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Exploring Real Estate in Flagstaff AZ, October 2003

Edition of December 14, 2003

On this trip to visit my kids/grandkids in S. California I added a two day stop in Flagstaff on my return. The purpose was to see after months of study if I could afford and like some properties there, given my intent to move closer to my family as well as be closer to an ice rink with amateur hockey. I found out 'the Nix adventuresome spirit' still exists. Said to self when nearly lost on gravel roads at dusk east of Newton KS, 'this is fun'. Even 'more fun' was resting in the back of my van at the Newton KS Amtrak parking lot (free unlmited stay times), reading by a flourescent flashlight while 6 inches of rain fell in three hours.

Those adventures were on October 8, 2003 as I attempted to avoid the late afternoon Wichita traffic if I continued west into Wichita on 400 and north on 135. So I turned  north on 54-77 to El Dorado where I stopped in a grocery store for refreshment and asked at the checkout counter if I had missed the turnoff for 196 (or 76) for Newton. Well, the word back was 196 was closed so I attempted to interpret a helpful man's 'shortcut' instructions  by continuing north on what may be 256 and turning left 'at the silo' on the left. Well I turned left too early, yes there was a silo there, but apparently not the 'obvious one' of the gentlemen's directions.

I drove slowly on well traveled gravel roads and after a few miles figured 'this ain't right' so attempted to cut back north, hoping to intersect the 'shortcut'. At the top of a rise where there is a power line I could see several miles ahead, 'no road', so turned back and sought 'outlets' to the west. As a light drizzle started falling I found 196 but it turned out to be the section before that which was 'out' in the direction of 135. Fortunately evening commuters were coming along the roads so I followed them and came up on the 'other end' of 196 and took it to 135. As I was getting into Newton for gas the rain started picking up. I vowed to get to the RR station parking lot, turn off the engine and not move. Once parked I walked about 75 ft to the back entrance of a Chinese restaurant and enjoyed a relaxed meal. By the time I came out the rain was picking up so in lieu of an evening walk I got in the back of my van to rest, there being two foam pads covering the floor, pillows and blankets. I took off my shoes and rested, might have slept half an hour. Rain on the roof woke me up, drumming on the roof for I think 3 hours. I read by a flourescent flashlight and could see an intersection on main near the RR tracks was flooded with some city truck present with flashing lights.

Looking for real estate in Flagstaff is terribly frustrating since locations are referred to most of the time by the developer's sales name. Worse is that when you use the online MLS listings,  again you are asked what 'developer site' names you want. I can see some reason for this but the number of names has proliferated so that there is no map with all of them. The names may be handy for local people, primarily realtors but they are a 'turn off' for 'outsiders'. I had picked out about 18 listings and using one realtor's site with a map connection, copied street maps showing what I hoped would be enough detail. I logged 480 miles most of it on bumpy, cinder and dirt 'rural' roads east of but mostly within the city limits of Flagstaff.

Couldn't find 3 or 4 properties I had pre selected. no surprise given roads that dead ended, streets without signs and many with hand made ones by residents.  I had guessed I could do it all in one day in a rental car but after covering most of my list I decided to take it easy and finished on saturday morning.

Unaware I had chosen Northern Arizona University 'homecoming' weekend I lucked out by getting in at 6 am on Friday morning. The Hertz counter guy suggested a motel not too close to the trains since I think he said 80 or so trains go through in 24 hours.  all blowing horns vigorously since there are three street level crossings in mid Flagstaff.
So I drove south on Milton towards the University, noted some fancy motel's parking lot looked to be a tricky left turn so I took the next one, Econolodge, 'swung right in' and took a room for two 'days' although I'd be leaving by 3:30 on sunday morning.

I did not want to take any realtors time since in advance since I had figured I would not get what I would want for what I think I can afford. As can be expected I got 'good info' from casual conversations with strangers, not knowing any of their names, even after an hour or more of exchanging stories. That started right off with the Hertz guy and ended on the platform in the dark on sunday morning yakking with a local priest.  My longest conversations as I had expected were while watching kids hockey at the local ice rink.

