The Moment When Everything Changed

One year ago, at this exact moment – June 16, 2017, 8:07 a.m. – everything changed. My entire future was altered with the push of a button. At the moment, I never imagined such far-reaching consequences would result from sending a simple email. Here it is, in its entirety:

“You know, if you wanted to expand our search area, there’s always this beauty. And lots others like it!”

And the beauty in question…

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This was the Friday morning after what had turned into a frustrating week full of highs and lows. We’d finally gotten serious about buying a house, and were pre-approved for a loan. So we started shopping around, and found the perfect home just a couple of miles from where we currently live, in Vancouver, Washington. Experienced a bit of sticker shock over the asking price, but the housing market is red hot here and we figured we could probably make it work. We might have to contend with eating nothing but ramen for a few years, but that seemed like a high sodium sacrifice we’d be willing to make. So we drove over to take a look at it, and the first thing we saw was several other carloads of people who had the same idea. The house wasn’t even officially listed yet.

“Uh-oh,” Tara said.

Prescient words, because a bidding war ensued – something that is all too common in the Portland area these days. We never even bothered throwing our hat in the ring, because the listing price was already more than we were comfortable spending. The loan amount we were pre-approved for would require a hefty down payment in order for us to afford anything decent around here and would leave us so strapped with mortgage payments, there’d be no discretionary income left over, so our initial giddiness quickly gave way to despair.

So one year ago, I turned the tables on Tara and her Zillow addiction, and sent her the above listing. I can’t stress enough that this was just for fun. I’d long had a secret love affair with Rapid City, but figured ours would be an unrequited romance. Even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined Tara would be the least bit interested in moving to the Midwest. Desperate and frustrated, I typed “Rapid City” into the Zillow search bar, just to torture myself, I suppose? And was blown away by the cheap housing there.

Shockingly, so was Tara. It still seemed like “a pretty farfetched idea” when I blogged about it two days later, and would remain an unlikely dream for about six weeks, when I finally began to believe it might actually happen. But that one email opened a dialogue and unleashed a chain of events that have led us here: in a mere six days, we are leaving the PNW for a new life in Rapid City.

The house that started this all, by the way? It never did sell. The listing was removed two months later. Who knows why these things happen, but they do. How funny would it be if it hit the market again…and we ended up buying it? The odds are ridiculously long, of course. Everything would have to fall into place perfectly.

But that’s exactly what we said about moving to Rapid City in the first place.

Countdown: 6 Days

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Mystery Solved

Remember the mystery animal cracker that appeared out of nowhere on my parents’ front porch, leaving me and Tara befuddled and a little bit creeped out? We have an explanation, and sadly it involves neither ghosts nor aliens. My brother had texted me and said, “Hey, I think dad eats animal crackers all the time! Check with him.” So I did, and he does. Much to my chagrin. It didn’t take much sleuthing to figure out that he’d been eating them in his recliner, dropped one that fell between the cushions, and when we dragged the chair to the curb that afternoon because a stranger was on his way to pick it up, the cracker must have dislodged itself and fallen onto the welcome mat, which perfectly explains why it had not been there before. As proud as I am of our Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning, I’m bummed that we debunked any possible paranormal activity. I always want the world to be weirder than it is.

Oh, well. The incident inspired me to write about synchronicity, a pretty interesting (and illogical) topic in its own right, so all was not for naught.

Speaking of synchronicity, I’m kind of amazed at the way dates are lining up for me. Not dates with other women – Tara might not approve – but rather, calendar dates. Our move is coinciding remarkably well with my 2011 road trip, and it’s completely unintentional. Consider the following:

  • I set out on the afternoon of June 22 and spent the first night in Spokane. We are setting out on the afternoon of June 22 and spending the first night in Spokane.
  • I drove from Spokane to Billings, MT on June 23 and spent the night there. We are driving from Spokane to Billings, MT on June 23 and spending the night there.
  • I arrived in Rapid City early in the afternoon on June 24 and checked into the Super 8 on Rushmore Road. We arrive in Rapid City early in the afternoon on June 24 and are checking into the Super 8 on Rushmore Road.

