Does Fairbanks Suck?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Hope Does Fairbanks Suck?

    Possible relocation (getting more possible daily). Been doing alot of reading and there is alot of negative stuff written about fairbanks. In my mind alot of this is from folks who were not ready to embrace the weather extremes or were not used to the oil patch love. I have lived in some nasty oil patches (part of the job) so not worried about that, and the weather is something I can adjust to. It looks like there is decent riding in and around from about may-august and of course there are the winter sports.

    Real estate looks good to. Looks like a nice little house can be had on 2.5-5 acres for 200-250K, which ain't bad. Am I missing something here? Any relo's who have first hand experience? Thanks.
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    It Depends ...

    Quote Originally Posted by On-One
    Possible relocation (getting more possible daily). Been doing alot of reading and there is alot of negative stuff written about fairbanks. In my mind alot of this is from folks who were not ready to embrace the weather extremes or were not used to the oil patch love. I have lived in some nasty oil patches (part of the job) so not worried about that, and the weather is something I can adjust to. It looks like there is decent riding in and around from about may-august and of course there are the winter sports.

    Real estate looks good to. Looks like a nice little house can be had on 2.5-5 acres for 200-250K, which ain't bad. Am I missing something here? Any relo's who have first hand experience? Thanks.
    There are a lot of great folks in Fairbanks. But why anyone would choose to live there is beyond me. It is VERY cold in the winter and TOO hot in the summer. On the other hand, nobody ever forgets having lived there . . .

  3. #3
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    I haven't spent much of any time in Fairbanks personally, but its your typical laid back (small ) city pop. >30,000

    Climate-wise its much like living in the northern part of the midwest from what I understand only slightly cooler

    link to a Fairbanks FAQ :

    http://www.ci.fairbanks.ak.us/faq.php

  4. #4
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    I guess my problem is that in all my research it seems like a cool place with some decent riding and some cool state parks nearby. They even have some small ski areas around. Good real estate market. All of this encourages me.


    The negative stuff is only what you see written by folks in other words the facts don't seem to match up with the opinions.
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  5. #5
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    You Better Visit

    Quote Originally Posted by On-One
    I guess my problem is that in all my research it seems like a cool place with some decent riding and some cool state parks nearby. They even have some small ski areas around. Good real estate market. All of this encourages me.


    The negative stuff is only what you see written by folks in other words the facts don't seem to match up with the opinions.
    Fairbanks is a relatively extreme place to live - some like that, some don't. I've been there many times over the years (my sister lives there). Personally, it just doesn't do much for me as I find the biking better here, the xc trail system better here, the downhill skiing better here and the climate better here. -40 is fun for a day or two, but gets old fast. If you like small towns, Fairbanks is great, but if you like amenities - cultural or otherwise - you will likely be disappointed. You might do well to see the place for yourself before making a committment - of if you are young, take a chance and go wild. There are plenty of folks in Anchorage who used to live in Fairbanks and for the most part, they seem to look back fondly on their time there - and be glad they don't live there anymore.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stroganof
    Fairbanks is a relatively extreme place to live - some like that, some don't. I've been there many times over the years (my sister lives there). Personally, it just doesn't do much for me as I find the biking better here, the xc trail system better here, the downhill skiing better here and the climate better here. -40 is fun for a day or two, but gets old fast. If you like small towns, Fairbanks is great, but if you like amenities - cultural or otherwise - you will likely be disappointed. You might do well to see the place for yourself before making a committment - of if you are young, take a chance and go wild. There are plenty of folks in Anchorage who used to live in Fairbanks and for the most part, they seem to look back fondly on their time there - and be glad they don't live there anymore.
    I agree with every word in the quote above. I had resisted responding to this thread because I didn't want to be a Fairbanks basher, but I don't see any appeal in the place, and I've been there in several different seasons. On the other hand, I know people who live in the area and love it. The best thing to do is visit the place before deciding to live there. Ideally, you should see it in summer and winter first, but that's probably not realistic for most people who are considering moving for a new job.
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    Nothing like a "Faribanks vs. Anchorage" thread to really get the juices running, eh (although I suppose the original poster jsut asked about Fbks; the bashing just seems to come naturally to those living in south-central)? I lived in Fairbanks while in grad school for four and half years, met my now wife there. She was born and raised in Fairbanks (and is now monitoring my every word as I type this reply... indeed she has already identified one typo). Currently live in Anchorage, but have spent many years in New Mexico and Virginia, other years in Oregon and New Jersey. So for what it is worth, here is my opinion.

