Hold the Sprouts

Today marks the 8-month anniversary of our arrival in South Dakota. Feels like we’ve been below zero for seven of those months!

Ha. Slight exaggeration. I remember well the heat and humidity that greeted us our first week here. But this extended cold snap is something else. I was chatting with a local business owner downtown one day last week on my lunch hour and she said that the cold and snow are not unusual – but typically, temperatures warm up within a few days and most of the snow melts away. Instead, we are locked in a deep freeze that shows no signs of abating. It’s supposed to drop below zero tonight, and tomorrow’s high is going to be 1º. At least we aren’t the only ones dealing with the cold. Snow in Las Vegas last week made national headlines, and Portland is struggling through their coldest winter in 30 years. It’s just more pronounced here. Also, we’ve received four times the normal monthly snow for February – and there’s more in the forecast this week. Spring feels very far away still.

But, they are already advertising the Sturgis Rally (still 5+ months away), so eventually it’s going to warm up!


We decided to take a quick trip to the Badlands yesterday. It was the first time Tara had been in my car in months; she has been doing the majority of driving given the dicey road conditions and frequent need for 4WD, but Saturday was decent and I wanted to chauffeur her around for a change. Also, she was in no mood to drive; let’s just say we celebrated National Margarita Day on Friday in grand ol’ fashion!IMG_20190222_192508_781.jpg

We grabbed a couple of excellent subs from Pauly’s Pizzeria & Sub Co. on the way home. The place came recommended by a coworker of Tara’s, and these sandwiches were some of the best we ever had. In fact, we both ordered the West Coast Club, a combination of turkey, guacamole,  bacon, provolone cheese, mayo, cucumber, tomato, and sprouts. Only mine was on wheat and I told them to hold the sprouts. There aren’t many foods I don’t like – I’m probably the least picky eater on the planet, in direct contrast to my dear wife – but I cannot stand sprouts. They were all the rage when we moved to California in the 80s and I still associate them with the Golden State. It had been decades since I’d tried them and Tara was raving about how good they were on her sandwich, so I took a bite, thinking my taste buds might have evolved enough over the years to provide me with a newfound enjoyment of sprouts.

Nope.

I hated them then, and I hate them just as much now. I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of chewing on grass, because that’s what they tasted like. This is one of those very rare cases where Tara likes something and I don’t! Watermelon being the only other one I can think of.

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Never again.

We spent the rest of the evening watching “A Star is Born” from Netflix. I was very impressed with the movie; both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were phenomenal in their roles. I’m not even that much of a Gaga fan…I mean, I don’t dislike her the way I do sprouts!…but I don’t really listen to her music. I may take a deep dive into her catalog though, because all the songs were stellar. That makes two great rock ‘n roll-themed movies we have seen recently (“Bohemian Rhapsody” being the other). I recommend them both if you haven’t gotten around to watching ’em!

Here are a few photos of the Badlands from yesterday.

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So, I’m curious to know three things:

  1. Are you dreaming of warm summer temperatures?
  2. Is there a food you absolutely detest?
  3. Any good movies you’ve seen lately worth recommending?
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Dodging Snowflakes & Bullets

Holy crap. Has it really been almost two weeks since I updated my blog?!

I blame the government. With the shutdown now ancient history, business is booming – just as predicted. I kinda wish Trump had stood his ground a little bit longer! (Ha, not really. I do wish he’d walk off the side of a cliff or something, though.)

Work has been so busy, in fact, I stepped back in time and bought myself a planner. As in, an actual paper organizing system and calendar. I’ve got a smartphone app, of course, but experience has taught me that I just can’t/won’t/don’t use it to keep myself organized and on track. Maybe that’s because every time I pick up my phone I’m either scrolling through Instagram or playing Words With Friends. Regardless of the reason, the ol’ calendar app just wasn’t cutting the mustard. Instead, I found myself lugging a notebook around and digging through piles of paperwork on my desk. Who knew I was so endearingly old-fashioned?

