EDITOR'S NOTE: Our friends, Richard and Leslie Redhead, recently made a big life change: Moving from their longtime home in Houston to Arizona. Leslie wrote the following for her Facebook page, and we are sharing with our readers. Enjoy!
By LESLIE REDHEAD
Special to North Palm Beach Life
People ask me how I like it here (Cornville, AZ)
HERE’S YOUR ANSWER.
At first, before the move, I made fun of the town we were moving to, Cornville. Cornville Arizona! I started off saying “we live just outside of Sedona”. That sounded more mystic and trendy. Even when you read about Senator John McCain’s ranch, news would never say Cornville. But that’s exactly where McCain’s ranch is, Cornville, just like me.
After being here for the past 10 weeks, I’ve fallen in love with Cornville, Az. At first and still, I miss many things. Most importantly I miss my daughters. Instead of a four hour drive, it’s a two and half hour flight. I miss my friends in Woodforest. As each day goes by, I have a new list of friends. The people everywhere are incredibly nice. Everyone is so helpful and willing to educate me from A-Z. I’ve found that in our community, Verde Santa Fe, we are like most. Folks have come from many states to retire. I am constantly asked “why here”? The answer is shared by many of us, the weather. As I write, it’s July 8th, the temperature is reading 102. There is something to say about a dry heat. It beats the hell out of living in the Houston area with the humidity soaring 24 hours a day. Here you can sit in the shade at any point of the afternoon and still be somewhat comfortable. We live at 3500 ft. elevation and have a constant breeze. We’re not in the valley where Phoenix is, we’re in what’s considered high mountain desert.
The first several weeks, I couldn’t sleep past 4:30 in the morning. The sun begins to rise around 4:20. I love sunshine. Waking up early didn’t bother me. I now am able to sleep until 5:30 in the morning. We will call that progress. I’m usually out by 7:15 taking Finn on a walk. The temperature early in the morning is typically around the low 70’s, NO HUMITIDY. Our walks are gorgeous and the clear air gives way to a beautiful blue sky, and vivid colors bouncing off the mountains. When we arrived in early May, we set out to capture as many trails to hike before the summer heat began. We’ve put the trails to rest for now. One learns quickly that you MUST be prepared when hiking when temperatures do climb rapidly after the 10 o’clock hour in the morning. Speaking of being prepared, water is the first and foremost important item to have for dog and human. Other items of preparedness include a bell on clothing and on dog collar. We learned that the drought has caused animals to venture closer into where humans can be hiking, for example BEARS! The best protection is to make yourself heard coming up or down a trail. Sedona has had several reports of bears in parking lots or even crossing over the main road on 89A. Another item I now carry in my fanny pack is pepper spray. Most animals in the wild, their natural instincts are to leave humans alone. However, babies are being born and I don’t want to stumble in between momma and baby. We have Javelinas traveling in and out of our neighborhood in herds. I was warned that these pigs are not friendly toward dogs. Richard carries a hiking stick. I think that’s to push a rattler away.
The other day, I witnessed a coyote up on a neighbor’s wall being chased by a lynx. Finn and I came across our first bobcat, smaller than the lynx, down the street about 20 yards in front of us on our walk. So, pepper spray, just in case, is now with me.
The landscape is entirely different. There are a ton of varieties of cacti. We have some lovely ones that have bloomed the most beautiful flowers in late spring. In April, everyone’s’ roses were in full bloom. Every color, every size and they were all spectacular! We actually have a magnolia tree and a pomegranate fruit tree in our front yard.
The birds are many! More hummingbirds than I’ve ever seen in Texas. At present, we are witnessing the second set of baby hummingbirds to be born under our light fixture on the front porch. They are as cute as a button. After they fly away, it’s time to remove the nest. Pooping is a bit much when our floor to our front door is covered in it. They’re doves galore, quail, roadrunners, and many others than you would typically find in Texas. The most beautiful bird, with the loveliest song, was solid yellow singing in our backyard tree. I didn’t lose any variety of birds by leaving Texas, I gained new ones! At dusk, we watch the bats fly around, at least several dozen. It looks as if they are dancing with all their quick turns darting here and there.
