94.7%

Happy birthday, America!

Tara and I are celebrating Independence Day by, first of all, not working on the house. The truth is, there’s very little left to do at this point: all the painting is finished, the hardwood floors are 94.7 percent installed (due to a contractor snafu, they thought 18 boxes of bamboo would cover the job but ended up falling short, so box #19 is on order),  our storage unit is completely emptied out, and we have cable and internet. We’ve got a couch being delivered on Saturday, new carpeting and vinyl flooring being installed on Monday, and movers coming on Thursday to empty out the apartment. Which means we are exactly one week away from moving in. Whew!

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Incomplete or not, our new floors look great!

It’s been a lot of work for sure, but the place is looking really good. And there’s a definite pride in ownership that comes with transforming a place to make it your own through blood, sweat, and tears. That’s something you don’t experience when your new home is move-in ready. (You also don’t experience late nights and sore muscles and hundreds of dollars worth of Lowe’s receipts for paint, but that’s neither here nor there.) I don’t think I would change a single step of the process.

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Tara came up with an idea to paint a mountain mural in the guest room. By hand. I was skeptical at first…

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…but she nailed it.

Second of all, we’ll be bar-hopping downtown in the afternoon/evening. It’s how we spent the 4th last year, and that turned out to be a great day. The weather does not look promising for fireworks; we have had some strong thunderstorms the past couple of days (and nights) and more are expected for the next few days. If we’re able to catch a good fireworks display tonight, that’s great. If not, maybe nature will deliver.

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We have a literal front porch view of storms that develop over the Black Hills.

Last night, we finally had a chance to call Doris’ daughter, Kristi. She lives in Connecticut and was very happy to hear from us. The feeling was mutual – we talked for 40 minutes and learned so much about the house and Doris’ family! Like the fact that their original home was destroyed in the 1972 Rapid City flood that killed 238 people, so they purposely chose to build a new house as high up as they could get on a hill (hence our stellar views). We learned that both Doris and her husband were teachers in the Rapid City school district and that he was quite the craftsman, having built all the kitchen cabinets by hand. We found out the dwarf irises in the backyard have been in the family for 300 years and are descendants of plants brought over from Norway. There were once 50+ rose bushes and a couple of poplar trees in the backyard, and apple trees in the front. We heard about how the family turned the backyard into an ice-skating rink every winter and all the neighborhood kids would flock there. That Doris would pace around the living room nervously every time there was a thunderstorm, smoking an entire pack of cigarettes as memories of the flood that cost them their home (and almost their lives) haunted her. And how she was so beloved that people drove in from three states away for her funeral five months ago.

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We had no idea these dwarf irises had such a storied past. They have been in Doris’ family for over 300 years.

In fact, she wrote a story about our house that was published in a literary magazine! It’s a fascinating read and she’s a pretty good writer. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Kristi is coming to Rapid City next month to get married, and will be bringing us a piece of her mom’s pottery. In exchange, we’re letting her take some of the family’s dwarf irises, which she lamented leaving behind. She seems like a very nice person and we look forward to meeting her and her siblings. Suffice it to say, she is very touched over how diligent we have been in learning more about her mom and our desire to pay tribute to her. If there is an afterlife, I’m confident that Doris totally approves of us.

Have a great 4th!

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An Ode to Doris

I have become obsessed with learning all I can about the woman whose house we are buying. Fortunately, in this day and age, info is pretty easy to come by. Googling her name brought up her obituary and a whole lot of info. Here’s what we know: Doris was 79 when she passed away on February 10. She was a lifelong Rapid City resident, a teacher, and a respected artist renowned for her pottery. She also apparently baked a mean gingerbread cookie. Guests left comments on her online obit, including this gem:

Doris was our neighbor for 39 years. She will be missed. We watched our children grow up together with the band of other neighborhood children, and took joy in seeing grandchildren perched on the “giant rocks” in Doris’ backyard as their parents had before them. We know that Doris has found the peace that she shared with us every day as we looked upon the beauty and tranquility of her garden.

I feel like we have big shoes to fill. More than one person mentioned the backyard and those rocks. They are a prominent feature; I even asked the inspector about them last week. He said they most likely were dug up out of the ground when the basement was being built. Considering she lived there for four decades, I’m sure the house has all kinds of her energy in there. I will admit, I was trying to find out if she died on the property. I found no evidence either way, but if I’m really curious I can always check the county clerk’s office for her death certificate, which lists where a person expires. I do know that she is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the neighborhood. We’ll have to pay our respects one day. Also, if I can ever get my hands on a piece of her pottery, I would love to have that in the house as an ode to Doris.

Meanwhile, we continue to experience odd events around the apartment. Friday night, for instance, the TV downstairs turned on by itself in the middle of the night. I only know this because I woke up at 1:30 and heard voices in the living room. Freaked me out pretty good. Tara suspects Sydney might have accidentally stepped on the remote control and powered the television on. This is a perfectly plausible scenario.

Or would be, if she weren’t sleeping in our bed with us that night.

So, we are joking that it’s Doris. We don’t really believe the deceased owner of the house we are buying is hanging around us all of a sudden, but it’s interesting that these events  (the TV and lamp coming on by themselves, loud banging noises in the empty kitchen) started happening as soon as we made an offer on the place.


After venturing out of town the past two weekends we were hoping for a quieter, more relaxing one this time around, but we needed to get flooring and carpeting picked out because our estimated closing date of June 7 will be here in no time. So we ended up visiting several home improvement and flooring stores and finally found things we liked at Lowe’s.

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We ended up choosing bamboo flooring for the living room, kitchen, and hallway; vinyl sheeting for the bathrooms; and new carpeting for the bedrooms. (We aren’t changing a thing in the basement!) We definitely wanted hardwood, and not only was bamboo the most reasonably priced, but my research shows it’s very durable and is an especially good choice for pets. So, bamboo it is! Lowe’s will be setting up an appointment to take measurements before giving us an estimate. We have a rough idea of what it will cost but are curious to see the final numbers. It sounds like the timing will work out well; they said it’ll take around 4-6 weeks for the contractors to do the installation, which would give us time to strip the wallpaper and paint first.

After all that running around, we dropped in to Murphy’s Pub & Grill for a celebratory dinner. We toasted to my new job, our new house, and Doris in the same place where we made that fateful (and very smart) decision 19 months ago to roll the dice and move to Rapid City. It seemed both appropriate and full-circle.

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The buffalo meatloaf was featured on the Travel Channel and is pretty legendary.

Today, I decided to explore the hiking trails in the hills above our neighborhood. The trailhead is a five-minute jaunt from our front door, and it connects to the entire network of Skyline Wilderness trails that offer great views of the Black Hills to the west, downtown to the east, and the vast prairie. We can even walk to Dinosaur Park from our house. This hiking nerd could not be happier.

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View from the trail in our neighborhood. Our house is somewhere in the center of this photo.

Speaking of, I plan to hike Black Elk Peak – the highest point east of the Rockies – tomorrow. I want to take advantage of my two extra days of freedom before starting my new job. Tara warned me not to fall off a cliff, and I assured her I would be careful. (This particular trail doesn’t traverse any particularly steep precipices, so I’ll be fine.) I told her yeah, that would really suck for you. She replied, it would suck for you even more.

Touché.