Shivering Like Egyptians

I opened the front door this morning to grab the newspaper, and saw six deer trotting across the middle of our snow-dusted street in a formation so perfect, I half-expected to find them pulling a sleigh driven by a fat man in a red suit. Then I realized, ha-ha, that’s ridiculous, if they really did belong to Santa, there would be eight of ‘em. Maybe a couple were off lollygagging somewhere. My money’s on the two who seem the least invested in Christmas: Dancer (who clearly prefers hoofing on Broadway) and Cupid (I’m guessing Valentine’s Day is more his speed).

Surreal sight. You get the point.

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The snow did not let up; in fact, it intensified, and continued most of the day. It wasn’t a lot by South Dakota standards; about 2” in most spots, but the temperature was in the teens, and when I went home on my lunch, my Mazda struggled to get up the hill leading to my neighborhood. The traction warning light came on, I slid a little bit, and the wheels spun while attempting to find purchase on the too-slick street. Those were a few tense moments, but eventually I made it to the safety of my driveway.

This does not bode well for the remainder of the winter, namely because winter is still six weeks away, but that’s merely a technicality around these parts. That hill isn’t going to get any less steep, but the snow will fall harder and pile up deeper. I am revisiting the idea of buying a vehicle with AWD. A Hyundai Kona SEL Plus, preferably orange, with  a power tilting/sliding sunroof, shark fin antenna, optional mudguards, and all-weather floor mats.

Let’s just say I’ve done my research.

All things considered, I’d rather not spend the money, but if I’m going to spend the money, I’d rather spend the money when I’ve got the money to spend.

I hope that made sense.

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Apparently, ice cream sales take a nosedive when it’s below freezing.

By the way, it’s going to be 62º on Saturday and 31º on Sunday. I know that doesn’t make sense. Tara said today, “Thank god I won’t have to go out into the brutal cold on Monday!”, knowing full well that I will have to, because some of us aren’t lucky enough to have Veteran’s Day off. Small price to pay for the privilege of a dream job, I s’pose.

Speaking of, last week I got paid to walk like an Egyptian around the streets of downtown Rapid City. My company has a friendly little lip sync competition with another downtown business every year to raise money for a local charity. This year’s theme was ‘80s music, and we chose The Bangles’ “Manic Monday.”

Yeah, kidding. We chose “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Duh.

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Because The Bangles are an all-female band, only the women in the office did the actual lip-syncing. And they did a great job, all four of them; I was impressed with how committed they were to embodying the spirit of the ‘80s, right down to the big hair. Our staff photographer shot it like a music video and it turned out really good. The guys in the office only had to walk like Egyptians, so we had it easy in comparison…except the day we did it was super cold and windy. It was more a case of shivering like Egyptians.

If you follow me on Facebook, I linked to the video on my page there. If not, you’ll just have to trust me. We nailed it.

Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh.

Take Me to Your Leader

Close Encounters of the Weird Kind

Recently, there was construction taking place outside the office. Guess what? Jackhammers and productivity do not mix.

Good thing I have noise-cancelling headphones and Spotify Premium.

At one point, the jackhammers were replaced by a deep, metallic, droning sound that lasted for about five seconds at a time. Really creepy-sounding, and it kept repeating; kind of like an ominous foghorn that I found eerie and familiar. I knew I’d heard that sound before, but couldn’t quite place it.

tripodFinally, I realized it was identical to the sound the Tripods made in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds. I played it out loud, and everybody in the office agreed—the resemblance was uncanny.

This reminded me of the time I was convinced I’d been abducted by aliens.

Cue flashback music…

It was January 2007, and my life was in flux. I was newly-divorced and living in a brand-new townhouse of my very own. One evening, I was parked in front of the computer in my bedroom, chatting with a female. (Newly divorced, remember?) Suddenly, three events occurred in rapid succession:

  • A dog began barking urgently outside.
  • The lights dimmed. They didn’t flicker, as will sometimes occur when it’s windy; they just got real low for a few seconds.
  • I heard a mysterious sound. In my blog post dated 1/24/2007, I compared it to “an electronic sort of humming, followed by what sounded like clashing cymbals.”

This was well nigh disturbing, to say the least. (Also, I have been blogging forever…)

I mentioned these strange occurrences to my chat companion, who joked, “Sounds like the Mother Ship just landed.”

