Why Did it Have to be Snakes?

It’s finally feeling like spring out here. We were a cat’s whisker away from hitting 60º last week, and as a result most of our snow has melted. I’m pretty surprised at how quickly it disappeared, considering we’ve had snow on the ground nonstop since December 1. I guess that’s the circle of life. (The circle of life also means lots of mud and creeks that are running pretty high.)

One day last week, there was a knock at the door shortly after I got home. It was Ed, our neighbor from two doors down, armed with a couple of steaks. He had brought us over a ribeye and t-bone – thanks, he said, for the Christmas cookies we gave him in December. This was very timely, as literally one day earlier Tara was suggesting we grill steaks soon since the weather has warmed up. I thanked Ed profusely and offered up the usual you-didn’t-have-to-do-thats, but he insisted. He’s a nice guy whom we chat with on occasion. With a high of 68º expected on Tuesday, I’ll be busting out the grill and putting those steaks to good use. Funny, nobody ever came to our door bearing meat in Washington (though we did get a note telling us our recycling bins were an eyesore and to remove our plants from the front entryway). Rude!

IMG_20190322_203250.jpgFriday night, we redeemed the vouchers we won during last month’s library scavenger hunt for Rush hockey tickets. The season is winding down and there were only a few home games left, so we figured we’d better get on the ball. Or on the puck, as it were. I assumed we’d be stuck in the nosebleed section, but they actually gave me my choice of seats from all that were available. We ended up in the second row near one of the goals (and eventually the first row, since those seats were empty). Had a great time as usual despite a 3-1 loss. It’s kind of bittersweet that we’ll have to wait six months before we can see another game.

Yesterday, we played tourist in our own backyard. When my family lived here in the 80s, we never once went to Reptile Gardens, a wild animal park and premier attraction in the Black Hills since 1937. Or Bear Country USA either, for that matter. I’m not sure why; we weren’t averse to hitting tourist attractions given the fact that we visited Mount Rushmore roughly once a month for three years. I guess it wasn’t something my parents were interested in? We would have loved it as teenagers though, because I loved it yesterday! How can you go wrong with 18′ crocodiles, some of the most venomous snakes in the world, and giant tortoises?

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Spoiler alert: you can’t! Reptile Gardens has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest reptile zoo and I am not surprised: we spent a couple of hours there and could have easily stayed longer but we were getting hungry. The great thing about it is, locals get a pass for free admission for one year with the purchase of a ticket, so we most certainly will be back. Hey, mom and dad – wanna check out some snakes?!

By the time we left it was after 2:00 and we hadn’t eaten lunch, so we drove a few miles up the road to Rockerville, a tiny ghost town best known for its rustic saloon, The Gaslight. We had heard excellent things about the place but hadn’t been before. I’m glad we got to check it out, because everything was great! I had an excellent Bloody Mary, we found fried pickle spears to rival those from Shanahan’s in Vancouver, and the chislic was the best I have had out here so far.

I need to write about chislic in a future post.

Not much else to report. Busy gearing up for another work week. Tara has a solo trip to Ely scheduled for the end of the week – she plans to leave Friday and return next Tuesday, but as with everything around here, it is weather-dependent. This time of year is especially topsy-turvy. It’s supposed to snow a little tonight and then hit close to 70º on Tuesday, followed by another chance of snow Thursday night/Friday. She won’t bother going if the weather is iffy, so we shall see.

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Sunshine & Blizzards

It sounds like there’s a serious movement afoot to end Daylight Saving Time once and for all. Actually, the proposed legislation – known as the Sunshine Protection Act – would keep DST and do away with Standard time. Which makes sense, because our clocks are set to daylight time almost eight months out of the year, making Standard time the exception. And an oxymoron.

Honestly, I’d be more in favor of doing it the other way – making Standard time permanent – because if this legislation is enacted, we’ll have 9:00 a.m. sunrises during the winter months. It’s hard enough to roll out of bed and head to work when it’s snowing and zero degrees outside; doing so when it’s snowing and zero degrees outside AND pitch dark sounds like a Herculean task. But you know what? I’ll support anything that puts an end to the pointless ritual of changing the clocks twice a year. If that means more evening light as opposed to more morning light, so be it. At least our sunsets in June aren’t as crazy-late as those in the PNW!

