So, it looks like we have a definite decision...probably ;)
For the last couple years, Shannon and I have been talking about staying or going. And, staying it is (well, kinda).
After high school in Lake Havasu City, we both came to Tucson for college. Let's get this straight--I don't think that Tucson is impressive at first glance. Especially when you are stuck on and around campus. Coming from Havasu, where essentially everything has been built since 1960, Tucson seems, well, old. And diversity is a scary reality. Diversity in Havasu consists of young white folks, middle-aged white folks, and old white folks. This place takes an open mind and a sense of adventure. After a couple years, we were dating, and no longer living on campus. Instead, we lived in another relatively scary part of town. Yep, still not impressed--SWAT teams busting into apartments in our complex, camera and CDs stolen out of my car WHILE we were moving.
Finished undergrad, moved to Ajo for a year, then back to the UA for grad school. Lived a little farther from campus, and it was better. But, neither one of us got to explore too much. There's something about grad school that keeps you from getting out much, especially when you're both working for some very intense professors... Then, engagement, and the question of where to live. Shannon had landed a job at IBM by then, so Tucson was the place to be. When you go house shopping in this town, you get to know it. Oro Valley to Sahuarita, Vail to Tucson Estates. Let's just say there is good, bad, and everything in between. If you want (relatively) urban, you can find it. Fancy? Sure. Rural with land, and no neighbors? All over the place. Decent prices, awesome scenery, and lots of trail running led to the Tucson Estates area. We have been relatively happy here, but the lack of young families and a good school district made us reconsider. It became clear that we would be moving eventually. Thus the search.
We spent a long weekend in Denver exploring in fall 2009, and we were impressed. It is a different place for sure. After being in Tucson for a while, it was almost uncomfortable to go to a concert in Denver with zero diversity (and few tans). BUT, there is definitely a lot to enjoy. Mountains, prairie, college towns, a REAL winter, water everywhere, etc.
Tucson also has a LOT. Where else can you go from desert at 2000' to douglas first at 8000' plus in a half-hour drive (or 3-hour ride). The cost of living is pretty awesome (as long as you didn't buy a house in 2006-2007). There are opportunities for kids--especially compared to Havasu--so you can't complain.
Then there is the job situation. For the last five+ years, I have been working on restoration projects on the lower Colorado River. The place I grew up, and know like very few others do. It has been more than a little rewarding to spend my time growing trees, playing in the dirt, watching the wildlife, and enjoying the desert sunrises and sunsets. Saying this place is close to my heart is an understatement. I am not sure if I have really become over-qualified or too specialized, but I have sent out literally over a hundred resumes to Denver companies and universities. ZERO (yes, literally, zero) callbacks over the last year and a half.
Finally, training. The roads in Tucson leave a lot to be desired. The pool hours suck during the winter thanks to city budget cuts. The five-month summer and 7-month spring/fall lets you train outside basically all year long. Summers are hot for sure, but I do well in the heat, and in Tucson you can usually count on relatively cool nights/mornings. Winters are not really winters, but it does get cold once in a while. My cold tolerance is terrible...in fact I didn't train at all when the highs were in the 30s and 40s a couple weeks ago. Apparently I am a desert rat after all.
We have been waiting for signs, and I think they have been abundant recently. Work has been going great, and I am excited to see where it leads. The girls are doing great and enjoying their schools. After the Tucson shootings, we were really impressed with the sense of community that emerged. Shannon was lucky enough to find some Ben's Bells in the week that followed. I have been fortunate enough to be sponsored by TriSports.com for the last two years, and 2011 as well.
A lot of it comes down to this: in general, people tend to complain about where they live. Too small, too expensive, too crowded, boring, etc., etc. I think the place is what you make of it. If you are boring, you will be bored ;) But seriously, wherever you move, you are stuck with yourself. We are really terrible at getting out and meeting people, but hopefully that will change with a change in state of mind. I'm ready to accept my job (and the good and bad that comes with it), accept where I live, and get truly involved with the community, meet some new people, and enjoy all the life the lies ahead.
So, here's the scoop: we'll be looking to relocate from the west side to the east side in the near future, somewhere in Vail School District. BUT, we're planning to stay in southern Arizona, and our next address is likely to finish with "Tucson, AZ 85***". Looking forward to getting involved with the community, the triathlon community (especially the new Tucson Tri Club), and watching the kids grow up in one of the best school districts around. Sorry Tucson, you are stuck with us! :)
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