Life After Chase: Hans van den Houten on Happy Trails

Bend, Oregon as a Retirement Destination

Published in Spring 2004

It did not have much to do with the Bicentennial celebrations of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Yet, my visit this summer to Oregon coincided with the commemoration of the epic journey of these two great explorers and led to a life-changing decision and a future of my own exploration of this great state in the West, following my own adventure along the Oregon Trail.

My daughter, Tania, preceded me to Oregon. She settled there nearly 10 years ago, after meeting her future husband, Cedric Wildbill, on the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. This summer’s visit took me to her residence just outside of Pendleton, Oregon. I have had tremendous pleasure from visiting the state, seeing the variety and beauty of its nature, the wide open spaces of the rolling wheat fields of Eastern Oregon where the streams meander towards the mighty
Columbia River, and the hills and mountains of the Blue Mountain range, just under a 30-minute drive from Pendleton.

Riding Western style at the Bar M Ranch in Adams was another bonus I enjoyed last year and repeated again, now accompanied by two of my Dutch second cousins, who were employed as wranglers at the ranch for a month, as arranged by my daughter. Wishing for a white water rafting experience and mentioning a desire to return to Bend, I was urged by my daughter to contact her good friend Sue. Arrangements for B & B accommodations, rafting and a sightseeing trip of the park were all put in place, courtesy of Sue.

Bend is a lovely little town in Central Oregon in the High Desert at the foot of Mount Bachelor, part of the Cascade mountain range, and in the Deschutes National Park. A visit would also serve as an occasion to check on Tim and Martha McGinnis, who live in Bend. Tim and I had been in the credit training program of Chase in 1968. We have stayed in touch over the years and Tim, gracious as ever, made me cancel my B & B reservation and invited me to stay at his ranch.

It was early August when I arrived for an astonishing two days’ stay at the McGinnis Ranch after a four-and-a-half-hour trip from Pendleton to Bend. I drove through the Columbia River Gorge and up to the High Desert, passing sleepy and even ghostlike farming towns. I drove through more expansive rolling wheat fields crowned by dark clouds of forward rushing thunderstorms laced with lightning extensions, as if they were Fourth of July fireworks. The accommodations chez McGinnis were welcoming and grand; the views panoramic and expansive, the exquisite Japanese garden, the pond and wooded island, with its murmuring waterfall and variety of flowers, a delight to the eyes and ears.

Tim invited me to join him and his ranch manager, Greg, together with his assistant, Rick, on early morning rides through the sage brush and ponderosa pines. The early morning dew and shimmering light was the best antidote to a mind clogged with the noise of New York City. Two hours of easy riding and gentle trotting were a prelude to glorious breakfasts served by our hostess, Martha. This is Life After Chase -- or, should I say, this is the life.

Cocktails and dinner were served on the veranda under a starlit sky of seemingly endless depth. The mountain ranges hovering in the distance and the green pastures sprinkled by the bountiful watering systems added to the surrounding beauty ... but now to the point!

After additional tours through the Deschutes National Park, visiting reservoirs and lava beds, viewing the dormant volcanoes along the way and driving through winding routes up and down McKinsey Pass and back to Bend, I could not resist the urge to find out more about the real estate market. I left the McGinnises and, through Sue, connected with a super realtor, who proceeded to give me a very good understanding of the mechanics of the rapidly growing Bend Township.

It became very evident that an opportunity was looming to think seriously about my future after retirement. I decided to extend my stay in Bend and viewed 11 properties in the next two days, with the last one just fitting what I was looking for. I made a bid, countered, arranged for financing and insurance, and signed the deal all within two days. The closing was on September 1, and now I will be joining the happy retirees in this glorious part of the world. I have already made a bid for additional property and intend to expand into the acquisition of additional real estate to be held available for vacation rental.

In a few more years, I will be going to Bend permanently. My new residence will be close enough to my daughter, her husband and my first grandchild, due in November, and yet far enough not to be called to baby-sit every night! See what a wish to go white water rafting can lead to!!

