"Honey, I think we missed the Palm Springs exit."
The professional Bend-boosters have put a lot of time, money and effort into promoting Bend and Central Oregon as a terrific place to retire. They've even managed to get it included in several of those "10 Best Places to Retire" lists that magazines are always putting out.
Truth be told, however, Bend is emphatically not a good place to retire. It actually is one of the suckiest places to retire on the face of the planet -- or at least North America.
First, let's consider the climate. The winter in Bend is cold, it's wet, it's snowy, it's icy, it's gray, it's dreary -- and it's seven and a half months long.
We old farts do not like cold, wet, snowy, icy, gray, dreary winters that go on for seven and a half months. We do not like shoveling snow, scraping ice off windshields and slipping on the ice, falling on our ass and ending up in the hospital with a broken hip.
We like places that are warm and sunny. We like to put on our pastel Bermuda shorts and our white patent leather shoes with matching white patent leather belt and play golf or shuffleboard or croquet or (if we're Italians) bocce.
Or just sit in the sun and bask like lizards.
Then let's consider what to do for fun. In Bend, unless you go balls-out into all the outdoor recreation stuff -- and let's face it, despite all the propaganda, very few folks in their 70s and 80s are that gung ho for snowboarding, alpine skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing and running up and down mountains -- there isn't much.
Well, there's golf. There are plenty of golf courses around here, and people who play golf (I don't) tell me many of them are very good. But because of the suckitudinous nature of the climate, the golf season is only about four months long. (The boosters sometimes claim Bend offers "year-round golf," but that lie is almost as magnificent, towering and grandiose as "300 days of sunshine.")
We do have movie theaters, bowling alleys and bars, but you can find those anywhere.
Buying a retirement home in Bend or Central Oregon makes sense for only two classes of people:
First, those who are too poor to afford one in a warm, sunny place. (Bend really is a cheaper place to retire than many other locales, now that the real estate market has collapsed.)
Second, those who are rich enough to afford a second home in Palm Springs or some other warm, sunny place to flee to during Bend's seven and a half months of winter.
Since old Blackdog isn't in either of those categories, when he and Mrs. Blackdog finally retire (oh Lord, hasten the day!) we will be saying hasta la vista to Bend and all its suckiness.
ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention all the many ways in which living in Bend is unhealthy for old (and even not so old) geezers.
Because of the abundance and variety of vegetation -- especially the notorious junipers -- Bend records some of the highest pollen counts in the world during the spring and summer. It's hell for anybody with pollen allergies, or allergy-triggered asthma.
The dry air is brutal for anybody who has sinus problems. You''ll need to install a humidification system in your home.
The cold temperatures and continual wide swings in temperature and barometric pressure are torture for people with arthritis or fibromyalgia.
And finally, the short days in the winter and the general grayness and cloudiness that prevails most of the time except for the three and a half months of summer makes Bend a terrible environment for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
How does Bend suck as a place to retire? Truly, it is difficult to count all the ways.