667 Miles for Oatmeal

I’m not sure if we’re crazy, but we basically just drove 667 miles roundtrip for oatmeal.

I may be grossly oversimplifying the situation. But we did go to Fort Collins, Colorado for a quick weekend getaway in order to stock up on essentials from Trader Joe’s. And it’s the second time we’ve done so this year. But this time, we had a brand new standalone freezer to fill. So, we threw a couple of coolers into the back of the Mazda and headed out Saturday morning, bright and early.

There was no snow and ice to deal with this time, as there had been in March, but the first third of the trip was foggy. By the time we reached Lusk—the first real town of any substance along that stretch of Wyoming—the clouds had broken up. Lusk seems like a charming place, complete with a historic main street and a stagecoach museum. One of these days we’re going to spend a little time there checking it out.

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We reached Fort Collins at 1:00 and naturally, our first stop was Raising Cane’s for chicken fingers. Afterwards, we hit a couple of local liquor stores, stocking up on ciders and sour beers—items that are harder to find in Rapid City. We hit the jackpot and scooped up some Wild Roots vodka from one place. Thanks for the tip, dad!

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Colorado sunflowers.

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Colorado is beautiful, but browner than South Dakota.

Last time we’d picked a motel a few miles from downtown, but we stayed at a Best Western in the university district less than a mile’s walk from Old Town. This was a much better location and it had a pool, so we took advantage and went swimming before heading out for dinner. We enjoyed the Crown Pub so much last time, we went there again. Killed a couple of hours with good food and drinks, then walked back to our motel, stopping by a couple of funky places along the way.

Fort Collins definitely has a Portland vibe, and there was even an event called Tour de Fat in which people dress up in costumes and ride fat-tire bikes downtown. The locals warned it was pretty outlandish, but it was tame by Portland standards. Translation: no naked people.

Sunday morning, we decided to drive up to Estes Park, a mere hour away. It’s the site of the famous Stanley Hotel, Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining. Absolutely beautiful drive, and its location at 7,500′ in the Rocky Mountains is breathtaking. We grabbed breakfast and Bloody Marys and wandered through an arts festival before heading back. I would have loved to spend more time checking out Estes Park, but we still had to stop by Trader Joe’s in Fort Collins and drive the 5.5 hours back home. Tara and I have decided to book a room at the Stanley for our anniversary next September.

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The road to Estes Park.

Got back to town and loaded up two shopping carts’ worth of stuff from Trader Joe’s. This included seven boxes of steel cut oatmeal, six boxes of bird’s nest vegetable appetizers, four boxes of chile lime chicken burgers, and an assortment of soup dumplings, Chinese buns, ginger soy cod, etc. Not to mention the 14 packages of dark chocolate peanut butter cups, but in all fairness, most of those are going to Tara’s coworkers, who all placed orders with her in advance.

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We came. We saw. We loaded up our carts.

We had one last stop before finally heading home: Ridley’s grocery store, where we purchased half a dozen packages of the Basque chorizo we love so much. It wasn’t until 2:00 before we began the long trek back, arriving home around 7:30. All in all it was a fun, if expensive, getaway—but now we are fully stocked for at least six months.

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Long but uneventful drive back through Wyoming.

Super thankful that today is Labor Day. It gives us a day to recover before heading back to work. We plan to do not a whole lot other than grill ribeye steaks and enjoy Bloody Marys. It’s supposed to hit 91 today, which will ironically make this one of the warmest days of the summer. Fortunately, it’s only a one-day heatwave. Next weekend looks downright cool.

Bring on fall!

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Revolving Door

We’ve had a revolving door of houseguests over the past four weeks. I feel so popular!

Following my FIL’s visit the first weekend in August, my MIL and nephew came up for a few days. They drove the 1,200 miles from Tacoma to Rapid City, which I can tell you from personal experience is quite the haul. Once again we played tour guide, taking them to the usual hotspots – Mount Rushmore, Custer Wildlife Loop, downtown Rapid City.

Anthony loved the dinosaurs almost as much as my blogging friend, Jess Witkins!