    I'm fond of Fairbanks. I agree with the statement above to the effect that there are great people in the town. I found a sense of community that is unique to anywhere I have ever been. I don't know how much of that centered around the University, but based on time spent around local running club I would say that the community stretches well beyond the academic borders.

    I don't know what to make about the "oil patch love" observations. I can't say Fairbanks was anymore tied to big oil than Anchorage or the rest of the state. Probably less so, in fact. The pipeline runs outside of town, but there are more oil jobs in Anchorage than in Fbks. In fact, I bet most slope workers working weeks on/weeks off schedules are based out of Anchorage (but that is just a guess).

    Cultural amenities? True, it is no Manhattan, but there seemed to be a fair bit going on for a town of its size. More than a lot of places. This liklely due to the Univeristy. Thai restaurants were/are way better than any Thai food available in Anchorage. Population was very international (again, draw of the University).

    I was not doing much biking when I lived in Fairbanks. Definately an active community up there, but others might be better situated to comment on it. The little biking I have done is pretty good. XC skiing is good. Summer hiking in the hills around town good. The big mountains are a few hours south. There are a couple of downhill areas, and while fun they are nothing to write home about. Backcountry in the Alaska Range doable as long day trips.

    The weather? Yes, the winters are cold. Really cold at times. And dark. It takes some getting used to (though it seems the first winter is enough of a novelty that it isn't really oppresive). When -40 settles over the city for a week+, you have to be dedicated to getting outdoors if that is what you want to do. Some people manage it. I went to potlucks and sat around with friends. From my perspective, the summers never got anywhere close to "too hot." I found the summers pleasant. Be warned that in bad fire years, smoke can settle in and make it hard to run/bike/do anything.

    Done ranting. Enjoy making your decisions.

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    Since I've been wrestling with the idea of leaving FBKS for a while I figured I'd weigh in on living here...

    First, the biking...summer mtn biking is not much better than 'okay' in my opinion. Probably better outside of ANC and definetly better on the Kenai. But I guess I'd warn anybody against moving to AK for the mtn biking because it is just SO much better in other places. That said, there are enough trails around here to keep you from getting bored with any particular trail, even if the variety amoung the lot of them isn't that great.

    Road riding here is easily the best in AK and although there are only really five long rides, the roads are mostly okay, the traffic is usually tolerable, and the scenerey is great. No real mountains would be the only drawback to the road riding, but there are a lot of hills. In general I'd say its better than most of the lower 48, but I don't like traffic.

    Snow biking is, again just an opinion, probably unequeled anywhere...in the world. Yeah, its cold, but its dry and the wind rarely blows at all, and never does when its really cold. FBKS doesn't get that much snow so once trails get put in they tend to get packed pretty hard and stay that way most of the winter. I've lived here 8 years. I ride a lot of miles in the winter. Every winter I end up riding some new trails. The dog mushing/snowmachining trail network is pretty impressive. And you can access a trail from just about anywhere in town. The downside to the snow biking is that you can do some form of it 6 months a year. Which is a really long time if you want to get on dirt...which is where I am right now.

    Quality of life...Fairbanks is far from the most attractive town. I think thats a good way to put it. Its more or less an industrial depot to support Northern resource department. I really didn't like it much here for the first year or two I was around. But eventually I sort of got integrated with things and started to realize how much of a sense of community this place has...far more than anyplace else I've ever lived. Probably sounds cliche, but there are some really great people around here. We have a great group of friends that are into the same things we are and never have a hard time finding people to do outdoor stuff with... usually the opposite, too many things going on and have to decide which ones we're gonna do. If not for the sense of community here I'd probably be off riding in Flagstaff or Colorado (again) by now.

    Culture...I'm not into resturants so other than echoing the comments about Thai food, I don't have much to add. There is some art scene, but this isn't NYC. Its probably compareable to most cities with a university and 50K people. I do really miss a live music scene. FBKS has a lot of local bluegrass, which I'm not into. Its too far off the path to get much touring music.