I am still learning to accept that I don’t have the choices of grocery items I had at my favorite HEB back in Texas. First it was water choices. Me being a water snob, I wasn’t happy that we only had two choices and neither one was Ozarka! Shortly after we moved in, a new store opened a water store. They have a complete, huge osmosis system where you can get any size for only .25 a gallon. That is a huge savings over the long run. And the water taste great! There are three grocery stores within a 15 mile radius, Fry’s, Safeway and Food City. Each one has something that the other doesn’t. For example, Fry’s has the best vegetable department, Safeway has our favorite olives and bakery and Food City has fresh tortillas and freshly grilled chickens. Best prices will be at Walmart, which has our favorite ice cream. We head into Sedona on Thursday mornings for play day (yappy hour) for Finn and routinely we will stop in Wholefoods as we leave the park for the best selection of salmon. Folks who read this and live and shop at a HEB, give them a hug, because I sure miss’um!
Fry’s has taken a backseat to vegetables because now all the farmer markets are up and selling their goods! We have Thursdays in Cottonwood, Fridays in Sedona, Saturday in Camp Verde or Munds Park, our favorite is on Sunday in Flagstaff and last but certainly not least, are Mondays in our little town of Cornville. It's corn season and we, like every other person who likes corn, drives to Hauser and Hauser farm for the sweetest corn to be eaten. Also, the best at the moment are the tomatoes! The last time I had the best tomato was in Greece. I’ve now gone and died in tomato heaven with the ones that are grown HERE! Something to be said about a dry and arid climate for tomatoes! No need for me to grow any; I’ve got plenty and it won’t break the bank.
We live in another HOA. I wasn’t too thrilled about having to pay dues etc. But it is kept up very nicely with landscaping and I just started to use the community pool. Our house is 12 years old. It has its quirks and it has its good qualities, too. Don’t laugh too hard, but the master bath has two toilets on opposite sides of the hallway into the main bathroom. Works out great when timing is the same. The master bath has been remodeled since it was first built. We put in new vinyl plank floors throughout when we first arrived.
Our backyard is small and narrow. I’m still adjusting to not having what we had in Texas. However, in retirement and older age, that old Texas backyard was breaking the bank and killing the back. I’m working on a design that will be impressive to the eye and not cost a fortune. One feature that is done a lot in Arizona is artificial turf. Right now, our complete landscape is rock, big and small. The small rocks get in our shoes and they get carried into the house. Part of the design will be a little artificial turf and flagstone.
Of course, I want a few bells and whistles, like a water feature and maybe a firepit, too. No fireplace inside the house. Richard would like a gas barbeque. There are two stub outs for gas. The house did come with a freestanding hot tub. We are looking forward to the cooler nights when we can make use of the hot tub, glass of wine and look up at the katrillion stars. Did I mention that we live in a designated “dark sky community”? Yavapai County has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky. There are ordinances about the use of night time lighting. Pretty cool! Something you do not have the privilege in a big city.
For the ones who know how much I hated the traffic in the Houston area, we have none or little to speak of. Folks who have lived here many years say “oh how the traffic has grown, it’s terrible." I just shake my head because, they have no idea. Sedona is getting tourist traffic, but it’s at 35 speed limits so I don’t mind. One thing that is quirky about Arizona, they are in love with roundabouts. So instead of taking a street with higher volume and putting in a signal light, they build roundabouts, EVERYWHERE! Sounds good but, there is a wrong way and a right way to enter and drive the circle. We have come across a few fender benders on the roundabouts.
As I was saying earlier about being prepared on hiking trails, we need to be prepared in our cars if there is an accident on the main freeway coming up the mountains from Phoenix. An accident can keep you put for hours. There is no way out! Last week there was a grass fire that shut down the only route to and from.