The solution, then, was to research planners. I looked at everything from no-frills At A Glance calendars to fancy Day Timers with all the bells and whistles. I hated the idea of shelling out $25 for a disposable calendar I’d have to replace in January and was equally uncomfortable paying upwards of $90 for a leather-encased, refillable organizer. I settled instead on a Tul discbound planner. I’d never heard of such a system before, but it turns out they are quite popular – and rather ingenious! They utilize expansion discs that allow you to add, remove, and rearrange pages to your heart’s content. Kind of like a mashup between a three-ring binder and spiral notebook, but without any rings to open – the pages just slide into place magically. Best of all, the whole thing comes incased in a nice leather cover and calendar inserts are only $9.99. I think this will be perfect for my needs, even if it does make me feel a bit like it’s 1993 again.

Which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad thing.


Today was President’s Day, and it’s one of the few times in my adult life I haven’t had to work. I’d like to say I took advantage by doing something fun, but the high temperature was only 8º so that’s a big, fat NOPE. But I wasn’t slogging my way through RFP hell, so I still consider it a win.

We made up for our do-nothingness today on Saturday, anyway. Despite 6″ of fresh (and still falling) snow, we did a bit of exploring in the Black Hills, driving through the always-impressive Spearfish Canyon and checking out a little town smack dab in the middle of nowhere called Silver City. The drive home was a bit rough, as we encountered near-whiteout conditions on the interstate with lots of blowing snow, but fortunately the road was dry.

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By the way, we are way above average in terms of snow this winter. As of this morning Rapid City has had 40.1″; the normal season-to-date is 20.6″ so we are just about double where we should be. Sure feels like it, too – especially this month. 14.5″ through yesterday (we should only have 3.0″ by Feb. 17). I’m not complaining, though. This is exactly what I wanted.

Further evidence that moving to Rapid City was the smartest thing we could have done? Tara found out last week that her former employer in Vancouver, WA is looking for a buyer for their mortgage division and portfolio. They are getting out of the home-selling business, which means if we had stayed in the PNW and somehow figured out a way to buy a house, we’d be screwed. Tara would be facing unemployment and who knows where she would have ended up or whether we’d be able to make ends meet. It was already a struggle, and she was earning big bucks. I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty we would be facing.

I’ll take a little (okay, a lot) of snow and cold and a concealed weapons-loving governor over the stress and anxiety of trying to pay the bills back there any ol’ day.

Periwinkle is a Moose

Tara was looking at houses on Realtor.com last night (her favorite pastime) and showed me one that caught her fancy. The following conversation ensued.

“I love the periwinkle walls!” she said.
“WTF is periwinkle?” I asked.
“It’s a shade of blue.”
“Why not call it blue then?”
“Because it’s not quite blue. It’s sort of violet, too.”
“I’m okay with calling it blue-violet. Periwinkle sounds like a cartoon moose.”

At this point she just rolled her eyes at me. Another favorite pastime, come to think of it.

It’s going to be fun when we start looking at paint samples. She’ll be on the hunt for juniper and lemongrass, and I’ll be like, “Got anything in green?”

Are we painting walls or gathering ingredients to brew a cup of tea?


It’s another snowy, blustery, hovering-near-zero day. A year ago, when I was imagining what it would be like to experience winter in South Dakota, this is exactly the type of day I pictured. I’m not complaining – instead of doing something crazy like going outside in this weather, I just closed my office door and read my Kindle over lunch. However, I wish there had been more days like this when I was working from home. The snow is beautiful and peaceful, but venturing out is a bitch when it’s this frigid. First, you’ve got to brush snow and/or scrape ice from your windshield. Then, you turn the heater on full blast, but it doesn’t warm up your car until right about the time you’re pulling into the parking lot at work. That’s the drawback to a 12-minute commute, I suppose. At least Tara and I can carpool on days like this.

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The view from my office today.

Hard to believe it’s only going to get colder the next couple of days. -12° tonight with a wind chill pushing 40 below zero. Day-um.

It’s also hard to believe our high temperature on Saturday was 63°. What did we do to take advantage of the rare, springlike warmth, you might ask? We, umm, went hiking in the Black Hills. Where it was twenty degrees colder and windy.

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This is why we willingly left behind 60°+ temps on Saturday.

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Frozen Pactola Reservoir.

But, you know, we’ll have warm weather again. May is practically right around the corner!