    Weather...winters are long. The darkness is an issue for me for about 8 weeks a year. I try to leave the state sometime during that period. Cold is not as much of an issue, at least for me. But its cold. I've seen a few people come up here from the upper midwest and Maine and such and say that it wouldn't be that much different than "where they came from" and it always is. Yeah, those places might get down to -30 or -40, and they probably have more wind than FBKS does, but there isn't many places where -20 is a "normal" temperature...for 4 or 5 months a year. Summers are awesome and while it can get into the 90's it is more likely to be in the high 70's. Pretty nice. Tons to do.

    The kicker for us is that there is Real Wilderness...the kind that does not exist in the lower 48 anymore, literally within miles of our house.

  9. #9
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    FTMSB - Good comments. What part of NM did you live in? We lived in Aztec (Durango, CO - Farmington, NM area) for about 3 years. We now live in southern Texas.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by joatley
    Since I've been wrestling with the idea of leaving FBKS for a while I figured I'd weigh in on living here...

    Another good, honest sounding reply. Where are you considering moving to?
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Karma
    I agree with every word in the quote above. I had resisted responding to this thread because I didn't want to be a Fairbanks basher, but I don't see any appeal in the place, and I've been there in several different seasons. On the other hand, I know people who live in the area and love it. The best thing to do is visit the place before deciding to live there. Ideally, you should see it in summer and winter first, but that's probably not realistic for most people who are considering moving for a new job.

    We are going to be up there in two weeks for a couple days to check out the scenery.
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  12. #12
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    Also, when we are up there in the next couple weeks we are going to be spending a day with a real estate agent checking out the proberty/house situation. Is there any paticular area we should focus on. We are looking for 2-5 acres, decent small house, and access to ski/mtb/etc trails.

    Everthing I have seen points towards chena road area.

    Thanks!
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    I lived in Fairbanks for 2 years and was never happier than the day I left. There's a ton to do in the summer and also in the winter. If you stay busy, it's fine. Cold, but fine. The summers are awfully hot and buggy, but the 24ish hours of sunlight is great.

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    It's sounds as if your possible stay in FBX could be of some length. Do you mean Chena Hot Springs Road or Chena Pump Rd area? They are on opposite sides of town and very different in character. Regardless you want to look for land that's off the valley floor and with good southern exposure. We have great southern exposure and are at about 1000 ft. elevation. In 19 years I've only seen it hit -40F a couple of times up here on the hillside. No ice fog. We usually run 15F to 35F warmer up here than in the valley (town) during the winter and a hair cooler in the summer with a bit more breeze. As much as we like living up here I don't know if I could handle the cold down in the valley. I moved up to the Interior about 20 years ago after almost 20 year south of the Alaska Range because I liked summers better but mostly for the winters. I got so sick of the freeze-thaw cycle of winter farther south. Up here once it freezes it stays frozen so you don't get the wet and then the ice. Obviously you better like winter if you move up here.

    As other have said the summer biking isn't even in the same league as SouthCentral Alaska. There are some good rides in summer up the Steese, Elliot, Chena Hot Springs Road and if you want to drive a couple of hours there is some good riding towards the mountains on the Richardson Hwy. A few more hours and there's the Denali Hwy. and Paxton area with good riding. Don't know that much about riding around Cantwell on the Parks or nearer Denali Park but the Stampede trail just north of there can be good riding. But the winter biking is a dream with our low snowfall and heavily used trails.

    Can't say much about the culture as I'm a hermit. There used to be great live music at the Howling Dog in Fox and there's still a good R&B band playing there on summer weeknights. There is a nice small town feel and rush hour traffic is nothing compared to Anchorage. Lots of rednecks and religous people but the university sort of offsets that.

    When you come up if you want to give us a call and stop by for some more information on the area feel free. My number is 374-8068, online most mornings. You can also e-mail me via this forum. tony

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    There are a lot of great little bars in the Fairbanks area. Stay away from the bars around Wainwright or Eielson because they're full of military people...soldiers and also married wives that are pissed at their husbands (learned that one the hard way). The Pump House and Blue Loon are awesome and always a good time.

    There are a lot of trails near the Chena river and dog sled trails you can follow. It's an adventure, but watch out for moose. They're fun to look at, but I had to throw my FRO at one while out on a ride one time.

  16. #16
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    I met my wife in Fairbanks six years ago. We left two years ago, and we are moving back in two months. We can't wait. Fairbanks isn't for everybody, but it's a great town. We really enjoyed the Farmer's Market in the summer, riding, hiking, and climbing all over the area, snowboarding at Moose Mountain in the winter (love the buses instead of a chairlift), and last but not least, playing hockey all winter long. Fairbanks isn't an easy place to live, but the community is wonderful, the people are genuine, and the Thai food is excellent!