There were crazy thunderstorms a few hours after I arrived, so if this pattern continues, I guess we can expect to be greeted by some interesting weather. We shall see.


Still no change with Sydney: she just absolutely refuses to eat or drink. We are basically forcing her to swallow water through a syringe. Trust me, this is not nearly as fun as it sounds.

And yes, I know. It doesn’t sound fun at all.

The vet is still convinced it’s all stress related to the move. We told her we cannot afford to run any more tests, and she says doing so would be useless anyway, because they have all come back normal.

She still curls up on our laps, and purrs when we pet her. Other than giving us the stink eye after trying to force feed her – and the fact that she refuses all food and water in the first place – she seems okay.

So, we just don’t know. The vet is going to check in with us again on Friday.


When we decided to move to South Dakota and I began researching hiking opportunities, I was excited (and relieved) to learn there are no bears in the Black Hills. I have long been afraid of encountering a bear while hiking through the forests of the PNW, so I figured this was one less thing to worry about.

And then, a couple of days ago, some poor sap was golfing in Spearfish, SD, when he was bit by a rattlesnake and died.

Umm, what?!

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Great. A new source of nightmares.

Turns out the prairie rattlesnake is common throughout South Dakota, including the Black Hills. Hmm…that was news to this former resident. Hikers are urged to exercise caution when out and about, especially this time of year.

I guess I’m trading in one phobia for another.

Countdown: 9 Days

Pomp & Circumstances

Things never really go as planned, do they?

We’d scheduled a farewell event at our favorite local pub on Sunday. It was to be a casual, low-key affair, an opportunity for friends to drop by at their convenience and see us before we leave. Despite months of planning, it never happened; instead, we spent a good part of the day at an emergency veterinarian clinic. Which, trust me, was about a thousand times less fun than hanging out at Shanahan’s and eating fried pickles would have been.

The issue? Sydney had been vomiting for a few days. Add in a lack of appetite, lethargy, and anti-social behavior (normal in most cats but not her), and we knew something was wrong. So we took her in and after waiting many hours, they were able to see her and run some tests. Which came back inconclusive; her vitals were normal and there wasn’t anything obviously wrong. They suggested admitting her to the hospital and running an ultrasound, or giving us some anti-nausea meds and hoping for improvement in 24-48 hours. We chose Option B because yesterday alone set us back $800 – money that we were counting on for our move. I don’t know that we can swing anything more. Which makes the whole thing a bit stressful, with our move happening at the end of next week. Poor Sydney. It’s breaking our hearts to see her this way. And she just got a clean bill of health less than two weeks ago, so the whole thing really came out of the blue.

By the time we finally got home it was late in the afternoon, so we just hung around the apartment with Tara’s friend Betsy, who is visiting from Las Vegas. We listened to records and I made a pot of Italian wedding soup, the perfect antidote for a surprisingly cold and wet June weekend. After two extremely dry and warm months, it just figures that the one weekend we had a lot going on, the weather gods refused to cooperate. Looking ahead to late next week, they are predicting very hot weather the day we load the U-Haul, so that’s going to be fun.

At least Saturday worked out a little better. Audrey’s graduation went off without a hitch, crazy weather notwithstanding. There were torrential downpours during the ceremony, and even a little hail and thunder. But that didn’t stop her from beaming with pride when she accepted her diploma.

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Because Audrey was senior class treasurer, her name was the fourth one called. This was great – no waiting through an endless parade of names to reach hers (letter P). To be honest, we left right afterwards. But the place was so crowded we were in the very back at the top of the bleachers, standing. Fortunately, it was covered by a roof, but still. Why stick around after seeing what we came for? Instead, we went to Gustav’s and enjoyed a cocktail and some fondue. My parents, Audrey and her girlfriend, and Rusty joined us for dinner and a photo session afterwards. I think Tara did a great job, especially this one!

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And just like that, I have no kids in school anymore.

Back in 2006, when I got divorced, I knew I’d be bound to Vancouver, Washington, for the next 12 years, unable to move because of our shared custody arrangement. At the time I imagined that move would entail crossing the river to Portland, not uprooting my life for the Midwest. Ahh, life. It’s like I wrote in my opening paragraph.