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Come to think of it, so did I…

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It was a pretty nice visit. All of our guests have been very impressed with western South Dakota and really like our house. You could call these visits soul-affirming, even though we already knew we made a great move!

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I was especially excited to see my parents, because – well, they’re my parents! And it had been 11 months since we’d seen each other. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve gone in my adult life without seeing them.

They arrived Thursday morning, and I was able to take Friday off to spend some time with them. In addition to seeing the local sights—Prairie Berry Winery, Crazy Horse, Pactola Reservoir—we have been enjoying lots of time on the patio. Evenings have been spent talking, drinking wine, listening to music, barbecuing, playing corn hole, and dodging mosquitoes. Not in that order. The weather has been perfect; temperatures have been mild and, so far, we haven’t had any thunderstorms.

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A fun thing happened yesterday. Our doorbell rang, and when we opened the front door, there was Doris’s daughter Kristi and her new husband Troy. We had spoken to her over the phone a few weeks ago and invited her to stop by when she was in town.

Kristi grew up in our house and you could tell it was a very emotional experience for her to be back inside. She approved of the cosmetic changes we made upstairs and was thrilled that we kept the basement the same. We learned a few more interesting facts about the house and what it was like for Kristi and her brothers growing up in the neighborhood, and we let her dig up several of the dwarf irises her great-great-great-great grandmother transplanted from Norway. She’d told us she regretted not taking any, so now she can plant some in her garden in Connecticut. They’re a very nice couple, about my age, and we told them they have an open invitation to stop by any time they are visiting Rapid City.

I’m glad she got to see the house. I still recall my road trip to Dayton, Ohio in 2011 and my own (failed) attempt to visit my childhood home. I know what a thrill it is and would never deny her the opportunity! Upon leaving, Kristi said she is happy we bought her mom’s house and is grateful that we are honoring her legacy so much.

Gotta run. We have some errands today, including picking up a new stand-up freezer—a generous housewarming gift from my parents. We’re zipping down to Fort Collins next weekend to stock up on items from Trader Joe’s and now I can stuff that bad boy with chile lime chicken burgers and steel-cut frozen oats to my heart’s content. We’re headed out to dinner tonight, and then Tara and I have to go back to work tomorrow. My parents will be here until Wednesday. But they’re talking about coming back in October, so I’m pretty sure I won’t have to wait so long to see them this time around.

I really have to brush up on my corn hole skills though, because my dad has been kicking my ass.

 

What’s the Latest Buzz?

Mosquitoes, that’s what.

They have been relentless this summer, no doubt because of all the rain we have had. And they seem to be impervious to mosquito repellant. I sprayed myself with Off® one morning before my walk and still managed to come back with half a dozen new bites on my arms.

Little bastards.

Also, motorcycles, as in, the buzz of thousands of two-piston engines filling the air. It’s a toss-up as to whether there are more mosquitoes or bikers, and we have the Sturgis Rally to thank for that.

At least the motorcyclists don’t bite.

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We had our first houseguests last week and they were really impressed with both Rapid City and our house. Tara’s dad Randy and his girlfriend Cynthia came up for a few days after fishing (successfully) for walleye in Wyoming. It was their first visit to South Dakota and they were surprised by the natural beauty of the area. I think a lot of people have this impression of South Dakota as being flat and featureless, and while that’s true for most of the state, the Black Hills are the exception.

They were down for doing touristy things, and we were happy to show them around, even with the steady parade of motorcycles that greeted us everywhere we went, including Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Sunday, we took them to the 79th Sturgis Rally, per their request. It’s something that should be on everybody’s bucket list—the people-watching alone is worth the trip!

It was a nice visit. We ate, we drank, and I daresay we were even a little merry. It was nice to show off our new digs!

My MIL visits next week and my parents the week after, then Audrey will be out next month. Suffice it to say, we’ll be busy playing host for a while.

