Enjoying one’s surroundings is a pretty fundamental, dare I say essential part of a balanced breakfast. Rich people flock to coastal California for never-ending sunshine, water, and arid warm temps. Many of us Midwestern types yearn for mountain views, outdoor fun, and fairly moderate winter weather. The question today is: should we consider moving to Longmont Colorado?
If it’s good enough for Mr. Money Mustache, why not us??
We just got back from Colorado where home-base was the sweet little berg of Longmont. We met up with some wonderful people who had moved there themselves within recent years, looking for a better quality of life. I wanted my family to experience this magical little town, and to ultimately figure out if we might want to move there someday.
The Airbnb we stayed at was located in the city’s historic east side neighborhood. The “Right Bank”, if you will, of Longmont. A very pretty and longstanding neighborhood. It hearkens back to many Midwestern neighborhoods, with mature trees, parks, and a mix of very old, old, and old and run-down houses.
Some are kept up and are quite charming. Others need some work. All are about half a million dollars in value, in case you’re wondering.
No trip to Colorado is complete without a visit or three to Rocky Mountain National Park. We took the kids and they enjoyed it. Six miles worth in our first day of hiking — not bad for 5 year-olds! Course, there were protestations of tired kiddo feet, but that didn’t strike until the last half mile, fortunately. Troopers. Future hikers extraordinaire.
Considering how variable the weather was during our trip (rain, not rain, rain, not rain, etc. etc.) we were fortunate to have trekked a total of 18 miles on two separate visits without a drop of rain.
Rocky Mountain National Park is an amazing place. I love the views, the fresh air and pine, and the reward of a packed lunch of hard-boiled egg and cheese sandwiches, after gaining a few thousand feet of altitude by noon.
We were smart cookies, knowing the crush of summer visits would put a strain on parking and trail congestion. Best to find trailheads far away from popular Bear Lake and other hot spots that spur out of Estes. We found Ouzel Falls and the Twin Sisters trail heads easy to get into, with minimal hikers to bump into.
Moving to Longmont Colorado: Beer Nirvana!
No self-respecting visitor who claims to be a FIRE blogger arrives in Longmont without bicycles in tow. That’d be a sin. Before leaving the Twin Cities, we saddled up two kids’ bikes on the 1-UP hitch rack and two grown-up cyclo-cross bikes on the roof of the car. (The roof mounting was exciting and new. I had no idea our Outback came with roof rack mounts. D’oh.) Our mileage suffered, but we were so glad to have our bikes to bop around town in.
I highly recommend biking the Longmont Loop, which takes you on a 16-mile circumference tour through many of its parks. Most of the loop is on bike trails, which are ubiquitous here. But of course, no trip to Longmont is complete without a visit to its fab breweries!
There’s about 1 brewery for every man, woman, and child in Longmont (and Colorado, for that matter) so it made our route fairly easy to plot. We had hoped to visit five or six taprooms, but the monsoon arrived on the day of our excursion, and despite rain jackets and lust for good beer, we made it to only three stops.
We wound up tipsy, exhausted, and soaked. 300 Suns was Mrs. Cubert’s favorite taproom, but I enjoyed the offerings from Wibby the best. The help at both stops were a little nicer to us tourists than the bros who greeted us at Left Hand a few years back. But I still love a good Nitro Chocolate Milk Stout here and there.
Longmont House Hunters: An Other-Worldly Experience
There was time to look at houses too. On a bright and clear weekday morning, we arranged a few showings at Prospect New Town. If you’re familiar with the movie “Truman”, this is an urbanist community that was designed by the guy who designed the town for that film.
Wondering why anyone would consciously choose to live in a neighborhood that feels like the domed-in, apart-from-reality location from that Jim Carrey classic?
We left wondering that too. Not just cuz the prices were jaw-dropping insane ($700K for a three-bedroom TOWNHOUSE) but because you knew that behind the veneer of these albeit cleverly designed and well-built homes, you were basically sitting in a suburb, and not within walking distance of the best parks, libraries, schools, and taprooms (how is THAT possible?) of Longmont.
Still, the houses were very pretty:
Longmont’s Close Proximity to Denver Is a Bonus
We spent a day checking out Denver. Got cheap tickets to a Rockies game and that was a decent time. Great views from the third deck of that stadium. And the hot dog wasn’t terrible! I had a Coors Banquet beer there, and boy, them Coors’s taste good at ball games. Something about the time and the place for lighter, industrial-era beers that makes them palatable…
Before we went to the Rockies game, we stopped at a few places on the way. Outside of Golden, we checked out Red Rocks! Great to see that place firsthand, after hearing about it and seeing clips in U2 and Depeche Mode videos. (Red Rocks has a Starbucks, which is handy for sleepy, half-ass frugal parents.)
