So, we're trying to decide between Colorado or Washington
April 17, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Moving is inevitable, the question is... to where?

So here's the deal. The new hubby and I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico right now. He's a native and I'm a nomad. I moved here from Mississippi about two years ago thinking that this was the end of the road. Time to settle down. No more moving. I got married, adopted a couple of dogs and a cat, bought a house, the whole shebang.

Yeah, life isn't so easy, is it? Seems New Mexico doesn't like me. Can't breathe here. When I say, I can't breathe, I mean walking from one room of my house to another makes me breathless. The air here doesn't like me. Could be the altitude, could be the dry air, could be the dust, could be all the fancy, invasive trees and plants people have planted since the last time I lived here (for about a minute twelve years ago). Could be the rather poor air quality of Albuquerque... We don't know. Three inhalers and two pills later, nothing has helped. So the hubs and I figure that perhaps it would be best to move to somewhere that might like my lungs better. I like overcast days. All of this sun is driving me buggy. I thought the heat would be good for my fibromyalgia, but yeah... that didn't work out so well either. Ugh! That's why we're thinking of moving North. It's way too hot here.

Now, he has family in Colorado - the Fort Collins area, but we're looking more towards Colorado Springs (I'm not sure why, it just seems more community oriented when I look at it online). It's still high altitude, I know, but the air is clearer from what I understand. It's greener than Albuquerque -- less dust. Can't get away from pollen though... On the other hand, I have family in Washington -- the Puget Sound area on both sides of the water. I'd prefer not to be in the city because of the air quality, I prefer green scenery over grey. I've lived there before so I'm pretty sure I can breathe there. Hopefully. Keep in mind that these locations aren't written in stone, we're just considering them above all the rest mostly because we both have family there and they seem like good places to relocate to.

Now, specifics. I haven't been able to work since this whole breathing thing happened. However, I have vague plans of opening a thrift shop or a craft store wherever we go. We already have inventory to get that started (it's a long story) but I'm not sure in which area that would fly. He is a computer programmer - games and business software. He's got teh skillz. I'm kinda thinking that he might have a better chance of finding work in Seattle over Colorado Springs. But who knows?

We're both in our mid-forties but young at heart. We're not incredibly outdoorsy types, but we'd like to have places to take the aforementioned dogs. I absolutely love to walk whenever I have the air to do it. Give me well marked hiking trails, though, that are dog friendly. We're not trail blazers here; we like the well-beaten path.

We are comfortably settled in the middle class area of society -- not well off, but nowhere near poor. We'd like to stay somewhere where the cost of living is comparable to Albuquerque. We still have to make some improvements on this house and sell it and wrap some things up before we hit the road, but we're looking to move by next summer. This is research.
posted by patheral to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
I would think the air in mile-high Denver would an even worse choice for someone with breathing issues.

Lower-cost areas of western Washington state (south of Olympia) would be better for breathing, but involve much more rain.
posted by blob at 1:43 PM on April 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Two reasons I moved here:

Washington doesn't have an income tax and other taxes are only marginally higher than average. I've lived. Western Washington doesn't have much snow in the winter and is mild in the summer.

But I will say, moving from the east coast, I found the need for a new butter dish mildly irritating. I am not sure of they use the short or long butter in Colorado or New Mexcio, but it is something to consider.
posted by bensherman at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would suggest figuring out how much altitude and dry air figure into your breathing problems, because Colorado wouldn't be a big change for you in that regard, but Puget Sound would. Can you visit each place to check whether you can breathe there, before you decide?
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:01 PM on April 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

If freedom is at all a priority for you, then Washington easily wins over Colorado. WA has no state income tax. The majority of the voters in the state of WA decided to make gay marriage legal (hooray!). WA will allow you to have your death with dignity. WA has the highest minimum wage of any state. WA is such a beautiful place and an outdoorsy person's paradise, with many different types of terrain, from rain forest to high desert. I live here and I adore it.

Oregon would also be worth a look. Colorado is a great place to visit, though I didn't love the whole city of Denver being paralyzed in a blizzard on Oscar night 2013.