    All in all, you take the good with the bad. I live in Colorado Springs right now, and I hate it. The riding is fantastic, but I can't stand the heat or the city. To each his own. Most people would think I'm nuts, but that's just me. Whatever you do, get out and experience Fairbanks. Most of the bad opinions I heard came from GI's who spent all their time in the barracks drinking. Get out of the house and into the outdoors. You will have a much better time.

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    We don't have a place in mind...the intermountain west probably...we just talk about it occasionally. I want to move someplace with better mtn biking...which by default means more summer.

    I could see us moving away for a couple years and then coming back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by On-One
    Also, when we are up there in the next couple weeks we are going to be spending a day with a real estate agent checking out the proberty/house situation. Is there any paticular area we should focus on. We are looking for 2-5 acres, decent small house, and access to ski/mtb/etc trails.

    Everthing I have seen points towards chena road area.

    Thanks!
    Personal preference would be west side of town. Advice above about being above the winter inversion is worth note. Chena Ridge, Cripple Creek, Goldstream Valley, Moose Mountin, Ester... some places further afield than others, but those are a few recommendations.

    In response to other inquiry, lived in Socorro, NM for a lot of years. Defintaley better MTBing in NM than you will find in FBKs, but then it sounds as though its a job and not a desire to seek out new and quality trails that is bringing you north. You'll find plenty to do if you decide to make the leap and have the curiosity to explore.

  19. #19
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    I keep seeing listings like this:

    http://www.realtor.com/search/listin...sn=5&srcnt=144

    ...and I think, buy that sucker and start building a shop and house on the land...There are about 5 listings like this in fairbanks...? What are they, hunting camps?
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  20. #20
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    there are lots of those places outside Fairbanks - often 10-30 miles from downtown with variable quality of access. They don't have water, gas or sewer (but often do have electric & phone, but not always) - so they rely on oil/wood heat, you have to haul your own water and dig a pit and build your own outhouse over it. Pretty much one step up from camping ...

  21. #21
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    I love camping, and could hack it until I got something built...but my wife would kill me.
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    Note that the ad mentions a view but no word about southern exposure. Can't stress enough how important that is. There're lots of people up here living on the north side of hills which just seems crazy. Add up to a month on each end of winter. Gardening is much harder, septic systems are more prone to problems, but maybe most important is the mental health issure. Not seeing the sun for a couple of months makes the winter seem much worse. If you haven't experienced the low winter sun it's hard to imagine how little it takes to impede it's view. When looking at land you must have a good idea of where the sun will be (or not be) during the winter.

    Yes it's a little house and there's lots of those in the area. With our winters and the price of fuel they make a hell of a lot more sense than a McMansion. Home heating is a substantial part of living costs up here and even with lots of insulation a bigger house will cost more. Take a good look at how well the houses are built, get someone with cold weather experiance if you can as there are lots of things to look for that someone from a warm climate just wouldn't know about. Did I mention how important southern exposure is? Good luck. t

  23. #23
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    awww man, this is the information I need. Southern exposure...check! My guess is that what you need is a full facing southern wall with little to no nearby horizen.
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  24. #24
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    Howdy All, Is there any singletrack riding around Fairbanks, North Pole, Two Rivers or Salcha?

    I'm looking to move there for mushing. I mtn. bike in summer.
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    i lived in Fairbanks for a year and never found any single track that was overly impressive. There is some, but it's generally cross country ski or mushing trails and doesn't offer much in the technical trail riding genre. Same goes for Anchorage, where i live now, although they are starting lift service at Alyeska Resort this summer, but that's a good 6 hour drive from Fairbanks.

    Growing up in WA and spending time riding there and in B.C. i may have been spoiled, but AK as a whole doesn't have a huge selection of great single track. That said, when you are out on a trail, you're generally only accompanied by a moose or two, and swarms of bugs - no hikers, bikers, etc. it's peaceful and beautiful and totally different from riding in the lower 48 and Canada.

  26. #26
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    Thanks drakem, We are pulling the plug on Fairbanks. We are spoiled by the riding and snowboarding here. We want to keep the kind of access we have. Just someplace we can afford.
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    Are there any major downsides to living over in the college area (just north of college)? Seems like there are some nicer homes in that area. We are heading up next week to check out homes...