We also meandered around a few of the hoods that reminded us of Uptown, Minneapolis. Great little mom and pop shops blending in with the scourge of overpriced chain stores. It doesn’t take much to see how gentrification has changed the complexion of Denver. And I had never been here before!
Back in Longmont Colorado – Wonderful People
The people of Colorado? Love ’em. Starting with the lovely host of our Airbnb who was super responsive, and the auto mechanic in Denver who swapped our tail light and brake light for $5 total (in under 10 minutes, with a backed-up garage, an hour before closing shop for the day).
In Longmont, we got to meet some extraordinary folks. Mr. and Mrs. 1500 Days to Freedom were super gracious in showing us some listings, right on the day they got home from their long road trip. If it were us, we’d have gone into wagon-circling mode. We had a fun time looking at different houses with Carl and Mindy. All the while my little pea-brain calculating costs and figuring if we could make a move here work.
After house hunting, we headed over to Mr. Money Mustache Headquarters in downtown Longmont. It was kind of neat, walking into a space I’d read up on and seen YouTubers about. Even though the Mrs. and I only had a couple of hours to spare before meeting up with her parents for dinner, we squeezed in a fun happy hour in the backyard of Early Retirement Valhalla.
The icing on the cake was meeting the POPs and Miss Mazuma. It was a little hilarious since I knew I’d be meeting Miss M., but the POPs popped out of nowhere – having been stealth guests of the 1500s that week. I knew of them through their many comments on ye olde blog d’ Mr. Money Mustache, from way back before I started my digital rag.
And the fact that Miss Mazuma came out from Denver to meet up with us was really special. I owe her a decent bottle of vino for that. And, the Mrs. and I selfishly still need to get the DL from her on her hiking adventure to the Camino De Santiago. So little time!!!
Moving to Longmont would be worth it for the wonderful people alone.
Should We Consider Moving to Longmont Colorado?
Funny thing happens when you get back from a vacation like that. You find you miss your home, you miss your neighbors (most of them) and the weather gods play tricks by rolling out a gorgeous summer evening. Just walking around our neighborhood with my little girl was the tonic.
I started running off the months in my head when I’m miserable in Minnesota: Lessee… January, February, March, and most of April. I just need to solve for four months of despair! Can it be done? Tune in for updates. There’ll be plenty of this waffling for months (if not years) to come…
The Post From Our First Visit to Longmont Colorado, c. Fall of 2017
Having shared effusively my admiration for the Man from Longmont, I figure it high Rocky Mountain time I wrote about a trip the wife and I took to Colorado, exactly two years ago this month.
Just one year into my own early retirement master plan, I’d already read through Mr. Money Mustache’s blog TWICE. The guy (Pete) has like 500 posts. So you can imagine how much precious work time I had invested in this radical new form of frugality, driven by purpose rather than coupon-clipping.
Once you dive into MMM, you feel like there’s something magic happening over in the Mountain time zone. I felt that the little town of Longmont, Colorado might have more to offer than little old’ icebox Minneapolis, Minnesota. We had to check it out first-hand. And if we ran into Pete or his lovely Mrs.? Well, icing.
(Full and honest disclosure: Longmont was just a pass-through on a week-long trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, with overnight stays in Fort Collins for beer purposes, and Boulder because we like hiking so dang much.)
A Trip to Colorado, On the Cheap
Getting tickets was no problem at all. By this time, I’d already picked up on the strategy of applying for a bazillion credit cards to rack up bonus rewards points. Besides, Minneapolis to Denver is a relatively short hop.
If memory serves me correctly, we converted some Chase Sapphire bonus miles to Southwest. Gotta love the synergies with those Chase cards. Go sign up if you haven’t already. Anyhow… Free flights. Check.
The rental car was easy too. Again, having read that sweet little mustachioed blog from heaven, I was fully armed with knowledge. The young associate at the rental car counter had no chance when offering an upgraded vehicle to “handle the mountains.” Was it a Humvee?
We stuck with our choice of the venerable Toyota Yaris. Stick shift! The Yaris is one of the least powerful and smallest cars you could rent off the lot. At first, I wondered how this little toy car would manage the great Rockies. More on that later. Cheap rental car. Check.
Not Enough Time in Longmont!
Since Longmont was on the way to our destination of Estes Park, I convinced Mrs. Cubert that we should stop there for lunch and a little walk-about. You know, see if we could spot any bums shopping for errands on bicycles. We instead were greeted with a cute town that has all the things I could imagine an early retiree would want or need, including a Carl’s Jr.