Buzzworthy happenings in the backyard? Raspberries. Hundreds of them. So many, we hardly know what to do with them all. Doris planted a row of raspberry bushes along the west side of the house and they have been producing ample amounts of sweet, delicious fruit for a few weeks now. I’ve made raspberry bread, raspberry coleslaw, and raspberry vinaigrette. We’ve had waffles with fresh raspberries, raspberries with whipped cream, and even just plain raspberries. One of my work assignments has been expanding the food and drink section of our fall/winter visitor’s magazine, and in doing so, I came across a recipe for a traditional Native American berry dish called Wojapi. It’s traditionally served with fry bread, something Tara knows how to make really well, so I’m thinking of giving that a go this weekend to use up more raspberries.

Too much fruit is a good problem to have IMO.

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Also, lots of deer in our backyard. I put up netting over the raspberry bushes and they haven’t touched those, so I don’t mind their presence. On a recent walk, I stumbled across these fellas on the Skyline Wilderness Trail near our house.

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I love wildlife.

I also love sunrises. I’ve got some nice ones on my morning walks, but with our rapidly-fading daylight, it’s going to be dark in the mornings soon. I’m savoring these while I can.

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That’s all I’ve got for now!

I Am Not a Crook

Years ago, I created a Google alert. Any time my name is mentioned on the internet, I get an email with a link to the article. I did this so long ago I’d actually forgotten all about it, so I was pretty surprised when I received an alert on Saturday. I clicked on the article and was devastated to learn that I had been charged with one count of burglary after a break-in at a bar and restaurant in Barnsley, England, in which cash and alcohol were stolen.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like cash and alcohol, and I imagine England is a pretty nice country. But I’ve never been there, and in the words of Richard Milhous Nixon, I am not a crook. I was immediately offended. How dare this impostor sully my good name! I’m an honest, law-abiding citizen, just minding my own business. And now some lowly two-bit British wanker is trying to ruin my reputation by ruining his reputation. The nerve.

I hope this other Mark P. at least had the good taste to abscond with a quality whiskey. And I hope the Barnsley Magistrate Court throws the book at him. If the guy goes on a crime spree, I’m going to be getting an awful lot of Google alerts in my In Box, and I’d rather not deal with that!

On a more positive note, the flooring guys finally finished up with the installation. They laid down the baseboard trim and covered up their carpeting snafu with extra bamboo. Both of those look really good. Not so good? The gouges they left in the kitchen floor from dragging the fridge across it, but that’s another story.

Our first official houseguests arrive this Friday – Tara’s dad and his girlfriend. We tried to talk them into visiting any time other than during the Sturgis Rally, but their schedule is pretty full, so it was either now or later next year. Oh, well – they have been warned! We’re pretty excited to show off our new home regardless.

Last night, we had the pleasure of meeting up with a blogging friend. Jess and her husband, Joe, are in Rapid City for a couple of days and wanted to get together. We have been reading each other for something like eight years now, but they live in Wisconsin, so the odds of ever meeting in person were slim. Until we moved to South Dakota, that is!

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We had a really nice time and enjoyed their company immensely. They are down-to-earth Midwesterners through and through, very friendly and easygoing, with a penchant for good beer (they are from Wisconsin, after all) and corny jokes. We met at Thirsty’s for dinner and drinks, taking advantage of a warm summer evening to sit out on the patio, and chatted the hours away. Afterward, we ducked into Press Start, Rapid’s old-school video arcade, for some gaming. We really wanted to stay longer, but alas, it was a school night and work beckoned for me and Tara today. We didn’t want to stay up half the night and end up dragging the next day, but – irony alert! – we ended up staying up half the night when a spectacular line of severe thunderstorms rolled through around 1:30 in the morning. The nonstop lightning, heavy rain, and very strong winds made sleep impossible for a couple of hours.

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Not a great shot at all, but this was the view from our bedroom window at 2 a.m.

As Midwesterners, I’m sure Jess and Joe are used to this type of weather anyway.

Here are some pics from my work-sponsored hiking adventure last Thursday. Told you this was my dream job!

