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Old 12-24-2010, 03:00 PM
61 posts, read 95,617 times
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My friend and I moved cross-country in 1993, so I imagine things have changed a bit since then... ;^) ... but I'd recommend renting for a while. Things are too weird here with real estate, prices fluctuating every day, and there aren't nearly the consumer protections that you're used to Back East, so you're pretty much at the mercy of the sellers and real estate agents, and that's always a crap shoot. You need to get a feel for the place before you settle anywhere permanently; I don't know who you're bringing with you - spouse, kids - but different areas hold charm for different situations. I'm single, no kids, 2 cats, and live in the heart of Albuquerque. As the name indicates, I lived in the South Valley for my first 12 years here, and the locals were horrified to hear that - a single Anglo woman with no Spanish down there? they were sure I'd be killed any day! - but I did really well, due in large part to the patronage of my landlord. That was a really special situation, and while I still love and miss the South Valley, I wouldn't recommend anyone new to Albuquerque to start off there, too many crooks and funky areas.

Generally speaking, here in Albuquerque, a couple of blocks either way can make all the difference in the tone of a neighborhood; it's not like the cities of the East Coast where there are distinct neighborhoods and everyone knows where they should and shouldn't go after dark, so you need to do a lot of looking around and getting a feel for different areas of the city before you even think about buying. If you're going to live anywhere but ABQ, I can't help you - check this board for the lowdown on different cities and areas of the state.

One big thing I love about NM that I forgot to mention above is the emptiness, the lack of people. I've been here for almost 14 years now, and I've seen the city grow - it takes me 2 lights to get through some intersections now, when it only took me 1 when I first moved here in 1996 - but it's still echoingly empty. You can drive out 10 or 15 minutes from the center of town and "civilization" drops off and there's nothing but miles and miles of miles and miles in all directions. Now I love that, it's part of what holds me here, but it's not for everyone - it can be scary if you don't have a reliable vehicle or if you're not prepared to take care of some things yourself that you'd normally have other people do for you Back East. What I eventually realized was, Back East the land is all "done," it's paved and built up and wired for phones and you're never far from someplace - and the PEOPLE are the problems. You break down on the side of the road in the Northeast and someone stops to "help" you, chances are they're a psycho and they find you in pieces in a ditch next Spring - you never EVER do that back where I come from. Here, it's exactly the opposite; the LAND is what will kill you if you're foolish enough to go out into The Great NM Wide Open and break down or have some other disaster befall you... but almost anyone who stops to help you - and they ALWAYS stop - will turn out to be a nice, helpful, entirely un-threatening person with no ulterior motives other than to get you out of the jam you've gotten yourself into. I think it's typical of a really small group of people living in a really large area of relatively inhospitable land - like the old time pioneers, everybody pitches in and helps everybody else, because most of them have had bad things happen and somebody helped them and it all just keeps going around.

I'm not saying there aren't bad people here, and that you shouldn't exercise a modicum of caution when dealing with strangers on a deserted road, but there's nothing like that person-to-person violence that you hear about all the time Back East. I have, for instance, never once heard a mugging reported on the news - it doesn't seem to happen here. Yes, people break into houses and steal cars and things like that, but they don't come up to you on the street and stick a gun or a knife in your face and take your purse/wallet like they do all the time back there, so you don't develop that reflex suspicion of the person coming at you on the street. I used to work in Manhattan, and lordy, I felt like I had armor on, always wondering what that slightly dicey looking guy coming at me had in mind; flashers on the subway, wackos accosting you on the street - I automatically put up a wall in front of me when I was out in the world. People here SMILE AT YOU on the streets, and often say "good morning" as they pass you walking the other way - and they MEAN IT, it's mindbowing!

What you'll miss - at first, and I hope you'll eventually get used to it - is efficiency and timeliness. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING happens or runs on time here; 10 minutes late isn't even considered late, and all events wait 15 minutes for stragglers. And it usually takes at least twice before anything works the way it's supposed to; the Comcast guy has to try three or four boxes before your cable works properly, your roof will continue to leak three or four more times after it's been "fixed" - this is not Efficiency Center. However, it is Nice People Central, so if you can just breathe and relax and continue to smile, all will - eventually - be well. Whatever the snarl-up, personal intervention usually fixes it, and being nice and continuing to smile when things are falling apart almost guarantees that someone will intervene.

