Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rootless Relocation, Part 1c: Where?

Tres Piedras, New Mexico. Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery.

In Part 1a, I considered where in the world I'll live next. I narrowed the options down to New Mexico or Mexico..
In Part 1b, I looked at the pros and cons of the two, and decided on New Mexico.

But now --> Where in New Mexico will I live?

What are my decision drivers? 

  • Access to family
  • Access to other parts of New Mexico for exploration
  • Climate
  • Demographics - I want ethnic, cultural, language, and age diversity
  • Interesting geography
  • Income opportunities
  • Recreation opportunities
  • Cost of living, especially housing
  • City size
  • "Romance" factor - for example, do I want the Tony Hillerman New Mexico (Navajo and Hopi territory) or do I want Red Sky at Morning New Mexico (Sangre de Cristo Mountains area)? Or the borderlands factor, close to Mexico?

And do I want to choose my new base first and then look for work? Or look for work and let that determine where I'll settle in New Mexico?

Originally, I thought to look for work from Missouri and let the job hunt lead me to my new rootless base. But I changed direction and decided to look for my most desired base and then look for work. 

Where do I not want to live? 

I don't want to live in:
  • Albuquerque - larger than what I want
  • The bedroom communities surrounding Albuquerque - I don't like looking at the smog that ABQ produces
  • Santa Fe - hate that congested, Anytown USA, main drag going into town, and just not a fan of the overall vibe  
  • Deming - based on research, seemed a little depressed
  • Las Cruces - a sea of beige and bland bounded by highway
  • Mountain communities that attract snow in winter, such as Cloudcroft and Ruidoso 
  • Carlsbad - too far from most of New Mexico
  • Portales or Clovis - might as well live in Oklahoma if I'm going to live in these cities

Silver City, New Mexico

On the fence about: 
  • Silver City - great climate, nice town, but like Carlsbad, a little too remote from the rest of NM, and perhaps too gentrified for my taste
  • Taos - I've been here twice and there are things I like about it, but I'm not in love; also, too much snow 
  • Farmington - Tony Hillerman country, which is attractive, but I just can't get a feel for the geography or the vibe. It'd be cold in the winter. I was cold all last winter in Rustavi. No. Thank. You.

Taos, New Mexico

  • Gallup - Out West, cowboy, cattle drive, rodeo, seductive tumbleweed-desolation vibe
  • Grants - Ditto
  • Truth or Consequences - Hot springs along the Rio Grande, a gritty attitude I find compelling, mild winters, good central location in NM
  • Las Vegas - the Sangre de Cristo Mountains factor, one-day drive from mid-Missouri, good city size, university in town, hot springs nearby
  • Alamogordo - In desert area, but really close to mountain communities, mild winters, good town size, university in town, military base nearby that supports economy, close to Mexico
  • Roswell - Nice size at 48,000 population, university in town, somewhat mild winters

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Some resources to help me rule communities in or out:

The forums are a place to ask questions about places of interest. There's a rich archive to search previous questions and answers about a locale. itself offers demographic, employment, crime, climate data about locales in the U.S.
There's also good info from the U.S. Census here, from whence you can drill down to small communities.

Craigslist gives researchers a ballpark idea of housing costs and job possibilities.

Meetup gives you an idea of social groups that are active in a potential new base. If there aren't any meetup groups, that's good information, too.

If I had never been to New Mexico before, I'd take a reconnaissance trip out there to personally eyeball the various possibilities. But I have been there - not to all of the cities on my in/out list - but a number of them, so I'm relying on my past visits and the online resources to make my decision.

My process of elimination

I know I don't want to deal with snow, so although I looked at my fence-sitting possibilities such as Farmington, considered Taos in a lukewarm way, and took quite a close look at Las Vegas because of its Sangre de Cristo Mountain proximity, I wasn't excited about any of them. In fact, I wasn't too enthusiastic about living anywhere in NM north of Interstate 40, which I perceive as the snow line.

Silver City may have the closest to the ideal climate in New Mexico with mild winters and summers. But as important as climate is to me, Silver City's remoteness, small size, and gentrified vibe ruled it out for me. Actually, my experience visiting Silver City a couple of years ago suggest to me that there's a lot of social goings-on and recreation activities despite its small size. But the job situation there, based on my research, is rather grim.

Eliminated: Taos, Farmington, and Silver City.

