Moving Summers

Dave Hoefler's Wisconsin picture of fog over orange mountains, water, and sky on a cold day at sunrise

“What did you do this summer?” It’s a question you often hear as fall closes in and school starts. For North Carolinians, the answer usually involves family reunions and trips to the beach and the mountains, or a cruise, a trip out west or up north, or even to Europe. 

For us, transplants from North Carolina to Wisconsin, the summer was about moving. Again. July marked the third move since March 2021. Sixteen months. Are we nuts?! But I blame it on the super-heated housing market that necessitated leaping first and looking later.

In February 2021 we began to explore the idea, long on the back burner, of moving from North Carolina to Wisconsin. A thousand miles between us and our growing-up-too-fast grandchildren and their parents, being way too much. It was either constant travel that they didn’t have time for, and, we weren’t up for, or move. But we never expected that the first conversation with a realtor on Valentine’s weekend in 2021 would result in a move before Easter. But that’s the way it was.

With most of our possessions in storage in Wisconsin, moving from a small, temporary apartment to a house for the four of us—my husband and I, our daughter, and her dog—felt urgent. So, we grabbed the first accepted offer and moved to a 75-year-old fixer-upper. It turned out the great curb appeal didn’t translate to comfortable living. 

A year later we knew it was time to love it—more fixing up, more money—or list it. The cooling but still-hot housing market catapulted us into another quick move. Or at least we will blame it on that instead of our impulsiveness. 

One Sunday in June we toured a home that checked all the boxes. On Monday, our offer—one of six—was accepted. The realtor listed our house for sale the following weekend. When we returned from a family reunion five days later, we had multiple offers including a cash offer $20,000 over asking price. Who could pass that up? It all seemed like a “God-thing.” Especially when the fed raised the interest rates the day after we locked in the rate on our new mortgage. 

And so, in July we moved for the third time. August has been about settling in and discovering we really do love this one. No more moves!

Moving has dominated our two summers in Wisconsin. But even so we have luxuriated in the cool nights, pleasantly warm, occasionally hot, days with breathable humidity. When the locals complain we tell them how much better this is than months of 90-plus degrees with 90-percent humidity. And then they warn us about the winters. Can’t argue with that, but our one winter here was not as bad as we thought it would be. And even lacking mountains and beaches, you can’t beat a Wisconsin summer. 

However, Wisconsin does have beaches. It’s just that they are on rivers and lakes rather than the ocean. With the Mississippi River practically in our back yard and the Great Lakes, Superior, and Michigan, just a few hours away how can we complain? Not to mention the thousands of smaller lakes and rivers in the state and across the Mississippi River in Minnesota. 

I don’t know the statistics but there are clearly more boats per capita here than anywhere in North Carolina beyond Lake Norman. I see boats every day, parked in yards, garages, on streets. And oh yes, on the rivers and lakes.

And though they can’t compete with the Great Smokies, the Bluffs have their charm. What, you say, are the Bluffs? Forested hills reminiscent of mountain foothills. Formed by the movement of glaciers millennia ago, they run in a line from Minnesota, through Wisconsin to Iowa. Not a straight line, mind you, accounting for many a curvy, hilly road. The bluffs frame valleys, home to towns, cities and farmland complete with grazing cattle, soaring silos and red barns, all set in a sea of almost iridescent green. 

In our area the city of La Crosse, situated in a valley between the bluffs and the Mississippi River, has a typical midwestern grid of north/south, east/west streets until it runs up against the bluffs and begins to follow the lay of the land. So much so that in the village of Holmen, a bedroom community north of La Cross, there is a street named Crooked Ave. Seriously. It happens to be our new address. 

Maybe the founding fathers were tired of thinking up street names, or maybe as my husband speculates, everyone who lives here is in the witness protection program. Our neighbors seem to be just folks, schoolteachers, nurses, small business owners, retirees. Or so they say. Who knows? Roads with names like Z, ZN, SS, County B do make me wonder, could the powers that be not have been more creative with names?It’s Labor Day weekend and back in N.C. we would be taking a breath and planning a beach trip for the off season or a day trip to the mountains to take in the fall color. But we are in Wisconsin, so we will search out a riverside BNB for a quick getaway before winter sets in. We’re not up for learning to ski, but we will enjoy crisp, sunny days, a cozy home, the crunch of snow under our boots, and the snow-covered landscapes of a real winter.

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