Wisconsin when it’s warm, Arizona when it’s cool: The life of a snowbird

By Christina Lorey

October 11, 2023

Marlene Adler is a Badger through and through. But after raising her four kids and enduring 65 Wisconsin winters, she and her husband, Jim, decided it was time for a change. They sold their Waunakee home, bought a motorhome, and have been living the snowbird lifestyle ever since.

For those unfamiliar, “snowbird” is a term used to describe a northerner who moves to a warmer southern state in the winter. For Adler, that’s Arizona, home to her “very favorite place in the whole world,” the Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Cochise County.

We caught up with Adler before she fled her Wisconsin nest for the winter to learn the benefits of the multi-state life she and her husband have been living for nearly 20 years.

Christina Lorey, Editor: When did you decide to become a snowbird?
Marlene Adler, Snowbird:
When our children were educated and moved away in 2006 (currently, we have three living out of state), we sold our house and have lived full-time in our motorhome. We have a summer base in Wittenberg, where we constructed a ‘homey shed’ with a motor home port (similar to a carport), and we spend our summers there and winters in Arizona.

CL: How did you settle on Arizona? 
MA: We tried Florida for seven weeks, bouncing around for a week here and there all over the state, and then we went to Arizona. Some winters, we’ve hiked more than 350 miles in the wonderful Superstition Mountains. We are now in our 80’s but still hike, bike, and geocache.

CL: What is geocaching?
MA: Our son introduced us to it in 2007 and it gives us a reason to get some much-needed exercise. It’s basically a treasure hunt, where you use a GPS to find caches people leave across the country. It also takes us to places that we would never have found otherwise. We live by the motto: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”!

CL: What food do you miss most from Wisconsin?
MA: Lutefisk. I am mostly Norwegian and was raised with it. My husband tried to acquire the taste for it for 25 years and then gave up. I told him that he was either a slow learner or a good sport!

CL: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
MA: Always use your common sense!

CL: What advice would you give to your 50-year-old self? 
MA: Embrace each year, as they are all special in their own way.

CL: Is there a certain place in Wisconsin you think everyone should visit in their lifetime? 
MA: Even before we moved to ‘North of Hwy. 29’, we traveled to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum for their ‘Birds in Art Show’ every fall. (It’s happening right now: click here to learn more.) Now that we are living close to Wausau, we still make that an annual visit. We always topped off our trip to Wausau from Waunakee with dinner at the Pinewood Supper Club.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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