Have you been screened for adult-onset asthma?
posted by hush at 2:03 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in Denver, but the whole front range area is pretty similar. I am from the Pacific. I can't breathe here at all - the air is too dry and there are too many grasses and trees and dust. I actually developed asthma here. If I were you, before I moved, I would head to an allergy clinic and get tested for allergies. The tests are some geographic-specific, but at least it will give you a ballpark if you are allergic to anything, or molds, or what. Then, check pollen count summaries for the areas you are considering. My allergies are better with the ocean winds, which there aren't many of here. And Denver is hot in the summer, for me, unbearably so. And brown - oh, the brownness is the worst. It is dead grass and trees for months in the late fall-spring. It is depressing. The front range also doesn't have many overcast days - way too many sunny days for me.

Ha, I complain a lot. From what you wrote, I don't think the front range is for you. If you do decide to come here, I think you would be happier in fort collins, though. It is more community-oriented, I think, from my many visits there, and greener than colorado springs.
posted by umwhat at 2:06 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hush, I do have adult-onset asthma, which I acquired in 1996 in Virginia and I've been taking stuff for since (it's a long story). This is something outside of asthma. My doctor and I disagree on what it is -- I think it's some kind of COPD, but she thinks it's allergies. She's finally agreed to refer me to a pulmonologist, so we'll see what's what from there.
posted by patheral at 2:11 PM on April 17, 2014

I don't have any experience with the Pacific Northwest, so I can't speak to that. But you did mention....

We'd like to stay somewhere where the cost of living is comparable to Albuquerque.

I live in Santa Fe, and have been looking into relocating to Denver. And in my experience, the cost of living is in general in Colorado is much higher than here. At least as far as housing goes. The Fort Collins area seems to be pretty much the same as Denver. I don't know about Colorado Springs. Colorado seems to be expensive compared to New Mexico. YMMV.
posted by strelitzia at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2014

I'm from Colorado Springs (and live here now) and you know what? It's nice. The west side has a lot of personality. The north and the east are a sea of sand-colored McMansions, but stick to the west side and downtown and there's a lot of awesomeness if you look for it. (I have spent most of my adult life here and in NYC, two very different places.)

+ We are closer to the mountains than Denver is. Literally minutes to trails.
+ Dogs are pretty much mandatory. I could take my dog with me most places, and there's even a dog-friendly bar in Manitou.
+ Downtown has a lot of charm and a some new restaurants and coffee shops: Wild Goose Meeting House, Ivywild (used to be a school and now is the Principal's Office coffee shop/bar, a bakery, a local grocer), the Skirted Heifer (farm-to-table burgers). I love Nosh and The Rabbit Hole and Poor Richard's.
+ Usually at least a little sunshine even on bad days. No smog to think of.
+ Cheaper cost of living over Denver/Ft Collins/Boulder.

Memail me if you want the lowdown. Or if you're in town scoping it out, happy to give you a tour.
posted by mochapickle at 2:18 PM on April 17, 2014

Oh, I just read your point about liking overcast weather. We get a lot of thunderstorms in the summers, in the afternoons. The air afterward is so fresh and clean.

And the dog park! There is this TREMENDOUS dog park at Bear Creek. It's huge and has a creek running through it.
posted by mochapickle at 2:22 PM on April 17, 2014

If dry/high-altitude air and lots of sun are not to your liking, Colorado is not a good choice. The basic weather patterns are fairly similar to Albuquerque. I definitely wouldn't move to Colorado without checking out the air in person.
posted by medusa at 2:40 PM on April 17, 2014

Consider Oregon. The cost of living is much lower than the Puget Sound region, and the weather is similar. (Though, I have allergies and they seem to be worse in the Portland area than they were in Seattle because Portland is a river valley vs. the oceany Sound. I would nth getting allergy tests so you know what kind of stuff you may be allergic to.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2014

We do plan to visit his family in Fort Collins (and take a swing through Colorado Springs) before we make any final decisions. I've only been through Colorado, never to it.