Last week the Rapid City Public Library held a scavenger hunt. They hid 10 vouchers for free Rapid City Rush hockey tickets throughout the library, and posted clues on their Facebook page. I love a good scavenger hunt and we have had fun at the Rush games we’ve attended, so I studied the hints very carefully and got there right when they opened on Friday morning. I am fortunate to work a block away.

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Sure enough, I found the voucher I was looking for easily enough. I ended up being the first winner of the day! And then Tara was #7, thanks to some additional sleuthing on my part. I knew the location of a third ticket as well, but I didn’t want to monopolize the whole thing! Plus, you were limited to one per person, anyway. So, we can now redeem our vouchers for two free tickets to a Rush game of our choosing. They’re about a $30 value each. Not bad for a few minutes’ work, huh?

I Survived the Polar Vortex (But Didn’t Even Get a Lousy T-Shirt)

Well, that was fun.

My first Polar Vortex was actually a bit underwhelming. Sure, it was cold. But Rapid City never even dropped below zero. We came close: it was 1° Wednesday morning. When I woke up and looked at the thermometer, I was actually disappointed. Hey, if it’s going to get cold, it might as well get really cold, right?!

I am probably a little nuts.

We were on the western fringes of the Polar Vortex. The farther east you went, the worse it was: Sioux Falls dropped to -25, but that was downright toasty compared to places in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s safe to say we dodged a bullet here in western South Dakota! That didn’t stop concerned friends and family from checking in on us, which was certainly appreciated. I almost felt like I was letting them down by telling them Rapid City hadn’t even touched zero.

One thing we did not miss out on: frozen bubbles! Tara and I had seen pics of this phenomenon and were determined to create our own. A little Google sleuthing (Googleuthing?) told us that temperatures needed to be “well below freezing” and ideally “in the single digits or below zero F” for bubbles to freeze before they pop. Armed with this knowledge, we bundled up as though preparing for the Iditarod and stepped onto the front porch in the frigid dawn cold yesterday, cameras in hand, fingers exposed and numb, with vials of store-bought and homemade bubble solution. It was worth the near-frostbite, though!

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Things are back to normal today. In fact, our high temperature will be pushing 60° by Friday. And back down to 20° by Monday, but we’re getting used to these wild swings by now. If Polar Vortex II does show up next week, I want to emulate another popular video I’ve seen circulating by throwing boiling water into the air and watching it vaporize into instant snow.

Who says cold weather is no fun?!


I am thinking about a new mode of transportation to compensate for the wintry driving conditions here, but I’m not sure how seriously I’m actually considering it. When the weather is dry and warm, as it’s forecast to be the next few days, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when it turns snowy and icy again – and it always turns snowy and icy again – I start to think, yeah…this hatchback ain’t cuttin’ it as my tires struggle for traction and I start fishtailing.

As much as I’d love to buy a Jeep Wrangler, I’d have to sell a kidney in order to afford one and I’d rather hold onto all my major organs, thankyouverymuch. I’m thinking about a Mazda CX3 instead; it’s got AWD, has excellent gas mileage for an SUV, and I could take advantage of all kinds of customer loyalty rewards and trade-in points for my Mazda 3. If I’m going to pull the trigger, now’s the time to do so, when I’m essentially bringing home two paychecks at a time. But…I don’t know. When the weather’s bad, we carpool in Tara’s 4WD pickup. And ironically, the more money I have, the less eager I am to spend it – especially when there are credit cards bills to pay a house to save up for. I  can relate a little now to those cheap bastards you hear about who have worn thrift-store clothing, driven clunky old beaters, and recycled Saran Wrap all their lives, whose relatives have been shocked to discover, when they die, millions of dollars in their bank accounts they have been squirreling away all their lives. Not that I’d ever go to such extremes myself, because hey – you can’t take it with you! Also: I’m a solid $996,000 away from having that problem.

In all likelihood, it’s going to take a dramatic incident to spur me into action, like sliding into a ditch or something.

KNOCK ON WOOD.

A Spoonful of Sugar

It’s crazy windy today and, because my office is situated directly across from a brick building that is separated by a narrow walkway, that breeze is howling through the eaves. Sounds like a congregation of tortured souls screaming for mercy.

