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

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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

That Voodoo That I Do

A few weeks ago, we went through the pantry and mentally catalogued what was in there. After finding a random assortment of items – garlic chili paste, barley, a packet of fajita seasoning (to name but a few) – we began to plan dinners around those things in order to use them up. Waste not, want not is something my mom always said!

Actually, I don’t think she has ever uttered those words in her life. She also never told me to clean my plate because there are starving children in Africa and didn’t warn me not to make a face or it would freeze that way, so she missed the boat on stereotypical parenting tropes. But it’s sage advice regardless, so those odds and ends stashed on the back of the shelf turned into Asian lettuce wraps, beef and barley stew, and shrimp fajitas. Mmm, right? I’m thinking we should have cleaned out the pantry a heck of a lot sooner.

With our time here dwindling rapidly, we’re also being very conscientious with what we buy at the grocery store. Think a small bottle of cooking oil vs. a bigger one, for instance, because there is no way we’ll go through 48 ounces in five weeks, you know? I’d rather not haul boxes full of half-used groceries 1,250 miles.


Tara drove up to Tacoma to spend the weekend with her mom on Saturday, which gave me an opportunity to tie up a few loose ends.

Which is really just a fancy way of saying I ate a donut.

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Not just any donut, mind you. Long-time readers will recall my fondness for Voodoo Doughnut. I mean, we even served them at our wedding in lieu of cake. Despite this, I had not been there in years, for a variety of reasons. Namely, sugar. I mostly avoid it these days for health reasons. Also, if I’m being honest, Voodoo doesn’t make the best donut in town. I’m not even sure they’re in the top five. It’s all about the experience, which includes long lines of tourists, off-the-wall flavor combinations, and a few XXX-rated sugary confections.

But the bacon maple bar is really good, and I decided I needed one more in my life before we move.

Mission happily accomplished.

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On Sunday, I loaded Sydney into her carrier for a test run. Results were mixed.

First off, she is a full-time indoor cat. Has been for her entire life, the occasional foray onto the back deck being the lone exception. So the moment I carried her outside, she was uncomfortable. Started meowing on the way down the stairs, and really let loose once we were in the car and started driving.

But she sort of settled down after a bit. These quieter moments were punctuated by periods of not being settled down. All things considered though, the experience wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I think she will eventually accept the fact that she’s going to be stuck in the car for a while and that cat brain of hers will conclude that complaining about it is useless.

Of course, we might be halfway across Montana before that happens…

Countdown: 38 Days

Lava Junkie

How ’bout that Hawaiian volcano?!

I think it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with the Kilauea eruption. I have spent more time than I care to admit devouring news stories and scrolling through Instagram photos and video of the lava. Hashtag Leilani Estates is an easy way to kill an hour.

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Anybody who knows me shouldn’t be too terribly surprised by this revelation. I have long been fascinated with natural disasters. Not that I hope for them, of course; but when they do occur, I find it impossible to look away. If this were a jukebox, I’d have Mother Nature’s Greatest Hits on heavy rotation.

Not long ago, I wrote about my experience living in Hawaii. How I mostly hated it, except for the Big Island. I have fond memories of  black sand beaches and jungles and, best of all, hiking the Devastation Trail and Halema’uma’u Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I might have pocketed a few lava rocks, too; it’s a good thing I’m not (too) superstitious as Hawaiian legend claims that doing so angers the Goddess Pele, and she will retaliate by cursing the thief with misfortune. In fact, many a tourist has sent back a pilfered rock after encountering bad luck upon their return to the mainland. If this all sounds like a wacky sitcom plot, it was; remember that episode of The Brady Bunch where Bobby found an ancient tiki in Hawaii and bad luck started to befall the family? That bad juju was based on the legend of Pele. tiki

Fortunately, I never encountered any bad luck myself. Unless you count barely missing out on seeing an eruption firsthand. In 1983 we were vacationing on the Big Island; the day after we returned to Oahu, Kilauea erupted. My dad was always bummed about this, so I guess my fascination is hereditary.