I didn’t think much more about it until the following morning, when electronic devices began conking out anytime I drew near. Seriously: my fully-charged cellphone wouldn’t let me make a call, but instead emitted “a series of weird electronic beeps and clicks.” That same day, I was in Best Buy on my lunch hour, buying a CD (because it was early 2007), when the sales clerk’s cash register froze. She could not get it to work and was forced to do a hard reboot. “That was odd,” she said. “It’s never happened to me before.” Weird things like that happened, off and on, the rest of the week, before things finally returned to normal.

Suddenly, those jokes about the Mother Ship weren’t so funny to me. I wondered whether I had been abducted by aliens and had my memory erased, the side effects of which were an ability to disrupt the electro-magnetic field. Sure, we scoff now, but it seemed at the time to be the only logical explanation to my weird ability to unwittingly kill all electronics around me.

To this day I can’t explain what was going on, though later events in the townhouse make me feel that I had a bigger problem with ghosts than aliens.

I’m Here for the Boos

Between carving pumpkins for the first time in years and actually passing out candy to kids, Halloween was a novelty this year. I hadn’t had a trick-or-treater come to my front door in 14 years. Not because I didn’t have a front door (turns out those are a pretty standard feature in most dwellings, minus tipis and igloos), but rather, kids avoid apartment and townhouse complexes on Halloween, so we always ended up with a couple of unopened bags of candy. We figured things would be different now that we’re in a house, and sure enough, we saw maybe 40-50 costumed kiddos over a three-hour period. It was actually a lot of fun, even though I didn’t discover until plugging it in that evening that my fog machine was broken. It emitted a few half-hearted wisps of fog before sputtering out, the last futile gasps of breath from a dying soul. I wasn’t too surprised though; the thing had been boxed up since 2006. I’ll be sure to buy a new one for 2020 so I can really set a festive tone.

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Glutton for Punishment?

The weather has been its usual mixed bag of late, alternating between cold, a little less cold, snowy, a little less snowy, windy, and a little less windy. It looks to be the same for the foreseeable future.

You will notice, by the way, that I did not in fact post anything on the first two days of the month, which means I’m bagging my idea of blogging every day in November. You can breathe easily, Betsy. We’re gearing up for the winter issue of our parenting magazine at work and I’m still freelance blogging like a madman, so I figured I was overextended enough already. Can you believe I’m averaging 75 freelance articles a month?! It’s a wonder I have any brain cells left. I’m passing the torch and handing over 90 percent of the work to a former colleague at the end of the year, so at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully not a weird, flickering light accompanied by strange sounds and dying electronics…

Octember, Anyone?

It has been freakin’ cold here lately. So cold, my words froze in midair this morning; I had to thaw them out in a frying pan before Tara could hear what I said. We ended up taking everything out of the freezer and huddling inside to keep warm. Three pints of ice cream are now serving as handy footstools in the living room, guys.

It’s so cold the local politicians have their hands in their own pockets for a change.

Think I’m kidding?

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This weather isn’t unusual for Rapid City, but it is unusual for Rapid City in October. Our high on Tuesday was 10º colder than our normal low for the date. If this is a harbinger of what’s to come this winter, we’re in for a brutal one. And the local weather guys are saying it just may be

It’s supposed to warm up for Halloween. This means upper 40s, which is still cold for the date, but at least it’s above freezing!

And yes, Ron, we had more snow.

This storm rolled in Monday evening, just as we were finishing up carving pumpkins. We only got 2” out of it, so not a lot, but again…October. I think we’re going to have to rename the month Octember, because it definitely feels more like Christmas than Halloween.

Speaking of jack-o-lanterns, I hadn’t carved a pumpkin in…hmm…maybe 10 years? The last time was with the kids, before Tara and I even got together. She hadn’t carved one since 1995! So, it was a fun (and novel) experience for us both. I have no idea how many trick-or-treaters we will get, being new to the ‘hood. I spoke to a neighbor recently and she said it varies; some years there will be a lot, and last year there were…two or three? I’ll be happy to see even one! It’s been a long time since I’ve passed out candy.

Plus, I really want an excuse to fire up the fog machine. Although the fog might freeze and force us to break it off in chunks in order to dispose of it.

Life on the great plains, I tell you!

2020 Visions

I’ve been reading posts about NaNoWriMo the last couple of days, and they have brought back memories. Back in 2016, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first (and only) time in my life. It was a heady experience.

By “heady,” I mean, tough as hell.