Speaking of sunshine, we’re getting quite a bit of it this afternoon. It is well-deserved after the raging blizzard we just experienced, however! When the warnings popped up two days ago they were forecasting crazy amounts of snow, maybe as much as 2′. Well, the storm didn’t really get going until around noon on Wednesday – about six hours behind schedule – so our totals weren’t nearly as bad. But the winds were (and still are); they gusted to 63 mph overnight and are still blowing in excess of 50 mph now. Needless to say, neither Tara nor I have been to work the past two days. Her employer closed the office and she gets paid for doing nothing, while I actually have to work from home if I want to be paid for time out of the office. The nerve of it all! Obviously I have nothing against working from home; that was my life for six months after moving here (and still is every weekend). But doing so while my wife is wrapped up in a blanket watching “My Cousin Vinny” is a little harder to stomach.

Not going to work was a good call, though. Felt a little weird yesterday morning when we hadn’t spotted so much as a single flake of snow before noon, but once the storm got started, it made up for its late arrival with heavy snow and those strong winds. All night long I listened to them howling and shrieking, rattling the windowpanes as they sang a plaintive tune. I found it oddly comforting, actually. I don’t mind wind from the comfort of home! All that blowing and drifting snow led to the closure of I-90 from the Wyoming border to Chamberlain, not to mention the Rapid City Regional Airport and the majority of businesses in town. I took a walk at lunchtime today to survey the scene, and it’s quite impressive. There are waist-deep snowdrifts in places and the roads were not fit for safe travel. Getting to work in a snowstorm is one thing, but a blizzard is something else entirely. This one was a doozy, though pretty short-lived. And it never got terribly cold – the temperature overnight didn’t drop much below 30º.

Tomorrow, we’re both planning on returning to work. The winds are expected to die down overnight and it’ll warm into the upper 30s, so travel should be significantly better.

Someday I’ll talk about something other than snow, I promise! Provided it ever stops snowing, of course.

Come to think of it, you may be reading posts like this until June…

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It seemed like everybody in the neighborhood was out with their snowblowers this morning.

Check out some of these snowdrifts!

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I love how these ice crystals formed on our window during the height of the blizzard yesterday afternoon.

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This is why driving was not advisable today.

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This is a rare Friday where I haven’t carpooled to work with Tara. My criteria for driving in solo has evolved quite a bit this winter. Initially, if there were even a few icy spots on the road, I’d grab a ride with her in the truck. But after six weeks where the temperature has only cracked 32° a couple of times, there’s pretty much always snow and ice on the road. That’s kind of forced my hand, so now I’m game to take the Mazda as long as a ton of snow hasn’t fallen overnight and isn’t forecast to begin falling before 5:00. I have to say, I’ve gotten a lot better at navigating my car through snow and ice and can’t help but feel a sense of pride over this accomplishment, even though it’s probably pretty basic for a lot of you. Hey, living in climates where snow is a rarity for three decades dulls your driving senses, so I think I’m entitled to feel good about this newfound skill!

It’s supposed to snow again overnight, but the 3-5″ and blizzard conditions they were predicting yesterday has been downgraded to a couple of inches, so it looks like we’re dodging a bullet. I have to admit, like so many other locals (and probably the entire Midwest), I’m actually looking forward to spring. I won’t say I’ve had my fill of snow and cold – that’ll never happen! – but it will be nice to venture outside without fear of frostbite. Plus, we’ve had 50 inches of snow since October (normal for the entire season is 42″ and we ain’t done yet) so, you know, I can’t complain about a lack of the fluffy white stuff.

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Kinda looks like Mount Hood, but it’s the sidewalk in downtown Rapid City.

