Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My New Hometown

A lot has happened since I published my last blog in this "finding a new hometown" series.  I just came up for air and discovered that my last post on the subject was way back in January!  So here's a brief update on the past ten months of this adventure ...

Having narrowed my search to a Top Ten list of cities, I was able to eliminate a couple more based on a combination of factors, such as proximity to my kids and grandkids, transportation costs, crime statistics, and climate, leaving me with a Top Eight list.  As I alluded in my 09 January post on San Antonio, what made the most sense to me was to begin personally investigating those cities closest to my immediate family and work my way eastward if I found them unworkable.  And so the moving process began.

My relocation to San Antonio is a subject that would require several posts to cover fully, so I'll just summarise it for now.  I began the process by going room to room through my house, sorting everything I owned into one of four categories:  keep, sell, donate, or discard.  Knowing that I am a "pack-rat" I was determined to move less than half the possessions I owned to San Antonio.  Overall, I sold very little -- only a few high-value items to help finance my relocation costs.  I donated the majority of my excess clothing (especially items like winter clothing I knew I would seldom need again, but would greatly benefit recipients in Indiana), thousands of books (keeping only those I either use for research, reread frequently, or are family heirlooms), and furniture items that are cheaper to replace than to move.  A nearly equal amount (by weight; not value) of stuff I simply discarded.  Most of the discards were furniture items that had been all but destroyed by the cats and dog I had been sharing my home with:  two hide-a-bed sofas, a matching couch and love seat, a La-Z-Boy rocker/recliner that had seen far too many better days, and two bedrooms of garage sale rejects -- all bulky and practically worthless!  That process occupied me through the end of March.

By mid-April everything I didn't absolutely need was packed and ready to go.  I had rented a mailbox in San Antonio and arranged forwarding of my mail.  So I rented a moving truck and moved everything but my clothes and the essentials I would need to set up a temporary household to a storage unit in San Antonio.  I chose Palo Alto Self Storage solely because it is a Budget Truck Rental affiliate, but I was absolutely thrilled with their friendly, personal, and highly accommodating service (so they deserve this accolade!).  Then I returned to Indiana for my SUV, which I loaded to the gills with my clothing, personal effects, and living essentials, said my farewells, and drove back to Texas.

The day I decided that San Antonio was the best starting point for the final phase of my research, there were over 100 homes in the MLS in my targeted price range.  The day I arrived, that number was fewer than 20!  One thing I had not counted on was the healthy Texas economy causing a shortage of affordable housing.  Speculators were gobbling up the low-cost homes and "flipping" them.  The first home on which I submitted an offer sold for 50% more than its listed price.  There was a bidding war for any affordable house that wasn't ready to fall off its foundation!  As a result it took me five frustrating months to find a home.  Employment and business opportunities are plentiful in San Antonio, so it was quickly apparent that I could flourish here ... but not without a suitable place to live!  Twice, while I was in the process of completing the offer forms for a house, my realtor received word that another offer had been accepted earlier that same day.  I was on the verge of giving up on San Antonio and heading up to Dallas/Fort Worth when I took one last try at a house in central San Antonio ... and was high bidder!

It's a charming little "American Craftsman" style home built in 1924.  It's age shows in several places, and it needs a lot of cosmetic work, but it is structurally sound with recently updated electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems.  So I have now embarked on Phase II of my life in San Antonio ... what I will probably refer to as my "Bob Villa" phase as I embark on the restoration of "this old house".

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

San Antonio, Texas

At long last we have arrived at #10 on my Top Ten list of cities to which I might relocate this year.  Last (in alphabetical order), but certainly not least (as I'll explain a few paragraphs down), I give you ...

