Coping: With Snowbird Time

No, we can’t afford it, but we have some friends and colleagues in that league. And this is the time of year they go snowbirding.

The idea is pretty simple, really. In the summertime, the weather is never so good as it is in the Northeast, Great Lakes, or Northwest parts of the country.

The South, for about four months of the year is miserable. Here in East Texas, we normally turn the A/C down to ice cube about June first and pray for no power bumps until the end of September. This year was remarkable, in that we had a perfect August. Good bit of rain and about 95 most days. Humidity aside, it was warm enough to shower under roof run-off, although as a courtesy to the sensibilities of local wildlife, I paassed on it. Though it’s nice to know that you could in an emergency.

Snowbirding is a serious financial commitment and it comes with a fair amount of hassle.

One of my buddies has a place right on the Intercoastal down in Florida for winter, up north of Ft. Lauderdale. In the summer, they have a big family vacation home on a lake in the Adirondaks. I can’t think of much more pricey places to live, although in fairness, the couple involved don’t have to worry about money.

The hassles though include keeping cars at both ends. Some places, like New York and Florida have a mixed law enforcement view of snowbird. Depending on ticket quotas and such, I’ve heard tell that snowbirds who are too visible either place will be tickets over so-many days in state.

The fellow with the nice home on the ICW solves it by simply keeping a second car up north, but then again, they are in the “no money worries” camp.

Another approach is offered by friends who used to snowbird between Washington State and Arizona. Keeping up two homes worth a combined 7-figures plus wasn’t the issue (I’d be popping nitro pills at check run time). It was the hassle of traveling back and forth. Pack the dog, find places that are pet friendly to travel and then spend the first week or three at each end unpacking.

After some study, their creative solution was to buy a home in the Valley (of the Sun) – meaning the metro Phoenix/Scottsdale area for the cold season. Then, pick up a place in the mountains up in the Payson/Show Low/Flaggstaff area. This way, when the heat gets to be too oppressive in Phoenix, they simply grab the pooch and head up into the hills where it can be 30 or more degrees cooler in summertime. Sure, Phoenix, or Gila Broiler, might hit 120, but you seldom see much over 90 up in Mogollon Rim country. Plus there’s no pressure to get another set of license plates, insurance, and all that falderal.

I’ve run out the numbers for us and snowbirding doesn’t make any sense, at all.

For one thing, we don’t have the scratch to tie up in another big asset. Second, our 3.5 kW of grid inter-active solar keeps even peak summer costs of electricity far, far below even the property taxes on a second place.

The one thing a second home does is give you a different view, but view is one of those things that is nice, but if you have other interests, like looking at a painting, book, computer, video game, gourmet meal you’re cooking, well, who needs a changing view?

There is also something to be said for a different “walking around” perspective. We haven’t hit that bump yet, but if you were crazy enough, I suppose you could have a storeroom full of interior design trinkets and just change things out seasonally. Alternatively, what smart people in the South do is they’ll often pick up an additional mobile home, back it up to their present home, connect them, and call it good.

One osf our neighbors is taking this route. He will end up with a dance-floor-sized kitchen and a 20 X25 master suite, an additional bathroom and so forth. When their kin come to visit (usually not in the summer) they will open up the “guess part” of the house, but when they are home alone, they will have a ginormous kitchen, huge TV/media room. And a wander-around in it bathroom.

When you look at things this way, there are practical solutions to snowbirding.

On the other hand, a beautiful home, overlooking valley and mountain views – and all in one state is the key – sort of makes sense.

Only a handful of states offer such amicable living, though. I suppose you could do it in Texas with a home at high elevation up in the Texas Spamhandle (sic), or just into Colorado *Trinidad is nicie)  and have a winter home on the coast, like down around Brownsville. Problem is travel time between ‘em.

In Arizona, the drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff is more most, a couple of hours, or a bit more, depending on which part of the Valley and whether you stop to pick up a pie at the Rock Springs Café in Canyon City on the way.

Just wanted to mention it, though, because it’s that time of the year – again.

We remember living in Florida for a couple of years and the locals could curse “The Grays” who came down from the much ruder and pushier Northeast. I didn’t believe it…and had chalked it up to urban legend.

But about the 6th time some rude prick cuts in front of you in a restaurant or grocery line, like they are “ever so much more important than Thou,” like me, you may find your attitude toward snowbirds changing.

I will cut some quarter to in-state people in Arizona, but Florida and the rest of the South  might do well now to test Manners and thence issue temporary visas to anyone from New Jersey, New York, or Boston who comes in after October 1st.

Update: The “Mega-Antenna” Project

OMG does it work!

I am now the proud owner of the world’s finest 75-meter ham band antenna. I flipped it on for a few minutes this morning and was rewarded with multiple 20 db oiver S-9 signal reports from Florida, an island in Lake Erie, and basically, if I can hear something on 80 meters, I can talk to it.