Yikes. Too much Ted Bundy for me.

I’m referring to the Netflix series, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, that began live-streaming on the 30th anniversary of his execution last week. I have long been fascinated with the notorious serial killer and remember watching the television miniseries about Bundy, The Deliberate Stranger starring Mark Harmon, back in 1986. I think it’s the idea that somebody so intelligent, witty, articulate, and unassuming can commit such depravity. Then again, I also closely followed the Green River Killer case and Gary Ridgway is the complete opposite of Ted Bundy, so maybe it’s just an overall lurid interest in true crime. I am a self-admitted Dateline NBC addict, after all.

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In any case, I devoured the four-part special over the weekend and paid for it in my dreams last night. Not a nightmare per se, but a strange narrative in which a nameless and faceless “they” were trying to strap me to equipment and kill me and I kept trying to escape, eventually finding freedom by simply walking out the front door. Pretty easy to match up that symbolism with the Netflix doc I’d just watched (the electric chair/Bundy’s escape out a window). The psyche is a powerful thing.

All I know is, I need to watch Mary Poppins or something equally wholesome tonight.

Aside from watching documentaries about psychotic bipolar killers, our weekend was fairly low-key. Spent most of Saturday at the Journey Museum and Learning Center, the perfect way to while away a 37-degree day that was spitting snow. Regular admission is $12 but they were selling movie tickets for $10 that included free museum admission. We could have bought the movie tix, skipped the film, and still come out ahead, but we decided to check it out – and were glad we did! “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” is a drama adopted from an acclaimed novel and is about…

A white author who is summoned by a Lakota Elder who asks him to write a book about his perspective. After a blundering false start, he is all but kidnapped and sucked into a road trip through the heart of the contemporary Native American landscape.

Cutting and pasting was easier than explaining in my own words. It’s not like I’m a writer or anything! Oh, wait…

In any case, we enjoyed the film quite a bit. It’s poignant, emotional, and humorous. And very much a South Dakota movie, filmed on location at the Pine Ridge reservation. The book has 4.3 stars on Goodreads and is the first in a series, so I may need to pick it up sometime.

Afterwards, we grabbed an early dinner at Sickie’s Garage, a small regional chain that boasts over 50 burgers. After much deliberation, we chose the following:

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Both were excellent.

Sunday was super warm; the temperature approached 60 before gusty winds kicked in. A few hours later, it was snowing. So typical of this area! It will be 13 degrees on Tuesday and 48 on Friday.

At least there’s plenty of variety as the temperature swings between kinda cold, cold, and cold AF.

 

Untangled and Frozen

This popped up on my Facebook memories feed yesterday, and I had to share with an update.

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I have never worked for a company that celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so when I learned that PSI follows all Federal holidays, to say I was thrilled is an understatement. I’m used to a long, nearly five-month stretch between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day without a break. Now, I’ve got Monday off, and we’ll be closed for President’s Day, too. This is much appreciated considering I won’t be eligible for any paid vacation time until 2020.

Granted, the weather won’t be conducive to doing anything fun and exciting. But I consider not working fun and exciting, so bring on the holiday!

Last week was pretty productive. I completed my first proposal; this one is for a road improvement project on tribal land in South Dakota. Bids are due Wednesday at noon, and they expect to have a decision within the hour. Fingers crossed that we land the contract, because this government shutdown is putting a serious damper on business.


Remember my unabashed love for Dot’s Pretzels? Well, my blog post caught the attention of somebody who works in their corporate office, leading to the following email exchange:

Dot’s Employee: I just got done reading your take on Dots Pretzels. I will say I have never ever heard of Dots pretzels described as you have described them. And I must say I agree with you 100% on that. Not just because I work for Dots pretzels in the KS location, but because it’s TRUE. Just thought I would share my 2 cents and say thank you for the great word of mouth.
Mark: Thank you. They really are that good and deserve heaps of praise! I’m happy to spread the word. How lucky you are to work there.
Dot’s Employee: I printed a copy of your review and its hanging in the break room. Thank you again for the awesome review. The Dots family really appreciates it. 
Mark: Oh, wow – thank you so much! Does the Dot’s family appreciate it enough to send me free pretzels for life??

