How is This My Life?

I can’t believe we’ve lived in South Dakota for nine days already. It still feels brand new! I’m guessing it’ll take a full year for the novelty to wear off. I will say that Rapid City is such a compact and easily navigable town, we already know our way around pretty well. It’s hard to get lost in a city of 75,000.

Exploring the area has been my favorite part. On Sunday, we went to Canyon Lake Park, a gorgeous 29-acre park with expansive grassy areas, trees, gardens, a pagoda, fishing piers, walking paths – and of course the namesake lake, which appeared to be teeming with fish and was being enjoyed by kayakers and paddle boaters. We took a 2.5-mile stroll around the grounds, stopping beneath a shady willow tree to dip our feet in the cool water. After a week’s worth of moving madness, that was an incredibly relaxing moment. Best part of all? This amazing park is just a few minutes from our apartment.

After spending a glorious couple of hours at the park, we drove a few miles away to the Chapel in the Hills, a beautiful Nordic retreat nestled in the foothills. We’d seen photos online, but it’s even more impressive in person.

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I can’t wait to check the place out in the winter.

Sunday evening, we met up with longtime family friends, Carol and Bruce, who were visiting from South Carolina. Carol was stationed at Ellsworth AFB along with my dad, and Bruce is from the area; they actually got married in the Chapel in the Hills. Not only that, but Sunday was their 34th anniversary, so it turns out they also paid the chapel a visit. We got together for a nice Italian dinner at Botticelli Ristorante. The food was great and the conversation lively. They’re both very easy to get along with, as evidenced by the fact that we commandeered the booth for 2.5 hours. Oops.

Monday, I went back to work. But it was a different kind of work – my first day ever as an independent contractor. While it felt a little weird at first, within the first hour I decided that I freakin’ loved it.

Because I don’t yet have a desk or any sort of viable home office setup, I decided to take up residence at Harriet & Oak, the coffee shop I’m always raving about. I grabbed a spot in the upper mezzanine, ordered myself a coconut cardamom latte (yum!) and a bowl of oatmeal, and got to work. I logged into their free wi-fi, slipped on my headphones, fired up my laptop…and proceeded to get hugely distracted for the first half-hour because of the novelty of the situation. I was working! From a coffee shop! With no boss looking over my shoulder and nobody to answer to but myself! Plus, there were people milling about below, and that practically begged for some people watching. Eventually I realized the articles I’ve been tasked with weren’t going to write themselves, so I got down to it and was super productive.

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My cozy little office.

I’m not real familiar with coffee shop/wi-fi etiquette, so even though I ordered food and a couple of coffees, by noon I felt I might be overstaying my welcome so I packed up my gear and headed down the street to Main Street Square. This is Rapid City’s answer to Pioneer Square in Portland – sort of the city’s “living room” – but on a much smaller scale. I grabbed a table at Klinkeltown, ordered a “Dijon Blackbird” grilled cheese sandwich with black pepper cheddar, whole grain dijon, chicken, bacon, and arugula on whole wheat, along with an iced tea, and sat outside beneath an umbrella, watching everybody frolicking around the square. Ahh…heaven. It was in that moment that I thought to myself, I could get used to this lifestyle.

After lunch I stopped in at a media/publishing company I’d talked about work with over the phone earlier in the year, and they were kind enough to give me a tour of the place. I swear, it’s like a miniature version of the company I worked for in Camas, right down to the roll-up garage doors and reclaimed wood furnishings. Their building even used to house an automobile dealer, just like my company’s in Washington did. Uncanny, the parallels. They do have a conference room made from a converted shipping container, so these guys get bonus cool points for that.

I didn’t want to go back to Harriet & Oak and take up more space, so I Google Mapped the local library and drove down there. Rapid City is so compact, it was like four blocks away. The building itself is a little dated and the wi-fi was less reliable, but I mostly work from Microsoft Word documents anyway so it wasn’t a huge deal. At least there I was better able to blend in with the other patrons. And the books.

I wrapped things up at 4:00, and that is something else I love about this situation: setting my own schedule. I had errands to run, so I ran ’em!

Today was a virtual repeat. I started out with a morning walk through the wilderness park across the street, where I saw a good-sized buck bounding through the grass, in addition to rabbits and ducks. And thought to myself, how did this become my life? And how awesome is it that it did?

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Instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to walk, I slept in until close to 7:00. Gone are those super early mornings and 9:00 bedtimes, folks. I’m a 10:30 – 7:00 person now, and I love it. After returning home, I got showered and dressed and headed back to Harriet & Oak for a few hours, then I walked around downtown for a bit, stopping in a bunch of stores to check them out. I met Tara for lunch at (kōl), a wood-fired grill/pizza restaurant that we’d been following on Instagram for the past year. The atmosphere was super cool and the food was out of this world. Best of all, they have a Sunday brunch with bottomless Bloody Marys for $5 (!). The odds of a return visit? 100 percent, guys.

This evening we are going to head out for a drive to Sheridan Lake and a quick loop through the Hills. There’s a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, so we’re keeping a close eye on the skies. And bringing our cameras.

Not sure what we’re doing for the 4th yet. Either heading downtown for the festival at Main Street Square and fireworks at Founder’s Park, or checking out Lead/Deadwood for their festivities.

Have a great holiday!

 

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8 thoughts on “How is This My Life?

  1. Mark, I feel as though I was right there with you in this post. I really enjoy your writing!

    What an amazing chapel that is! The clock on that mantel is similar to my grandparents’ clock that I now possess. The coffee shop, parks and all sound grand. Are you finding that everything seems less crowded than what you were used to in the PNW? I think that adds to the enjoyment level, at least for me . . . room to relax and breathe.

    Looking forward to hearing about your holiday as I’m sure the Mount Rushmore vicinity does it up right!

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    • We can’t believe what a difference the lack of crowds makes! Traffic is virtually nonexistent and even the popular attractions in the Black Hills have not felt crowded. It’s certainly a different pace of life for us – far less stressful!

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  2. Mark, you’re right…that park is AMAZING, and the fact that it’s only minutes from your apartment is even MORE amazing!

    “I can’t wait to check the place out in the winter.”

    HA! Even before you said that, I was thinking the same thing. And I bet it’s going to look stunning dripped in white snow. And just think about CHRISTMAS time!!!!

    Cozy little office indeed. That place looks so inviting!

    Sounds and looks like you are settling in to your new home and LOVING it! I’m so happy for you!

    Hope you and Tara are having a fabulous first 4th of July in Rapid City.

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rapid City averages 42″ of snow a year and the odds of a white Christmas are statistically 50/50, so I am super pumped for winter here, Ron! But I’m also really enjoying summer right now, so I’m in no hurry.

      We had a great 4th, which I will write about next. Hope yours was a blast, too!

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