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Thread summary:

Information for transplants, those who want to relocate to the Rocky Mountain states, agriculture, farming and ranching, cost of living, climate, Phoenix and Denver options

 
Old 04-12-2007, 03:34 PM
 
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Read the state forums for the Rocky Mountain states and there are a plethora of posts from people from all over the country who wish to relocate there. As a lifetime resident of that region who is more than a little dismayed about the direction the area is heading, it would be easy for me to say, "Don't do it." Contrary to what some may think, that is NOT my view. What I DO say is, "Know what you are getting into." Many "transplants" don't, and their stories are not happy ones.

The idealized view of the Rocky Mountain West is of idyllic small towns set in spectacular scenery. The cities are well-planned masterpieces set in wonderful natural environments. That's pretty much all a myth. Most all of the growth in Rocky Mountain cities has occurred since World War II, much of it in the last 25 years. That means suburban sprawl, strip malls, big boxes, freeways, traffic, smog, and congestion pretty much like any other big cities. They often have racial and ethnic tensions, and gangs are a problem. Water, more correctly the lack of it, is becoming a serious issue, both in urban and rural areas. There is simply too many demands being placed on limited water resources. "Planning" is pretty much a dream.

Those idyllic small towns in the mountains are beautiful to visit, but actually living there can be a much different matter. Unless one has a substantial income from "the outside," the living costs can be unaffordable. Small business failures are endemic as people try to "live the dream" and find it to be unaffordable and unattainable. Many of the residents are "transplants" from urban and suburban areas, and many of them bring their expectations and problems with them. A common lament is that Rocky Mountain towns are "small towns with big city problems." Because many of the communities have such a large number of part-time residents and have significant "turnover" in their permanent populations, they never really achieve a sense of community.

In many areas of the Rocky Mountain region, agriculture--farming and ranching--is a dying industry. It is far more profitable for farmers and ranchers to sell their land (and water rights) to developers rathen than to continue in agriculture. Since agricultural operations have traditionally been the stewards of non-government owned open space in the region, this loss has ominous long-term implications. Rocky Mountain forests (mostly Forest Service and BLM lands) have their own problems, the biggest being a century of fire suppression that has left them tinder boxes of overcrowded and diseased trees. The current long-term drought that much of the region has experienced has made numerous areas susceptible to "mega-fires" that can denude hundreds of thousands of acres of forest at a time. Foresters don't say "if" but "when."

Crime. It shouldn't be sugar-coated. It is a serious problem in many Rocky Mountain communities. New Mexico, by anyone's estimation, has serious crime issues in many locations. Colorado also has problems. Wyoming has issues in some of its "boom" areas, as does Montana. Idaho and Utah, possibly because of their relatively large percentages of Mormon population do better, but even there the cities rate only middling crime stats. Blame it on the number of illegal immigrants residing in the region, the explosive growth, some of the "boomtowns", or maybe the fact that lawlessness has always been tolerated to a certain extent (they didn't call it the "Wild West" for nothing), significant crime is a reality in much of the region. Many residents regularly carry guns in their vehicle. There are many towns and cities in the Midwest and East that are safer.

Do I still love it here? Yes. Would I necessarily want to live elsewhere? Probably not. But I am a native, and I long ago learned to accept the "West" on its own terms--the lack of water, the droughts, the fires, the wind, the unique nature of true "Westerners", the unique ethnic mixes, the food (New Mexican being a favorite), even the sometimes quirky politics. Be forewarned though, living here is not like the tourist brochures, the real estate mailings, and the wild West cable TV show. It's something much different, much less "idealized." It might be different than where you are. Better? That's another matter.

The Pulitzer Prize winning Native American poet, N. Scott Momaday, may have said it best, "The West may need to be seen to be believed, but it must be believed to be seen." "Believing" to me means understanding at a deep, not superficial, level. Only then, can this place really be seen for what it is, good and bad.
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Old 04-12-2007, 11:08 PM
 
Location: Denver, CO
5,608 posts, read 20,712,630 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Do I still love it here? Yes. Would I necessarily want to live elsewhere? Probably not. But I am a native, and I long ago learned to accept the "West" on its own terms--the lack of water, the droughts, the fires, the wind, the unique nature of true "Westerners", the unique ethnic mixes, the food (New Mexican being a favorite), even the sometimes quirky politics. Be forewarned though, living here is not like the tourist brochures, the real estate mailings, and the wild West cable TV show. It's something much different, much less "idealized." It might be different than where you are. Better? That's another matter.