There was more; he gave me the inside scoop on a new product that will be hitting the market soon, but I’d better not say any more. I’m just happy that Dot’s is the type of company to reach out to the consumer.


Saturday morning I was half-asleep when Tara poked me on the shoulder. “Do you feel like taking a ride up Skyline Drive to catch the sunrise?” she asked. Despite the fact that it was 10 degrees out, I agreed to untangle myself from our warm and cozy bed. 20 minutes later we were standing atop a hill overlooking a frosty, snowy Rapid City. Were we freezing our asses off? Yep. Was it worth it? Totally.

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It was an interesting week weather-wise. We had freezing fog for two days, which coated our trees in a thick blanket of rime ice and hoarfrost. That was followed by a little light snow on Friday. The scenery around town was spectacular.

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Today we are going to grab brunch and then kick it in the bar to watch playoff football. With the Broncos never even in conjunction this season, it’s tough to get excited. KC is a division rival, I’m not a Los Angeles fan, and Tom Brady’s had enough success. So…let’s go, Saints! I guess.

MegaKota? Mega NO, duh.

Have you heard about the online petition to merge North Dakota and South Dakota into a single state and call it MegaKota? Some guy in Fargo must have been really bored, because he started thinking about how badly he wants Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state, but hates the idea of changing the flag, because having 50 stars is neat-o. His solution? Combine the Dakotas and give them a really stupid name. Because that’s far less disruptive than hiring a seamstress to sew a 51st star onto the flag.

It’d be pretty cool to have a state called MegaKota so yeah.

The guy does have a way with words. I can see why his petition went viral. So yeah.

I think the whole idea is MegaStupid. Then again, I’ve got a more vested interest than most of the population. You think I want to go through the hassle of changing my address in a million different places, getting a new driver’s license, new license plates, etc.? I just went through all that six months ago! Besides, we aren’t the only states that could merge. How about MegaLina? Or MegaGinia? Or, for that matter, why not ColoRaska or IdaTana or New JersAware? Literally any two states that touch could be combined into one larger state in order to prevent the despoiling of our precious flag.

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As usual, the comments on this article are even more entertaining than the story itself. One rocket-scientist-in-training writes, “How can it be called the United States if some of our states are divided in half?” By that logic, Einstein, how can it be called the United States if some of our states are divided by a freakin’ ocean!? Much like, ahem: Puerto Rico.

It’s all starting to feel like a vicious circle. A MegaCircle, if you will.

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Mind you, I don’t think any of this will ever actually happen. These petitions to split up and/or combine states gain a little traction and then inevitably peter out. Like the idea to turn California into three separate states (shot down by the state Supreme Court last July) and the desire to create Jefferson out of southern Oregon and northern California. There’s even an independence movement afoot to create a whole new country called Cascadia out of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, but good luck ever seeing that come to fruition.

But at least we live in a country where people can dream big, right? They won’t get arrested or have their citizenship rescinded or anything.

They’ll just be ridiculed in blogs.

Connecting the Dot’s

The moment we arrived in South Dakota last summer, we were inundated with pretzels.  They popped up everywhere we went, ubiquitous bags with a bold red logo. We had never heard of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels before, but it quickly became apparent they were a “Pride of Dakota.”

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I am not exaggerating: they were everywhere. Gas stations. Hardware stores.  Gift shops. Meat markets (and by that I mean butcher shops, not pick-up joints). Meat markets (and this time I do mean pick-up joints). At first, we didn’t bite. Literally. A pretzel is a pretzel is a pretzel, right? They’re crunchy and salty and, if I’m being honest, kinda boring. Not nearly as satisfying as a potato chip or a Triscuit or a Cheez-It. Hell, they even play second fiddle to Pepperidge Farms’ Flavor Blasted Xplosive Pizza flavored Goldfish crackers, and stickler for spelling that I am, that’s saying a lot.

Then one afternoon we were out shopping. I can’t remember what I was standing in line to buy – probably a miter saw or case of spark plugs or somethin’ – and there was a bowl of Dot’s next to the cash register with a sign that said, EAT ME.