When I bought my last vehicle, the dealer screwed things up royally regarding the title, and I wound up at the MVD with the wrong documents and my temporary license plate about to expire on the eve of a trip to Arizona. The nice lady behind the counter listened to my tale of woe and gave me another month's temporary plate (at no charge), and when I did get things straightened out and went to the MVD for my permanent plates, I was late enough that they could have charged me a $50 late fee. The girl behind the counter listened to my explanation of what had happened, went back and told her boss my tale, and he came out and waived my fee. All of this took about 10 minutes; can you imagine what a nightmare this would have been, how long, and how much money, it would have taken to straighten it out Back East?!?!? I would have been doomed from the get-go. So while it was caused by an annoyingly absurd screw-up on the part of the dealer, it was the personal intervention of two really nice people who hauled my butt out of the fire - and one of the millions of reasons why I love New Mexico.

Now if I'd been a typical bitchy, pushy East Coast type, things might have turned out differently, maybe they would have let me stew in my own juices, but I was nice about it, and they helped me, and I had a happy ending. NICE is a tremendous virtue here; people would rather be thought of as being NICE than SMART or CRAFTY or CLEVER - those are East Coast values. Not that there aren't smart people here, but often they are viewed with a fair amount of suspicion by the locals, who fear (rightly so, most of the time) that Mr. Smarty will try to screw them in some way.

You pretty much have to take everything you know and turn it inside out in order to be happy and successful here. No self-promotion at work, no tapping your foot when you're next in line and the gal behind the counter is chatting with the person in front of you, and no acting like everyone should speak English and what's wrong with these people anyway? This used to be a different country, where they spoke Spanish, and some of the people you'll encounter had relatives living here when the border moved and left them behind. There are Native American people here - lots of them - from whom this entire country was stolen, and some of them still aren't happy about it and might even remind you of that fact if you get too full of yourself. Anglos need to walk softly - and respectfully - here, and if they do, they'll be welcomed, but if not... you'll see that curtain slam down behind people's eyes and you won't ever be one of the gang. They'll be polite and smile and all, but you'll never be invited over for tamales, and you'll miss some of the most wonderful things New Mexico has to offer.

This is a wildly diverse culture, with so much variety and so many new things to learn, and if you hole up in some gated community you'll never see it, which I think would be a tremendous shame. It takes extending yourself, and being open to new things and willing to behave in different ways, and never assuming that you know best, in order to succeed here, but if you can do those things, I think you'll be very happy. I sure am - I'd never go Back East, ever. This is Home to me now, and will always be.

Good luck to you.

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Old 12-27-2010, 10:19 AM
Location: Chicago, IL.
361 posts, read 828,130 times
Reputation: 257
South Valley Gal:

That is a really insightful description of New Mexico and parts of Albuquerque. It pin-pointed what I had thought, but didn't really articulate about the entire state. When I go there I feel at home, yet somehow "away" from certain aspects of the rest of the world. It's always been sort of an "other-worldly" place for me.

You mention the people - and that's one of the attractions of New Mexico for me. Things you don't mention, or briefly mention, that are major draws for me are the landscape and the food.

The diversity of the geographic landscape (from deserts and river valleys, to prairies and mountains) sort of mimics the human/cultural landscape. IMO - it seems like some people who live there have a symbiotic relationship with the land - at least in the smaller towns. In Albuquerque it may be somewhat different.

When you say "Anglos need to walk softly - and respectfully - here, and if they do, they'll be welcomed, but if not... you'll see that curtain slam down behind people's eyes and you won't ever be one of the gang." - I think that it's less about walking softly and more about respecting and accepting each others cultures in New Mexico.

I could be wrong, but my impression is that early on and after a lot of conflicts, the Native Americans and Hispanics in New Mexico seemed to have learned to respect and accept each other's cultures, and then the early Anglo/white American settlers did the same with those cultures.

Although there have always been and will always be people in New Mexico who may not "get it" and show little respect and acceptance for a culture that isn't there own - the majority of people who love New Mexico and make it their home seem to enjoy it more when they "get it", or have the same outlook you do.

To me New Mexico and Albuquerque are like a lab experiment of fusing living, vibrant, and strong cultures in an untamed landscape/environment to create something kind of new and unlikely anywhere else.

Reading your post just really made me miss living in New Mexico. It'll be another 10 years before I can sell my house here in Chicago and move to Albuquerque or the East Mountain Area (Tijeras, Cedar Crest).

Thanks for the great post!!!! Enjoy New Mexico and Albuquerque.
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Old 12-28-2010, 09:30 AM
271 posts, read 789,312 times
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I've had a chance to read just a few--and will return to read more--but this East Coaster and family are interested in moving to New Mexico, and I find the various insights and opinions fascinating.

One thing: I grew up in a lovely New Jersey town and went to college in NYC. My meetings with "bitchy, pushy" types were few and far between. Ditto for during the years I lived in upper New York state, and for many more years in Delaware.