In any case, it’s very hard to believe a dozen years have passed. And with that passage of time, I am now a father to two grown adults. I don’t know how to feel about that. There are moments of nostalgia, of course. Occasional despair over the idea of growing older. But also excitement. The future has never felt so wide open.

Countdown: 11 Days

 

Soft Kitty, Stoned Kitty

If you’ve followed me for any significant amount of time, you know how important music is to my life. Tara and I have seen so many concerts over the past six years, we’ve lost track of the number. We were trying to figure this out a few nights ago and gave up, declaring it an impossible task. Our best guess? We’ve seen about 100 bands, give or take a dozen.

Knowing this, a blog reader recently asked a random question.

What is the music/entertainment scene like in Rapid City? Are you guys going to be going from The Music Hall of the Northwest to The Church Basement Puppet Show of the Midwest?

I couldn’t help but chuckle over her perception, because she basically hit the nail on the head. Portland is a hotbed of music venues and great shows, while Rapid City is…not a hotbed of music venues and great shows.

But that’s okay. I long ago came to terms with the idea of “retiring” from concert-going. If we never see another live show, that’ll be alright, because there aren’t many artists left that we haven’t seen or care about seeing (though it would be great if The Moondoggies came to town – are ya listening, Kevin?!). Plus, there’s the expense and the hassle and the ever-present danger of tinnitus.

Still, it would be nice to have a few options, you know? Currently we can travel to Deadwood to see has-beens or never-was’s perform in casinos, or catch somebody like Luke Bryan in the civic center. Neither is particularly appealing. So when an initiative to build a new arena in Rapid City hit the ballot, I was stoked. Voters were given a choice on Tuesday: renovate the aging, non-ADA compliant, too-small current Barnett Arena, or build a fancy new one.

I’d been following this measure with keen interest, bummed that we were unable to cast a vote ourselves. We missed the June 5 election by less than three weeks! Fortunately, the measure passed, and our soon-to-be-hometown will have a shiny new $130 million arena in a couple of years. Woo-hoo! Our concert-going days might not be over just yet.

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Sorry, buddy. Your days are numbered.

Good job, Rapid City. You’ve done me proud.


In other news, we tested out the Gabupentin Sydney’s veterinarian prescribed last week. Holy crap: that stuff works like a charm! I broke open a capsule on Sunday evening and mixed it into her wet food as instructed. Apparently it really is odorless and tasteless, because Sydney scarfed it down without a second thought. Two hours later, she was stumbling around like a drunken sailor on shore leave, and could barely lift her head. Before long she stopped trying, and pretty much plopped down and went to sleep. But it was a weird kind of semi-consciousness, because her eyelids never completely closed. It was actually heartbreaking to witness. We felt badly for her, but reminded ourselves that the medication is harmless. If anything, she was probably feeling really, really mellow. And the next morning she was back to her regular self, showing no signs of being stoned 12 hours earlier. So now we have confirmation: the medication will knock her out and she shouldn’t have a care in the world about being stuck in a car for a whole day.

We’d planned on taking her for a test drive before leaving, but at this point there is no time left for that. I think I’m going to try the first leg of our drive without medicating her. It’s about six hours to Spokane (probably have to figure on seven with the U-Haul and trailer); she’ll either cry the whole time or settle down after a little while. I’m hoping for the latter, but if not, I’ll just turn up the music and dose her up with Gabupentin for the all-day drive across Idaho and Montana the next day.

Countdown: 15 Days

242-Year Old Spoiler

I’m currently reading David McCullough’s “1776,” a book that chronicles that pivotal year in American history. Thanks to Hamilton, I’m inspired to learn more about the American Revolution. I’m a bit of a war buff anyway and while I’m quite familiar with both WWII and the Vietnam War, my knowledge of the American Revolution is lacking.

So far, the book is everything I hoped. Gripping and illuminating. I can see why George Washington is so revered; he was quite the charismatic leader, but McCullough stops short of mythologizing the man. It’s clear Washington was a mortal human with doubts and fears that certainly rivaled those of his contemporaries. And he never truly believed he was deserving of the honor of commanding the Continental Army.