After smirking a little, because I’ll always be a 12 y/o at heart, I decided to give ’em a try. See what all the fuss was about.

ONE BITE AND I WAS HOOKED.

These pretzels, guys. They are indescribable. A flavor xplosion much more intense than anything Pepperidge Farms ever bagged up. The secret to Dot’s? SPICES. There’s more than just salt flavoring these amazing little corkscrew-shaped nuggets from heaven. The exact mixture of spices is a secret – Dot won’t divulge that info (yes, she’s a real person, from a small town in North Dakota you’ve probably never heard of, who decided that regular pretzels were boring (see above) and figured she could come up with something better, so she puttered around her kitchen, experimenting with different seasoning combinations until she got it just right (and isn’t that the most North Dakota thing ever!?)) – but there’s definitely a hint of ranch dressing in there (hello, buttermilk!), and garlic and onion, and a touch of cayenne to give them a slight burn. It’s a complex flavor profile that will have you wondering why nobody else thought to MacGyver up pretzels before!

With all those secret herbs and spices, Dot is like the Colonel Sanders of the snack world, minus the all-white wardrobe.

I’m not saying these things are particularly good for you. Anything that contains carboxymethyicellulose can’t be! But one bite in and you won’t care, because you have just found Utopia, my friend. A land of unicorns and rainbows and the most delicious pretzels in the world. Forget the 72 afterlife virgins you’ve been promised if you’re Muslim; you’d trade them all in for one bag of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels if you could. These are true Paradise.

Suffice it to say, we count ourselves among Dot’s biggest fans now. There is always a bag (or five) in our cupboards. And, we’ve been spreading the Dot’s love! Sending them to family and friends far and farther. Just today, I had four bags delivered to my former Fuel coworkers back in Camas, Washington. Apparently the moment Hana opened the UPS box, 20 colleagues descended upon her en masse, demanding their share of pretzels, too. And now there are 20 more Dot’s fans in the world, only they’re kinda out of luck, because the snack is a lot harder to find in the Pacific Northwest. If you walk into a hardware store in Portland looking for pretzels, you’re going to be stuck with nails and electrical tape and stuff. How boring! One more reason I am #teammidwest now.

If you’ve never tried Dot’s, I feel sorry for you. But fortunately, there’s this marvelous invention called the internet. Dot’s has a website (which I linked to above). Dot’s accepts all major credit cards. (And no, Dot’s did not pay me to endorse their product – though I wouldn’t turn down a few free bags of pretzels for all this publicity.

D’ya hear me, Dot?

Thanks for Nothing!

Holy crap. I haven’t written a blog post since LAST YEAR! I apologize for being so remiss in my duties.

I’m happy to report I survived my first week back in the trenches of Corporate America unscathed. Unlike back in August, I didn’t go bolting for the door in a mad panic this time, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I have the government shutdown to thank for that; with all the federal agencies we contract with shuttered at the moment, there are no projects to bid on. Which, honestly, is a relief to me. I need time to build templates and work on revising/rewriting a lot of material before the shit hits the fan. Which it will, I am told, once the Feds are open for business again. My boss says we can expect a flood of proposals about three weeks after the government is back in session, so I am enjoying the peace and quiet while I can.

No regrets on choosing this job, either. I like my 8-5 schedule and having a private office and carpooling with Tara and exploring downtown on my lunch hours. Last week I spent one break reading in the library, a mere two blocks from the office; another day I walked along the path that follows Rapid Creek from Memorial Park to Founders’ Park and back, about a three-mile jaunt; and on Friday, I wandered around the biggest and most impressive vintage/antiques shop I have ever set foot in. I ended up buying some metal signs and old South Dakota license plates, which I hung on my office walls in lieu of fancy artwork. It’s a very manly display, if I do say so myself! Never mind that my knowledge of cars is limited to topping off the windshield washer fluid when it gets low. Oh, and I can pump gas like a pro! So there is that.

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In any case, there is plenty to do between 12-1:00. When I was there in August I drove home for lunch most days, but why spend almost half your lunch hour in the car when there is so much to do downtown? I think back to the job I turned down, and how I’d have been cooped up in the office for nine or ten hours straight every day and always on call, and there is no doubt in my mind I made the right decision.

