Hiking on Saturday:
Hiking on Sunday:
What a difference a day makes, huh?
Hiking on Saturday:
Hiking on Sunday:
What a difference a day makes, huh?
Just finished a second cup of coffee and I complimented Tara on how good it was. More often than not I’m the one who makes it, but once in a while she jumps in. I think I’m still a little scarred from an incident a few years ago when I caught her slipping a mysterious substance into the grounds and was convinced she was trying to poison me.
Too much Dateline NBC, yo.
What happened was, we were getting ready to go to bed one evening. “I’ll get the coffeemaker set up for tomorrow,” she said. “Meet you in the bedroom in a minute!”
Halfway there I realized I’d forgotten something, so I turned around and went back into the kitchen, where I discovered my wife furtively adding something to the coffee grounds. When she saw me, she tried to hide what she was doing, which didn’t look at all suspicious.
“Arsenic?” I asked.
“Salt,” she replied.
It turns out she had been adding salt to the coffee grounds because she’d heard doing so makes the coffee less bitter. She thought I’d object for some reason and wanted to do this on the sly to prove some kind of point, but the only point she ended up proving that night was that she could get away with murder if she really wanted to.
We both still add a dash of salt to the coffee grounds. What do you know? It really does make the coffee taste less bitter.
Saturday, we decided to go take a hike. We did this in spite of the weather: increasing clouds, temperatures falling into the 30s, and winds gusting to 50+ mph.
We South Dakotans are hardy folk.
Actually, it wasn’t too bad where we went. We chose Little Elk Creek in Piedmont, which parallels a creek (bet you never would have guessed!) in a steeply forested canyon. This served as a nice wind break. It was chilly but picturesque; we ended up doing about four miles.
Afterward, we drove to Sturgis for a bite to eat at the Loud American Roadhouse. Can I just say the contrast between yesterday and early August, during Rally, was amazing? It always surprises me what a sleepy little town Sturgis is for 50 weeks out of the year. The other two, it’s madness and chaos. But in a really fun way. The food hit the spot (and the Bloody Mary bar really hit the spot).
We drove home through Vanocker Canyon, a 17-mile trek from Sturgis to Nemo that is renowned for its fall colors. This time of year everything was covered in snow already, but it was a really gorgeous drive anyway.
By the time we got back to Rapid, it was just beginning to snow.
What had already been a pretty full day wasn’t over yet. We’d bought tickets for a local production of Green Day’s punk rock opera, American Idiot, at the Firehouse Brewing Theater. Had a couple of drinks and an appetizer first, and then headed upstairs for the show.
This was our first time in the theater there, and it was a lot of fun. Nice little space, and the show was a blast. All the actors and actresses were quite good! When Green Day’s album came out in 2005 (can’t believe it’s been that long already!), I was smitten. It spoke to me strongly, touching on so many topics that bothered me at the time: a shitty president, a hopeless war, mind-numbing reality television, a drug-addled society.
Thank god everything is different today.
I played the album (though it was a CD at the time, of course) all the time for about a year. Knew it by heart. It was great hearing all those songs again, with the added bonus of an actual acted-out narrative, too (though the music still took center stage, and rightfully so). Going to have to pick this one up on vinyl.
Anyway. It was a fun time, and it felt good to support the local arts. We’ll be on the lookout for more shows in the future.
It was snowing pretty good when we left, but the roads were just wet, not slippery. It’s going to be cold the next several days—highs only in the 20s today, and even lower on Tuesday—so we are hunkering down. Except for going to work, of course. Today we are staying home to carve pumpkins, build a fire, and watch The Shining. Our annual almost-Halloween tradition.
Wow. It’s June now. Meaning we are rapidly approaching our one-year anniversary in South Dakota. Yet, living here still feels like a novelty. I have no idea how that is possible.
It’s going to be a pretty busy but exciting week for us. We officially close on our house at noon on Tuesday. There is some debate over whether or not we’ll get our keys right away; Tara says the title company has to record the deed first. In any case, we’ll have them within a day, which means we’ll have a lot of work ahead of us over the next month. We plan to spend most evenings and weekends at the house stripping wallpaper, painting, cleaning, mowing, and planting. Need to get those things done before all our flooring is installed (scheduled for the end of June). Then, maybe we can actually think about moving in. We are already planning on simple dinners we can make over there, supplemented with takeout.