That wasn’t my only close call with nature’s fury. I’m sort of like the Forrest Gump of natural disasters, having secured a front row seat to many an event. As evidence, I submit the following:

  1. Run like the wind, Toto! During my final summer in Dayton, Ohio, my brother and I spent a week at summer camp. One night, long after lights out, we were awakened by a counselor and ushered from our bunks. We were then marched across a field, through a howling wind, as turbulent clouds raced by overhead. Our destination? A concrete bunker beneath the swimming pool. It turns out a tornado warning had been issued, and funnel clouds were spotted in the vicinity. Luckily, none touched down. I vividly recall huddling nervously in the dead of night, surrounded by bags of chlorine stacked in haphazard piles. Pretty scary night for an 11 year-old!
  2. I spy the eye – no lie! In November 1982, Hurricane Iwa raced across the Pacific and took aim at Hawaii – the first hurricane to strike the islands in 23 years. Guess who had a front row seat to the whole thing? We stayed inside our house on base as winds gusted up to 120 mph and rain pelted Oahu. The worst of the storm occurred in the evening and overnight. I don’t remember ever feeling scared; I was simply in awe. The next morning we emerged to bright sunshine and a lot of damage, mainly downed trees. It was the first and only time living there that school was cancelled due to weather.
  3. Happy birthday – I got you snow! April 27, 1984, was my 15th birthday. Typically I associate my bday with pleasant spring weather, but in South Dakota (ha!) one can never assume. That year, I spent my birthday indoors as heavy snow fell and gusty winds blew. I don’t remember how much snow we ended up with by the time the storm wound down, but it’s safe to say “a lot.” This wasn’t the only blizzard I’ve experienced in my life, but because of the date, it’s the one that stands out the most in my mind.
  4. A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on! October 17, 1989, was just a normal Tuesday – until the ground started shaking with a vengeance. I was living in the Bay Area, just digging into a plate of spaghetti with my girlfriend at the time, when everything started rocking and rolling. I’d lived in CA for three years by that point and had experienced quite a few quakes, but nothing of that magnitude. And when the TV stations switched from the World Series game to images of citywide devastation – the worst being a collapsed freeway – we knew it was serious. The next week was a surreal blur. My college classes were cancelled and aftershocks kept coming. A few months later I traveled to the epicenter and somewhere, there is a photo of me standing in a fissure in the ground that comes up to my thigh.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and earthquakes – oh, my. I’m just thankful to have thus far avoided tsunamis, avalanches, wildfires and alien abduction.

Well, the last one is a maybe. But that’s a story for another day.

Countdown: 42 Days

All Her Suicides Are Fake

One of the best things about this time of year is the early sunrises. I might think otherwise if I ever slept in, but I’m up super early most mornings so it’s a non-issue. Sometimes I’m out walking, like today. The sun was just cresting the eastern horizon on my final circuit through the park, lighting up the clouds in shades of cotton candy pink and fiery orange, and it stopped me in my tracks.

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I’ve only got 45 more PNW sunrises to enjoy, so I’m going to make an effort to see as many of ’em as I can.


Are you familiar with the concept of synchronicity? I’m not talking about the 1983 album by The Police (though “King of Pain” is a great song), but rather, the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is a great example. It is said to sync up perfectly with “The Wizard of Oz.” The band claims it’s purely coincidental, but I’m not so sure. I’ve watched them simultaneously and they really do seem to be interconnected. I’m fascinated by this stuff, because synchronicity seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I notice it all the time.

Most often these episodes are music-related. Like, for instance, I’ll be listening to The White Stripes (“I’m thinking about my doorbell/When ya gonna ring it, when you going to ring it”) and then the doorbell will ring. Things of that nature.

Saturday was an especially synchronicity-heavy day.