I will say, living here has given me a newfound appreciation for spring and summer – seasons that I never much cared for living in the PNW. Probably because I was always  a bit underwhelmed by winter out there and always wanted more. It was never cold enough or snowy enough for my liking, so by the time March rolled around and our chances of seeing any exciting weather for the next eight months were pretty much dead, I grieved with the same passion I might experience laying a loved one to rest. That is so not the case in South Dakota! If we didn’t see another snowflake until November I would still be completely satisfied with this winter. So yeah, I’m actually looking forward to spring and summer for maybe the first time in my life, and all the possibilities that accompany warm weather: hiking and camping and grilling outside and Summer Nights concerts downtown and, of course, those spectacular (and ominous) thunderstorms that roll across the Great Plains unleashing their fury. And I’m sure, six months from now, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the first snowfall again. It’s great living in a place where you can appreciate all the seasons instead of just a couple of ’em!


You know what else I’m looking forward to? This magnificent product they were discussing on the local news a few days ago.

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Isn’t it beautiful?! Heinz is coming out with this mustard-mayonnaise hybrid (and a mayonnaise-BBQ sauce mashup called, naturally, Mayocue) on the heels of its successful Mayochup (mayonnaise/ketchup) product launch last year.

Scoff if you will, but I’m excited for this product! Back in 2012, Tara and I went to a street festival in Portland and grabbed a couple of reindeer meat hot dogs (because this was a street festival in Portland). The vendor had squeeze bottles of condiments in which to top your Rudolph dog (for lack of a better term) and one of them was a delicious concoction that he was super cagey about. He wouldn’t admit that it was a mustard-mayo combo, even when pressed, but obviously it was a mustard-mayo combo. I thought that was a genius idea then, so I am thrilled that Heinz is rolling out this product nationally next month.

I mean, I suppose you could always make your own rather than shelling out $3.49 for a bottle, but in this fast-paced and hectic world, who’s got time for that?! I, for one, am all about convenience. Plus, I’m sure the scientists in the Heinz food laboratory spent countless hours perfecting the ratio to get the formula exactly right. I trust their expertise a whole lot more than my sure-to-be-foolhardy attempt at mixing just the right amounts of mayonnaise and mustard together to achieve the perfect flavor profile.

This all might sound a little tongue-in-cheek, but I’m not kidding. I’m already clearing a prominent spot on my refrigerator shelf in which to showcase Mayomust!

Banana Belt, My Ass!

Woke up this morning to a temperature of -13º (yes, that’s a negative symbol in front of the number), which is about a million degrees below average. OK, maybe it’s only 40 degrees colder than normal. “Only” being a relative term!

Another relative term? “Banana belt.” In case you have never heard of a banana belt before, it is not this:

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The official definition of a banana belt is any segment of a larger geographic region that enjoys warmer weather conditions than the region as a whole, especially in the wintertime. Rapid City is considered the banana belt of South Dakota – even Wikipedia mentions us as an example of famous banana belts around the world (others include Whitehorse in the Yukon; Ireland and the U.K.; and Brookings, on the southern Oregon coast).

For the record: you cannot actually grow bananas in Rapid City or anywhere else in the Upper Midwest, in case you were wondering. But you can find temperatures 20 degrees warmer than in other parts of the state.

Usually, anyway. This winter has been the exception. It’s been relentlessly cold all over, for the last month+ and counting. Not surprisingly, February set records for third-coldest and sixth-snowiest in the city’s history.

All the locals are over it. Personally, the cold weather has really interfered with my ability to go for walks – a favorite pastime. So much so that I have taken to doing laps around the conference room table at work. I’ve been trying to do so surreptitiously because pacing in circles around a darkened room tends to give others the wrong impression about your mental state. Or maybe it’s the right impression? Whatevs! I have to do something to break up the monotony of sitting at a desk all day, and if I can’t go outside, I’m a-gonna walk indoors! Despite my attempts at secrecy, our bookkeeper caught me walking in circles on Thursday, which was mildly embarrassing. Luckily, she thought it was a good idea and asked if I’d be interested in walking up and down the basement stairs while I was at it. I had never even seen the basement before; I knew the building had one because we rent the space out to a recording studio after hours, but had no idea where the entrance was. So Anna gave me a grand tour. It’s a really cool space, sort of creepy  (though aren’t all basements?) with a labyrinth of rooms containing drum kits, microphones, and an iguana named Josie. How’s that for odd?

In any case, it’s nice to know I have cardio workout options within the building, given that March has come in like a lion and we show few signs of warming up anytime soon (though it is supposed to hit 35 by the end of the week – that’s progress).

