People keep asking me about my new state. They want to know what is the same and what is different. I can only speak to what I’ve experienced, and I’ve only been here for six months. That said, here’s what’s important to me and how they fare:
Proximity to Doctors:
In Durango, I was a five-minute drive to my dentist, family practitioner, and ophthalmologist, and a 15-minute drive to the hospital. In Heber Springs, my new dentist will be a 25-minute drive to another town. I haven’t had time yet to identify a family practitioner or ophthalmologist. But the hospital will be at least a 90-minute drive from here.
Proximity to Health Food Stores:
In Durango, I was a five-minute walk to Durango Natural Foods and a five-minute drive to Nature’s Oasis and Natural grocer. There are no organic produce grocers in Heber Springs except for the few items at Wal-Mart and organic things I don’t eat at Cash Saver grocery. And the Natural Grocer in Little Rock, over an hour’s drive from here, has much less than the one in Durango, including no beets! There’s a Kroger’s in Conway (about 45 minutes away) that did have a few beets, but nothing more than I could get at Wal-Mart in Heber Springs.
In Durango, Air Force planes flew over my house every night. Sirens from police cars and fire trucks were heard throughout the day. And a motorcycle lived behind my house and came out blasting every day when the guy got home from work. In Heber Springs, there is only a small airport for small airplanes, nothing like the AF noise. But sirens and police cars are super loud from this rented house, and they go on all day long, as do the motorcycles. I’m hoping that when I move for the second time in six months, it will be to a much quieter neighborhood.
Places to Walk Safely:
In Durango, I walked on the sidewalks in my neighborhood and on the River Trail which was a 5-minute walk from my house. The sidewalks are uneven and will trip you if you aren’t always looking down. Cyclists on the River Trail don’t always honor the rule: horses first, pedestrians second, cyclists third. They ride four abreast on the River Trail instead of two abreast, staying in their lane. In Heber Springs, there are no sidewalks except on the town part of Main Street (about four or five blocks) and Searcy Street, the street south of it. I’ve only walked two trails, Sulphur Creek Trail behind my rented house and Moss Trail a five-minute drive from the house I’m moving to on the north end of town. Cyclists on the Sulphur Creek Trail are the same here as they were in Durango. I didn’t see any cyclists on the Moss trail.
Places to Hike:
In Durango, the mountain bikers have gotten worse in the mountains on all trails. I generally hiked the first mile of the Colorado Trail. Cyclists would call out to let us know where they were coming from so we had a moment to get out of their way—that is, until tourists took over. I was on Engineer Mountain when 20 cyclists came roaring down expecting us hikers to jump off the single-file trail into the knee-high weeds. When we got to the parking lot they were drinking beer. I asked if they were from Durango. They were not. Friends in Durango are telling me it’s gotten worse because there are so many more of them, and they leave their trash behind. In Heber Springs, I hiked a trail similar to the first mile of the Colorado Trail, except cyclists are not allowed on this one.
A Recreation Center:
Durango and Heber Springs have Rec Centers. They are both large and offer classes, weights, swimming, and pickleball.
A House Where Everything Works:
In Durango, I lived in an adobe house built in 1938. It required constant maintenance. Because it was a triplex, there were three water heaters, three baths, three of everything. It seemed like I spent all my time staying on top of what needed to be fixed. The house I’m currently renting has had constant maintenance since I moved in on April 29. And so, I’m buying a “move-in ready” house.
In Durango, ironically, the roads are relatively flat except for a few, like the one on the south end of town that strangely enough has a stop sign at the bottom. In Heber Springs, the roads are hilly, similar to San Francisco. Driving home from the Ozark Country Market “on top of the mountain” here has a “wheee!” factor similar to returning to Durango from Hesperus Hill in Colorado.
In Durango, it was easy; mow the grass (twenty minutes) and do weed-eating (another twenty minutes). Or in winter, 20-30 minutes to shovel snow. But in Heber Springs, AR, most yards are .25-.5 acres. People own riding mowers! The owner of the house I’m buying said it took him two hours to mow with a push mower.
Durango “natives” (a common bumper sticker there) have an attitude about who was born there and who wasn’t. It didn’t matter that I’d lived there for nearly fifty years, I was still considered an outsider; they really dislike Texans. In Heber Springs, everyone has been friendly, kind, and helpful.
Cost of Living:
Based on what I spent in Colorado, food costs more in Arkansas, even what I buy locally in Wal-Mart or from local farmers. It will be even more when I start driving ninety minutes each way to the organic store in Little Rock. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with friends here who share their garden.
Similar Living Expenses and Taxes:
In Colorado, the first $20,000 of a retired teacher’s pension income is excluded from state taxes. In Arkansas, it’s the first $6,000. Property taxes are also higher here. I’ll know in a year if I can afford to stay here.
Durango has “300 days of sunshine a year.” Sadly for me, someone with S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), this place, at least in the seven months I’ve lived here, is mostly cloudy: no sunshine.
Till next time,
Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi