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.
Finally, 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:
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.
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.
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…
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?
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Maybe next year I’ll get to do something where I can actually watch it myself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Hope you’re enjoying nice fall weather and colors in your neck of the woods!
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.
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?!
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.
We writers are required to have a thick skin. It’s right there in the job requirements, alongside other necessary qualities such as:
Stereotypes aside, we do love words. Especially our own. So when we’re asked to tear apart creations we have obsessed over perfecting, it feels like a slow death of sorts.
Now, just to be clear, I absolutely love my job. It’s hands-down my best gig ever. As far back as college, I dreamed of working in the publishing industry. I still pinch myself every now and then, not quite convinced this isn’t some blissful dream from which I might awaken. I really need to knock that off, because I keep showing up to work with unexplained bruises on my arms.
So far, so good.
In the publishing industry—much like NASA—space is everything. A magazine has column inches that are guarded more fiercely than some borders. Stray even an inch over and all sorts of alarms will sound.
We’re in the process of laying out our fall/winter visitor’s magazine, and there’s a big section on food and drink. I spent hours diligently researching and writing this spread (pun intended) and was very happy with the final outcome. I delved deeply into the history of South Dakota’s iconic dishes and really put my mark on it. (Yeah, another pun.) By the time I’d finished, I loved it. Our managing director loved it. Our creative director didn’t not love it, but his job is to make sure everything fits neatly into the tight confines of a 65-page publication.
Guess whose article didn’t fit neatly into the tight confines of a 65-page publication?
OK, so I got a little carried away. Maybe readers don’t need to know that “bison herds numbering in the millions once roamed the vast prairie freely” or that “Cornish immigrants working for the Homestake Mine in the 1870s carried pasties in their lunch boxes” when I’m just writing about buffalo burgers and meat pies (not nipple tassels, as some of you might be thinking). What can I say? I’m a completist. The characters in my novels all have carefully-developed backgrounds, so why shouldn’t readers know that kuchen (the state dessert) was brought to South Dakota by German immigrants in the 1880s?!
Well, because of that jewelry ad. That’s why.
FINE. I get it. But I can’t promise I won’t cry a little when cutting down my own articles. By the time our creative director sent the article back for a third edit, I was a brokenhearted, slobbering mess. On the inside, of course. Outwardly, I projected the same calm, cool, and professional demeanor that defines me. Other than wailing, “My words! My beautiful words! All gone!!,” you’d never know I was in any sort of distress whatsoever.
Thick skin, people. Thick skin.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Come to think of it, so did I…
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!
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.
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.