Another embarrassing thing happened at work last week. Tuesday was our CFO’s birthday, so we had a little get-together in the morning with cake and balloons. One of those balloons ended up on the conference room floor, and every time I walked by (doing all those laps, you know!) I had this irresistible urge to jump on it. Eventually the temptation became too much to bear, so I did it – and the resulting pop was so damn loud, it sounded like a bomb went off. I guess because of the building’s acoustics? People came rushing out of their offices – even those in the adjoining chiropractor’s office – with terrified looks on their faces.

Shit.

In this day and age, I don’t blame them for assuming the worst. I had to apologize for instigating borderline panic and explain that it was just me acting like I was 12 years old.

Why do these things always happen to me?!

When I’m not embarrassing myself at work, I’m actually getting things done. I knocked out another proposal last week. The work, while not glamorous, isn’t nearly as hard as I’d thought – or maybe I’m just getting the hang of it?

My big accomplishment, though, was taking charge of my personal finances. When I left Fuel last June, I just kept my money in the company’s 401(k) plan even though I wasn’t making any contributions. I figured I’d eventually find a job here and just roll it over. Well, I’m not actually eligible for my company’s retirement plan for quite some time, and I was tired of seeing the value of my portfolio drop without making any contributions, so I rolled the whole thing over to a personal IRA I’ve had since 2011. I’d meant to close it out back then and had withdrawn what I thought was everything, but because of market fluctuations there was still something like $13 left in there. I decided to just let it be, and in the ensuing years that amount had grown to $70. I guess that’s small-scale proof of the benefit of these types of plans! Anyway, I transferred my money there last week, and am in a position to make the maximum allowable contributions now. It’s high time I let my money work for me rather than the other way around.

We (err, Tara) got our taxes done yesterday and while I owed quite a bit for my freelance income, I’d been socking money aside and was fully prepared for this. The amount was much less than I’d anticipated, so we are in good shape to begin our house hunting this spring.

I have to say, this is the first time in my adult life that I haven’t stressed over finances. Too many years I lived paycheck to paycheck, and then – when I was unemployed for 20 months – I damn near lost everything. Actually having money is a novelty. I have been focusing hard on completely eliminating my debt, and will probably make that happen within the next few months. Life is good, and moving here was the catalyst to really turning things around.

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Other than taxes and freelance writing and a quick trip to the grocery store during the tail end of a snowstorm, we haven’t done much this weekend. Kind of hard to get outside when the windchills are pushing -40º. We did walk over to Paddy O’Neill’s, an Irish pub in the lobby of the Alex Johnson Hotel, on Friday evening after work. Killed a few hours there with cocktails and some really good food. Then last night, we finally got around to watching Hitchcock’s classic “North by Northwest” on Netflix. We had never seen it before, but figured it was appropriate given the climactic scene atop Mount Rushmore. I have to say, we really enjoyed it! There was action, suspense, and humor. I get the appeal of Cary Grant now.

We’re going to make an effort to watch more older movies now. Queued up next: “Rebecca,” “To Catch a Thief,” “The Goodbye Girl,” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” to name a few. Some of those were suggested by you, my dear readers!

Hold the Sprouts

Today marks the 8-month anniversary of our arrival in South Dakota. Feels like we’ve been below zero for seven of those months!

Ha. Slight exaggeration. I remember well the heat and humidity that greeted us our first week here. But this extended cold snap is something else. I was chatting with a local business owner downtown one day last week on my lunch hour and she said that the cold and snow are not unusual – but typically, temperatures warm up within a few days and most of the snow melts away. Instead, we are locked in a deep freeze that shows no signs of abating. It’s supposed to drop below zero tonight, and tomorrow’s high is going to be 1º. At least we aren’t the only ones dealing with the cold. Snow in Las Vegas last week made national headlines, and Portland is struggling through their coldest winter in 30 years. It’s just more pronounced here. Also, we’ve received four times the normal monthly snow for February – and there’s more in the forecast this week. Spring feels very far away still.

But, they are already advertising the Sturgis Rally (still 5+ months away), so eventually it’s going to warm up!


