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Heading south for the winter

By Keegan Prosser on November 7, 2012 – No Comment

A look at why some Eastside couples flee Washington for warmer weather during the winter months

Story and photo By Keegan Prosser

For most of us living in the Pacific Northwest those three(ish) magical months of sun seem to be a godsend. It’s what keeps us motivated during the gloomy weather the rest of the year. But for many Northwest natives, those three months aren’t enough.

Bellevue residents Bill and Judy Morton are definitely among those people.

That’s why, as soon as the sun disappears, so does this pair of snowbirds – fleeing Washington for the winter months to soak in the sun.

A travel writer for most of his career, Bill, 67, has spent a lot of his time traveling to warmer places – including repeat visits to Mexico, Arizona and Argentina. But for the past 5 years, he and his wife have been heading to Indian Wells, Calif., where they own a second home.

“It’s hugely popular for Seattle people to go down there,” Morton says.

He says this has a lot to do with the cheaper property costs – and the dryer climate.

Originally, the Morton’s shared ownership of a property with another couple, but they decided to purchase their own home 18 months ago.

“We see ourselves spending more like eight to nine months down there in the future,” Morton says.

Similar to the Mortons, Bellevue residents Bob and Lucie Fjelstad like to ditch the gloomy winter weather for something on the sunnier side.

The Fjelstads first fell in love with Maui when they visited for their honeymoon. After visiting several times they decided to purchase their first property in 1995 bought their first property. The condo served as the perfect escape for 14 years.

“We were looking for a third bedroom and a Lanai,” Bob says.

In 2009 the couple purchased a condo at Honua Kai, a 628-unit resort located on the world-famous Kaanapali North Beach that has become the Fjelstad’s home away from home.

In addition to warmer weather, the Fjelstad’s Maui digs offer a variety of activities – something that keeps the outdoor enthusiasts and recreational photographers more than occupied.

The resort also offers easy access to popular restaurant Duke’s – and is just a hop, skip and jump away from the beach.

Avid fans of the University of Washington Huskies, the Fjelstad’s generally stay on the Eastside through football season – what they consider to be the best time of the year to be here.

“And then we get to jump off and go to the beach for five months,” Bob says.

But escaping to the beach doesn’t necessarily mean escaping from their life in the Kirkland/Bellevue area.

In fact, their place in Maui has become so popular with family and friends that the schedule can get crazy at times. But the ends are far, far greater than the means.

Both the Fjealstads and the Mortons admit there is a price to pay for the majestic scenery and milder weather associated with summers in the Pacific Northwest.

“The traffic is a lot worse – and everything feels a lot more hurried than down in the desert,” Morton says.

And while the spoils of Southern California have drawn them in, Morton says spending time in the desert has actually made him more accepting of the weather in Washington.

“We were up here in May and June when it was still rainy – and it didn’t bother me,” Morton says. “So many people were screaming, ‘When’s summer coming?’ But I knew that that in the desert is getting to be in the hundreds.”

He says that’s too hot.