If Flag was the only destination left and 'some money' came along I could settle for Cosnino, 12 miles east of Flagstaff. Several recommended it except for the wind and not too far from I-40 and the RR noise.  However via I-40 the drive time into 'Flag' of 12 minutes would be about half that if 8 to 10 miles northeast of Flag where the major 'concentration' of 2 acre minimum lot 'rural' development has taken place. That area is generally referred to as Doney Park, east of 89A. I liked 'Timberline Estates' a bit more,  further 'out' on  on the west side of 89A

Developers have focused on closer in, 'pack 'em in lots' of course, the most egregarious of which is 'Railroad Springs'. The rural areas are a mix of manufactured,  mobile and site built homes. In some cases you might see all three as parts of one residence. On the outer edges some have to haul their own water and I noted some solar panels.

Anecdote list of 'highlights'.

1. fast walking 3 city blocks for train in Albuquerque because 'Glimpies' sub shop clerks were almost asleep.

2. thinking 'the girl is making a mistake' when at Glimpies for I think it was $6 I got a thick sandwich and a huge tortilla with cold cuts, lettuce and 'the works' inside.

3. finding 'New Frontiers', a full range organic grocery, supplements and politically correct food and drink place adjacent to the motel at 1000 S. Milton. However for $6 and an even longer wait than in Albuquerque one got a good but small 'roast chicken' sandwich. It was handy and pleasant.

4. Being the first in the RR station on Sunday morning since sleep after 2 am was impossible with a 3:30 wakeup call. Station agent even gave me a cup of coffee. Next a couple came in who were also 'sleepless' types and we had a good chat. They were from Tallahasee FL.

5. The ice rink is 'rinky dink' but in a fantastic setting in a city park which 'backs up to preserved forest lands'. Totally informal friendly rink, run by the city. It was not built
for spectators, pillars block the view from 'the stands'. Apparently the parents of a hockey dedicated 'Jay Lively' donated a big chunk of it's expense. Jay lived to about 18 but there was not cause of death posted.

6. Killed a couple of hours in the Flagstaff main library. Super quiet,  reminded me of 'Laguna Beach' type people, money belts, backpacks, 'thin is in' look.

7. Ate two good meals in a 'Village Inn', an 'orange painted' chain. Got yakking on saturday with couple in next booth looking for a rental. They were from El Paso and he had accepted a job to start monday. The one  or two realtors who handled 'rentals' said they didn't work on saturdays. They asked me where some of the 'developer named' areas were since rental ads locations would be such as 'Christmas Tree', etc.

8. Got best info on living in Flag from Hertz counter guy, a hockey dad who moved up from Phoenix, a priest at the RR station seeing his sister on board, a waitress at the Village Inn and a bit on 'street life' from the young motel night clerks as well as the depot agent.

9. Found the Larkin's friendly and helpful 'Flagstaff Bicycle & Fitness'shop on saturday and bought some pieces and tools for my Diamond Back mountain bike. Flag is a major bicycle town.  In my area of Missouri I'd have an 80 mile round trip and most likely get that 'duh, we don't carry that.'

10. Was rather dismayed at Friday early breakfast to see coffee on my bill at $1.35. Gave up on that 'bit' since it was free with baked goods at the motel. They even had english muffins, two toasters and the usual display of donuts. They had cereal but of course no fruit. Got that at the 'pc-organic place for perfect people'. The men in there  annoyed me, the 'I don't work' clothing appearance, the 'I'm riding my bike 26 miles today' posture, while studying labels to ensure they ate 'perfect foods' conforming to the latest 'health fanatic hucksterism'. Why not just take it in stride. It's not a religion (or is it?)

11. It was saturday before I remembered the 7000 ft altitude and the stress of driving a 'strange' car in tight traffic and not 'my age'  was causing some 'odd feeling', sort of an anxiety. I only had one beer, a 'nitecap' on saturday evening, went to bed both nights at 9, never turned on the 'idiot box' of course.