At one point I was scrolling through Instagram, and at the exact moment I was looking at a post from a friend named Michelle, the song playing on my phone mentioned a woman named Michelle. Earlier in the day, I was packing, and had just grabbed a Lumineers CD. At the very moment I was putting it in the box, I heard the Lumineers playing from the other room. The crazy thing is, I never listen to CDs anymore. My entire collection is packed away in a plastic tub and buried somewhere in the garage. I happened to have this one and only CD in the bedroom because it was a gift I hadn’t gotten to putting away yet.

But the universe was saving the strangest thing of all for the end of the evening. My parents are in South Africa on that safari, remember? Tara and I went over to their house to borrow their grill and barbecue some baby back ribs. We had already made several trips in and out their front door and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. So imagine my surprise when I opened the door again to grab something from my car and saw – sitting on the welcome mat, in plain sight – a freakin’ animal cracker.

Let that sink in for a moment. MY PARENTS ARE ON AN AFRICAN SAFARI HALF A WORLD AWAY AND THERE IS SUDDENLY AN ANIMAL CRACKER ON THEIR FRONT PORCH THAT WAS NOT THERE BEFORE.

I’m sure of that. The welcome mat is black, the animal cracker was white. I spotted it immediately when I opened the door.

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The mystery animal cracker.

And, though I’m not proud to admit this, I nearly screamed. Because honestly, it freaked me out like nobody’s business. Even Tara, who is far more rational than I am, could offer no logical explanation. In recounting this story earlier, somebody suggested, well, a crow flying by could have dropped it.

Sure. I suppose that’s possible. Or would be if the welcome mat wasn’t located beneath a covered porch.

Another weird coincidence in a long string of them, or something more? I’m not even going to hazard a guess.

I am curious, though: does this sort of thing ever happen to you?

Countdown: 45 Days

Fox Paw’s Coming Home

When we lived in South Dakota in the ’80s, my parents bought an ice scraper. Not just any ol’ ice scraper, mind you; this one was special. It was called the Fox Paw and came wrapped in faux fur, so your hand would stay warm when scraping ice from the car’s windshield. Pretty ingenious, actually.

Sunday they had me over for an early birthday celebration since they will be traveling on the actual day. The grilled teriyaki chicken and potato salad were delicious and the carrot cake divine, but the real joy came when it was time to open gifts. They handed me a wrapped package and said, “It’s time to pass this on now.” I had no clue what that might possibly mean, so I tore open the package and found…

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Wait. Could it really be?!

It was!!

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The Fox Paw is coming home!

Scoff if you will, but know this: when it’s ten degrees below zero and snowing like mad, my hand is going to be nice and toasty while I clear my windshield. (Actually, when it’s ten degrees below zero and snowing like mad, my whole body is going to be nice and toasty because if you think I’m venturing outside in that shit, you’re crazy. But, if I did, then yeah. My hand would be nice and toasty.)

There’s a beautiful symmetry to something coming full circle, don’t you think?

They also got me a gift card to Murphy’s Pub & Grill in downtown Rapid City. We stopped in for dinner and cocktails after our whirlwind Saturday there last October and loved the place. So the gift card is greatly appreciated and sure to get used. After all, they’ve got fried pickles there.


This past Saturday, we met up with my coworker Candace and her husband, Devon, for a day of cider tasting in Portland. And when I say “day” I do mean that in the all-day sense, as we ended up hitting three cider houses and a distillery over the span of seven hours. It was a lot of fun, though. And something we’d talked about doing for a long time.

The rest of the weekend was spent packing. I’m trying to strike a balance between getting as much stuff as possible boxed up early so there isn’t a last-minute scramble while still trying to make the apartment feel homey, but with three empty bookshelves and nothing but nails on the walls where photos and artwork used to be, it’s inevitably starting to look a bit barren now. On the plus side, since Audrey’s bedroom is empty, we are able to use that as a staging area for all our boxes. When we were preparing to move from the townhouse four years ago, we were surrounded by piles of boxes the last two months we were there. Out of sight is out of mind; at least now it just looks like we’ve embraced an extremely minimalist lifestyle.