50,000 words in 30 days is no small feat. And while I “won” the challenge, I didn’t magically write an entire novel in one month. I didn’t finish “Dream Sailors” until the following February (it ended up being closer to 80,000 words) and, I’m embarrassed to admit, I still haven’t finished editing it. Only one person has ever read it, and her name is not Tara (hi, Chris!). I’ll blame life’s general business. After finishing the novel, I uprooted my entire life and moved 1,250 miles across the country in 2018, and bought a house/started a new job in 2019. I have excuses, dammit!

But those excuses are beginning to wear thin. We’re settled in now. I have money in the bank. I really need to finish editing that novel and get it published. Tell you what: I’m making that an official New Year’s resolution for 2020. Next year, you’ll see my name in print again. It’s happening.

I also think I’d like to do NaNoWriMo again, but that’ll be next year. Yes, it was a lot of hard work. But I also think back fondly on that sense of accomplishment I felt. My favorite part was the two days I spent holed up in a vintage trailer in Ocean Shores, WA. Writing by candlelight, with wine and music and the gentle pattering of rain on the roof. I will always treasure that experience.

Because I’m a sucker for punishment apparently, I also took it upon myself to blog every single day that month. If nothing else, I was a freakin’ beast in November, 2016. I’m tempted to do that again this year, but when you work 40 hours a week as a writer, and much of your free time (mornings and weekends) as a freelance writer, the last thing in the world you feel like doing in your very limited free time is writing some more. Then again, we’re finally all settled into our house and winter is FAST APPROACHING (we had a little snow last weekend, and there’s more in the forecast), so what the hell else do I have going on?

Besides five more seasons of Mad Men, of course.

Work is still bomb dot com. Last Friday, I interviewed the GM of the Hotel Alex Johnson for a story about ghosts. That’ll go live on Monday. Talk about a topic right up my alley! I was regaling my coworkers afterward with stories of my own paranormal experiences. Oddly enough, here we are, living in a house where a woman died in February, and we haven’t had a single odd experience. Back in my old townhouse in Vancouver, Washington, my bathroom couldn’t have been more haunted. Go figure.

Saturday, I took advantage of decent weather to rake up a yard full of leaves, but underestimated the complexity of the project. I did not anticipate that it would take me a solid four hours and I’d end up filling fourteen yard waste bags (and a compost bin) full of leaves. Or that my arms and back would be throbbing with pain after. Tara suggested I take a hot bath and that sounded like a great idea, but we had a game night planned with people from her work and I just ran out of time.

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I talked to my parents that evening, and my mom asked if we had a grass catcher attached to our lawn mower. Yes, I said. Yes, we do. Why? “You could have just ‘cut the grass’ and then emptied all the leaves into those bags rather than kill yourself raking,” she replied.

Wow. Talk about a lightbulb moment. Moms really do know best!

So, should I shoot for 30 posts in 30 days next month, or what?

 

Objects in the Mirror

I had a traumatic incident today as I was headed home for lunch. It’s a warm day, so I had my car windows open. A wasp viewed this as an invitation to fly inside. While I was driving.

Oh, hell no.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep your eyes on the road while simultaneously staring into the rearview mirror, tracking every movement of an insect with a sharp stinger flying around the back seat?! The damn thing looked like it was hovering near the back passenger window, but then I remembered that objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear and freaked out all over again.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t end up in a ditch on the side of the road is because I was driving through downtown, where there’s nary a ditch to be found. Amazingly, I managed to keep my wits about me (meaning I didn’t scream like a little girl). Instead, I calmly slid open the power moonroof and started singing “Born Free” to encourage the wasp to exit my vehicle. Either that or I yelled, “Get the f!ck out of here!” To be honest, it’s all kind of a blur.

I hate it when you spot a bug in close proximity and then lose sight of it. One is never more aware of one’s own skin until one believes a bug is crawling over said skin. I swear I felt it land on me half a dozen times over the course of two miles, but I’m sure this was nothing more than my imagination.

Damn you, imagination! ‘Cause that was the longest eight-minute drive of my life.

By the time I pulled into the driveway, the wasp was gone. Either that, or hiding so it could torment me on the way back to the office.

So, yeah. It’s warm today. Pushing-80-degrees warm. You’d never know we had 6” of snow one week ago.

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Our tree lost all its leaves in 18 hours.