Also, it's not that I hate any sunny day ever. It's just that living in the desert, the sun here is so intense! I mean, I moved here from Mississippi for goodness's sake. It's way sunny there, and hot to boot, but I didn't have half the problems that I have now. Plus, we're going through a drought here, so it never seems to rain at all. I miss the rain. I miss green. Even if it's only a little green, I'd love to see green again.

I'll have allergies wherever I go. ^_^ I've lived in enough states to know that (thirteen at last count). I'm more concerned with where the hubs can find work. I don't know anything about his job market.
posted by patheral at 2:54 PM on April 17, 2014

We considered Boulder and Bellingham, and picked Bellingham because I don't like dry air, I don't like too much sun, and we wanted a more affordable place to live. There's a nice mix here of overcast skies, sunny days, and extreme weather.

I agree with the other posters that you're leaving the frying pan for the fire if you go to Colorado's mountains. If you're looking for a different atmospheric climate, you should probably not consider that region at all (or Utah or Arizona, either). I don't have breathing problems in dry regions, but I suddenly get nose bleeds and have trouble sleeping, and all these dry places with altitude are bad for me, too. So I sympathize.

I spent a week recently down by Olympia and loved it, too. The whole Puget Sound area is lovely, and there are patches (like Sequim) that have less rain and others that have more, so it's no universally rainy and overcast.

Other options: Oregon, Vermont/NH, the Carolinas, etc. Something very different.
posted by Capri at 3:11 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're concerned about employment for your husband, then I would lean toward Denver and Fort Collins if you choose Colorado. Lots of hiring in those areas, especially in tech. Good food, cultural events, growing economy. Colorado Springs' job market has consistently ranked among the worst in the nation for the last several years (it has been looking up recently, but that tends to reflect the addition of more call centers to the area). Colorado Springs is a military town. If you're not active duty, or interested in defense contracting, IT (dwindling, with lower salary ranges and often tied to defense contracting), higher education, tourism or customer service, job hunting is going to be tough. The abundance of military spouses and students seeking employment adds another layer of difficulty.
posted by tanuki.gao at 3:14 PM on April 17, 2014

I agree that hubs will want to be in Boulder/Denver for job opportunities, but Denver was absolutely horrific on my lungs. So dry. I was there for three months on a gig, and never acclimated.
posted by politikitty at 3:42 PM on April 17, 2014

As someone who lived in the Colorado Springs area (military family - Security/Widefield, Colorado Springs, Falcon/Peyton) for 13 years and moved to Seattle about 4 years ago, I can't recommend Seattle more highly as a place to lay some roots.

Each city has their pros and cons, to be sure, but I feel Seattle has the following perks for your specific situation:

Your hubby is likely to find a more lucrative job in Seattle. Programmers pretty much have their pick of employer here in Seattle - especially if he has the experience/skills. These same jobs are simply not present in Colorado Springs though they may be available in the Denver area. However, it is still likely your hubby will make more in Seattle than for a comparable job in Denver.

The Seattle area is full of natural beauty. You've got oceans, mountains, a VOLCANO, prairie/farmland - all within an hour. While Colorado Springs is certainly filled with lovely mountains and natural beauty as well - there's no oceans and anything east of Colorado Springs might as well be Kansas (as far as topography is concerned).

Seattle weather is pretty awesome. Yes, there's LOTS of overcast days, it 'rains' (ie: trickles) a lot and it runs on the colder side, but summers in Seattle, IMHO, can't be beat. Sunny but mild and greeeen. Winters are generally pretty mild in the Seattle area too (though surrounding areas will get snow occasionally). Colorado Springs, on the other hand, gets winters full of blistering cold (no, really, my car door would freeze closed), a few mild spring months, and then blistering heat for summer/fall (though it'd be milder than your current location). There's also the consideration that Colorado Springs is brown and DRY most of the time. I can't speak on breathing issues, but I was certainly glad to no longer suffer from chronic nosebleeds when I left Colorado Springs.