Even more, see what can happen as a result of a friendly call to a former Chase colleague, who excited me with his own observations about the lifestyle of his chosen new home town. I thought I would share this with all of you, as it is never too late to start planning and thinking about the next venture, a venture that can lead to satisfaction in the golden years, and that is what I aim to do: maximize those golden years in an environment of beauty, tranquility and a place filled with invigorating activity, both physically and mentally. I will keep you posted!!

Added in Fall 2005

Upon my return from Bend, I proceeded to make two more investments in rental properties. Sue, a friend of my daughter, and I decided that she would be my decorator and partner in a new venture I put together to manage my houses. The house I originally bought to live in some time in the future was also put into the rental pool and very quickly was taken by a young couple from Texas.

Bend’s Dutch Knight and Days became the main vehicle for our rental activities, which took off immediately after the great job Sue did furnishing and fixing up the houses.

We may not have quite broken even this first season, but the growth in real estate values, which Tim had so correctly forecast, resulted in a very handsome return when I decided to part with one of the properties this year. I then purchased another place more suitably located for ski rentals and closer to my other properties – all within a 20-minute drive from Mt. Bachelor. Thus a business was born, and my aim to move eventually to Bend was further consolidated. I enjoyed visits in January and March 2005. The last one included a terrific morning of skiing with Tim, better know locally as TNT: Tim No Turn!

In late January 2005, I wrote what had been an annual New Year’s letter, but which I had not sent for a few years due to personal turmoil, including heart and gall bladder operations, a new job with Lee Hecht Harrison, a divorce, the sale of my apartment in New York, my mother’s death in early 2003 and my father’s move back to Holland after nearly 36 years in Luxembourg.

This time my letter writing garnered a response from an old dear friend, Marian Scholten-Was. Marian and I had known each other in our youth. She had been a student at Leiden University and had visited my family home in Wassenaar, the Netherlands. Subsequently, we both studied in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I introduced her to her future husband, when I was otherwise interested in an American lady. We stayed in touch all these years. We met a few times in New York and Holland, the last time in 1990, and we corresponded briefly following her husband’s passing in 2002.

Our correspondence took flight after Marian’s first cyberspace note to me. When she remarked, after some mutual flirtation in e-mails, that it was a pity we were not living closer so we could see if a romantic spark might not be dormant, I did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity. Well, my friends, she posed that question on March 16, 2005 and I proposed marriage -- and she accepted – on April 30, appropriately in Almelo, the Netherlands, and on the Queen’s Birthday. This smoothed the way for Marian to join a family outing to Oregon, where my 92-year-old father met us with my eldest sister, Madeleine, arriving from Holland. My son, Andrew, joined us as well in Pendleton, the residence of my daughter, Tania, her husband, Cedric, and my first grandchild, Summer. This was a real dip for Marian in the family pool, but it was a truly wonderful submersion. More importantly, I had said to her that she had veto power over my plan to move to Bend; as I silently had hoped for, however, she was equally taken by the beauty of the land and the serenity of the mountains.

Fortunately, Marian also enthusiastically approved of the selection of our future U.S. residence.

Fast forward, after some wonderful local events, like kayaking on the Deschutes River and horseback riding once again at the Bar M Ranch and finally back to New York to make the arrangements for our wedding.

We finally settled on holding it at Bruno’s Ristorante on the East Side of Manhattan. Marian and I tied the knot on July 8 – a ferociously rainy day up until our wedding, when the skies cleared beautifully. As you see, my suggestion that it is never too late to start planning for the next venture was taken literally, and we have no regrets. We have been truly ecstatic about new lives together. To have found this marital bliss after many years is a true blessing.

Tim and Martha McGinnis are now to be thanked for their suggestions about Bend. I am excited to have the chance to help Marian explore the wonders of Bend and the United States, while we also have the opportunity to live in our home country. What a great bonus of my dual citizen status – to live in both of the countries I love.

I can enjoy the fruits of many years of labor in the tranquility and pastoral setting of our cottage in Almelo and also indulge in the sporting activities of the mountainous and desert wonderland around Bend in bucolic Oregon.