In any case, I’d gotten about halfway through the book, and it’s already mid-December of that year. With another 180 pages remaining and 1776 rapidly drawing to a close, I could not help but wonder about his famous crossing of the Delaware. I began to question my knowledge of American history. It did take place in 1776, right?! Curious, I googled the info and learned that, yes, Washington’s crossing of the Delaware in a surprise attack on the Hessian forces in Trenton occurred in 1776. December 25-26, to be exact. Because I am currently reading about events on December 18, I was immediately annoyed. “Spoiler alert!” I muttered out loud, and then laughed over my reaction. I’m pretty sure historical events that occurred 242 years ago can hardly be considered spoilers, and yet, I was mad at Wikipedia for a minute there. So I just stopped reading and went back to my book.

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I’m dying to know whether it’s the British or the Americans who emerge victorious, but for god’s sake, DON’T TELL ME!


Yesterday we crossed one more item off our Farewell Tour list. It may turn out to be the last, actually. I’d wanted to see the Pacific Ocean one final time, so we spent the day on the Oregon coast.

After dropping by the leasing office to turn in our final rent check – and by the way, kiss my ass for charging us $1,487 for less than a full month’s rent (god, I will not miss the cost of living here!) – we headed west. 100 miles later we arrived in Cannon Beach, where we grabbed a bite to eat at Ecola Seafood Market. I have enjoyed many a clam strip there; the food never disappoints. After lunch we drove south, deciding to check out Manzanita, one of the few towns along that stretch of U.S. 101 we’d never been. We wandered the beach for awhile, and were mesmerized by the parasurfers catching gnarly air. Probably spent a solid half hour just watching them.

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Look at that sky! We lucked out and enjoyed perfect weather the whole day. If you are at all familiar with the Oregon coast, you know how rare days like this are. Even in the middle of summer, it’s more likely to be gray and damp there. It was cold; there’s always a stiff wind blowing off the ocean, and we shivered in our hoodies while walking along the beach. But the blue skies were phenomenal, and away from the ocean, it was very pleasant. In the upper 60s or so.

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After we’d filled up on parasurfing, we headed back north to Cannon Beach, ducking into a bar for a few cocktails and a mid-afternoon snack of hummus, veggies, and pita bread. I ordered the “Aloha Mule,” a Moscow mule made with pineapple vodka and a splash of both pineapple and cranberry juice. And another, and another….let’s just say we happily killed a couple of hours there.

We headed out to the beach next, and walked down to Haystack Rock. “Goonies” fans know this sight well!

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There was a lot of quiet, contemplative reflection during this walk. I did not shy away from the water, regardless of how cold it was; I let it wash over my feet, and thought of how the Pacific Ocean has been my sanctuary for the better part of two decades. In fact, I did the math last night and figured out that I have lived in states either bordering or surrounded by the ocean for 87.7% of my life (I was very precise, lol), so the Midwest is going to feel like a true novelty.

Despite this, there was no sadness. It may have been bittersweet, knowing that the ocean – which has always been a mere 90-minute drive away, there for me whenever I needed a bit of salt water therapy – will no longer be accessible. But I am too excited for all of the upcoming adventures that await us to dwell on any sort of melancholy. I imagine the vastness of the Great Plains will provide moments of solitude and soul-quenching, too.

We debated hanging around until sunset, but at this time of year that is pushing 9:00, and we still had a long drive home. So rather than stick around for another two hours, we bid the Pacific Ocean farewell with one final glance over our shoulders before we began the long trek home.

Next week is Tara’s last at her job. And look at this, folks…

Countdown: 19 Days

Sleep Away Montana

Holy crap. It’s June.

There have been a lot of milestone dates as we counted down to our move – January 1 comes to mind (“we’re moving this year!”), as well as March 15 (“99 days – we’re down to double digits now!”) – but none have felt as momentous as today. Because now I can say we are moving this month!