    Also, last time we lived in a tiny town (Aztec, NM Pop 5800), the best part of the whole deal was having a decent bar within walking distance from our house. Had no idea how much I would miss that until I moved to big city texas... I assume there are some decent bars around the college, no?

    Thanks again,
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  28. #28
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    I went to University there, and have been back a bunch of times for the Tour de Fairbanks. The views off the ridges, especially in the fall, are sublime, especially with all the Birches.
    Awesome people (for the most part) in Fairbanks. Really.
    Mountain biking sucks (sorry, but visit Whitehorse and you'll see)
    Road riding is pretty fair, with some truly great climbs.
    Mosquitos are horrendous at times.
    Ice fog.
    Great XC skiing, but snow can come late.
    Awesome people. I think i said that already.

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    Yeah, the best thing about living in Morrison, CO was the mtn biking, but a close second was the bars right across the street. Fairbanks isn't like that. Depends on what your priorities are as far as how far you're willing to commute, where you will work, etc. But there aren't a lot of neighborhood bars around the university.

    Ivory Jacks probably fits that bill in Goldstream Valley. Its about 6 miles north of the U. There is a plenty of housing near there. There is also great winter trails in that area, and a few summer trails close by.

    I've lived in cabins all over the Fairbanks outskirts and the one near Ivory's was one of my favorites. Its darker in the valley so the Northern Lights are better. Too much light pollution on the Fairbanks side of the hills.

  30. #30
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    Well, Fairbanks was great. All the locals were very nice and the city itself very much reminded me of our time in New Mexico. The weather was very warm and I had to keep reminding myself how cold it CAN and WILL get...

    Anyway, looking at some homes over along Goldmine at elevation (1000+ ft with southern exposure....etc...). Still not 100% mainly due to the volatile housing market down here.

    EDIT - Forgot to mention...Silver Gultch rocked...the fact that they sell kegs helps reinforce my decision to re-locate.
    Last edited by heeler; 05-13-2008 at 01:39 PM.
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    I have spent Jan-late Aug in Fairbanks and I absolutely love the place (yes I know I know.. I haven't been here an entire winter, but will soon!). Like mentioned earlier, the people are wonderful, friendly, and will help you out with anything you need. Coming from Central PA where there is no lack of trail system and technical singletrack, I agree that the singletrack in Fairbanks is lacking, but as I spend more time in Fairbanks I'm realizing there are A LOT more trails than are talked about. Mostly doubletrack, rocky (small, shally, loose rocks for the most part), there's a lot of climbing possibilities. Just rode up Skyline ridge the other day and went down some fun single track that is fairly new which consisted of rooty terrain with small logs to hop over. Goldstream Sports in town has a huge plan to make a really long singletrack on Ester Dome. I really hope they can and will go through with the plans. The University also has some fast rolling trails, with some singletrack and rooty trails.

    Winters are great as long as you are active. XC skiing community is great and complements cycling well. Snow riding is awesome except when it gets below -20, it starts to hurt and you have to be extremely careful of frostbite. It's easy to get used to the cold and treat 15 or 20 below as if it's 20 above in the lower 48.

    The Fairbanks Cycle Club (http://fairbankscycleclub.org/) is a fantastic resource and is a great way to meet other cyclists. They have a lot of trail maps on their website.

    I have found that people who move up here with some romantic thoughts of mountainous, glacial Alaska aren't impressed with the town, but for me being young, mobile, and having lived in both Anchorage and Fairbanks before settling in Fairbanks it's a fantastic place to be for the next couple of years at least. I love living here and having access to the White Mountains and Brooks Range to the North, the Alaska Range to the south, hot springs all around, and miles and miles of country to explore.

    Hope this helps! Good luck with your decision.

  32. #32
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    Cool, good to hear the trails are expanding. When I was up there last month I was amazed to see the trail network along side the roads. Living in big city texas you can get killed trying to save some gas, looks like Fairbanks is commuter friendly. I also saw tons of people and kids on bikes, which is always cool and getting rair down here.

    Well, we are committed now. We are going to be moving in mid august and are currently looking for a house. Thanks to everyone who responded to this thread with kind words and advice.

    Anybody want to buy a house in S. Texas?
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