Naturally, the storm blew in right around the time I was playing staff photographer and doing a photoshoot for a groundbreaking ceremony downtown. It was cold and windy and spitting snow, and even though the event took place inside a tent, it felt like that might blow away at any moment. Fortunately, it didn’t, and my pictures turned out pretty good. My favorite part was hearing one of the city council members reading my executive proclamation out loud to the crowd. Pretty sure I had goosebumps the size of Cadillacs on my arms. Not that I could feel them ‘cause I was numb from the cold.

Fortunately, the worst of the storm held off until nighttime. The next morning, we awoke to a winter wonderland. On October 10. What can I say? Fall is the shortest season of all around these parts. I bounced up and down excitedly like a kid in a candy store…

…until I remembered that I actually had to shovel the stuff now.

That took a solid 45 minutes because we have a pretty good-sized driveway and decent stretch of sidewalk. I mentioned to Tara months ago that we might want to invest in a snowblower, and now I’m more convinced than ever that would be money well spent.

In any case, the snow’s all gone now, other than a few slushy piles in parking lots. I’m happy to report that autumn is back.

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Fall foliage at Horse Thief Lake.

But probably not for long.

The other big event last week was my company’s Raw Couture fashion show. It’s an annual event in which models wear edgy costumes made from raw materials that reflect the businesses sponsoring them, as well as the theme. This was our third year putting it on, and it’s growing more popular every time. The theme was “Forgotten Toys,” so we had a lot of really cool and slightly creepy costumes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, since this was my first go-round; my job as “runner” sounded fairly generic. In the end, I was tasked with corralling the models, making sure they had their photos taken, lined up where they were supposed to, etc. It may sound glamorous, but…

Yeah. Not gonna lie. It actually was pretty fun. And revealing, in more ways than one. My only regret is that I remained backstage the whole time, so I didn’t actually get to see the show. But Tara was in the audience and enjoyed it very much.

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Me and the work crew.

Maybe next year I’ll get to do something where I can actually watch it myself.

 

I’m a Little Teapot $hort and $tout

When we were unpacking boxes that had been in storage for years this past summer, we came across a few items we’d forgotten all about. It was kind of like Christmas in July! One of these was an unassuming silver teapot that had once belonged to my grandmother. We already had a teapot—something cheap we’d picked up from Target years earlier—so I almost put the hand-me-down in our Goodwill donation pile. There was a card that accompanied it though, so I looked it up out of curiosity…and discovered we were the proud owners of an Alessi Michael Graves Kettle with Bird Whistle with a suggested list price of $190.

Umm…’scuse me?!

It’s a teapot. It boils water. Doesn’t get much more low-tech than that. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $20 for one (and I probably complained about that). And yet, it’s pretty much the most expensive kitchen item we own. I’m almost afraid to use it for fear that I’ll somehow break it. But the weather turned colder last weekend, so we did in fact try it out. The tea was amazing; there were hints of orange peel, lemongrass, licorice root, and affluence. I now know how Jeff Bezos feels when he’s sipping tea in his lakefront mansion while deciding whether to buy a Bugatti, Rolls Royce, or Lamborghini.

Thanks, grandma!


We are currently entertaining my parents this weekend. They decided to come out for one more visit before the snow begins flying (and might have made it up just in the nick of time…more on that in a sec).

Yesterday, we took them to Deadwood for Oktoberfest. That was kind of a disappointment…it wasn’t much of a festival, as far as German beer festivals go…but the day wasn’t a total bust because we drove through Spearfish Canyon after, and the fall foliage was absolutely stunning—at its peak this weekend, as a matter of fact.

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Sure do love that place.

After leaf peeping, we stopped for pizza at Dough Trader in Spearfish. Their claim to fame is sourdough crust. It’s pretty much our favorite pizza joint in the Black Hills.

Today, we went out for lunch at Prairie Berry Winery and stopped by Horse Thief Lake on the way back. Beautiful day, but a little chilly with the breeze blowing.

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They leave tomorrow afternoon, and that will officially mark the end of two months’ worth of visitors.

One of my goals this weekend was to practice my photography skills. Our staff photographer at work is on vacation this week, and asked if I would step in and do a photoshoot for a groundbreaking ceremony in downtown Rapid on Wednesday. A local business development corporation is building a new campus and the mayor and city council will be there. In fact, they’ll be reading a proclamation declaring October 9 “Innovation Day” in Rapid City. It’s kind of a big deal. I think I have a pretty good eye for photography, but am lacking in technical skills. Jesse (our photographer) gave me a crash course in shooting in RAW format and editing with Photoshop, so I was super excited to get out and shoot in Spearfish Canyon yesterday…

…but when we got there, I realized I’d forgotten my camera at home.