At first, we had to get past the dreaded development just on the fringes of town. All sorts of chain-infested-strip-malls and box stores line the main byway into town. Not bike-friendly by a long-shot. Just as Pete wrote about. Just get to Main Street and things get much more promising.
There’s also the light industrial zones of Longmont that have some cool things happening. We chose to stop at Left Hand Brewing. And we’re glad we did. Their beer is tasty! I want to say we put Chocolate Milk Stout on our breakfast cereal that entire week. For food lunch, we ate at the Sun Rose Cafe. I highly recommend it if you’re ever passing through Longmont stalking famous bloggers.
(Update 8/9/18: Sadly, the Sun Rose Cafe closed its doors earlier this spring. Surprising, considering the 4.5/5 stars with dozens of Yelp! reviews.)
After lunch, since we still had plenty of time before checking in at the lodge in Estes Park, we decided to take a stroll around the old neighborhoods of Longmont. If we were to ever consider moving out to this front-range town, the older, established blocks would be our likely destination.
Roosevelt Park is just a hop off of Main Street and perfectly situated as a central park of sorts for any kind of festival or triple-M hootenanny. We walked around for a bit there and then headed over to check out the Longmont Public Library.
This library is EXCELLENT. With little kids, this is an amenity that has to hit the mark. Our toddlers go through books like Kleenex these days. Read it more than twice? No way.
Longmont’s public library has a wonderfully large children’s area stocked to the gills. Oh, and it’s located just a block off of Main Street, just like the park. Longmont’s walkability is not too shabby.
The Sun Shines Bright on the Front Range
While walking around on this beautiful sunny September day, I began to feel the top of my head tingle. Dammit, I forgot my ball cap in the car! Poor Cubert’s receding hairline was taking the brunt of the Colorado sun. We dodged the harsh rays as best we could, but high noon shows no mercy.
I guess in retrospect I wouldn’t call it an epiphany, just an “ah-ha” moment. Yeah, the UV factor in Front Range Colorado is about twice that of where we live. For fair-skinned balding types like me, that’s not a great mix. Wuss factor aside, Longmont is a fine little town that checks many boxes for us.
The only REAL drawback as far as I can tell (UV rays aside) is housing costs. Over the last three years alone, housing prices have shot up over 12%. Still, the same house in Longmont can be fetched for a THIRD of the cost of a similar property in Boulder just down the highway. Guess where I’d live, if I wanted to retire early?
Estes and RMNP
We finally found our way to Estes Park where we spent the next four days hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Remember that Toyota Yaris? We took that little puppy up the Trail Ridge Road. If you’re interested in taking in some wonderful sites and sh*tting your pants in the process, I highly recommend this drive!
The “TRR” is the highest elevation highway in the continental U.S. It is pure white-knuckle driving with narrow lanes and steep drop-offs where often guardrails are just … not there… Now, coming down from up top, the Yaris performed incredibly well.
Gear-braking with a small car is a helluva lot easier in a small stick shift than it is in a monster all-wheel drive. We giggled at the poor souls riding their brakes down the mountain (while hoping that no one behind us had brake FAILURE).
We’d already checked the boxes on free flights and cheap rental cars. We were also good at preparing our meals for breakfast and lunch. We even dined in a couple of times while at Estes Park, taking advantage of the lodge’s grill and kitchen. Oh, how fun to watch how quickly water reaches the boiling point at elevation!
And yet, we did drop a chunk of change on lodging. Staying near the national park is not a cheap affair. At least not for us ill-prepared non-campers. For the three nights, we dropped $225 per night. At least we opted to walk the thirty-minute trek into town when we dined out. Spend a little, save a little?
…And Back to Longmont Colorado
We had an amazing time in Colorado. After RMNP, we spent a day in Fort Collins biking to boutique breweries. We started at New Belgium Brewing Co. But our favorite stop was Funkwerks. Horse and Dragon and O’Dells were quite good too.
As we headed back to Denver I thought about what it would be like to move out here. The mountains are simply amazing. The people were just as friendly as Minnesotans. Beer? No issues there. Bike culture? Heck, riders were making their way down the Trail Ridge Road! Man…
If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve established our roots pretty deep here in Minneapolis, we’d probably consider a move out west. The winters here in Minnesota can be brutal. And try as I might to embrace them, I still yearn for milder temps in which leaving the house doesn’t require putting on eight layers ahead of time.
In the immortal words of Mr. Money Mustache, “wah wah wah!!!” Complainypants! In the immortal words of Mr. 1500 Days, “Drink more beer. You’ll get over it!”