Also, we’ve decided on going the U-Haul route as it’s the most economical way to move. Because of that, we’ve altered our plans slightly and will now be leaving one day earlier than originally scheduled – June 22 versus the 23rd. This is a significant date for reasons I’ll get into another time (hint: more symmetry). The bottom line is, our countdown has jumped ahead a day, which means every other post on the blog is now technically inaccurate. My inner perfectionist wants to go back and fix all those numbers, but I’m going to resist the urge. The date was never truly set in stone anyway.

Countdown: 59 Days

 

Lipstick on a Pig

As far as Friday the 13ths go, this one is anything but unlucky. The Moondoggies’ new album, “A Love Sleeps Deep,” came out today. It’s been five years since their last record; that’s basically an eternity in the rock ‘n roll biz.

If you are unfamiliar with our history with the band, let’s just say much like sleeping love, it also runs deep. They are basically the soundtrack to our relationship, and against all odds, I’ve developed a friendship with their lead singer, Kevin. I am not name-dropping, by the way; hardly anybody knows who The Moondoggies are! If I were going to do that, I’d talk about the time I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand, lol.

Seriously, though. The new record was on heavy rotation for me today. And it’s awesome. Harder and heavier than their last album, and more topical. These are good things. Kevin embodies all that I appreciate: he is an anti-Trump, feminist, socially conscious rocker who plays in a band because he loves music. He doesn’t care that his band isn’t very well known. (Having said that, you should check out the album. He might not care about fame, but I’d love it if more people “discovered” them!)moondoggies-alovesleepsdeep

We’re going to see The Moondoggies play a show at Mississippi Studios next week. It’s bittersweet; it’ll be our eighth (and final, at least in the immediate future) time seeing them live. We’re not quite stalkers, but close. Unless they happen to play in Rapid City on some future tour, of course. Doubtful, but I do plan to run that by Kevin after the show on Wednesday.

I can also see us planning a trip back here timed around a show of theirs someday. This isn’t a permanent goodbye, guys.


Leave it to me to be a medical anomaly once again.

On Monday, I had an appointment to get my eyes checked. As far as I can recall, this was the first time I’d ever had a vision exam. There was no overriding reason for me to have one this week – I’m sort of the black sheep of my family, the only one who does not wear glasses – other than the fact that I’m covered under Tara’s plan and figured I might as well take advantage of what amounts to a free exam before we move.

I walked in there wearing sunglasses and proceeded to stumble around, bumping into walls and such, while making a general commotion. The front office staff laughed and Tara, who had arrived before me and had no idea I was going to make a grand entrance by faking blindness, said, “See what I have to live with?”

I considered that a compliment.

Because I’d never had an eye exam before, I was caught off guard when they puffed air into my eyes. For the record, they did not warn me in advance. After I jumped a little, I told the assistant to assume I knew nothin’ about what was coming next. Because, well, I knew nothing about what was coming next. The assistant apologized and told me she should have told me what to expect.

No shit.

Anyway. She asked me next if I wanted dilation (no charge) or hi-res photos of my eyes instead ($20). I asked her to tell me more about this dilation thingy, and she rattled off a laundry list of not-pleasant-sounding side effects that included sensitivity to light, dizziness, and nausea, but promised these symptoms would “only last 4–6 hours.” That was a no-brainer for me. I told them I would happily fork over twenty bucks to avoid that nonsense.

So they took some crazy up-close pics of my eyes, which the doctor put up on his monitor. He pointed out my retina, optic nerve, etc. Trippy. Everything looked good, though.

This was followed by the good ol’ fashioned eye chart. At least I knew what was expected of me at that point. Afterwards, he broke the news to me.

“You’re an unusual case,” he said.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that…

Turns out I am nearsighted in my left eye and farsighted in my right. Together, my eyes compensate for each other. I personally like to think of myself as having self-correcting vision, but the doc didn’t see it that way.

“You probably haven’t noticed any problems with your vision,” he said. A true statement. But then he had me cover one eye, followed by the other, and read more lines from the chart while trying out various prescription strengths on me. I couldn’t help but admit it: they made a difference.

So, the bottom line is this: he wrote me a prescription, but I don’t need glasses. At least not for regular, everyday use. He suggested a few different options: distance glasses for driving, especially at night; reading glasses; or progressive lenses to help with both. Now, I wasn’t falling for this sugarcoated “progressive lenses” crap and called him out on it.

“You mean bifocals?!” I shouted asked.

“We don’t usually refer to them in those terms,” he replied, stealing a page right out of the you-can-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-but-it’s-still-a-pig book.

Fine. WHATEVER.

Really though, I’m okay with this. I have nothing against glasses, per se. The doc said it’s unusual for somebody to have reached this advanced stage of life without needing any sort of corrective lenses, so I should just count my lucky stars that I’ve gone this far and been able to see fine.

Oh, also, the eye doc really needs to work on his bedside manner.

So Tara and I will take a trip to Costco at some point and I’ll go ahead and order up a pair. They will probably spend most of their time gathering dust in their case, but I’m willing to try them out in certain situations.


Work has been pretty busy, which means the days are chugging along quickly. We only have a little over two months before our move now!

Hardly a day goes by where a coworker doesn’t comment about this. One young lady happens to have grown up on a farm in a small South Dakota town nobody has ever heard of, and her family is still there. She came in yesterday and asked, “Did you see the weather forecast?!”

She was referring to the blizzard in Rapid City today. 🙂

I just smiled and said yes, I had. I check the weather there on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I still want to move there.

Even though a blizzard in mid-April is hard to fathom. It hasn’t exactly been summer-like out here – cool and wet – but that’s typical. Winter feels like it ended long ago. Meanwhile, in my soon-to-be hometown, the snow is piling up and the winds are howling. Good thing I like the white stuff, huh?

Countdown: 71 Days

Commence Downsizing

I think I might finally be coming down from my Hamilton high. Good thing, seeing as how it ended its Portland run on Sunday. Even if I had the inclination to see it again (I do) and money weren’t an issue (it is), I’d be SOL anyway. I do see it’ll be playing in Des Moines, Iowa, of all places, in July; or in road trip terms, a mere 8 hr. and 33 min. drive from Rapid City.

Hmm.

Tempting, but I suppose we’ll be busily settling in then.

Speaking of the move, I’d been meaning to mention that my employer officially approved my telecommuting proposal. Feels like a huge weight has been lifted! Tara and I were fully prepared to move regardless of our respective work situations, but I have to admit, keeping a job I love is highly preferable. And working from home will be so beneficial! I’m not worried about my productivity; if anything, I bet I’ll get more done without the constant interruptions and distractions that are a routine part of the whole open office concept. And if I start to crave human companionship, our favorite coffee shop (Harriet & Oak) is downtown, and they’ve got a wi-fi connection. I can see myself going out there to work for a few hours once or twice a week.

Plus, the place has an actual VW Bus inside.

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How can you go wrong with that?


The weekend was super productive – and we didn’t even go anywhere!

My big coup was selling our coffee table. We are downsizing prior to our move, a process that entails getting rid of a bunch of furniture, because

  • It’ll save us money, whether we rent a U-Haul or hire movers
  • Tara wants to upgrade some of the stuff, which predates her arrival

I’m not too attached to anything, so this works for me. The coffee table was nice; I’d scored it from a coworker years ago, who unbeknownst to her husband offered it to me for $35. She learned later that it had cost them $500 brand new a couple of years earlier. Oops. It took me about two weeks to sell it on Craigslist and I had to drop the price twice; I ended up letting it go on Saturday for – get this – $35. Which means I broke even a dozen years later. Not a bad deal, eh?

The guy who bought it looked to be all of 19 years old. He was probably moving out on his own for the first time. He was a super nice kid, very friendly and polite. I helped him carry it down three flights of stairs and loaded into his SUV.

As soon as he left, I posted an ad for our couch. I bought it new from Fred Meyer maybe seven years ago, and it’s in excellent condition. But Tara has never been a fan (she calls it “too soft,” as if such a thing is possible!) and we never use it; we spend all our time on the reclining loveseat, so it makes no sense to haul a couch 1,200 miles. I mean yes, at some point we will need a couch for the basement, assuming we have one, but we can always pick up something out there. I am motivated to sell and have it priced at $75, and it has already generated some interest. I just dread thinking about muscling this bad boy out the door and down those stairs, though. I plan to warn any potential buyers in advance to expect a little work getting it down to their car, and to bring help.

In any case, this is exciting. Things are feeling more and more real with each passing day. We’ve got a moving company coming out on Saturday for an estimate, and the following weekend, Audrey is moving out. Oh, yeah – guess I haven’t mentioned that either. She’ll be turning 18 and renting a room in a friend’s house. We tried to talk her into coming with us to South Dakota, but she’s not interested in that, at least not at the moment. Can’t imagine why – I just assumed all teenagers were super excited over the prospect of life on the high plains. Apparently not. In any case, we realized that we’ll be able to use her empty bedroom to store boxes in, which is great. I hate living amongst moving clutter. I imagine we’ll begin packing in earnest then.

Also over the weekend, I swung by the leasing office and picked up a NOTICE TO VACATE, which I will be filling out and turning in today. They require a 60-day minimum notice even if your lease is expiring, and since we are sitting at 75 days today, we figured we might as well hand it in. I was also given a sheet of paper listing our many pre-moving responsibilities, which seems excessive. Among other chores, we are expected to:

  • Clean all walls and ceilings
  • Wash all windows, window sills, tracks, and mini blinds
  • Clean out stove hood, exhaust fan, and filter
  • Replace drip pan beneath refrigerator
  • Wash all cabinets inside and out

Tara was freaking out a little, wondering how we were going to get all this done when our plan is to leave the morning after the moving truck is loaded and even talked about pushing our departure out so we could get busy cleaning. I told her that the list we were given is excessive; we’ve lived here for over four years, and there is a certain amount of wear and tear to be expected. In any case, Tara is a clean freak anyway, and keeps the place looking better than most. I just flat out refuse to spend more than a day tidying the apartment up, so we can either have the movers come a day earlier, or hire somebody to clean for us. Maybe both. It’s just not worth delaying leaving or knocking ourselves out; worst case scenario, they bill us and we deal with it later.

No wonder they say moving is so stressful!

Countdown: 75 Days

 

Tentucky, Anyone?

I was reading an article the other day about states with the most appealing shapes. This piece declared Montana the winner. I’m a little suspicious though, because the article in question was printed in a Montana newspaper.

Conflict of interest much?

I have actually given a lot of thought to states’ shapes over the years. I used to work in an office with a giant map of the U.S. hanging on the wall, and my eye was often drawn to it. One day I was gazing extra intently and made a few observations about America. Our states may be united, but they are not equal – at least when it comes to their shapes and sizes.

Take Tennessee, for starters. The poor thing looks as if it’s been squashed beneath somebody’s foot, a fate deserving of a cockroach perhaps, but not the Volunteer State. It certainly doesn’t have the vivacious, full-bodied look of an Ohio. How ’bout they volunteer to annex Kentucky? That would be one pleasant-looking state. Tentucky, maybe?

tentucky

Introducing Tentucky.

Tennessee is far from the only state to have drawn the short end of the geographical straw. At least it isn’t Rhode Island, so tiny it looks like it was tacked onto Connecticut as an afterthought. Plus, hello: it isn’t even an island. Our forefathers were either naive, drunk, ironic, or sarcastic when they named it. Possibly some combination of the four. Delaware, with size issues of its own, is a relative giant in comparison.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, why is Texas so big? You could fit approximately two hundred Rhode Islands within its borders, and still have room for a Delaware or two. Do you think Oklahoma ever looks at its neighbor to the south with anything short of derision? Texas already spills over into a good portion of what should rightfully be the Sooner State, leaving it with a thin little sliver of a panhandle. By the way, panhandles are stupid. They’re like a consolation prize or something. I’d be insulted if I were stuck with a panhandle! Whoever cooked up that idea must have been begging for ridicule.