We decided to take a quick trip to the Badlands yesterday. It was the first time Tara had been in my car in months; she has been doing the majority of driving given the dicey road conditions and frequent need for 4WD, but Saturday was decent and I wanted to chauffeur her around for a change. Also, she was in no mood to drive; let’s just say we celebrated National Margarita Day on Friday in grand ol’ fashion!IMG_20190222_192508_781.jpg

We grabbed a couple of excellent subs from Pauly’s Pizzeria & Sub Co. on the way home. The place came recommended by a coworker of Tara’s, and these sandwiches were some of the best we ever had. In fact, we both ordered the West Coast Club, a combination of turkey, guacamole,  bacon, provolone cheese, mayo, cucumber, tomato, and sprouts. Only mine was on wheat and I told them to hold the sprouts. There aren’t many foods I don’t like – I’m probably the least picky eater on the planet, in direct contrast to my dear wife – but I cannot stand sprouts. They were all the rage when we moved to California in the 80s and I still associate them with the Golden State. It had been decades since I’d tried them and Tara was raving about how good they were on her sandwich, so I took a bite, thinking my taste buds might have evolved enough over the years to provide me with a newfound enjoyment of sprouts.

Nope.

I hated them then, and I hate them just as much now. I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of chewing on grass, because that’s what they tasted like. This is one of those very rare cases where Tara likes something and I don’t! Watermelon being the only other one I can think of.

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Never again.

We spent the rest of the evening watching “A Star is Born” from Netflix. I was very impressed with the movie; both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were phenomenal in their roles. I’m not even that much of a Gaga fan…I mean, I don’t dislike her the way I do sprouts!…but I don’t really listen to her music. I may take a deep dive into her catalog though, because all the songs were stellar. That makes two great rock ‘n roll-themed movies we have seen recently (“Bohemian Rhapsody” being the other). I recommend them both if you haven’t gotten around to watching ’em!

Here are a few photos of the Badlands from yesterday.

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So, I’m curious to know three things:

  1. Are you dreaming of warm summer temperatures?
  2. Is there a food you absolutely detest?
  3. Any good movies you’ve seen lately worth recommending?

Dodging Snowflakes & Bullets

Holy crap. Has it really been almost two weeks since I updated my blog?!

I blame the government. With the shutdown now ancient history, business is booming – just as predicted. I kinda wish Trump had stood his ground a little bit longer! (Ha, not really. I do wish he’d walk off the side of a cliff or something, though.)

Work has been so busy, in fact, I stepped back in time and bought myself a planner. As in, an actual paper organizing system and calendar. I’ve got a smartphone app, of course, but experience has taught me that I just can’t/won’t/don’t use it to keep myself organized and on track. Maybe that’s because every time I pick up my phone I’m either scrolling through Instagram or playing Words With Friends. Regardless of the reason, the ol’ calendar app just wasn’t cutting the mustard. Instead, I found myself lugging a notebook around and digging through piles of paperwork on my desk. Who knew I was so endearingly old-fashioned?

The solution, then, was to research planners. I looked at everything from no-frills At A Glance calendars to fancy Day Timers with all the bells and whistles. I hated the idea of shelling out $25 for a disposable calendar I’d have to replace in January and was equally uncomfortable paying upwards of $90 for a leather-encased, refillable organizer. I settled instead on a Tul discbound planner. I’d never heard of such a system before, but it turns out they are quite popular – and rather ingenious! They utilize expansion discs that allow you to add, remove, and rearrange pages to your heart’s content. Kind of like a mashup between a three-ring binder and spiral notebook, but without any rings to open – the pages just slide into place magically. Best of all, the whole thing comes incased in a nice leather cover and calendar inserts are only $9.99. I think this will be perfect for my needs, even if it does make me feel a bit like it’s 1993 again.

Which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad thing.


Today was President’s Day, and it’s one of the few times in my adult life I haven’t had to work. I’d like to say I took advantage by doing something fun, but the high temperature was only 8º so that’s a big, fat NOPE. But I wasn’t slogging my way through RFP hell, so I still consider it a win.

We made up for our do-nothingness today on Saturday, anyway. Despite 6″ of fresh (and still falling) snow, we did a bit of exploring in the Black Hills, driving through the always-impressive Spearfish Canyon and checking out a little town smack dab in the middle of nowhere called Silver City. The drive home was a bit rough, as we encountered near-whiteout conditions on the interstate with lots of blowing snow, but fortunately the road was dry.