12. Discovered that room 'keys' are magnetic striped cards. Mine required at least three insertions before 'the green light' would come on. The car, a maroon 'Classic' chevy four door had the most impossibly awkward door locks GM could have 'imagined'. It was saturday before I figured out all the 'symbols' for the instruments. Other than that it was a docile, gutless 'thing'. Coming back into the city from Cosnino to the east, I 'stepped on it' on I-40 and 'waited' for it to reach 65. I took 12 minutes to run in from very 'pastoral' large lots in that tree infested area. On Friday I took old Rte 66 back to the city and found out why there were few cars on it. bumpy, tight curves, pavement broken up.

13. Saturday about 7 am I went west within inner city limits to 'Railroad Springs' development, a testimony to desparation for housing. 'Manufactured homes' angled on postage stamp sized lots on a pine covered hillside, the 'development' abuts the main RR tracks. New, the development looks okay. One can imagine what time will do to it's appearance. The houses are so close I assume one could closely monitor one's neighbors. I doubt the tall pines will survive being surrounded by 'landscape' rock, driveways and houses.

14. Interestingly on the drive to RR Springs, along two wide streets lined with 'upscale' homes a lady 'fell in behind me' in a similar little GM car. I was cruising at about 20 mph, 'just looking around'. Twice I slowed almost to a stop and so did the lady. After I turned off I noticed she was 'preying on' garage sale signs and must have figured, 'this man looks like a serious bargain hunter'.

15. Amateur hockey
My son Ben and I went to the rink nearest their house, Aliso Viejo and watched part of a Bantam inhouse game. Then to Yorba Linda, a new rink in a closed Ralphs,  local Triple A midgets vs San Diego. Ben worked for Ralphs when in college so he noticed it hadn't been open long and we agreed it was in an awkard location tucked in the back of a small shopping center. In Flagstaff I watched a Midget 'A' game between locals and a team from Phoenix.  Also in Flagstaff Friday evening, a girl's hockey practice, midget age, 9  girls, two were top rate puck handlers. One also was top rate skater, smooth form.  Except for her hair sticking out from under her helmet and a smoothness not  achieved by many boys at about 14, she could have blended in with the boys  except for the absurd emphasis on hitting. The girls worked hard at the drills. I was impressed by  four or five who may have been first year at hockey. They mix the 'learner girls' with the experienced in that particular session. All the coaching and refereeing I saw was top rank. Before the girls practice the little beginner kids were out there. Hilarious, got yakking with a dad 'new to hockey'.

16. The drive home from Newton KS to southwest Missouri was interesting. I rested briefly in the back of my van but the thought of waking up near dawn and plunging into the commuter traffic going into Wichita 'roused' me to get going about 4 am. I anticipated difficulty in spotting the 'east on 400' sign and I was not disappointed. Such and such street ramp closed and cars buzzing past well over my speed gave me sufficient 'consternation' but I made the turn east. Well,  400 is a city street for maybe 15 miles, stop lights, car lights bothering me and some early morning sand/gravel trucks. I noted police patrols and at one point passed a gravel truck being ticketed. I wanted coffee and gas 'on my side of the road' and didn't find that till I was about to 'go out into the country' sector of 400. It was quite a stretch to the first rest stop but I managed to sleep at least an hour in the back, took a 'wakeup' walk and drove to the first restaurant going east, the Plaza Grille, Fredonia Kansas at the junction of 400 and Kansas 47, had a leisurely breakfast in a large dining room, not the old fashioned 'diner stop'. It was 10:30 am before I passed the west boundary line of Parsons so I had little intention of stopping to see former neighbors from Anaheim who were visiting their folks who live on 400 in Parson. A very slow moving lady started to pull in front of me from the right lane, I had to cross the center stripe, albeit only going 20 mph so that 'called for' my usual stop the Parson library to 'relax'.

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