It boggles my mind. I mean, on the surface this just feels like any old Friday, turning of the calendar page notwithstanding. But when this month draws to a close, our lives are going to be dramatically different than they are today. The office I’ve worked in for three years, the apartment I’ve lived in for four, the city I’ve called home since 1996 (!) – all will no longer be a part of my life. It doesn’t even feel like that’s possible, and yet, here we are. Barreling toward that moving date like a runaway locomotive. With broken brakes. Going downhill.

And actually, when July 1 rolls around, we’ll have been living in Rapid City for a week already. I won’t say it’ll feel like old hat by then – I’m sure the novelty will take a long time to wear off – but it won’t be a brand new new thing, either.

Three weeks, man. Three weeks.

This explains why we’ve been so damn productive lately. In the past week we have found a place to live, set up cable/internet and scheduled an installation appointment, Tara bought new tires for her vehicle, I changed the phone number I’ve had for 15 years, and we picked up a hand truck to assist with the move.

Panic is a great motivator, it would appear.

Part of the preparation included taking Sydney to the veterinarian. Our new apartment lease requires proof of current pet immunizations, and I realized that I had not taken my cat in to the vet clinic since I first adopted her. In 2007. Yes, I know that was 11 years ago. I feel badly about that, but at the same time, she is strictly an indoor cat and has never had so much as a single flea, let alone any health problems.

So I scheduled an appointment for yesterday morning and showed up promptly at 9:00. I apologized to the vet that I didn’t have any prior history on Sydney because I’d been lax in my cat dad duties, but there was no judgment on their parts. Instead, they raved over her. Called Sydney a “model patient” and said they wished every cat that came in was as chill as mine. You know, I’ve said many times over the years that Sydney is the best cat ever. I even use that hashtag on Instagram when posting pics of her. Y’all probably just assumed I’m biased, but everybody says that. Even those who profess not to like cats. Actually, the word they end up using is “cool.” And the staff at Hearthwood Dog & Cat Clinic were no exception. They commented on her great personality and even said that calicos are notoriously, umm, not-quite-so-nice. I’d always assumed they were quite docile based on Sydney, but I guess not!

She was super nervous in there; her heart was racing at 210 bpm, but that is because she never, ever leaves the apartment. The car ride in a small plastic box, followed by a strange, brightly-lit room with a bunch of people poking and prodding her freaked her out, I’m sure. Fortunately, she got a perfectly clean bill of health. In fact, the vet could not believe that she’s 12 years old. She’s got good eyes, excellent teeth, a strong heart, a healthy coat, and is the perfect weight. The veterinarian kept telling me “good job!” as if I had something to do with my cat’s excellent genes, but hey – that more than made up for the bad job I did in not bringing her in for regular exams, so I’ll take the kudos. Sydney did not even flinch when they gave her shots for rabies and distemper; the vet said she was probably so hopped up on adrenaline she didn’t feel a thing.

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Sydney being a trooper.

And before we left, she gave me a small bottle of Gabapentin in 100 mg capsules. “This will help with the road trip,” she said. I wanted to make a joke about how it’s okay, I’ve got stronger stuff I’ll be snorting the night before, but then I realized the pills are for my cat. You can understand my confusion, though; Gabapentin is actually a human drug used to treat pain and control seizures. Turns out veterinarians use it as a mild sedative for cats, as it reduces fear and anxiety and causes them drowsiness. She suggested I try it out on Sydney in advance before dosing her up, but assuming she tolerates it without any problems the stuff should keep her nice and mellow for about 12 hours. I’m hoping she sleeps her way across Montana.

Tonight we’ve got a show at the Doug Fir Lounge. We’re going to see Damien Jurado, an indie singer/songwriter who is sort of a cross between Nick Drake, Neil Young, and Lou Reed. Weird that this will be our last concert in the PNW! Then on Saturday we’re driving to Cannon Beach to say goodbye to the ocean.

Audrey graduates in one week. Our farewell party at Shanahan’s is the next day. Wow – things are happening so fast now!

Countdown: 21 Days

This Here’s the Rubber Duck

We bought walkie-talkies on Amazon last week, and I have to admit, I’m pretty excited. More so than any self-respecting adult should be.