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio's history dates back to 1691, when Spanish explorers and missionaries first arrived there on June 13th, the feast day of San Antonio de Padua.  Of course, the area had been settled centuries earlier by aborigines, but they had named it Yanaguana for its "refreshing waters", so prior to 1691 would be pre-San Antonio history.  Early Spanish settlement of San Antonio began with the Martin de Alarcon expedition and the establishment of the San Antonio de Valero Mission (now the Alamo) 01 May 1718.  Four days later (Cinco de Mayo, coincidentally enough) the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar was established a little less than a mile away.  The mission was established to minister to the indigenous people, and the presidio was built to prevent incursions into New Spain by the French from their colonies in neighboring New France.  The first group of European colonists arrived in San Antonio from the Canary Islands in 1731, which marks the beginnings of a true city at the site, which grew to be the largest in New Spain and later the capital of the Spanish Province of Texas.  At the conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821 Texas was incorporated into the state of Coahuila Y Tejas and San Antonio ceased to be its capital.  The war had left Mexico bankrupt, so immigration was encouraged in order to bring much needed capital into the state.  The majority of these immigrants came from the USA seeking inexpensive land and business opportunities.  By 1830 immigrants had become the majority and Mexico began imposing oppressive taxes, tariffs, and restrictions on the immigrants.  After five years of trying peacefully to redress their grievances, only to have newly elected president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna unilaterally abolish the Mexican constitution and most of its elected legislative bodies, Texans revolted in 1835 and won their independence on 02 March 1836.  The Republic of Texas joined the United States in 1846 as the state of Texas.

Its origins in New Spain, its subsequent annexation as part of Mexico, its ten years as an independent nation, and its participation in major events in US history give San Antonio a rich, unique, and diverse cultural heritage.

San Antonio lies on the San Antonio River, which serves as the western boundary of the humid subtropical climate of the Gulf States and the semi-arid climate of West Texas.  As a result, San Antonio has features of both climate zones, so it is hotter than most Sun Belt states, but less humid, and with warmer, milder winters.  The city experiences light snowfall about once every four years and a tornado within 50 miles once every five years.  The major weather problem is flooding, which is a frequent occurrence, often resulting in property damage and occasionally deaths.

The city has a population of a little over 1.3 million, with about 2.2 million in the metropolitan area.  As America's 7th largest city, it ranks between Phoenix (#6) and San Diego (#8) in size.  It hosts a major airport, and has all the civic, cultural, and entertainment attractions expected of a major city, including museums, a zoo, Japanese Tea Gardens, Six Flags, Seaworld, and numerous historical landmarks.  The state capital of Austin is only an 80-mile 1.5 hour drive, and Houston is a 200-mile 3-hour drive away, making additional events, attractions, and opportunities accessible.  Corpus Christi and the Gulf Coast are also only a 2-hour drive away.

Advantages

There is a moderate supply of low-cost housing in the greater San Antonio, Texas, although affordable homes are not as plentiful as in several of the other cities I'm considering.  San Antonio's overall cost of living, however, is second-lowest in the nation for cities over 500,000 population.

San Antonio is the nearest Top Ten city to Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle.  Not surprisingly, its air fares are also the lowest to these destinations, so traveling to visit my kids and grandkids will be easiest and least expensive from San Antonio.

San Antonio has several well established dojo already offering most of the martial arts I teach.  It is a large and growing city, however, so there should be an opportunity to establish a dojo in the area.  In addition, its proximity to Austin, Houston, and Corpus Christi could afford opportunities to provide seminars in those cities.

The area also has several scenic and well maintained golf courses with green fees under $30.00 for 18 holes, so I would be able to enjoy a round of golf at least once a month.

Disadvantages

There seems to be very little not to like about San Antonio ... except the heat and the flooding.  However, San Antonio's overall climate is probably the most tolerable of all the cities I'm researching, and there are usually parts of town that are less susceptible to flooding than others.

The only other potential concern might be crime.  The published reports on crime in San Antonio are highly conflicting.  Some rank it one of the most dangerous cities in America, while an equal number rank it among the safest.  More research may be needed to find out which reports are true.