The Buck Stops Here

Oh, Deer

We have learned just how abundant deer are in the neighborhood. I see them every morning when I’m out walking. Sometimes, we don’t even need to leave the house! We were playing cribbage and listening to records in the basement Friday night when Tara went upstairs to grab a beer. She saw this buck in the backyard, so she got her camera and very stealthily opened the back door to take a few pics. Turns out there was no need to be sneaky, because this fella wasn’t the least bit concerned over our presence. I ended up within about 15 feet of him and he barely batted an eye.

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I know we should be chasing them away. Deer and gardens don’t mix. They’ve already eaten out hostas. But the problem is, they’re so damn cute – and it’s a novelty having them. So, we bought deer netting and I secured that over our raspberry bushes. Now that they are ripening and we’ve been able to taste their juicy sweetness, there is no way I’m going to treat the neighborhood wildlife to a free buffet. They’re so good, they almost make me forget all about the amazing PNW berries we can no longer get.

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Kamikaze Flight Path

Speaking of wildlife, we have learned that the picture window in our living room is a magnet for birds. In the short time we have been in the house, four birds have flown into it kamikaze-like. Apparently they see the reflection of sky and trees and assume they have a clear flight path. Next thing you know, there’s a loud “thud” and the birds either fly off in a daze or never fly again. It’s sad and a little disturbing, so I’ve looked into possible solutions. Window decals, wind chimes, or shutters would help, but I’m not sure any of these are options for us. It’s a weird problem to have.

Goodbye, # 12

Slowly but surely, we are settling into our house. We had our final walk-through with the leasing agent for our apartment today, after spending last weekend getting it all cleaned up. It felt weird going back there for the first time in 10 days; it might have still technically been ours, but it sure didn’t feel like home anymore. I noticed for the first time just how tight the living quarters were; it’s amazing how you don’t really feel like you’re living in a cramped space until you actually have some room in which to stretch out. I felt very unmotivated and a little bitter over having to give up part of a weekend cleaning a place that was no longer ours, but midway through wearing my fingers to a nub scrubbing caked-on grease from the stove, I started to focus on the excitement we felt when we first moved in 13 months ago and everything was brand new. That helped. As far as apartment complexes go this one wasn’t too bad, super thin walls notwithstanding. It served its purpose and was a good transient home while we settled into a new city and state, found jobs, and bought a house.

But I sure was happy to hand over the keys this afternoon.

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Impromptu Visit to a National Monument

After all that hard work on Saturday, we chilled on the patio. Grilled up some ribeye steaks and corn on the cob and kicked back with wine and beer. We even let Sydney roam around the backyard for a bit. She’s been strictly an indoor cat for 13 years, so this was a real novelty to her. I was paranoid to let her get more than a few feet away from me, but she was pretty well-behaved and seemed to enjoy the adventure.

The weather was very pleasant that day, so we decided to break in the chiminea, but we didn’t have decent kindling so the fire wasn’t really getting started. Tara turned to me and said, “Hey, wanna go to Mount Rushmore?” We actually hadn’t been to the monument since moving here; our last visit was during our road trip in October, 2017 (plus the hundred-odd times I went as a kid). We’d been wanting to see it illuminated at night, so we hopped in the truck and 25 minutes later found ourselves gazing up in wonder at the Shrine of Democracy. It really is an awe-inspiring sight and gets to me every time. I am so thankful that we can do spur-of-the-moment things like visiting a national memorial, which is less than half an hour from our front door.

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Well, It’s Not All Roses

Not everything is a bed of roses (and even if it were, the deer would probably eat them). We have been going through hell trying to get the contractors to finish installing the hardwood floors, and the latch on the door leading to the garage jammed over the weekend, necessitating a call to a locksmith. It feels like we’ve been unpacking forever, but there is still a seemingly endless pile of boxes and bags taking up half the basement. And we haven’t had a chance to truly relax, with no immediate pressing needs, in months. Hell, since the beginning of 2018, really. But in the overall scheme of things, these are minor inconveniences, a small price to pay for this awesome life we have built for ourselves. Because when I step outside before sunrise for a walk through the neighborhood and am treated to sights like these…

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…I know that I am, finally and truly, home.