Arizona has just entered into Monsoon season. They talk about these on every news station constantly. Bottom line, you don’t want to be caught driving in one, or hiking in one. The creek beds and “washes” flood immediately and carry dangerously fast moving waters. The roadways become completely invisible. The down pours are tremendous. Friends say if you are home safe, the monsoons are something incredible to watch. Big, bold lightning strikes, loud thunder and sheets and sheets of rain and sometimes hail can occur during a monsoon. Another point friends say, the 100 temps, quickly can be reduced to the 50’s. I believe next week the forecast is favorable for us to witness our first monsoon and bring some drought relief.
I’ve now gone and died in tomato heaven with the ones that are grown HERE! Something to be said about a dry and arid climate for tomatoes!
The fall and winters are supposed to be great! Mountains will have snow tops all season, dusting of snow around us but quickly melt away as the sun comes out. I look forward to the crisp, cold days.
Another amazing plus is all the events going on. There is some kind of festival going on in Flagstaff, Jerome, Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Clarkdale and Prescott on any given weekend. We only live no more than 50 minutes from the furthest of these neat towns. Each one has its own charm. Cornville is so small, not sure what they do other than the Farmers Market. But they have the sweetest little post office! Last night we went to an Irish music concert in Clarkdale. All these towns are dog friendly so Finn was with us. At least half of the restaurants have dog friendly porches. Finn has become quite the guest to take along anywhere!
There is so much to see and do. One can never say “I’m bored”! We now have our annual State Park pass. Richard secured the lifetime National Park pass. There are State and National Parks all around us!
Unfortunately at the moment, a lot of the Parks are closed due to the fire danger. That’s ok. We’ve got plenty of time to go exploring. At present we are down to one car. This fall we are looking into maybe buying a jeep. Every other person has a jeep, no joke. The reason is the exploring to do off road must be half of Arizona! One day we drove the Lexus down one of these roads, about made my tummy curl. That’s the day that Richard decided to give a jeep serious consideration. One of my favorite drives is up Oak Creek Canyon Road to Flagstaff. The road is winding and goes up elevation quick! The views down toward Sedona are breath taking. Another fun drive is up Mingus Mountain to Jerome to get to Prescott. Our Costco, Pier1 Imports, Bed Bath & Beyond, and others are located in Prescott.
There are plenty of outdoor water activities too. We sit close to the Verde River one way and the Oak Creek the other. Many folks kayak, canoe or float. Have to be careful because it’s also known for the rapids when the Monsoon dumps enough rain. We live 10 minutes away from Dead Horse Ranch State Park. The Park service built 3 separate lakes that are filled from the Verde River. The water is clear and fishing is well known. All we need is our license and a couple of poles, picnic lunch and we have a perfect day!
There are so many fabulous restaurants in each one of the towns I’ve mentioned. However, I’ve not found a favorite Mexican restaurant. I am missing Julio’s on 1488. Someone please tell Julio that Richard and Leslie say “hi” and we miss his food! There are plenty of breweries around and a host of wineries. We happen to live 10 minutes away from Oak Creek where 5 wineries grow their grapes and have tasting rooms. How’s that for finding a place to retire!
I still feel as if we are on vacation. It’s about time to get to reality and do a few things that are needed. Like, find doctors is a top priority. There are other things that need to be tended to now that we are settled. It’s taken me awhile to get use to everything that is different. For everything that I miss, I fill that void with everything that I have now and find the positive. It’s not easy to move away to another state after 55 years, but now I have new exploration to do. It’s not easy leaving the friendships that have been made in Woodforest, but now I am adding to my friendship list. It’s unsettling to be so far from my girls, but hope that when they visit they too will be in awe of the surroundings and the many wonderful sights to see. I want this place to represent that change can be a good thing, scary at times but extremely fulfilling most of the time.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. This move has made me stop and smell the roses once again. The beautiful nature that I see all around puts me in deep prayer for living for today. I can’t control everything around me, but I can control my thoughts and find the good that is here; here is our new home for hopefully years to come.