Yesterday we drove up to Sylvan Lake with every intention of hiking the closed-to-vehicles Needles Highway, but eight steps across the parking lot, Tara slipped and took a hard fall on the ice. She’s fine – her ego (and knee) are a little bruised, but she’ll live. Suffice it to say, we called off the hike. I was ready to call it a day at that point, but she insisted I at least walk around the lake so the drive up there wasn’t a complete waste. I’m glad I did, because the scenery was beautiful and the lake was frozen solid, covered in snow that was almost knee-deep in places. I ended up walking nearly to the middle, just to say I could.

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On the way home, we stopped into a bar and grill in Hill City for a bite to eat. We’d been there a couple of times before and always received excellent service, plus the food is really good, but for some reason the entire staff completely ignored us, never even acknowledging our presence. I was beginning to wonder if we might have inadvertently discovered invisibility, especially when one of the bartenders walked right by us (we hadn’t even been given menus yet) and struck up a lengthy conversation with a regular in the stool next to mine. We’d finally had enough of that nonsense and got up to leave. On the way to the door, one of the servers called out cheerfully, “Thanks for stopping by!” Was she joking?! Tara turned to her and replied, much less cheerfully, “Thanks for nothing!” Which was a little mortifying but also pretty funny. I’ll give them another chance because they make the best Bloody Mary in the Black Hills, but they’d better be on their game next time.

We stopped instead at Prairie Berry Winery. Their cafe serves excellent sandwiches, and we ordered cocktails. Well, to be technical, one of us had a craft beer on tap and the other got a cranberry cinnamon wine spritzer.

Please don’t make me tell you who ordered what…

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Adios, 2018

The year is ending with a little excitement here in Rapid City. If you consider a blizzard exciting.

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Never a dull moment around here, folks. Tara has to work today, but the bank is opening two hours late due to the weather. I don’t have to be anywhere (my first day on the new job is Wednesday) and I certainly don’t intend to venture out – not when the temperature is going to drop to zero by mid-afternoon. Fortunately, we were planning a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration at home, anyway. Picking up Chinese food (as is our tradition), listening to music, and maybe playing a little Nintendo.

I can’t help but reflect on all the changes 2018 brought to our lives. It has been a year like few others. 1994 sort of compares, when I left the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest, but back then I kept my job and my time zone, and the distance wasn’t as great. When the clock struck midnight one year ago, Tara and I looked at one another, a mixture of excitement and fear in our eyes. All the work ahead of us seemed overwhelming back then – packing up our worldly possessions, quitting jobs, bidding family and friends goodbye, and moving 1,250 miles away. There were moments where we wondered how we’d ever get it all done. And yet here we are, South Dakota residents for six months now, and it all feels natural. Yes, it was a lot of work, but we came through unscathed and it feels like we are both reaping the benefits of a simpler life in a small(ish) Midwest town already, just as we’d hoped. I am excited to see what 2019 brings!


Seems a little anticlimactic to talk about Christmas now that our tree and decorations are all packed up and back in storage. We had a great holiday, even though we missed our loved ones; we made an apricot-glazed spiral-sliced ham in the new pressure cooker Tara got me and went for a cold hike along the Skyline Trail, where it started snowing lightly. We were hoping for a white Christmas but missed out by just a few hours; the following morning we awoke to 2″ on the ground and some pretty slick roads that made me wish once more for 4WD. My new employer’s Christmas party was that evening, and it was a pretty fun little gathering; Tara got to meet my new boss and coworkers, there was free beer, catered food from Qdoba, and a white elephant gift exchange in which I actually ended up with a decent present for once – a mini desktop fridge that will keep a few cans cold. Perfect for my new office! PSI’s party was quite a bit tamer than the wild Fuel parties with casino games and live music, but nobody threw up in the bar this time so perhaps these low-key affairs are better, after all.

On Saturday, we drove out to the Badlands to admire them with a fresh coat of snow. All I can say is, wow.

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It’s hard to say what the highlight was. I’m torn between these bighorn sheep…

And this spectacular sunset.

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Stay safe tonight! Hope you all have a very happy 2019. Let’s go make some great memories, okay?