Speaking of which ...

More research!  That brings me back to the statement I made at the top about San Antonio being "certainly not least" among my Top Ten prospective new hometowns.  Before picking one of these ten and permanently settling there, I still need to know more about each of them.  There's only so much I can learn from the Internet.  But whether or not I will like a city will require that I actually experience it for myself.  I've narrowed the list down to ten.  Now I need to go visit them.  So the next step and the next question becomes:  which city to start with?

And San Antonio seems to be the logical answer!  It has most of the advantages and the fewest disadvantages (on paper, at least) of any city I've researched.  It is the closest to those I would visit often and has nearly all the factors I'm looking for ... its only major disadvantage (climate) being common to all the others, as well.

What do you think?  Does it sound like I should head to San Antonio for a visit?  Or, after reading this blog series, do you have a better idea?  Please let me know!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Memphis, Tennessee

We're in the home stretch, so please bear with me.  Here is what should have been my only blog entry for 08 January 2013:  #9 alphabetically in the countdown of my Top Ten possible new hometown locations ...

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is the 20th largest city in the United States, with a population of about 675,000 surrounded by a metropolitan area of 1.3 million, making it the third largest of the cities I am considering.  Founded in 1819 at the site of an earlier Spanish Fort, Memphis is situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  It is the northernmost of all the cities I am studying.

Although Memphis weather is classified as being a humid subtropical climate like the more southerly cities I'm considering, its weather patterns are actually subject to greater extremes of both hot and cold, because of its unique position.  In summer it can receive extremely hot and humid air from Texas or hot and extremely humid air from the Gulf Coast.  Similarly, in winter Memphis can be struck with cold from the Upper Great Plains or warmth from the Gulf Coast.  Afternoon and evening thunderstorms are frequent during summer, but usually brief, lasting no longer than an hour. Early autumn is pleasantly drier and mild, but can be hot until late October. Late autumn is rainy and cooler; precipitation peaks again in November and December. Winters are mild to chilly, with average January high and low temperatures of 49.8 °F (9.9 °C) and 32.6 °F (0.3 °C). Snow occurs sporadically in winter, with an average yearly snowfall of 3.9 inches (99 mm). Ice storms and freezing rain pose greater danger, as they can often pull tree limbs down on power lines and make driving hazardous. Severe thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year though mainly during the spring months. Large hail, strong winds, flooding and frequent lightning can accompany these storms. Some storms spawn tornadoes.

Memphis has a rich cultural heritage, since it was at various times inhabited by American aborigines, French and Spanish colonists, and attracted settlers from many other parts of the country.  It is particularly renowned for its musical heritage, having been home to such greats as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Al Green, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, and some guy named Presley.   Memphis also features several well known museums and cultural events.  More information about Memphis is provided in this article on Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis,_Tennessee.

Advantages

Memphis has the largest inventory of low cost houses of any city I'm researching.  However, the majority of the lowest-priced homes have been ransacked for the copper in their plumbing and electrical systems, so the actual number of affordable and habitable homes may not be that much greater than most other locations.  The cost of living in Memphis is also low, but not exceptionally so.

Memphis has a well-served major airport with airfares and travel times comparable to those in Indianapolis.

There appear to be quite a few dojo already serving the Memphis area, so it has the population to support a new dojo, but it might take time to become well established.

There are several moderately priced golf courses in Memphis and its surrounding areas, but they are not as inexpensive as some of their more southern counterparts.

Disadvantages

As hot as Texas.  As humid as Florida or the Gulf States.  And colder than anywhere else in the Sun Belt (which Memphis lies at the northern boundary of).  So the weather extremes are one it the city's major disadvantages.

The only other significant disadvantage appears to be its crime rate, which was below US averages prior to Hurricane Katrina, rose sharply from 2005 to 2009, and has been in decline ever since.  Nevertheless, Memphis is often included as one of America's ten most dangerous cities.

