor.

Our next destination was the town of Lenoir, located northwest of Charlotte at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the way we found the two remaining covered bridges in the state of North Carolina.

Pisgah Covered Bridge
Bunker Hill Covered Bridge
In Lenoir, a smaller artsy community, we stayed at the Irish Rose B&B. It was a huge, beautiful old home, and the proprietor made the most amazing breakfast that we have ever had at a B&B. The other guests we met were so interesting to talk to, and a couple from Maryland were on the same journey as us, so it was fun to compare notes. They were even looking at The Coves, a mountain gated community that we had come to see. Alas, with Lenoir being 1.5 hours from Asheville and 1.5 hours from Charlotte, we decided the distance was more that we would like to drive each time we want to fly somewhere. There were other reasons we dismissed this area as well, but the travel time to get to any cultural events or flights was a big one.

Next up was the town of Black Mountain, which had a couple of gated communities we wanted to see. We had an appointment with a realtor, and she took us to several communities but also to a few regular residences that were up for sale. She wanted to give us an idea of what our budget could buy us in the area. I have to say, Black Mountain will probably remain on our short list. It is less than 30 minutes from Asheville, the community is darling, we could purchase a lot with mountain views and build our own home, and we could be on Lake Lure in 30 minutes if we wanted a lake experience for a day or weekend.

Lake Lure, NC
After spending most of the day with the realtor, we drove to Lake Lure. I really wanted this area to work out as it is only about a half hour from Asheville, and the lake has wonderful mountain views so we could have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately the houses are very close together, which we are trying to avoid. Plus there are no shopping or medical facilities in the area. You would have to drive to Asheville for most things, on a winding road with a 35 miles per hour speed limit. It was a pretty and fun place to visit though, so we had a good time playing tourist for a couple of days as we explored the lake and Chimney Rock State Park.

Chimney Rock, NC
We worked our way back to Charlotte on Saturday because we had an early flight home Sunday morning. Though it wasn't exactly on our way, we made a second trip to Black Mountain so that we could see a little bit more of the town on our own. Despite the fact that it was a Saturday during tourist season, it wasn't too overrun with crowds, so that was good to see. If we decide to get more serious about settling in that town, I think we should go there for a couple weeks in the spring or fall and really get a feel for the area.

St. Louis
At the end of the day, while we were a little disappointed that nothing called out to us, it was a good experience and we learned a lot from this trip. We will be better prepared for the next one. We are in no rush, and we want to take the time to make sure this next move won't be the wrong move. We have been in St. Louis for 40 years, so we obviously don't take relocation lightly!

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