Good thing I have so little self-respect!

The whole thing was Tara’s idea; she’d suggested a while ago that we purchase walkie-talkies so we can communicate more easily between vehicles while driving across the country. There’d be no fiddling with cellphones that way, and besides, service is spotty at best in some of the rural areas we’ll be driving through. Like the Continental Divide and probably 90% of Montana. The funny thing is, when I mentioned buying them last week, she completely forgot she’d already thought of that, said “What a great idea, babe!” and called me a genius. I was tempted to go ahead and take the credit – it’s not every day that your wife calls you brilliant – but in the end, I agreed that while the idea was smart, it was not mine.

I have already warned her that she can expect a lot of “Breaker 1-9” and “10-4, good buddy” talk from me. And I’ve been listening to C.W. McCall’s classic 1975 rock ‘n roll hit “Convoy” to brush up on my CB slang.

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The best part is, even after we move, we’ll be able to use the walkie-talkies on our hiking adventures in the Black Hills.


We had a really nice holiday weekend that was both fun and productive. Saturday was spent at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge hanging out with our good friend Chris. We meet up with her every couple of months for a day of frivolity, and while the day was bittersweet knowing we won’t be having any more of these get-togethers, we did not let that stop us from having a great time. There was good food, lots of drinks, and endless conversation. We played shuffleboard and pool and walked around the gardens and talked about her coming out to visit us in South Dakota. Plenty of people say they’re going to do that, but I take it all with a grain of salt. I believe Chris actually will.

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Sunday I spent hours packing, while Tara went into the office to catch up on work. I’d say we’re about 90% finished at this point; the apartment is looking pretty bare now and sounds echoey. We did take a break midday to grab sushi for lunch, and went over my parents’ house for dinner.

Monday we lazed around in the morning, then headed down to the Hawthorne District for one last hurrah in my favorite Portland neighborhood. And in doing so, crossed yet another item off our Farewell Tour.

After lunch and browsing/shopping through book stores and vintage shops, we shot over to Burnside and picked up a few records from Music Millennium. I know we’re supposed to be boxing things up rather than accumulating new things, records are the exception.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at home. Back to work today, but no end-of-the-weekend blues for this guy. Every day gone by gets us one day closer to the biggest adventure of our lives.

Countdown: 24 Days

Homeless Crisis Averted

I am happy to report that we will not be homeless in Rapid City.

Not that I actually thought that would happen, but I will admit that I flew into a quasi-panic the other day when I realized two things:

  • How close our moving date is
  • The fact that we had no idea where we would be living

Tara and I are compatible as hell, but we do have different approaches to life. I’m more of a planner, while she prefers to fly by the seat of her pants. Sometimes this is a good thing; turning down random dirt roads like we did last weekend can lead to adventure. But when you are pulling up stakes and moving 1,250 miles away, I personally think it’s important to know you will have a roof over your head. Some things you just don’t leave to chance, ya know?

We booked a Super 8 Motel in Rapid City for six nights, with the vague plan of having a list of places we wanted to look at when we got there. But I was never comfortable with this, because too much could go wrong. What if there was no availability? What if we did not qualify for a lease due to underemployment? People kept asking me for a forwarding address, and when I couldn’t give them one, I became a nervous wreck.

Luckily, Tara got scared, too. She suggested a few days ago that maybe it would be a good idea to have a place all lined up before we hit the road after all.

HALLELUJAH!

So I jumped on Craigslist, like, right that second. Spent a few hours combing through rentals. I was looking at everything: apartments, townhomes, houses, teepees. Nothing was off the table. The only real requirements? They had to be cat-friendly and have at least two bedrooms. As much as we want to buy a house NOW, we’re going to need some time to settle in, and I assume we’ll have visitors. A/C was high on the list of amenities as well; ours went on the fritz here and we were without for a couple of days this week. That was unpleasant enough, and we live in the temperate PNW. If you want me to admit that I’m a hot weather wimp and spoiled, FINE.