Gallup and Grants have some pull for me, primarily because of the Hillerman Effect. There's also a perception of being Out West in those two towns. Rodeos. Cowboys. Cattle drives. An edgy tumbleweed-desolation kind of vibe that is seductive.

But they're right on the snow belt (I-40 in my mind. And I just can't get enough information on them to tempt me to take a risk. Especially the surrounding scenery. How the town centers look. 

About 18 hours' drive from mid-Missouri, this isn't any longer drive time than competitors in southern NM, so I can't use access to family as an eliminating factor for Gallup or Grants. I also can't say they're too remote from other locations in NM I want to explore than more southern NM competitors. Being smack on Interstate 40, they're on a fast track to most places in NM.

At the end of the day, Gallup and Grants just sort of fell off the possibles list because, I don't know, their voices were too quiet. I'll definitely go visit them, though.

Eliminated: Gallup and Grants

The eliminations left in the running: 
  • Truth or Consequences
  • Alamogordo
  • Las Vegas
  • Roswell

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Both Las Vegas and Roswell are weak candidates for different reasons, but they have these attributes going for them:

Access to family. Las Vegas is within one, long day's drive from mid-Missouri at around 15 hours. Roswell is pushing 16 hours.
"Romance" factor. Las Vegas is near Red Sky at Morning territory, being close to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It's Taos Lite and Santa Fe Ultra Lite, without the pretension you come across sometimes in the latter two communities. It has a nice plaza, and the art and jewelry scene. Hot springs nearby.
City size. Roswell has a population of about 48,000. A decent size; similar to my home town.


I just couldn't get too excited about Roswell. My research only pulled up negative comments about the city or, just as damning, not many comments at all. Like Gallup and Grants, I'll go visit Roswell, but I'm not going to live there.

Las Vegas felt like a place I "should" go to. Cold, snowy winters maybe. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains notwithstanding, not in love.

It all boils down to:

Truth or Consequences or Alamogordo.

Truth or Consequences (TC) has a bit of an attitude that I like. The people there seem to have been around the block a few times, lived perhaps a little too hard at times, but now doing OK. Central location that makes it really convenient to explore other parts of NM. Close to larger cities such as Albuquerque, Las Cruces and El Paso, TX. If I want to see what the hell is going on down in the borderlands, I can do that, too. 

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Love that it's right on the Rio Grande. Hot springs. Close to some recreation areas. The Spaceport is close, which is kind of cool.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

But the population is less than 7000 and the median age is 52.

Very hot summers.

Alamogordo also has hot summers, but it's within half an hour of mountain communities such as Ruidoso and Cloudcroft, with cooler air. It's right next to the immense Lincoln Forest. Close to White Sands Monument. Close to Las Cruces and El Paso.  About an hour closer than TC to mid-Missouri. A population of more than 30,000, with a median age of 37.

But it's more than three hours from Albuquerque and it's not as convenient to lots of NM destinations as TC is.   

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Alamogordo is more diverse than TC in regard to ethnicity, language, and age. The nearby Holloman Air Force Base presumably maintains some stability in the Alamogordo economy.

And I like Alamogordo. Though not edgy like TC, it is pleasant. I like its zoo and the small, picturesque villages nearby such as La Luz and Tularosa.

Not a linear process

As I looked at my options in New Mexico, I went back and forth on various cities. I went back and forth on how much I weighed my decision drivers, such as climate, diversity, community size, etc.

I looked at housing costs on craigslist. Read all of the threads on city-data about the possible relocation locales in New Mexico. Checked distances on google maps between this and that and the other.

I reviewed what I wanted to get out of New Mexico. Interculturally, there is so much that New Mexico has going on. I'm feeling drawn to look firsthand at the historic goings-on with how the U.S. is dealing with people crossing the border illegally from Mexico. In addition to climate preferences, this informs my decision to stick to southern New Mexico for my base.

I had to weigh a great central location for good access to most of NM (Truth or Consequences) against my desire for a larger community and proximity to mountains (Alamogordo). Demographically, Alamogordo also beat out TC for its diversity.  
Alamogordo. My future new home ... for awhile.

Pecan orchard, near Alamogordo, New Mexico

White Sands Monument, near Alamogordo, New Mexico

Next up: Rootless relocation, Part 2: What Will I Take With Me?

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