Also, during all my years in the East, I've not (nor has any family member) been a victim of a crime.

I will miss the wonderful Atlantic ocean.

Why do we plan to move? We're getting older and we have children and other family living in the west. None, however, are living in New Mexico--a state I've never visited, yet have always been drawn to.

If you've read this far--thank you!--and if you have an opinion regarding hospitals and doctors in New Mexico, I'd be so grateful if you'd share.

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Old 12-29-2010, 09:10 AM
Location: Bernalillo, NM
862 posts, read 1,273,326 times
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Originally Posted by anniebleu View Post
If you've read this far--thank you!--and if you have an opinion regarding hospitals and doctors in New Mexico, I'd be so grateful if you'd share.
My wife and I moved to the ABQ area a year ago. Like you we're getting older plus our son had moved here 6 months before that, so we decided this would be the place to slip into retirement.

I have some heart issues so medical care was a significant concern in deciding whether ABQ was a good fit for us. I had read mixed opinions on C-D about hospitals and doctors here. Searched all the applicable threads I could find and did some other web research as well. What I found made us decide medical care would be okay.

We picked Presbyterian for our care and have been very happy with it. Both our family doc and multiple specialists my wife and I have visited have been excellent. We've also been able to get into see all the specialists we needed in a timely manner.

We did have to wait until the beginning of this year for our initial visit to the family doc I had picked. She wasn't accepting new patients when we first arrived but the office folks told us that at the beginning of each year some patients drop out and there are almost always new openings then.

There is some lead time for routine appointments and we've seen a little of the NM manana attitude in the health care field here. But not too much of it plus we knew coming here that we'd need to adjust our thinking to match that attitude. Don't move here expecting folks to change to meet your expectations; that's a certain recipe for disappointment.
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Old 12-30-2010, 08:39 AM
271 posts, read 789,312 times
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Thanks so much for this information; it is greatly appreciated.

I'm going to have to look up your location. I know there's quite an altitude change traveling from ABQ to Santa Fe, and I've wondered (for one member of our family) if this might be a challenge. Since you have a heart problem, have you noticed any related difficulties? (I hope you don't mind me asking.)

We've thought of looking for a house between ABQ and SF. I have no idea whether this is a realistic possibility.

Again, many thanks.

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Old 12-30-2010, 03:41 PM
Location: Bernalillo, NM
862 posts, read 1,273,326 times
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We're at about 5,050 feet here in Bernalillo, which is between ABQ and SF (13 miles to ABQ, 38 to SF). SF is at about 7000 feet so the closer you get to there the higher the altitude. Or if you choose somewhere like Placitas (about same distance between ABQ and SF as Bernalillo but headed up into the Sandias), the elevation there is more like 6000 feet.

See these threads - Higher Altitude In The Albuquerque Area and Altitude Adaption? - for some relevant info/discussions on altitude issues.

Personally, I've had absolutely no problem with the altitude. Took me maybe a month to get acclimated after moving from about 500-ft elevation. But even at the very beginning I had no significant issues. When I've noticed it most is when I'm doing something, and bend way over and compress my diaphragm for more than a few seconds - I feel a touch of oxygen deprivation then. But that's it. I'm very active here, with daily cardio and weight workouts, and even go on pretty strenuous hikes (including one where I climbed from 8400 to 9400 feet in about 1 mile) with no problems.

That being said, my heart issues may be very different from others. I suggest consulting a medical professional where you're living to talk about any specific altitude issues for the one member of your family.

Regarding places between ABQ and SF, we're living in the Del Webb community of Alegria and absolutely love it - best moving decision we ever made. Don't know if it would be a good fit for you but if you're interested you can check out the following Alegria/Bernalillo threads - http://www.city-data.com/forum/new-m...ernalillo.html, Current Housing Market for Albuquerque ??, Bernallilo, We Made It and Bernalillo. Other places between the two cities include the aforementioned Placitas and Algodenes (very small and along the river about 6 miles closer to SF than Bernalillo). The north part of Rio Rancho is also about the same distance as Bernalillo between ABQ and SF.

Also, Retiring in New Mexico has some good info on retiring in NM, including a post I did with several additional links to more info about possible senior activities in the ABQ area.

Hope the above is helpful. Feel free to send me a PM if you want.

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Old 12-30-2010, 05:13 PM
3,764 posts, read 5,808,158 times
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I have friends who moved from small town New Jersey. They were used to white picket fenced houses with manicured yards and were mostly shocked by the junk that some in NM save in their yards in some communities. Who knows when one might need that spare axle, concrete blocks or used lumber!?

I would not want the cultural interactions in NM to just be viewed through rose-colored glasses. We have certainly seen tensions over the years between cultures; however, it's so much calmer than in the '70s.

Oh but the blue of the sky, the stark beauty of the adobe architecture particularly the old churches, the daily sunshine and the spicy cuisine cannot be beat anywhere.
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Old 12-31-2010, 09:48 AM
271 posts, read 789,312 times
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Many thanks for the rich lode of information, which I'll be researching over the next week or so. Our last trip to high altitude was about 5 years ago, and younger and older family members had varied responses. The surprise was that one of the youngest was most impacted!

Alegria looks wonderful, but the problem for us is that we'll have at least one younger family member living with us for possibly a year or two. What we may plan to do--to try to do--is rent a larger house while we explore. It sounds as if your location, closer to ABQ but on the way to SF, may be ideal for us.

bongo, you make good points. For us, though, beyond moving to be closer to some family, our motivation is to be somewhere strikingly different from where we've lived all our lives. Are we adaptable? We hope so; we plan to find out.

Thanks to you both. Warning: I may well be asking more questions.

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Old 12-31-2010, 10:36 AM
Location: Bernalillo, NM
862 posts, read 1,273,326 times
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Originally Posted by anniebleu View Post
Alegria looks wonderful, but the problem for us is that we'll have at least one younger family member living with us for possibly a year or two.
To meet Alegria's age restrictions only 1 household member must be at least 55 and you can have younger residents as long as they are 19 years old or older. Not sure how young your family member is but they would be ok if over 18.
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Old 12-31-2010, 11:43 AM
Location: Bernalillo, NM
862 posts, read 1,273,326 times
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Originally Posted by anniebleu View Post
For us, though, beyond moving to be closer to some family, our motivation is to be somewhere strikingly different from where we've lived all our lives.
For us, NM is both very different and quite familiar. My wife and I both grew up and spent most of our first 40 years in interior Alaska (Fairbanks), and still consider it home. Suprisingly to many, Fairbanks sits in a semi-arid environment. It has many similarities to ABQ's high desert climate, including very low humidity, especially during the winter, low levels of percipitation and lots of sun, crisp winter days and interesting summer thunderstorms. ABQ's more extreme* on most of these comparison factors but it's still similar enough to rekindle strong memories of our younger days.

*Except of course for the crisp winter days. It was 20 degrees this morning when I went to the clubhouse to work out and others there were talking about how cold it felt. I loved it since it reminded me of a pretty warm but crisp mid-winter day in Fairbanks, where it can get to -60 degrees or even a little colder in the winter. By springtime in Fairbanks folks are running around outside in shirt sleeves at +20 degrees. (It's amazing how your body adapts to really cold temperatures.) A record low of 4 degrees is forecast here for tonight, by far the coldest so far this winter. One good thing about surviving through Fairbanks' winters is that almost nothing feels that cold to us, even 20+ years later.

New Mexico's wide-open spaces, great vistas, beautiful blue cyrstal skies, sparse and spread-out population, very friendly folks (at least to us) and substantial native American populations also strongly remind us of Alaska. So coming to NM has been somewhat of a homecoming, something we didn't anticipate and have been very pleasantly surprised by.

Despite this there are also fairly profund differences. We've found the extremes here to be great - superb thunder and lightening storms that come and go quickly, the wonderfully dramatic Sandia Mountains and how different they can look at times throughout the year, the large diurnal temperature swing throughout the year which allows you to pick the time of day to go out when you're most comfortable, the intense sun and relatively high altitude and resulting vibrancy of colors which is unmatched anywhere else we've been, and even the interesting palatte of browns and earthy tones** that dominate the landscape.

**We expected to miss the green of landscapes where we've lived, especially in our previous home in Louisville, KY. But we really haven't that much. We've found the green that is here to be very vivid against the earthy landscape and have decided that the wide-open vistas are a more than even tradeoff for the lack of lots of green vegetation.

Other differences include the unique NM cuisine, which we quickly found out we love, all the diverse history (Native American, Spanish, Wild West and Pioneer) of the area, the many fiestas and other special events in the ABQ area and other parts of NM, and the manana attitude by many (something IMO you have to adapt to in order to be happy here).

My wife and I both come from pioneer stock and are not that far removed from family members who first came to Alaska in the 1890s-1900s. Don't know if that and/or growing up in Alaska has made us more adventurous or willing/able to adapt to new places. But our experience in moving to NM has been everything we hoped it would be and more. We absolutely love it here. It's not perfect but no place is and the pluses absolutely outweigh the negatives in our opinion.

Hope this isn't too long-winded but thought it might be helpful to let you know how we feel about this area as recent newcomers.
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