I found a place that looked promising enough. It’s a condominium complex on the far western side of town, practically right up against the Black Hills – where we want to be. The units are two stories, so you don’t have to worry about noisy neighbors upstairs. They’ve got A/C, allow pets, and there’s a 28-acre park and wilderness area right across the street, complete with hiking trails. So we filled out the application this morning, paid a processing fee, and consented to credit and background checks.

Within 30 minutes, I got a phone call from the leasing agent letting me know we were approved. And wouldn’t you know it, they have a 2-BR unit available on our desired move-in date, June 25. The day after we arrive. She quoted me a price that was a little higher than we wanted to pay for a 12-month lease, but they had a special going on: sign on for one extra month, and the rent dropped $73 a month, perfectly in our price range. So we took the plunge and put down a deposit to reserve the unit. For the first time in my life, I have an actual address in Rapid City, South Dakota!

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This will be home in ONE MONTH.

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Wilderness Park, directly across the street.

Suddenly, there’s a HUGE burden lifted off my shoulders. Granted, renting a place sight unseen requires a leap of faith, but with Google maps – especially satellite and street view – it practically feels like I’m strolling through the neighborhood. And it looks pretty nice. Even if it isn’t, well, we’re only on the hook for 13 months. After that, we’ll be good and ready to buy a house. Oh, and best of all, our rent is $600/month less than we are paying here.

I knew there was a reason we decided to move to the Midwest!

Countdown: 28 Days

Faded Past, Bright Future

One month from today, we’ll be rolling into Rapid City, South Dakota. Barring anything strange and unexpected, like a flat tire in the middle of nowhere or an alien abduction, of course.

How did we get to this point?!

Don’t worry, that’s a rhetorical question. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, and another day fades into history. I get it.

Emotions right now? A little scared, but mostly excited. This is the home stretch – the culmination of months and months of planning. We are now starting to scout out places to live, because Tara’s idea of winging it until we got there seems less like a spontaneous adventure and more like a recipe for disaster the closer we get. We’d really rather have something lined up, or at least a couple of viewings scheduled. That Super 8 Motel won’t be feeling as super after we’ve been there a week, I’m betting. Free maid service or not. So we’re scouting Craigslist, and there are quite a few possibilities. We’re looking at ’em all: apartments, townhouses, duplexes, and houses. It still amazes me how inexpensive things are out there, but then again, that’s what kickstarted this whole idea, isn’t it? Our current plan is to rent for a year while we get settled, square away employment, and figure out what part of town floats our boat the most. The future feels wide open, and we are both eager to dive in.


I recently dug through some old photo albums of my mom’s, from when we lived in South Dakota in the 1980s. Sadly, time has not been good to those pictures; they’re pretty grainy and faded now. Let’s just say I have a newfound appreciation for the digital age. Despite the poor image quality, they are still fun to look at. I thought I’d share a few of them here for posterity.

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Ohio Ave. – Ellsworth AFB

This is a shot of our street from the front yard. Look at all that snow! (I have to warn you – a lot of these photos feature snow. Go figure.) I hardly ever rode the bus to school, as it was only about a mile away; cliche or not, I was one of those kids who actually did walk to school in knee-deep snow drifts. The proof is right here! Sadly, these brick houses on base were torn down years ago, replaced by more modern structures. Can’t say I’m too surprised; they were old and drafty and did little to prevent the cold from seeping inside every winter.

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Jurassic Mark.

Here’s a shot of my me and my brother at Dinosaur Park overlooking Rapid City. This local attraction, located on Skyline Drive, opened in 1936 and is still there to this day, so contrary to popular belief not all dinosaurs have gone extinct. The views from up here are incredible; the vast, sweeping prairie opens up to the east, and on a clear day you can see 100 miles into the distance, including the Badlands. I am hoping when my brother Scott comes to visit we can recreate this photo.

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The family Truckster.

When my dad was assigned to Ellsworth AFB in 1983, after spending three years in Hawaii, he knew we needed a car that could handle those punishing South Dakota winters. So he went out and bought an AMC Eagle Wagon. She may not have been pretty, but boy could she handle the snow!

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No asphalt? No problem!