They say Idaho has a panhandle, but it looks more like a chimney to me. Unless you’re balancing your pan on its side, in which case all your food is going to spill onto the stove, leaving you with one hell of a mess to clean up. Like I said: stupid.

At least Texas has an interesting shape. Colorado and Wyoming are just squares. Yawn. New Mexico is spared their fate by a little hanging piece in the southwest corner, which by all rights should be a part of regular Mexico. Speaking of that, I’d be offended if my name were lifted from someplace else. Sorry, all you “New” states. That doesn’t disguise the fact that your name has been recycled.

Nevada’s a freakin’ trapezoid. How badass is that?

Wouldn’t a perfectly round state be fun? Imagine driving around it. You’d just keep your steering wheel turned to the left or right the whole trip!

Do you think Florida ever gets lonely, dangling out there all by itself in the bottom corner of the country? They always say California is in danger of breaking apart and floating away, but if you ask me, Florida’s the real trouble spot. Especially with the constant threat of hurricanes pounding at their door. If any state is going to break off, it’ll be the Sunshine State. Hey, if that happens, maybe they can swap names with Rhode Island.

What’s the deal with Michigan, anyway? It’s like somebody with Parkinson’s disease was tasked with drawing the outline. While sitting in the passenger seat of a car traveling down a bumpy road. And, it’s like two states in one – an upper and lower peninsula. Are they even connected? Hawaii, for that matter, consists of seven islands, yet it’s a single state. And one of those islands is named Hawaii, but the others are…not. Somebody was smoking Maui Wowie that day.

Finally, answer me this. There are two Dakotas and two Carolinas, both distinguished by North and South. Why, then, is there a West Virginia, but no East Virginia?

And you thought geography was no fun…

Countdown: 80 Days

Not Montana

I was in the kitchen at work the other day and one of the RMs walked in for a cup of coffee. “So, I hear you’re moving!” he said to me. “Montana, is it?”

I corrected him, but couldn’t help chuckling over it later. I get this all the time; people know I’m moving to the Midwest somewhere, but can’t quite put a finger on the proper state. They’ll guess all the states surrounding South Dakota, but never seem to land on that one. It’s like they’re throwing darts at a map of the northern U.S. and seeing where they land. I have heard that I’m moving to North Dakota, Wyoming, and Minnesota, too. Even my good friend Heidi mentioned how different Grand Rapids, Michigan, is going to be. More than once. But she later admitted to thinking of the Midwest as “one big glob” anyway.275_5564b464d3a0c7.40098105_mw-map-poster-white_1500x

And maybe it’s just my imagination (running away with me), but I’d swear there is often an underlying note of pity in their voices, as if I’m being forced into something I do not want. Like I’ve drawn a short straw and am being exiled to a far-off land where it snows a lot and there are more bison than people. When I tell them no, this is a good thing, I’m leaving on purpose and looking forward to the change in scenery, a glint of relief appears in their eyes, followed by the inevitable question, “Why there?”

It’s okay. Everybody is well-intentioned, and I understand their curiosity. People in the PNW tend to be snobs about where they live. I don’t begrudge them for this; the upper left corner of the U.S. is beautiful, the climate temperate. A lot of people want to move here, while those itching to leave are in the minority. This makes me the weird exception to the rule.

By now I can recite my stock answer in my sleep. It goes along the lines of, my dad was in the Air Force, I went to high school there, loved the area, I want a simpler and cheaper way of life. That does the trick nicely.


Tara is headed home today and should be back by early afternoon. I’ll be glad to see her. A friend asked me today how I enjoyed my bachelorhood, but really, it was uneventful. I mostly watched a bunch of documentaries and cooked foods she would not like. This is what a forty-something party animal looks like, I guess.

My Saturday hike was definitely the highlight. While my last post might give you the impression that the whole hike was one big winter wonderland, that’s not the case. The first couple of miles were green and damp. Here’s proof.

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Countdown: 87 Days