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By the way, we are way above average in terms of snow this winter. As of this morning Rapid City has had 40.1″; the normal season-to-date is 20.6″ so we are just about double where we should be. Sure feels like it, too – especially this month. 14.5″ through yesterday (we should only have 3.0″ by Feb. 17). I’m not complaining, though. This is exactly what I wanted.

Further evidence that moving to Rapid City was the smartest thing we could have done? Tara found out last week that her former employer in Vancouver, WA is looking for a buyer for their mortgage division and portfolio. They are getting out of the home-selling business, which means if we had stayed in the PNW and somehow figured out a way to buy a house, we’d be screwed. Tara would be facing unemployment and who knows where she would have ended up or whether we’d be able to make ends meet. It was already a struggle, and she was earning big bucks. I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty we would be facing.

I’ll take a little (okay, a lot) of snow and cold and a concealed weapons-loving governor over the stress and anxiety of trying to pay the bills back there any ol’ day.

Periwinkle is a Moose

Tara was looking at houses on Realtor.com last night (her favorite pastime) and showed me one that caught her fancy. The following conversation ensued.

“I love the periwinkle walls!” she said.
“WTF is periwinkle?” I asked.
“It’s a shade of blue.”
“Why not call it blue then?”
“Because it’s not quite blue. It’s sort of violet, too.”
“I’m okay with calling it blue-violet. Periwinkle sounds like a cartoon moose.”

At this point she just rolled her eyes at me. Another favorite pastime, come to think of it.

It’s going to be fun when we start looking at paint samples. She’ll be on the hunt for juniper and lemongrass, and I’ll be like, “Got anything in green?”

Are we painting walls or gathering ingredients to brew a cup of tea?


It’s another snowy, blustery, hovering-near-zero day. A year ago, when I was imagining what it would be like to experience winter in South Dakota, this is exactly the type of day I pictured. I’m not complaining – instead of doing something crazy like going outside in this weather, I just closed my office door and read my Kindle over lunch. However, I wish there had been more days like this when I was working from home. The snow is beautiful and peaceful, but venturing out is a bitch when it’s this frigid. First, you’ve got to brush snow and/or scrape ice from your windshield. Then, you turn the heater on full blast, but it doesn’t warm up your car until right about the time you’re pulling into the parking lot at work. That’s the drawback to a 12-minute commute, I suppose. At least Tara and I can carpool on days like this.

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The view from my office today.

Hard to believe it’s only going to get colder the next couple of days. -12° tonight with a wind chill pushing 40 below zero. Day-um.

It’s also hard to believe our high temperature on Saturday was 63°. What did we do to take advantage of the rare, springlike warmth, you might ask? We, umm, went hiking in the Black Hills. Where it was twenty degrees colder and windy.

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This is why we willingly left behind 60°+ temps on Saturday.

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Frozen Pactola Reservoir.

But, you know, we’ll have warm weather again. May is practically right around the corner!


Last week the Rapid City Public Library held a scavenger hunt. They hid 10 vouchers for free Rapid City Rush hockey tickets throughout the library, and posted clues on their Facebook page. I love a good scavenger hunt and we have had fun at the Rush games we’ve attended, so I studied the hints very carefully and got there right when they opened on Friday morning. I am fortunate to work a block away.

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Sure enough, I found the voucher I was looking for easily enough. I ended up being the first winner of the day! And then Tara was #7, thanks to some additional sleuthing on my part. I knew the location of a third ticket as well, but I didn’t want to monopolize the whole thing! Plus, you were limited to one per person, anyway. So, we can now redeem our vouchers for two free tickets to a Rush game of our choosing. They’re about a $30 value each. Not bad for a few minutes’ work, huh?

I Survived the Polar Vortex (But Didn’t Even Get a Lousy T-Shirt)

Well, that was fun.

My first Polar Vortex was actually a bit underwhelming. Sure, it was cold. But Rapid City never even dropped below zero. We came close: it was 1° Wednesday morning. When I woke up and looked at the thermometer, I was actually disappointed. Hey, if it’s going to get cold, it might as well get really cold, right?!