And that brings us to the eternal question:  what do you think?  Is moving there a good idea or a bad idea for me?  What are your impressions of Memphis?  If you know me, would you be more inclined or less inclined to visit me in Memphis than you would in Marion ... or any of the other locations I'm considering?



Columbus, Georgia

Okay ... something went horribly wrong!  The city that was fifth in alphabetical order was somehow omitted from my blog.  I remember preparing the information about a week ago, but either it didn't upload properly or I somehow inadvertently deleted it.  I don't think it was a Freudian slip, but I'll invite your thoughts on that after you've read about ...

Columbus, Georgia

Columbus was founded in 1828 and lies at the beginning of the navigable portion of the Chattahoochee River, about 100 miles southwest of Atlanta.  The city's population is just over 300,000 within a metropolitan area of about 465,000.  Like Augusta, Columbus is a fall line city, meaning that the Chattahoochee River begins a steep descent just below the city.

In common with the other Sun Belt cities, Columbus has a humid subtropical climate, meaning hot, humid summers and mild winters with only occasional light snow flurries.  Daytime summer temperatures often reaches a high in the mid 90s, and low temperatures in the winter average in the upper 30s. Columbus is often considered a dividing line or "natural snowline" of the southeastern United States with areas north of the city receiving snowfall annually, with areas to the south typically not receiving snowfall every year or at all.

The largest employer in the area is nearby Fort Benning.  For its relatively small size, Columbus boasts a large number of public parks, museums, and cultural attractions.  More about Columbus is available in the Wikipedia article at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus,_Georgia.

Advantages

Columbus offers a low overall cost of living, as well as a relatively large number of affordable houses in fair to excellent condition.

The city has its own regional airport, in addition to which it is within a 2-hour drive of Atlanta's international airport or the Birmingham, Alabama airport.

With Fort Benning nearby, it appears to offer a solid market for a traditional Japanese dojo.

Topping off its advantages are its several affordable golf courses.

Disadvantages

Other than its hot, humid climate -- which is shared by nearly all the cities I'm considering -- the only notable disadvantage seems to be Columbus' relatively high crime rate, which is 75% above the US national average.   Property crimes account for the majority of this, with burglaries, larceny and motor vehicle thefts nearly double the national average.  Murders, muggings, and robberies are about 10% above the national average, while rapes and aggravated assaults are significantly below nationwide figures.

So once again, I'd like to know your thoughts about Columbus ... Is moving there a good idea or a bad idea for me?  What are your impressions of Columbus?  If you know me, would you be more inclined or less inclined to visit me in Columbus than you would in Marion ... or any of the other locations I'm considering?


Monday, January 7, 2013

Jackson, Mississippi

Seventh alphabetically among my Top Ten possible new hometowns is:
Jackson, Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi was founded in 1822 on the banks of the Pearl River.  Originally a French settlement, it was later part of the lands granted to the Choctaw Nation before being ceded back to the United States.  The city has a population just under 175,000 within a metropolitan area of about 540,000.  The area is part of the Mississippi Delta and is the only state capital known to be built atop an extinct volcano, the peak of which is 2,900 feet beneath the city.

Like most other cities in the Sun Belt, Jackson has a humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild winters.  Rain occurs throughout the year, though the winter and spring are the wettest seasons, and the late summer and early autumn is usually the driest time of the year. Snow is rare, and accumulation very seldom lasts more than a day.  Jackson lies in a region prone to severe thunderstorms, damaging hail, and tornadoes.

Jackson has a rich cultural heritage.  It is renowned for its jazz, blues, and R&B music, but also has two ballet companies, opera, a symphonic orchestra, several museums, a zoo, and many other historical, civic, and cultural attractions.  It offers a variety of French, Latin, and African-American cultural influences, as well as a major Celtic festival.  More information about Jackson can be found in the Wikipedia article here:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson,_Mississippi.