 

Guess We’re Not “Those People”

We have been living in our house for three days now and it’s starting to feel like home. If your idea of home involves stepping around boxes and weaving your way through piles of stuff. At least the old toilets are no longer taking up residence in the living room. When Tara asked me what we should do with them, I suggested hauling them into the front yard and turning them into planters. Amazingly, she shot down that idea, saying she didn’t want to be “those people.”

Fine. Our landscaping visions differ.

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Our first night in the new house was pretty wild. We were awakened shortly after 3 a.m. by shrieking winds gusting to 60-mph, thunder/lightning, and torrential rain. One thing we have discovered about the house: because we are located in a draw – a terrain feature that is basically a miniature valley – thunder is really amplified here. It bounces off the hills and the shockwaves sweep down through the neighborhood, echoing so loudly you don’t just hear it, you feel it. Literally, the whole house shakes. It’s pretty cool unless you’re a cat or trying to sleep.

Friday, I spent the day “on assignment” in Spearfish Canyon hiking several different trails for a travelogue series we’re planning next summer. I’m working closely with one of our interns on this project; she’s creating videos to accompany my words. She brought her fiancee along and we ended up doing four separate hikes. None of them were super long, but a couple were steep. It got pretty toasty toward the end of the day, but the canyon is so lush and vibrant due to all the rain we’ve had, it’s absolutely breathtaking at every turn.

Saturday, I had another interesting work-related task. Rapid City has been dubbed the City of Presidents due to the collection of presidential sculptures erected on street corners throughout downtown. Yesterday was the official unveiling ceremony for our newest statue, Barack Obama. The event was held at the Elks Theatre downtown and was so inspirational! I loved every minute of it. It helped being surrounded by an adoring crowd of Democratic faithful who were clearly missing our former President just as much as me. The sculptor, James Van Nuys, is a regular Renaissance man who is also a musician and writer. He played guitar onstage before and during parts of the ceremony, and it was interesting to hear about a couple of other ideas for the statue that ended up getting scrapped. In the end, he explained that he based his work on a photo that he fell in love with because of the look of pure exhilaration on daughter Sasha’s face. I think the statue turned out beautiful and will be a real show-stopper when it’s installed downtown (just a block from where I work) tomorrow.

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We’d been planning on going to Prairie Berry Winery for a customer loyalty picnic today (because, free food and free wine), but we just have too much to do around the house. There is a lot of unpacking and organizing to be done, and we already have visitors lined up, so we’re going to tackle some of that today. The hardwood installers, by the way, still haven’t finished their work. Presumably they are waiting on the extra box of bamboo to come in from Lowe’s, but who knows. We’re pretty irritated with them and have literally caught them in a couple of lies. I can’t wait to leave a scathing Yelp review.

After they finally finish up the work, of course.

 

Nature’s Fireworks FTW

Four more days until we move in!

Really though, we’ve pretty much been living in the house since last Wednesday. We go home to sleep and feed Sydney; otherwise, we are here. As is most of our stuff. The apartment is looking pretty barren these days; there are a few essentials in the fridge and bathroom, enough clothes to get us through the week, and furniture that is too heavy to move (e.g., beds, couch, bookcase). Yesterday our brand new couch was delivered to the house. We’ve got cable and internet there, a fully-stocked refrigerator, and all our booze. Why wouldn’t we want to stay here all the time now?!

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Still haven’t heard back from the hardwood flooring guys, but the contractor is here today – a day early – ripping out the old carpeting in the bedrooms and bathrooms. He’s even agreed to hook up new toilets for us, even though he is not a plumber and won’t be getting paid to do so. Tara was thinking about replacing the old ones and figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if he’d be willing to connect new ones, since either way, he had to remove and reinstall toilets to get the flooring done. He was a bit hesitant at first but eventually agreed, so we went out and bought new Kohlers Saturday afternoon. Lemme tell ya, toilets are heavy AF. Who knew? It took a lot of muscle to get them from the back of Tara’s truck up the front stairs and into their respective rooms. But these are slick new low-flow models. I tried to talk Tara into buying super fancy toilets with heated seats and built-in bidets, the kind that flush automatically and play music through your wi-fi connection, but sadly she shot down that idea.