The Pulitzer Prize winning Native American poet, N. Scott Momaday, may have said it best, "The West may need to be seen to be believed, but it must be believed to be seen." "Believing" to me means understanding at a deep, not superficial, level. Only then, can this place really be seen for what it is, good and bad.
What you are saying is 100% true, but nothing new. The west, ever since we conquered it from Mexico, has always been about "real estate" promotion and cowboys and Indians and "Wild West" image-- which except for maybe a really short period of time (1860's-1880s), has always been a myth. Scottsdale, AZ, for example, which was barely on the map until the 1950s, yet it calls itself "The Most Western Town in the West," with dozens of corny gift shops in "Old Town Scottsdale" selling cowboy hats, "Indian" jewelry and pictures of coyotes.

I don't think there is any such thing as a true "westerner"-- simply because there are so many different groups of peoples living in this region-- urban and rural, white, hispanic, Native American, rich and poor, every religion from Mormonism to mainline Christianity to New Age, and everything from decaying Rocky mountain mining towns (Leadville, CO) to desert fantasy mega resorts (Las Vegas). I also think that these big "sprawling" cities like Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, etc, where 90% of westerners actually live, are just as much the "real West" as those picture perfect but tourist trap "western" towns. That's what makes the West such an exciting region-- it is so diverse that it can't be pinned down to one essence.

Oh yeah, and New Mexican food ROCKS!!
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Old 04-13-2007, 12:21 AM
 
1,486 posts, read 4,027,458 times
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I have been reading how Denver is one of the most desirable places to live in the country. I haven't spent a lot of time there, but it is constantly ranked as at or near the top for young professionals for example.

And it can't be worse than Phoenix!
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Old 04-13-2007, 04:16 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,382 posts, read 40,911,924 times
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Great post, Jazzlover.
Denver is still a wonderful city with many fine qualities.
It's just not the Denver I grew up in.
But that's happening all over the place.
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Old 04-13-2007, 06:23 AM
 
Location: a primitive state
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Change a few words and I think its what many Floridians would like to say too. I'd say it for most of the lower south.

Keep at it.
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Old 04-13-2007, 08:50 AM
j33
 
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As one from decidedly nonwestern origins (grew up in Chicago with parents who were eastcoast transplants from PA and MA, and with a grandfather from the Bronx , I've always been curious about when people say that it is 'different out west'. I've only been west of the Mississippi a few times in my life so I don't doubt that it is, but I'm curious about the impressions of those who not 'westerners' have of the place, what exactly makes it different? I went to Seattle last february and the only thing that I really noticed was that it was a bit more casual and laid back, and that many times when I spoke to people casually (in bars etc), I was called out by my accent as not being from 'the west'. However, I wasn't really there long enough to notice much of a difference (not to mention I was hanging out with my friends who were recent transplants).
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Old 04-13-2007, 10:35 AM
 
Location: Toledo
3,861 posts, read 7,596,261 times
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Thanks for that post jazzlover. I'll admit that I do have a somewhat idealized view of Colorado. I'm not expecting it to be perfect, but at this point Denver is looking a whole lot better than Cincinnati and my hometown Toledo. I'm know that CO will be different than the midwest and I would like it to stay different. I mean, I'm trying get away from the midwest, not bring it with me. LOL
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Old 04-13-2007, 09:22 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 16 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,989 posts, read 102,554,590 times
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jazzlover is essentially correct. However, it is also correct that most westerners live in cities and their suburbs. In that respect, it's not much different than anywhere else. Eat, work, sleep.

To j33: the difference is one of those "je ne sais quois" (I don't know what) things. It's hard to put one's finger on it, but it's real. People generally don't have large amounts of family living nearby, so there aren't the huge family gatherings at Christmas, etc that there are in the east and midwest (for the most part).

Probably because of the above, people are willing to be more flexible about the holidays. Example: one year we had to go to Pittsburgh in late December to take care of some family business. We checked airfares, and the best rates were for flying Christmas/New Year's days. That is when we went. The Colorado people thought it was just fine, many of them were doing the same thing. The Pittsburgh people, even the younger ones, thought it was sad we had to "ruin" our Christmas by flying on Christmas Day. It is not unusual to go skiing on Christmas or even Easter Sunday.

Here in Colorado, the style of dress is much more casual than in the east or midwest. Coming here from Illinois was a culture shock! My DH works in engineering for a company in Boulder, and they wear jeans to work. It is not unusual to see someone wearing a ski jacket over a business suit. When I was a public health nurse, we wore street clothes and some nurses wore jeans, even when doing home visits. Athletic shoes are a popular footwear, along with crocs. One Sunday I noticed the pastor wearing crocs with her robe.

As for Seattle, have only been there once. My DD used to date a guy from there. He hated Colorado, so the culture must be different.
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