Seattle is VERY pet-friendly and the pet-owners tend to be helpful/nice. Even though I don't have a dog, I like to frequent larger dog parks just for the walkies and to see the dogs playing (it's definitely a mood-lifter). That said, Seattle has some wonderful dog parks and most businesses are pretty dog-friendly. It's not uncommon to see people doing regular shopping - dogs and all. Hiking trails/parks are also very dog-friendly and I can name several hikes within an hour that have nice wide, dog-friendly hiking terrain. This same level of pet-friendliness was very absent in Colorado Springs - businesses and hiking trails/parks were ambiguous about dogs, forbid them outright, or were full of dog-owners who felt leash-laws didn't apply to them. Of course YMMV depending on what area of Colorado Springs you're in (Tip: the northern and eastern areas were considered the 'Upscale' areas of the city and were rapidly gentrifying when I moved).

And that kind of brings me to my next point: the overall climate of the other people who live there. Seattle is a haven for the weird, hippie and open-minded but is notorious for "the freeze" - where people are nice and friendly to you, but where getting to know them further (ie: making friendships) is pretty impossible. I've found this to be somewhat true - I've made many friends since moving here but it's been exclusively through work and my involvement in a fandom. If I did not have those means, I have a feeling making friends would be far more difficult. Still, I found it much easier here (Seattle) than in Colorado Springs, which is dominated by military bases and religious institutions and can be unwelcoming for those facts alone.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:06 PM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Beware: Colorado gets some pretty nasty fires that absolutely ruin the air quality in the summer. For the last 2 or 3 years running there have been major fires in both Colorado Springs and Fort Collins areas that lasted nearly all summer. It's been pretty dry here the last few years which exacerbated it, but big fires are becoming a new normal, and that might seriously affect you. I don't know if Washington would suffer from the same problems.
posted by lilac girl at 4:08 PM on April 17, 2014

I grew up in CO and love it there. My lungs are actually happier there than they are, e.g., in Michigan (wtf are you growing out there, Michigan? a pulmonary invasion force?)

But.. it's definitely high altitude, and Denver at least likes to boast about its 300 sunny days per year. And yes, in the winter, it is brown. And dry. My skin cracks when I go home now (as I'm not used to it).

CO Springs is also know for being pretty strongly culturally conservative, fwiw; Colorado has a big range of politics, but I definitely think of Colorado Springs as being on the rightwards edge of it.

Also not at all your doctor, or one of any sort, but you might be sure to ask yours about coccidioidomycosis. It's rare even in endemic areas, but parts of NM are in an endemic area. (Hopefully they already ruled this out for you, but if not, worth asking, especially if you had been traipsing about outdoors before your symptoms started).
posted by nat at 4:14 PM on April 17, 2014

Nat, I did get tested for Valley Fever, and it came back negative. We were kinda hoping it was something treatable like that because the hubby likes it here. :)
posted by patheral at 4:20 PM on April 17, 2014

i vote for washington, gorgeous state, lower altitude for your lungs, better tech job market in seattle, access to ocean beaches, olympic national park and mountains too, and day trips to victoria and vancouver. colorado springs boasts the air force academy and a reputation for religious extremism, if that's your bag. if you wait a year, marijuana will likely be legal in oregon too, america's bestest state.
posted by bruce at 6:20 PM on April 17, 2014

Colorado Springs is very conservative, as others have mentioned. My parents live there, and are super conservative. Not everyone in any city is all one thing or another, though. It's much greener than ABQ but I am not sure how many tech jobs are there. Most of them would be for government contractors. There's NORAD and the Air Force Academy.

Denver is greener, too. They got a much larger amount of snow than we did in ABQ, but usually the temperatures and climate are similar. Since it's such a large metro area, there are definitely good tech jobs available. The downside to a large city is the pollution, not sure if you've had problems with that. Rush hour traffic is terrible. National Jewish is the leading Respiratory hospital in the country. My BIL used to do research for them.

Ft Collins has more of a college town atmosphere, which I know you like. Both it and the Springs have become semi-bedroom communities for Denver.

Washington and those areas I'm not so familiar with.
posted by annsunny at 7:27 PM on April 17, 2014

Thanks for all of the answers, y'all. We've gotten information from this and some other sources and we've pretty much settled on Washington as our probable destination, pending my medical diagnosis. Probably the Puget Sound area.
posted by patheral at 12:33 PM on April 28, 2014

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