BoomerCafé’s Greg Dobbs tours boomer paradises in the West

[BoomerCafé loves Oldies But Goodies. So we’re occasionally publishing some popular Oldies that you might enjoy again.]

By Greg Dobbs, co-founder and executive editor, BoomerCafé.com.

My wife and I are leading edge baby boomers but we are not, repeat NOT, looking for a place to retire. We live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and still love to ski; need I say more?!


Moonrise over the desert at Mirabel.

But we did just spend the last couple of weeks visiting a few different friends who have retired to a few different parts of one of America’s retirement havens, Arizona, where the only time you hear “ski” comes at the end of a hot day when someone offers you a “brewski.”

For five of our days in the desert, we stayed in the gorgeous home of some old friends who live within the boundaries of a beautiful golf course in northern Scottsdale called Mirabel; here’s the view from the back of their house. The trouble is, unlike a lot of baby boomers looking for a sport they can play to the grave, we don’t play golf, which is at the heart of people’s lives there. And no wonder it is: if you have a golf cart with a little roof, you always have a spot of shade.

Shade, in Arizona, is a good thing, but you have to be clever to find it. Not many shade trees in those parts, and you won’t get shade by leaning up against a Saguaro cactus. The only thing you’ll get if you do that is a world of hurt.


A swimming pool in the “backyard.”

But back to golf. While I myself don’t play, I did ride along one day with three friends who do. And what I learned was, I like the game more than I thought I would. Not the part about the ball, the clubs, and those gritty sand traps, not to mention the perils of hunting for a wayward drive amidst the patches of cacti that border the fairways. My friends actually carry around mechanical ball-snatchers on a long pole to beat through the desert brush in the hunt for a lost ball; reach in with your bare hand and if a cactus doesn’t draw blood, a snake’s fangs might.

But back … again … to golf, and what I liked about it. Well, there were two things. First, the “comfort stations” at the end of the 4th and 13th holes. They are like the best snack bars you ever saw … on steroids. Chocolate bars, energy cakes, homemade cookies, homemade chocolate-covered bananas in the little frig under the counter, and all the cold beverages you could consume.

But that’s not even the best part, because what I liked even more was Alberto! Who’s he? Just the most important guy on the golf course, because he’s standing there over a silver chafing dish before you reach the 8th tee, offering whatever scrumptious hot daily concoction he has prepared for your pleasure. On my day, it was a roast beef wrap generously smeared with mayonnaise and peppered with sliced dill pickle. I could really get into this golf thing!

Self-portrait in the desert ... Greg takes a break from his bicycle.

Self-portrait in the desert … Greg takes a break from his bicycle.

However, when I wasn’t on the course, hunting down chocolate-covered bananas or roast beef wraps, I was out riding my bike. That’s me by the side of the road in this second photo, a self-portrait taken with my amazing iPhone5’s “turn the lens around and take your own picture” feature. I might look a little better if only my arms were longer.

Anyway, biking’s not such a bad thing to do in the desert, if you don’t play golf. Sure, it’s hot, but for once those cacti might serve some purpose higher than bestowing their beauty … namely, if your Camelback water-carrier leaks as mine did, you can carve into a cactus and, like the pioneers who came before us, survive in the middle of the desert … which of course I didn’t do because by the time my water was gone, I was close enough to my friends’ house to return without incident. Not to mention my lurking suspicion that all those stories about people surviving from the water in a cactus are claptrap. I mean, have you ever looked at a cactus? Wet, it’s not!

That said, the other reason biking is fine in the desert is, no sweat. I don’t mean “no sweat” in the sense of not working hard; I mean, you don’t sweat. One day, I did a 20-mile ride at a flat-out pace, meaning, pushing myself as hard as I could. Yet when I reached the end of the ride, there wasn’t a drop of sweat on this baby boomer’s brow. That’s not because it wasn’t hot; the fact is, the temperature was 97-degrees and believe me, with no golf carts for shelter, I was in the direct line of the sun for every second of the ride. But there is no, repeat NO, humidity.

The weather extremes of the West - snow at Mirabel near Scottsdale, AZ, not long ago.

The weather extremes of the West – early Spring snow at Mirabel near Scottsdale, AZ.

So if you’re a baby boomer and thinking you might want to retire some day to the sunbelt of our fine country, you could do worse than to end up in Arizona. If you play golf, you’ll be happy. If you ride a bike, you’ll be happy. And if you fear you’ll miss the fresh crisp phenomenon of snow, you’ll be happy too… as you’ll see in this photograph, shot by my friend from his backyard, the same backyard in Scottsdale you saw before, just two months earlier.

Back home in snowy Colorado from the heat of Arizona ... and a mess to clean from bicycles.

Back home in snowy Colorado from the heat of Arizona … and a mess to clean from bicycles.

Mind you, I hardly needed snow in Arizona, because almost the moment my wife and I drove back into Colorado, we got enough to satisfy us … which as this final photo shows, encased our bike rack, and the bikes hanging on it in the hot sun for 2,700 miles, in slush,which turned to ice, most of which I melted off with hot water from our green jug before thinking I should take a picture of it all first because I knew I’d write this story. About the heat in Arizona. Now, back in Colorado, it’s merely a memory.

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  1. As much as I explore other parts of the country as a baby boomer I am still just a north easterner at heart. I do not mind the snow (yet), and I truly appreciate the four distinct seasons of the year. I find Arizona and the sun belt nice places to visit, but home, as they say, is where the heart is. And the lakes, rivers, streams, and the welcoming mountains of the northeast in general, and upstate New York in particular, still beckon.

    1. Roz, the smaller one on the left is probably a hot tub/jacuzzi. And while I enjoy the “no sweat” thing, I do miss PA’s 4 seasons. Here in northern Utah, the weather has a two-position switch; summer or winter. Spring and fall get about a week each, every couple of years, but not on a regular basis.

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