Our 4th of July was pretty low-key, other than nearly getting swept away by a flash flood. That would have sucked, after all the blood, sweat, and tears we have poured into this house!

The day started out innocently enough. We had a nice, leisurely morning before heading out to breakfast – but apparently our morning was a bit too leisurely, because by the time we got to the Colonial House, breakfast service had ended. Lunch it was, then! Which was just as well since I was still able to enjoy a couple of Bloody Marys.

After breakfast lunch, we packed up more boxes and took them over to the house, then headed downtown to bar-hop the rest of the day away. Our first stop was the Brass Rail, which probably featured the most interesting patrons. Paddy O’Neill’s had the best food, but Wobbly Bobby Pub was probably my favorite stop because they had board games at every booth. Tara and I faced off in a heated game of Battleship, something neither of us had played in decades. She ended up winning by one move. After that, we hit up Press Start for video games.

We decided to wrap it up at 8:45 because the city’s fireworks display was scheduled for 9:30 and we wanted to find a decent spot. But the minute we stepped outside, we figured it wasn’t going to happen. The sky was ominous, with dark clouds to the west. It was raining lightly and thunder was rumbling in the distance. One glance at the radar showed a line of severe thunderstorms bearing down on us. We figured we’d grab dinner to go at Culver’s instead and head up to Skyline Drive overlooking the city, just in case the fireworks were still a go. By the time we stepped out of Culver’s with our food, there was a torrential downpour with hail and constant lightning. We got drenched just racing to the truck. Then, on the way up Skyline, there was so much water streaming across the road it almost looked like a flash flood. Granted, we were on a hill overlooking the city so there wasn’t any real danger. At least, I don’t think so, but the video I took (and posted to Instagram) shows us motoring through water so deep in places it was splashing over the hood of Tara’s truck.

Yikes.

Up on Skyline Drive, we had a great view of the storm. And wouldn’t you know it, there were still people shooting off fireworks around town (though Rapid City’s event was ultimately postponed until Friday). In fact, at one point another car pulled up next to ours in the parking lot, rolled down their window, and started firing off Roman Candles. That’s either super patriotic or super stupid. I’m not really sure which. We never did get to see an actual fireworks display this year, but the show Mother Nature put on was hard to top.

Eventually the storm subsided, but not before dumping nearly 2″ of rain on Rapid City. We have already reached our average annual precipitation total, and the year is only half over! This makes the second really wet year in a row in South Dakota. It seems like Tara and I brought a little bit of the PNW with us when we moved. Those thunderstorms, by the way, have been a near-daily occurrence. Even though we’ve lived here for over a year now, it still amazes me how fast they can build up. One minute it will be perfectly clear, not a cloud in the sky; an hour later, it can feel like the End of Days, complete with black clouds and intense lightning displays.

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Typical afternoon view from our front porch.

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And I’m loving every minute of it.

Hope your holiday was a blast (but a little less wet than ours).

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Happy birthday, America!

Tara and I are celebrating Independence Day by, first of all, not working on the house. The truth is, there’s very little left to do at this point: all the painting is finished, the hardwood floors are 94.7 percent installed (due to a contractor snafu, they thought 18 boxes of bamboo would cover the job but ended up falling short, so box #19 is on order),  our storage unit is completely emptied out, and we have cable and internet. We’ve got a couch being delivered on Saturday, new carpeting and vinyl flooring being installed on Monday, and movers coming on Thursday to empty out the apartment. Which means we are exactly one week away from moving in. Whew!

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Incomplete or not, our new floors look great!

It’s been a lot of work for sure, but the place is looking really good. And there’s a definite pride in ownership that comes with transforming a place to make it your own through blood, sweat, and tears. That’s something you don’t experience when your new home is move-in ready. (You also don’t experience late nights and sore muscles and hundreds of dollars worth of Lowe’s receipts for paint, but that’s neither here nor there.) I don’t think I would change a single step of the process.

