Family obligations have entailed January trips to Arizona in recent years, but until this year we had no time to sample the retirement lifestyle.
Friends formerly of Northampton have a home in an active adult community 45 minutes south of Tucson which they loaned us for several days. They live and work in Phoenix , two plus hours to the north, and their retirement is years away so they occupy the house infrequently.
We had long heard about retirement living and the boom in winter homes in the Arizona desert, but we had no first-hand experience with it.
The week we chose to be there began over that weekend when temperatures in Northampton plunged well below zero and shortly after our arrival out there we got a call from our son, Christopher, who reported that pipes were frozen in our Florence home. He nicely took care of the problem.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed daytime temperatures in the mid-70s and mostly bright sunny weather.
The house we stayed in was comfortable, two bedrooms, two baths, large outdoor patio, imaginatively landscaped with indigenous desert plantings and a panoramic view of a mountain range to the southeast.
The community was situated in Green Valley, and consisted of attached stucco and cinder-block construction dating from the late 1970s. Our house at the end of a street, had windows on three sides. Most of the homes we later toured with real estate agent had less exterior exposure, and thus were darker inside, a shame because bright light is one of the pleasures of desert winters.
My early morning walks around the development - it was easy to get lost - had me waving and smiling, saying good morning to scores of people like me, only they were more cheerful.
Cars in the driveways were registered in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota, Alaska, even Massachusetts - you get the picture - snowbirds.
We worked out at the beautiful recreation center on the treadmill and fitness equipment; took a hike in a nearby national forest, visited a tourist town of shops, drove twice to the library, shopped for groceries and took our real estate tour.
Compared to prices in our part of the world, real estate seems cheap - $100,00 for a livable two bedroom, two-bath home, although the newer homes are unattached, much grander, and obviously more expensive.
Traffic around the development is marked by the ubiquitous golf carts coming and going, and ugly brown fairways dotted by lush greens.
Good weather and golf are the obvious lure, at least in winter, while the 120 degree heat in the summer chases many owners of these homes back to the heartland.
But after three or four days, we started to get a little restless - an age-restricted community - no sign of children, young people or the very old and infirmed - begins to feel unnatural; everyone looked like us. The last thing inhabitants wanted or expected in their daily routine would be surprises - like frozen pipes.
For those who enjoy that lifestyle Green Valley is almost perfect and I make no judgment about their choice.
For us, active adult involves more than golf and walking, although I cant exactly state what all of the activities might be. But it entails a greater range of community involvement with a broader range of friends and neighbors, in a more unpredictable climate. It also has something to do with the activity of the mind, too.
Still, we hope our friends will allow us to return again next year, for an even slightly longer period of time, hopefully just when brutal cold once more grips the Northeast.