Advantages

Of all the cities I am considering Jackson has the lowest cost of living.  In addition, it has the largest inventory of available low-cost housing, and those homes are generally in the best condition of all the affordable housing in the US.  Jackson is ranked #3 in "most bang for your buck" by Forbes magazine, and is one of only three cities in my Top Ten to make this Forbes list (the other two being Dallas and San Antonio).

The Jackson market appears viable for a traditional Japanese dojo.  Although there is a Shotokan dojo and a couple of Okinawan dojo in the Jackson area, the competition is chiefly taekwondo, kung fu, and cage fighting.

Jackson is served by Medgar Evers Airport and several major domestic airlines.  Fares and travel times to San Diego, Phoenix, and Seattle are slightly lower than from Indianapolis.  And there are plenty of historic and cultural sights and activities for visitors to enjoy.

Several low-cost golf courses make frequent golfing affordable in Jackson, as well.

Disadvantages

The chief disadvantage is the climate!  Not only hot and humid, but subject to weather damage from hail and tornadoes, including a Force 5 tornado that ravaged the city in 1966.

The only other potential disadvantage is that Jackson experienced a significant increase in violent crime in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Press releases and crime statistics claim significant reductions in crime since 2010, but the stigma remains attached to the city.

Once again, I'd like to know your thoughts about Jackson ... Is moving there a good idea or a bad idea for me?  What are your impressions of Jackson?  If you know me, would you be more inclined or less inclined to visit me in Jackson than you would in Marion?  Or compared to the other locations I'm considering?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dothan, Alabama

My blog series reviewing my Top Ten potential new hometowns in alphabetical order continues today with #6 ...

Dothan, Alabama

Dothan is a comparatively small town, with a population of only 65,000 and a surrounding metropolitan area of only 135,000.  This makes it the second smallest city and metro area of those in contention to be my next hometown.

Although settlers had arrived in the Dothan area by the 1830s to harvest timber, the city was not actually incorporated until 1885, making it the newest of all the cities I'm considering.  It lies in the southeastern corner of the state of Alabama, just 18 miles north of the Florida border and 20 miles west of Georgia.

Like nearly all other towns in the Sun Belt, Dothan has a humid subtropical climate.  Although Wikipedia cites Dothan as being prone to tornadoes, the actual tornado risk in Dothan is below the Alabama state average and comparable to that of Marion, which has a handful of tornado warnings and sightings each year, but has suffered no significant tornado damage in the 12 years I've lived there.  Summers in Dothan are hotter and more humid than in the Georgia and South Carolina cities I'm considering, but slightly milder than Texas.  More information about a Dothan can be found in the Wikipedia article here:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dothan,_Alabama.

Advantages

The chief advantages of Dothan are its affordable housing, low cost of living, and proximity to Florida's Gulf Coast and airports.  For a town its size, Dothan has a large inventory of affordable homes, most of which are in livable condition and do not require significant remodeling or repairs.   As with other small towns, violent crime is also negligible in Dothan.

Dothan is only about a 1.5-hour drive from Panama City, so if I or those visiting me want a day at the beach it's as close as if I lived in Alpine, California!  Dothan is also roughly equidistant from the Pensacola or Tallahassee airports, each about a two-hour drive, which is about my current commute to the Indianapolis airport.  Dothan also has a municipal airport with daily flights that serve as a feeder to Delta's hub in Atlanta, so it's probably quicker, easier, and less expensive overall to just take a flight from Dothan that connects through Atlanta.

There are only a handful of golf courses in the Dothan area, but three of them are very reasonably priced and would allow for frequent play within my recreation budget.

Disadvantages

Dothan is hot!  I don't do well in hot, humid weather.

Flying from Dothan to San Diego, Phoenix, or Seattle is both more time-consuming and expensive than from most other US locations I'm considering.

There is already a JKI/KNBK-member dojo in Dothan.  So I would either have to affiliate with them or compete against them in a very small market area.