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Tara came up with an idea to paint a mountain mural in the guest room. By hand. I was skeptical at first…

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…but she nailed it.

Second of all, we’ll be bar-hopping downtown in the afternoon/evening. It’s how we spent the 4th last year, and that turned out to be a great day. The weather does not look promising for fireworks; we have had some strong thunderstorms the past couple of days (and nights) and more are expected for the next few days. If we’re able to catch a good fireworks display tonight, that’s great. If not, maybe nature will deliver.

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We have a literal front porch view of storms that develop over the Black Hills.

Last night, we finally had a chance to call Doris’ daughter, Kristi. She lives in Connecticut and was very happy to hear from us. The feeling was mutual – we talked for 40 minutes and learned so much about the house and Doris’ family! Like the fact that their original home was destroyed in the 1972 Rapid City flood that killed 238 people, so they purposely chose to build a new house as high up as they could get on a hill (hence our stellar views). We learned that both Doris and her husband were teachers in the Rapid City school district and that he was quite the craftsman, having built all the kitchen cabinets by hand. We found out the dwarf irises in the backyard have been in the family for 300 years and are descendants of plants brought over from Norway. There were once 50+ rose bushes and a couple of poplar trees in the backyard, and apple trees in the front. We heard about how the family turned the backyard into an ice-skating rink every winter and all the neighborhood kids would flock there. That Doris would pace around the living room nervously every time there was a thunderstorm, smoking an entire pack of cigarettes as memories of the flood that cost them their home (and almost their lives) haunted her. And how she was so beloved that people drove in from three states away for her funeral five months ago.

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We had no idea these dwarf irises had such a storied past. They have been in Doris’ family for over 300 years.

In fact, she wrote a story about our house that was published in a literary magazine! It’s a fascinating read and she’s a pretty good writer. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Kristi is coming to Rapid City next month to get married, and will be bringing us a piece of her mom’s pottery. In exchange, we’re letting her take some of the family’s dwarf irises, which she lamented leaving behind. She seems like a very nice person and we look forward to meeting her and her siblings. Suffice it to say, she is very touched over how diligent we have been in learning more about her mom and our desire to pay tribute to her. If there is an afterlife, I’m confident that Doris totally approves of us.

Have a great 4th!

365 in the 605

We have officially been South Dakota residents for one year now.

Exactly 365 days ago, we rolled across the state line, two days after leaving the Pacific Northwest behind. I will never forget the feeling of elation when we finally arrived. I can’t ever forget it, because we have photographic evidence.

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This photo, by the way, ended up being our Christmas card last year.

It’s amazing to me how quickly the year went by. They do say the older you get, the faster time seems to fly. The months leading up to our move were unbearably long and we grew impatient. Desperate, almost: we wanted to get started on the next, exciting phase of our lives. A lot of people questioned our sanity when we told them we were moving to South Dakota, but one year later, nobody is second-guessing our decision. How could they? Everything has worked out so perfectly, it’s easy to forget what a huge gamble this was for us both. We quit our jobs without any solid prospects lined up, literally driving into the great unknown. I don’t know a lot of people who would do that (but I’m so thankful to have found a willing partner in this adventure).

We knew how we wanted things to unfold. Our hope was that, a year after our arrival, we’d have great jobs and a new house. It’s amazing how things have lined up so perfectly with that timeline. Tara and I both agree that this move to South Dakota didn’t only live up to expectations; it wildly exceeded them. One year later, neither of us has a single regret.

This makes two summers in a row where we’ve been in the midst of major life-changing events. Our last “normal” summer was 2017, and I have to say, not having something major to do seems like a novelty to me these days. Hopefully, 2020 will be far less hectic.

The house is coming along nicely, though. It was another busy (but productive) weekend. We finished painting the living room, started and finished painting both upstairs bathrooms, and started/finished painting the master bedroom. Tomorrow I plan to knock out the spare bedroom we’ll use as an office. And then there is only one to go: the guest bedroom, which Tara started today. This one required some heavy-duty wallpaper stripping and she has a vision for a mountain mural on one wall, so it’ll take a few days. But certainly by the weekend, all the painting should be finished. Just in time for the bamboo flooring to be installed a week from today!