&*#$%

At least I was able to make up for that today with the trip to Horse Thief Lake and a detour past good ol’ George.

By the way, guess who wrote the Innovation Day proclamation for the city??

Yeah. I have the best job ever.

The only downside might be the weather. Tuesday is going to be sunny and 72º but because this is South Dakota, they’re predicting rain turning to snow on Wednesday and possibly heavy snow overnight. Our high on Thursday is forecast to be 29º. This about sums it up:

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Hope you’re enjoying nice fall weather and colors in your neck of the woods!

I Didn’t Want to be Don Draper

We recently started watching “Mad Men.” I have no idea what took so long; I graduated from college with a BA in Advertising, after all, and once dreamed of living the Madison Avenue lifestyle. There’s no way I wouldn’t find the show compelling.

What I did not find compelling was advertising. I knew I wanted to be a writer as far back as middle school and initially set my sights on a career in journalism, but there isn’t much room for creativity in the news biz. My dad suggested advertising, and I thought, why not? Becoming a copywriter and churning out campaigns for billion-dollar corporations sounded appealing, so I dove right in. don_d

Halfway through my college studies, I realized that advertising wasn’t for me. I hated the cutthroat nature of the business and despised the idea of trying to sell expensive things to people who didn’t need (and couldn’t afford) them for the rest of my life. By then, I had no interest in switching majors and starting over from scratch—I was tired of school at that point and wanted to get on with real life—so I decided to  push on through, nose to the grindstone. I just wanted that piece of paper rubber-stamped with the governor’s signature and a fancy frame to put it in, figuring being a college grad was enough to ensure doors would open for me.

Well, those doors didn’t open. I had to bust my way through them while taking a long detour to get to where I finally wanted to be. Adding insult to injury? I never even got that fancy frame. My diploma is…somewhere. Honestly, I don’t have a clue where exactly. But it doesn’t matter, because I have learned over the years that a diploma really is just a piece of paper. I haven’t succeeded because of it, but rather, despite it. I mean, three months after graduating from college, I was stocking shelves at The Sharper Image. That’s about as far from the likes of Sterling Cooper as you can get. Customer service and call center jobs followed. Eventually, I powered my way into marketing and, through sheer determination and force of will, writing. It wasn’t easy. But few worthwhile things in life are.

I’m not dissing college. If I had it to do all over again, I still would. I’d just make damn sure I was certain of my career path before embarking upon it.

Watching Don Draper on the small screen, sure—his life looks glamorous. But even if I had followed through on the advertising dream, I remind myself that the Madison Avenue I’d have encountered was already decades removed from the one that exists on the show. Besides, pretty much every male on “Mad Men” is a prick. Fascinating as it is to watch, I can’t help but feel that I dodged a bullet there.

Today’s unusually contemplative post is brought to you by the first day of fall.


The past two months have been a whirlwind of visitors, and this past weekend was no exception. My daughter, Audrey, came up for a visit. When last we saw her, we were backing a loaded U-Haul out of my parents’ driveway, about to embark upon a 1,250-mile journey across five states for a brand new life in the Midwest. That was 15 months and an entire lifetime ago, so we were looking forward to seeing her again.

She arrived Thursday morning and left Sunday afternoon. In between, we did a pretty good job keeping her entertained. Did all the usual touristy things first-timers need to cross off their bucket lists (Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Wall Drug, the Badlands). Cooked her favorite meals. Caught up on all the goings-on. It’s hard to say which she enjoyed best: the spectacular thunderstorm Friday night, a classic South Dakota storm that brought rain, hail, gusty winds, and nonstop lightning; or the opportunity to feed prairie dogs by hand. We stopped by Prairie Dog Village just outside the Badlands yesterday (was it really just yesterday??); it’s the only place I have ever been where the prairie dogs are so used to humans they actually run toward (rather than away from) you and eat peanuts right out of the palm of your hands. One of them even licked my fingers. Now, that is about as far from Sterling Cooper as you can get. How is THIS my life?!

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I’m so glad that fall is officially here! It was a downright chilly 39º this morning, forcing me to put gloves on during my walk. The weather is changing right on cue; there’s even talk of a few snowflakes over the Black Hills this weekend. It won’t be long until they’re flying through the air in town, as well. Autumn is hands-down my favorite season but it’s pretty short out here, so I intend to enjoy the hell out of it this year.

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!

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!