I am probably a little nuts.

We were on the western fringes of the Polar Vortex. The farther east you went, the worse it was: Sioux Falls dropped to -25, but that was downright toasty compared to places in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s safe to say we dodged a bullet here in western South Dakota! That didn’t stop concerned friends and family from checking in on us, which was certainly appreciated. I almost felt like I was letting them down by telling them Rapid City hadn’t even touched zero.

One thing we did not miss out on: frozen bubbles! Tara and I had seen pics of this phenomenon and were determined to create our own. A little Google sleuthing (Googleuthing?) told us that temperatures needed to be “well below freezing” and ideally “in the single digits or below zero F” for bubbles to freeze before they pop. Armed with this knowledge, we bundled up as though preparing for the Iditarod and stepped onto the front porch in the frigid dawn cold yesterday, cameras in hand, fingers exposed and numb, with vials of store-bought and homemade bubble solution. It was worth the near-frostbite, though!

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Things are back to normal today. In fact, our high temperature will be pushing 60° by Friday. And back down to 20° by Monday, but we’re getting used to these wild swings by now. If Polar Vortex II does show up next week, I want to emulate another popular video I’ve seen circulating by throwing boiling water into the air and watching it vaporize into instant snow.

Who says cold weather is no fun?!


I am thinking about a new mode of transportation to compensate for the wintry driving conditions here, but I’m not sure how seriously I’m actually considering it. When the weather is dry and warm, as it’s forecast to be the next few days, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when it turns snowy and icy again – and it always turns snowy and icy again – I start to think, yeah…this hatchback ain’t cuttin’ it as my tires struggle for traction and I start fishtailing.

As much as I’d love to buy a Jeep Wrangler, I’d have to sell a kidney in order to afford one and I’d rather hold onto all my major organs, thankyouverymuch. I’m thinking about a Mazda CX3 instead; it’s got AWD, has excellent gas mileage for an SUV, and I could take advantage of all kinds of customer loyalty rewards and trade-in points for my Mazda 3. If I’m going to pull the trigger, now’s the time to do so, when I’m essentially bringing home two paychecks at a time. But…I don’t know. When the weather’s bad, we carpool in Tara’s 4WD pickup. And ironically, the more money I have, the less eager I am to spend it – especially when there are credit cards bills to pay a house to save up for. I  can relate a little now to those cheap bastards you hear about who have worn thrift-store clothing, driven clunky old beaters, and recycled Saran Wrap all their lives, whose relatives have been shocked to discover, when they die, millions of dollars in their bank accounts they have been squirreling away all their lives. Not that I’d ever go to such extremes myself, because hey – you can’t take it with you! Also: I’m a solid $996,000 away from having that problem.

In all likelihood, it’s going to take a dramatic incident to spur me into action, like sliding into a ditch or something.

KNOCK ON WOOD.

A Spoonful of Sugar

It’s crazy windy today and, because my office is situated directly across from a brick building that is separated by a narrow walkway, that breeze is howling through the eaves. Sounds like a congregation of tortured souls screaming for mercy.

Yikes. Too much Ted Bundy for me.

I’m referring to the Netflix series, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, that began live-streaming on the 30th anniversary of his execution last week. I have long been fascinated with the notorious serial killer and remember watching the television miniseries about Bundy, The Deliberate Stranger starring Mark Harmon, back in 1986. I think it’s the idea that somebody so intelligent, witty, articulate, and unassuming can commit such depravity. Then again, I also closely followed the Green River Killer case and Gary Ridgway is the complete opposite of Ted Bundy, so maybe it’s just an overall lurid interest in true crime. I am a self-admitted Dateline NBC addict, after all.

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In any case, I devoured the four-part special over the weekend and paid for it in my dreams last night. Not a nightmare per se, but a strange narrative in which a nameless and faceless “they” were trying to strap me to equipment and kill me and I kept trying to escape, eventually finding freedom by simply walking out the front door. Pretty easy to match up that symbolism with the Netflix doc I’d just watched (the electric chair/Bundy’s escape out a window). The psyche is a powerful thing.

