When I tell the story of how Reiner and I found ourselves retired and living in Cobalt Ontario, I usually start by listing the several factors that affected our decision. Among them:
- He was laid off from his geologist job the first of November, 2015.
- All of his job applications were un-answered. A good news/bad news scenario because he was enjoying his time off work. But still, we had bills to pay, right?
- My part-time contract job would end in a month.
- The bank played hardball. Reiner missed a payment on his line of credit. The bank said, “Pay up. All of it. Now. Or, if you want, we’ll be happy to carry the loan for 8.5.%” We paid it up, but that put a bite into our savings.
- An early spring ice storm took out several trees in the yard. It would take weeks, if not months of work to clean up the mess.
He sat down beside me one evening shortly after the storm and talked about how discouraged he felt. The enormous job of cleaning the fallen lumber was only part of it. The house and yard were in good shape, thanks to his diligent attention, but it would only be a matter of time before the next repair job, and the next outlay of cash.
At the time, he at 65 and me at 60, we were both ready to retire. But if we were to remain in that house, we needed to find jobs.
The kind of geology work he was likely to get would involve scheduled rotations to and from remote mine sites. That meant I’d be home alone for weeks at a time, caring for the house and yard. Not an attractive prospect, in my eyes. As a matter of fact, I was comfortable with the concept of apartment or condo-living. Let’s leave the heavy lifting to someone else for a change.
But Reiner wanted a proper house on a proper property.
“Can’t we move to Cobalt?” he asked.
I gave him “the look.” He knew how I felt about that idea.
Cobalt is an historic silver mining town two hours north of North Bay. Reiner has been mineral collecting in the area most of his life – that is, over forty years. He is crazy about the place not only for the wall-to-wall mineral collecting opportunities, but for the mining heritage preserved by the town’s National Historic Site designation.
I’ve been to the mine camp a half-dozen times since meeting Reiner. My first impression was not positive, nor did subsequent visits change my mind. The scarred rock faces with gaping gashes and rusting and dilapidated mine structures… combined with sad and sagging houses… no. Too far away from friends and family, too isolated, and just too ugly on the eye.
Nope, not moving to Cobalt.
Hence, “the look.”
On to plan B. Clearly, even though we had declared that we’d live out our days in Paris, we now had to admit that we could not afford to stay at our current address. But real estate prices in Paris were crazy-stupid. The town was enjoying celebrity status real estate-wise. People were clamouring to relocate to the “Cobblestone Capital of Canada“. We might be able to afford a fixer-upper. But that held no appeal.
The discouragement mounted. He was uncharacteristically forlorn.
“Let’s see what’s on MLS.” I prepared to deliver more bad news: no suitable listings in Cobalt. I was, of course, expecting to be right.
I was wrong.
Son of a gun! Look what we could buy in Cobalt! For the price of well-equipped SUV! With a view of the lake and our favourite collecting spot!
And that’s when Plan C for Cobalt went into force: March 31, 2016. The whirlwind move from Southern to Northern Ontario, from (un)employed to retired. Exactly two months later, May 31st, we landed.