Here’s my bud, the retired major, on one of our 10-million trips up and down the scissor lift:


The problem with this picture is it doesn’t do justice to where we were working. So maybe this will unwind the big telephoto view for you just a bit:


We could have gone higher with bigger equipment, but you get to a point of diminishing returns.  Big trees move around more the higher you go and that is another design point I took into consideration.

Today, we are both sore as the Dickens. Got the “all terrain” scissor lift stuck a couple of times. A non-trivial bit of engineering to get it out of soft sandy parts of the property.

Worse, the trusty Kubota lower right, is now a fixture in the field south of the house. Won’t start so a new starter solenoid or one of the ‘safety lock-out’ micro-switches is stuck in the “Don’t let this idiot start me” position.

My pet theory is such interlocks are installed to prevent lawsuits and provide additional employment stimulus to diesel mechanics. Who me?  Bitter?

The signal reports are absolutely incredible, though. It will even bust pile-ups on the 20-meter band.

For those interested, the EZNEC antenna modeling was spot-on. I designed it for essentially 9-dbi of gain at 3.8 MHz and right there the SWR is 1.15 to 1. Even better? Dead flat on 14.1 Mhz. Higher SWR (*3 to 1) across most of 40-meters, but again with that much wire, the signal reports are awesome even with the mis-match.

I expect when things get darker a little earlier, I will be spending a few long winter evenings with this beast. On the low bands, it just blows everything I’ve ever put up out of the water.

The major and I have been dinking around with antennas and radios for over half a century now.

Closest thing, I think in his experience, was the big Collins S-line and beams on top of Campion Tower when he was going to Seattle University. (Which I got kicked out of, BTW.). That system was atop a 14-floor dormitory and on the top of Capitol Hill in Seattle.  This was 50 years ago, however.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

Kinda weird for a hobby. But with all the money we’ve saved by NOT having a a snowbird lash-up, I’ve been able to rent equipment and realize one more of those {stupid] boyhood dreams.

This IS what Life’s about, right? Finding your own personal mountains and then conquering them?  Or, renting a D-9 Caterpillar with a rock-ripper and just leveling the sucker.

You will have to admit it’s a more benign hobby that politics, for example.  Much less damaging.

A low SWR and tons of gain (4 db over a dipole) may seem like an odd mountain, but when I get to the pearly gates, I should be able to produce a Worked All Continents on 75 Meters award if I’m diligent this winter.

Next year, I will figure out how to answer the obvious question. “What’s the point of THAT?”

I think the best answer is “What’s the point of a 4-1000 in grounded grid?”  A kind of Ham radio Zen Koan I picked up from a “JA” a while back.

While St. Pete is pondering that one, I may be able to sneak in.

Back here on prison planet, Mrs. Captain and Mr. Major head for more rational territory today. But not before we gorge on steak and eggs for breakfast.

A Note to New Mexico Mike

I apologize for the food reference. I use anything handy to build rewards for myself. Food just happens to be handy.

But pretend I didn’t say anything and just order some pouches of Soylent Ready to Drink Food, 14 oz Bottles,12 Count and press on with the dieting.

I agree that dieting is easier if you de-emphasize food. But all the great conversations with my family growing up are NOT remembered as a family sitting around the “fasting room table” in the kitchen.  So far it’s been worth the weight.

Write when you get rich,

6 thoughts on “Coping: With Snowbird Time”

  1. George,
    Down here in the Keys I have seen several bumper stickers that say “If this is the season then why can’t we shoot them”. Not saying .. Just reporting

  2. Hey George, remember back a few years when Art Bell W6OBB put that monster of an antenna up on a bunch of poles around his property. Can’t remember how long it was but here at my QTH he was a constant 40-over on 75M.

    Don’t do much CW anymore due to the old hands not working as well but maybe some day a QSO on 75.

    You do have me thinking now about a big long wire around the property here. Just got to get a few young ones to do the work. . hi .. hi. 73

  3. Hi George,

    If I cook anything from scratch, it’s Soylent by default! No need to purpose buy!

    You have been incredibly fortunate, attracting a beautiful wife and keeping her without being in constant starvation mode. Congrats!

    BTW, you know the drill with the tractor: Clamp a jumper cable to the starter hot side and touch it to battery positive. If the tractor turns and/or starts, it’s not the starter. You might want to have your foot on the brake and be sure it’s in neutral first. I just lay a screwdriver across the solenoid.

    • also if the starter doesn’t do anything while you’re jumping it then just tap it around with a hammer it might engage it ,just a tip from the old Fonzie. ha

  4. Wait ’til the pushy Northerners take over your whole HOA board. Worst situation I’ve ever been in – absolute Hell on earth – & I can’t seem to extricate myself from it. I’m the sensible local here & I have to cowtow to their every whim &scheduling. They even admit they don’t understand repairs or what I’m talking about when I point out needed repairs (or the further problems from any attempts they make at occasional repairs), ignore me, & threaten me – & I’m a fairly nice girl who Does understand repairs because I’ve been at that location longer than any of them! As per Animal Farm, some animals are more equal than others.

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