Also this week: my company is hosting a Nurses of Excellence awards banquet Thursday evening, and I’m traveling to Ellsworth AFB on Friday to meet with a group of people about some great programs they are offering military kids. And the summer issue of our parenting magazine lands. I’m exhausted just thinking of all these commitments.
Knowing full well this would be our last free weekend for a while, Tara and I decided to go camping. (Actually, I’d made the reservations back in March, before we’d even started looking at houses. The timing was just fortuitous.)
We almost bailed at the last minute. The weather last week was nuts – heavy rain caused flooding along Rapid Creek and the surrounding streams. Just when the waters began to recede, we had heavy thunderstorms roll through on Friday afternoon. Lots of rain, lightning, and hail. I was stuck in my car in the Safeway parking lot about an hour before we were scheduled to leave, waiting for the storms to die down. Cancelling was on my mind, believe me, but I didn’t want to be out the $60 reservation fee or the six bundles of firewood, five bags of ice, rack of baby back ribs, etc. we’d already purchased. There was a break in the action around 7:00 so we finally took off, not really sure what the weather was going to be doing at Sheridan Lake.
Fortunately, it was doing nothing. It was actually a lot nicer in the Black Hills than in town. Still, we rushed to get our tent set up just in case, and started a fire just as the sun was going down. It was a much later start than I would have liked, but the weather cooperated all weekend – other than a couple of distant rumbles of thunder and a few sprinkles Saturday evening, it was fine. That first night was cold, though. Pretty sure the temperature bottomed out around 40º and we were in a tent. Tara and I haven’t slept so closely to one another in a long time, lol.
Overall, we had a great time. Broke down camp early and were back home before 10:00. An hour later it was storming like crazy: more lightning, thunder, rain, and hail. We really dodged a bullet!
That’ll most likely be our only camping trip this year, with all the work we’ll be doing on the house.
But you know what? BRING IT ON. We’re both eager to get a little dirt beneath our fingers so we can start this next chapter in our lives!
Saturday morning, we decided to go for a hike in the Black Hills. With snow in the forecast today, we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather. Our destination was Cathedral Spires, a short out-and-back that was less than 2.5 miles total. What it lacked in distance it made up for in scenery! Plus, it was cold AF, so that was long enough.
I know not everybody is enjoying fall-like weather and colorful foliage, but leaves are at their peak around here. They probably won’t be around much longer, so I’m glad we got out when we did. Here’s a taste of fall for those still enduring summer-like weather. I may have winter pics in a few days at this rate!
I’m writing this post while kicking back in a vintage travel trailer on the Washington coast. It’s the same trailer Tara and I booked in 2014, when we came out to Long Beach on my birthday weekend for the Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival. Deja vu, ’cause we are here again for the same festival on the same weekend. This is also the place I holed up back in 2016 to kick off NaNoWriMo. What can I say? We love the Sou’wester! And the crab fest, apparently. I’ve been coming here, on and off, for the past 20 years – five or six times total – so this is one of those bittersweet occasions because it’s our last hurrah. We haven’t even hit the fest yet, and we’re already having a blast!
My birthday began on a less than auspicious note with the following text from my mom.
Ha! I know she didn’t mean that. Tara and I (and about 50 other people on social media) got a good laugh over it.
I took the day off (Friday) and headed out to the Columbia Gorge for what has become a tradition – a birthday hike. I’d always wanted to check out Dog Mountain, one of the most popular hikes on the Washington side of the river; it’s known for brilliant wildflower displays in spring. I’m sure they were awesome, but there wasn’t much of a view because of the low clouds that obscured the peak.
Let’s talk about that wind, though. Above the tree line, there was a steady wind blowing at what I estimated to be 60-70 mph. No exaggeration. It was so strong it literally knocked me off my feet at one point. Between the dense cloud cover, hurricane-force winds, and bitter cold, it wasn’t a particularly rewarding hike. I definitely consider it the toughest one I’ve ever done, thanks to a 2800′ elevation gain over eight grueling roundtrip miles. Two days later, my knees and quads are still aching. But at least I proved to myself that, despite being another year older, I can still complete a difficult-rated hike. I doubt I would do this one again, though. Good thing we’re moving – there aren’t any Black Hills hikes nearly so steep!
Saturday we set out for Long Beach, making the trip via Highway 4 on the Washington side of the river. We’d never gone that way before, but I’m glad we decided to try a new route – it was quite scenic. We made a stop in Gray’s River to check out the last covered bridge in Washington state, and decided to check out a cute little Irish pub in town for a cocktail and a bite to eat. Looks nice from the outside, right?
