Saturday, July 5, 2008
Ever visit a place and consider staying for life? You're just a tourist but you dream of becoming a local. Everything about the destination seems better--or different--than your home base: the community, the climate, the landscape, the home prices, the farmer's market, the ski resort that's only 10 minutes away. You eagerly talk to locals and think they're all so friendly and you want to be their longtime friends. You take a peek at the listings in the windows of real estate agencies and maybe even chat with a Realtor.
That’s how we felt in Flagstaff, Ariz., one of our stops along Route 66. Anthony and I became so enchanted with this mountain town in Northern Arizona that we started to imagine ourselves raising our children there. We envisioned ourselves hanging out at downtown's independent bookstores, sushi restaurants, coffee houses, and Heritage Square where bluegrass bands twang on weekends. We pictured ourselves taking family hikes in the surrounding San Francisco Peaks and teaching our kids to ski at Arizona Snowbowl, a small resort with more than 2,000 feet of vertical, only 20 minutes north. We even walked around some neighborhoods, spotted a perfect little Craftsman house (something we'll never be able to afford in San Francisco), and imagined life with more than two bedrooms.
This has happened to me before. I also fell deeply in love with Bend, Ore.; Boulder, Colo.; Telluride, Colo., and Park City, Utah. I have a soft spot in my heart for mountain towns. Those places where everyone bikes in the summer and skis in the winter. Where a disproportionate number of outdoor shops line main street. Where the air is crisp and clean. We love living in San Francisco but sometimes the antithesis is refreshing.
Our day in Flagstaff was perfect so I easily fell in love. We arrived just in time for the Fourth of July parade at 9 a.m. The entire town population of 57,000 people seemed to be there, either watching from the sidelines or marching down the main drag. The sense of community was phenomenal.
In the evening, we attended a free outdoor concert and movie screening at the town square. Families spread out picnic blankets and unpacked baskets of food. A local dad, Dave Stilley, came out with his guitar and sang old Bob Dylan and James Taylor tunes. His two kids even joined him for a few tunes. And then he sang this song that he had written about Flagstaff being the best place in the entire world. He sang about visiting London and the South of France, New York City and Los Angeles. But he hollered out that Flagstaff is the best place to be. And everyone in the crowd cheered.
Have you ever visited a town, fallen in love, and dreamed of moving there?
Photo courtesy of the Flagstaff CVB