As always, I'd like to know your thoughts about Dothan ... Is moving there a good idea or a bad idea for me?  What are your impressions of Dothan?  If you know me, would you be more inclined or less inclined to visit me in Dothan than you would in Marion?  Or compared to the other locations I'm considering?


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dallas, Texas

We are now at the halfway point in my overview of my Top Ten possible now hometowns.  Despite going in alphabetical order, the first four potential locations were in South Carolina and Georgia.  Now we finally get a glimpse of a different state ... the Lone Star State!  So I now present ...

Dallas, Texas

Dallas is by far the largest city to make my Top Ten list, with a population of about 1.2 million in Dallas proper and a total of nearly 6.5 million in the greater DFW metropolitan area.  Dallas has a strong, growing economy and the state of Texas is one of only 3 or 4 US states that is experiencing economic growth under our federal government's relentless war against prosperity and freedom. 

Like most other cities I'm considering, Dallas has a humid subtropical climate that is periodically fanned by dry winds from the north and west in the summer, bringing temperatures well over 100 °F (38 °C) at times and heat-humidity indexes soaring to as high as 117 °F (47 °C). When only temperature itself is accounted for, the north central Texas region where Dallas is located is one of the hottest in the United States during the summer months, typically exceeded only by the Mojave Desert!  Winters in Dallas are generally mild to warm, but strong cold fronts known as "Blue Northers" sometimes pass through the Dallas region, plummeting nightly lows below 25 °F (−4 °C) for up to a few days at a time.  In addition, Dallas is subject to freezing rain, severe thunderstorms, hailstorms, and lies in America's notorious "Tornado Alley".

Due to its size, Dallas offers a wide variety of culture and entertainment options, with major sports franchises, museums, symphonies, Six Flags theme park, the Dallas Zoo, and of course Gilley's.  DFW airport is one of the largest and busiest international airports in the world.  More about Dallas can be found in the Wikipedia article here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas,_texas.

Advantages

Dallas offers numerous advantages not found in most of my other Top Ten cities:  lower airfares and shorter travel times, major attractions to enjoy if/when my children and grandchildren visit, and a much wider array of cultural, civic, and entertainment activities.  The economic climate of Dallas is also a major advantage.

Dallas has a large number of inexpensive homes in inventory, and it also offers a surprisingly low cost of living for a major US city.  However, as I point out under "Disadvantages" below, most of the inexpensive homes are either located in high crime areas or well out in the suburbs.

With its large population, Dallas offers a huge market for a traditional Japanese dojo.  However, this market size is partially offset by the fact that there are many competing dojo and many of those dojo owners violently oppose new entrants in the market.

There are numerous golf courses in the DFW area, but because of the comparative wealth of local residents, only a few of them are moderately priced.

Disadvantages

Dallas is HUGE!  And I generally dislike everything about big cities:  traffic, noise, congestion, crime, driving distances to government offices and public facilities, and the layers of bureaucracy common to big city life.

Dallas is the hottest city of any I'm considering.  It's summertime temperatures -- even without factoring in the humidity -- are as high or higher than Tucson, Arizona!  And you know how I hate the heat!  So this is a major downside for me ... then add hail and tornadoes and you can see why the Dallas climate is not at all attractive to me

Although the cost of housing in Dallas is within my price range, the quality of housing in my price range is among the lowest of the cities I'm considering.  Many require extensive upgrading or repair, or are located in high crime neighbourhoods ... the notable exception being a couple of areas in which the majority of residents are low income blue-collar Hispanics.  These areas have significantly lower crime and better quality of housing than I've found in the other parts of the DFW metropolitan area.

As always, I'd like to know your thoughts about Dallas ... Is moving there a good idea or a bad idea for me?  What are your impressions of Dallas?  If you know me, would you be more inclined or less inclined to visit me in Dallas than you would in Marion?  Or compared to the other locations I'm considering?