All I know is, I need to watch Mary Poppins or something equally wholesome tonight.

Aside from watching documentaries about psychotic bipolar killers, our weekend was fairly low-key. Spent most of Saturday at the Journey Museum and Learning Center, the perfect way to while away a 37-degree day that was spitting snow. Regular admission is $12 but they were selling movie tickets for $10 that included free museum admission. We could have bought the movie tix, skipped the film, and still come out ahead, but we decided to check it out – and were glad we did! “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” is a drama adopted from an acclaimed novel and is about…

A white author who is summoned by a Lakota Elder who asks him to write a book about his perspective. After a blundering false start, he is all but kidnapped and sucked into a road trip through the heart of the contemporary Native American landscape.

Cutting and pasting was easier than explaining in my own words. It’s not like I’m a writer or anything! Oh, wait…

In any case, we enjoyed the film quite a bit. It’s poignant, emotional, and humorous. And very much a South Dakota movie, filmed on location at the Pine Ridge reservation. The book has 4.3 stars on Goodreads and is the first in a series, so I may need to pick it up sometime.

Afterwards, we grabbed an early dinner at Sickie’s Garage, a small regional chain that boasts over 50 burgers. After much deliberation, we chose the following:

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Both were excellent.

Sunday was super warm; the temperature approached 60 before gusty winds kicked in. A few hours later, it was snowing. So typical of this area! It will be 13 degrees on Tuesday and 48 on Friday.

At least there’s plenty of variety as the temperature swings between kinda cold, cold, and cold AF.

 

Untangled and Frozen

This popped up on my Facebook memories feed yesterday, and I had to share with an update.

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I have never worked for a company that celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so when I learned that PSI follows all Federal holidays, to say I was thrilled is an understatement. I’m used to a long, nearly five-month stretch between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day without a break. Now, I’ve got Monday off, and we’ll be closed for President’s Day, too. This is much appreciated considering I won’t be eligible for any paid vacation time until 2020.

Granted, the weather won’t be conducive to doing anything fun and exciting. But I consider not working fun and exciting, so bring on the holiday!

Last week was pretty productive. I completed my first proposal; this one is for a road improvement project on tribal land in South Dakota. Bids are due Wednesday at noon, and they expect to have a decision within the hour. Fingers crossed that we land the contract, because this government shutdown is putting a serious damper on business.


Remember my unabashed love for Dot’s Pretzels? Well, my blog post caught the attention of somebody who works in their corporate office, leading to the following email exchange:

Dot’s Employee: I just got done reading your take on Dots Pretzels. I will say I have never ever heard of Dots pretzels described as you have described them. And I must say I agree with you 100% on that. Not just because I work for Dots pretzels in the KS location, but because it’s TRUE. Just thought I would share my 2 cents and say thank you for the great word of mouth.
Mark: Thank you. They really are that good and deserve heaps of praise! I’m happy to spread the word. How lucky you are to work there.
Dot’s Employee: I printed a copy of your review and its hanging in the break room. Thank you again for the awesome review. The Dots family really appreciates it. 
Mark: Oh, wow – thank you so much! Does the Dot’s family appreciate it enough to send me free pretzels for life??

There was more; he gave me the inside scoop on a new product that will be hitting the market soon, but I’d better not say any more. I’m just happy that Dot’s is the type of company to reach out to the consumer.


Saturday morning I was half-asleep when Tara poked me on the shoulder. “Do you feel like taking a ride up Skyline Drive to catch the sunrise?” she asked. Despite the fact that it was 10 degrees out, I agreed to untangle myself from our warm and cozy bed. 20 minutes later we were standing atop a hill overlooking a frosty, snowy Rapid City. Were we freezing our asses off? Yep. Was it worth it? Totally.

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It was an interesting week weather-wise. We had freezing fog for two days, which coated our trees in a thick blanket of rime ice and hoarfrost. That was followed by a little light snow on Friday. The scenery around town was spectacular.

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Today we are going to grab brunch and then kick it in the bar to watch playoff football. With the Broncos never even in conjunction this season, it’s tough to get excited. KC is a division rival, I’m not a Los Angeles fan, and Tom Brady’s had enough success. So…let’s go, Saints! I guess.