Little did we know of the dark secrets contained within its walls. Turned out to be one of the most bizarre experiences of our lives, from the overly earnest proprietors who slid a handwritten, food-splattered list of specials under our noses to the cornflakes on Tara’s cheeseburger. Most disturbing of all, though? The extensive display of Nazi memorabilia scattered throughout the bar.
You know that movie The Hills Have Eyes? Let’s just say we felt fortunate to walk out of that place alive.
We checked into the Sou’wester around 4:00 and, once we got settled in, headed across the street to Rod’s Lamplighter, another dive bar (this one free of any Third Reich associations, thankfully). We killed a good four hours there drinking, playing pool, and filling up the jukebox with good music. Tara looked at me askance when the Bee Gees and ABBA started playing, but by then it was late in the evening and I was beyond caring. Came back to our trailer, heated up some pizza from the night before, and watched Sixteen Candles while rain began falling on the roof. It was pretty much perfect! A little too perfect perhaps, because I basically passed out.
Time to get ready for the Crab Fest!
Countdown: 54 Days
I’m sitting in my living room drinking a Bloody Mary and listening to an Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify. Imagine “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” slowed down 90% and sung in a breathy whisper and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the music sounds like. I am planning on a very chill day because yesterday nearly killed me.
Or at least my knees, which apparently are not used to being worked out to such an extreme. I am grunting and wincing in pain every time I get up. I sound like an old man, much to my own dismay. But it’s totally worth it, because yesterday turned out to be a near-perfect day.
I decided to go climb a mountain. All week I’d debated what to do with myself this weekend; Tara is in Nevada for her grandfather’s funeral (RIP Cecil) and I couldn’t take that much time off from work before our move – PTO is like gold at this point – so I stayed behind. I finally settled on the idea of a good ol’ fashioned hike. Ironically, I ruled out the one I really wanted to do up by Mount Hood because I thought the weather might be bad. Ha.
I got to Beacon Rock nice and early, 9:30 a.m., and set my sights on Hamilton Mountain, a 2,438’ peak that I’d climbed a few times in the past. I could not help but notice that the peak was covered in snow.
This wasn’t entirely a surprise; it’s been cold here the past few days, and we’ve had some snow in the foothills, so I’d come prepared with my Stabilicers® shoe traction devices and gloves. The trail started out wet and muddy, but as I climbed in elevation snow started to appear on the trail and blanketing the evergreen limbs. By the time I reached the summit, I was trudging through foot-deep snow, and everything was covered in white. It sure was pretty.
The clouds were darkening to the west, and I could tell a storm was moving in. Sure enough, right as I began the 3.5-mile trek back from the summit, it started to snow. Just a few light flurries at first, but the storm picked up in intensity and suddenly I found myself traversing an exposed ridge in the midst of an honest-to-god snowstorm. Talk about a rush!
Luckily I was prepared. My Stabilicers® (love the name, btw) gripped the trail confidently, and I was able to enjoy the majesty of a winter wonderland in March. You east coasters might be sick of snow by now, but I was one happy camper. I figured I was getting myself acclimated so those brutal South Dakota winters don’t kill me.
The closer to sea level I descended, the less deep the snow was. Eventually it gave way to a wet and muddy trail. Seven miles after setting out I arrived back at the truck, my thighs and knees screaming in agony from the effort. I drove myself ten minutes to Stevenson, where I stopped by Big River Grill for a late lunch and cocktail, figuring I’d earned myself a nice reward.
I drove home afterwards and the first thing I did was took a long, hot shower. It felt amazing. Talked to Tara for a bit, and even got to join in on a toast to her grandfather via the magic of video. I mixed myself up a Moscow Mule and parked my ass on the recliner, where I watched a Netflix documentary on WWII. Made myself dinner – a fried pork chop, paprika potatoes, and spinach, an old favorite I hadn’t cooked in years.
Because my muscles were screaming at me, I decided to borrow an Advil PM from Tara’s stash, but wasn’t thinking clearly and for some reason took two. I didn’t even realize my mistake until I woke up this morning at 7:30 – late for me – and was feeling super groggy. It took a good couple of hours until I actually felt awake.
So today is going to be a rare relaxing day for me. I’ll watch some TV, work on editing my book a bit. I’m craving Mexican food so I think I’ll walk down to Muchas Gracias later to pick up a quesadilla or somethin’. Otherwise, I’m not budging from this very comfortable spot.
Here are some more pics from yesterday’s adventure.
Countdown: 90 Days