Here are some before and after pics:

Want further proof that my job and I are soulmates? Last Wednesday, I got paid to go hiking. My company is putting together a feature series of local hikes, complete with video, and I’ve been tapped to do the exploring along with one of our summer interns.  Makes sense since I’m the one writing them. We had the benefit of enjoying a picture-perfect day while on the clock.

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I mean, seriously? How is this my job?!

And this is why nobody thinks we’re crazy for moving out here anymore.

Mr. Incredible Crashed the Party

Advance warning: I hope you like reading about home projects, ’cause we’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing house stuff these past couple of weeks.

Most of our evening and weekends have been spent at the new house. As I’ve mentioned, as sweet a lady as Doris was, her taste in decor reflected her age. Our focus currently is on removing the wallpaper and painting every room upstairs. We have a deadline: the hardwood flooring will be installed on July 1 and the carpet and vinyl on July 8. The good news is, we can move in after that’s done. The bad news? We’ve got a shitload of work to do before that’s done!

We decided to tackle the kitchen first, since it required the most work. There was lots of wallpaper to take down, one of the walls had a surface that required texturing, and the cabinets, cupboards, and refrigerator needed cleaning. Here’s what it looked like before:

And today:

So: progress.

I painted the hallway sage green as well. The living room is a lot bolder – we’re doing it in orange. The shade is a little brighter than I’d expected, but I think it will look good when it’s finished.

Three really cool things happened in regards to the house. Last weekend, Tara stumbled upon the original blueprints and specs in the master bedroom closet. We’re planning on framing them and hanging them in the basement.

Second, we’d known that Doris – the previous owner – was an artist renowned for her pottery. I posted an ad on NextDoor introducing myself as the person who bought Doris’s house. I mentioned that we’d love to honor her by displaying a piece of her pottery in our home and asked if anybody would be willing to sell us something. I got a response from one of our neighbors that she would call Doris’s daughter Kristi and see if she had anything. Well, it turns out Kristi was so moved by my request, it actually brought her to tears. She will be making a trip to Rapid City in October and wants to bring us a piece of her mom’s pottery. And, she gave the neighbor her phone number so I can give her a call. How nice is that? I plan to give her a ring this week. It’ll be great to talk to somebody who grew up in our house.

Last, but not least, Tara had the brilliant idea of looking to see if Doris had a Facebook account. Well, she did…and we found these great photos of her firing up the kiln and making pottery right there in her (our) backyard. This is from 2009, so 10 years before she died.

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It’s funny, there are these circular rust stains on the patio. Now we know exactly where they came from.

I love that we have gotten to know so much about this very interesting woman whose home we purchased. I doubt very many others would go to so much trouble, but it just feels right, you know? She lived there for 46 years. I am going to feel like an intruder for quite a while.

Other than working on the house, we are busy with just plain work. I swear, there’s hardly time to come up for air! But we try to take the occasional break. Thursday evenings there are free downtown concerts in Rapid City, and those are a great opportunity to kick loose and have a little fun (and not paint for a change). We stopped by Thirsty’s last week for a couple of beers and a bite to eat, then wandered over for the Summer Nights show featuring Flannel, a 90s cover band. We even ran into Gregg, our realtor. Not that we recognized him at first, seeing as he was dressed head to toe as Mr. Incredible. With his Aussie accent, he was quite the spectacle. His wife was there, too – wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Don’t ask me why they were dressed up. Maybe they’re into role playing?

The weather has been typical for a South Dakota spring. It usually dawns clear in the morning, and within a few hours, towering cumulus clouds are building over the Black Hills. Most days there are at least a few rumbles of thunder. Friday evening, our painting was interrupted by some pretty impressive thunderstorm action. We couldn’t resist sitting out on the front porch watching lighting flashing all around us. And when it started raining, we went inside and pulled up chairs next to the living room window. We have the best view from our house!

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Hope all you fathers had a great day today! My kids both texted me their best wishes, so I can’t complain.