The great thing about visiting National Parks in the offseason is, you have them all to yourself. Especially when there are plowed snowdrifts 8′ deep on the side of the road, as evidenced by this photo taken in the Badlands. This is why the Eagle was the perfect car for us at the time. Sure, we had to plug the engine in to a wall socket on those nights when the temperature dipped below zero, but the car was reliable in all kinds of weather and never got stuck. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for this vehicle – it was the car I learned to drive in, after all.

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Mitchell could double for Moscow.

One of the most unique attractions in South Dakota is the Mitchell Corn Palace. The building dates back to 1892 and is decorated every year in murals made from corn and other grains in a nod to the area’s rich agricultural history. The theme changes each year. The arena is home to concerts, sporting events, and rodeos, and naturally there is a Corn Festival. It doesn’t get any more kitschy than this, folks, but 500,000 tourists a year flock here. I can’t wait to take Tara!

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Pretty sure this was our family Christmas card photo.

This last photo has actually held up pretty well. We visited the Badlands many times during the three years we lived there, and personally I never tired of the stunning rock formations. The great thing is, every time you go, the place looks different. The lighting changes based on the time of day, season, and weather. During my visit there in 2011 on my road trip, I watched a magnificent band of thunderstorms march across the prairie, thunder echoing off the sharp canyon walls. And on the way back to Rapid City, I had to pull over to the side of the interstate during a fierce hailstorm. What a rush! When Tara learned that we had been just a few miles from the Badlands on our trip in October, she wondered again why we didn’t push on. Well, we were running out of time…and I knew we’d be back. Often.

Countdown: 29 Days

This Looks Familiar

Six years ago, shortly after Tara moved out here, we took a drive and came across a couple who were stuck in the snow. We helped them out of that jam by enlisting the aid of a guy with a pickup truck and a tow hitch who happened to be camping nearby.

In an odd twist of fate, yesterday Tara and I took a drive and came across a couple who were stuck in the snow. We helped them out by enlisting the aid of a guy with a pickup truck and a tow hitch who happened to be camping nearby.

You know, after just having seen the movie The Endless last weekend, I’m hoping I am not stuck in some weird time loop myself.

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And much like that fateful day back in June 2011, we never did make it to our intended destination. But we came up with a solid Plan B and ended up having a blast anyway. How ironic that this funny thing that happened to us shortly after a big move happened to us again shortly before a big move.

The whole day was sort of unexpected, actually. I’d purchased Paul Simon tickets a few months ago, only to have immediate buyer’s remorse. Nothing against ol’ Paul; I like his music just fine. But you know what I like better? Money. Those tickets weren’t cheap, and we are going to need every cent for the move. So I placed an ad on Craigslist and, after a few tentative nibbles, was able to sell them Friday evening. I actually let them go for $20 less than face value, but I can live with that because it means an extra $150 in my pocket. And the truth is, the thought of dealing with a big arena show at the Moda Center and all that entails – parking, light rail, people – began to sound less appealing the closer the day got. Selling them was a relief in more ways than one

With no concert to plan our day around, we improvised and instead of spending a day in Portland, we decided to drive out to Guler Ice Cave and Trout Lake, both in Washington. Unbeknownst to us, there was still quite a bit of snow on the road at that elevation, and it soon became impassable.

Tell that to the couple in the RAV 4 who were hopelessly stuck.

They were nice though, and while we tried to help them dig out, it wasn’t happening. So we backtracked a bit to a couple we’d seen camping a little ways down the road. When we explained what was going on, the guy chuckled and said, “They’re stuck right past that fallen tree, aren’t they?” Turns out he’d already pulled somebody else to safety in that same spot earlier in the day.

Poor guy probably spent half his day towing people out of the snow. I bet he picks a more secluded camping spot next time.

With the ice cave and Trout Lake inaccessible, we simply turned around and followed the road in the opposite direction. I can’t say we were disappointed with that decision.

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We ended up hiking in the Trapper Creek Wilderness and stopped in Stevenson on the way home for dinner. When we got back we watched I, Tonya, which was fantastically good. Truth is stranger than fiction, that’s for sure.

All in all, it was a very good day. Even if there was an air of familiarity about it.

Countdown: 33 Days