Revolving Door

We’ve had a revolving door of houseguests over the past four weeks. I feel so popular!

Following my FIL’s visit the first weekend in August, my MIL and nephew came up for a few days. They drove the 1,200 miles from Tacoma to Rapid City, which I can tell you from personal experience is quite the haul. Once again we played tour guide, taking them to the usual hotspots – Mount Rushmore, Custer Wildlife Loop, downtown Rapid City.

Anthony loved the dinosaurs almost as much as my blogging friend, Jess Witkins!

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Come to think of it, so did I…

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It was a pretty nice visit. All of our guests have been very impressed with western South Dakota and really like our house. You could call these visits soul-affirming, even though we already knew we made a great move!

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I was especially excited to see my parents, because – well, they’re my parents! And it had been 11 months since we’d seen each other. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve gone in my adult life without seeing them.

They arrived Thursday morning, and I was able to take Friday off to spend some time with them. In addition to seeing the local sights—Prairie Berry Winery, Crazy Horse, Pactola Reservoir—we have been enjoying lots of time on the patio. Evenings have been spent talking, drinking wine, listening to music, barbecuing, playing corn hole, and dodging mosquitoes. Not in that order. The weather has been perfect; temperatures have been mild and, so far, we haven’t had any thunderstorms.

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A fun thing happened yesterday. Our doorbell rang, and when we opened the front door, there was Doris’s daughter Kristi and her new husband Troy. We had spoken to her over the phone a few weeks ago and invited her to stop by when she was in town.

Kristi grew up in our house and you could tell it was a very emotional experience for her to be back inside. She approved of the cosmetic changes we made upstairs and was thrilled that we kept the basement the same. We learned a few more interesting facts about the house and what it was like for Kristi and her brothers growing up in the neighborhood, and we let her dig up several of the dwarf irises her great-great-great-great grandmother transplanted from Norway. She’d told us she regretted not taking any, so now she can plant some in her garden in Connecticut. They’re a very nice couple, about my age, and we told them they have an open invitation to stop by any time they are visiting Rapid City.

I’m glad she got to see the house. I still recall my road trip to Dayton, Ohio in 2011 and my own (failed) attempt to visit my childhood home. I know what a thrill it is and would never deny her the opportunity! Upon leaving, Kristi said she is happy we bought her mom’s house and is grateful that we are honoring her legacy so much.

Gotta run. We have some errands today, including picking up a new stand-up freezer—a generous housewarming gift from my parents. We’re zipping down to Fort Collins next weekend to stock up on items from Trader Joe’s and now I can stuff that bad boy with chile lime chicken burgers and steel-cut frozen oats to my heart’s content. We’re headed out to dinner tonight, and then Tara and I have to go back to work tomorrow. My parents will be here until Wednesday. But they’re talking about coming back in October, so I’m pretty sure I won’t have to wait so long to see them this time around.

I really have to brush up on my corn hole skills though, because my dad has been kicking my ass.

 

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A Taste of Winter

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Autumn in the Black Hills sure was beautiful for the two whole weeks that it lasted.

I kid, I kid. But we definitely had a taste of winter this past week. For three straight days the temperature never climbed out of the 30s – our highs were colder than our average lows for the date! And we got 2.8″ of snow, as well. I knew it could snow in October around here. I just didn’t think it actually would!

Just when all hope of ever seeing fall again was nearly lost, today was sunny and 56. Couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day. And next week we’ll be pushing 70. Such is life on the Great Plains.

I’ll be back with a proper post next week. For now, enjoy the snow pics. Especially you, Ron!

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Downtown Rapid City

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Wilderness Park across the street from our apartment

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Canyon Lake Park

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Did global cooling kill the dinosaurs?

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So beautiful!

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We sat beneath this willow on a hot July afternoon and dipped our feet in the water

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Clashing seasons

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I should have packed a picnic lunch!

Faded Past, Bright Future

One month from today, we’ll be rolling into Rapid City, South Dakota. Barring anything strange and unexpected, like a flat tire in the middle of nowhere or an alien abduction, of course.

How did we get to this point?!

Don’t worry, that’s a rhetorical question. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, and another day fades into history. I get it.

Emotions right now? A little scared, but mostly excited. This is the home stretch – the culmination of months and months of planning. We are now starting to scout out places to live, because Tara’s idea of winging it until we got there seems less like a spontaneous adventure and more like a recipe for disaster the closer we get. We’d really rather have something lined up, or at least a couple of viewings scheduled. That Super 8 Motel won’t be feeling as super after we’ve been there a week, I’m betting. Free maid service or not. So we’re scouting Craigslist, and there are quite a few possibilities. We’re looking at ’em all: apartments, townhouses, duplexes, and houses. It still amazes me how inexpensive things are out there, but then again, that’s what kickstarted this whole idea, isn’t it? Our current plan is to rent for a year while we get settled, square away employment, and figure out what part of town floats our boat the most. The future feels wide open, and we are both eager to dive in.


I recently dug through some old photo albums of my mom’s, from when we lived in South Dakota in the 1980s. Sadly, time has not been good to those pictures; they’re pretty grainy and faded now. Let’s just say I have a newfound appreciation for the digital age. Despite the poor image quality, they are still fun to look at. I thought I’d share a few of them here for posterity.

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Ohio Ave. – Ellsworth AFB

This is a shot of our street from the front yard. Look at all that snow! (I have to warn you – a lot of these photos feature snow. Go figure.) I hardly ever rode the bus to school, as it was only about a mile away; cliche or not, I was one of those kids who actually did walk to school in knee-deep snow drifts. The proof is right here! Sadly, these brick houses on base were torn down years ago, replaced by more modern structures. Can’t say I’m too surprised; they were old and drafty and did little to prevent the cold from seeping inside every winter.

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Jurassic Mark.

Here’s a shot of my me and my brother at Dinosaur Park overlooking Rapid City. This local attraction, located on Skyline Drive, opened in 1936 and is still there to this day, so contrary to popular belief not all dinosaurs have gone extinct. The views from up here are incredible; the vast, sweeping prairie opens up to the east, and on a clear day you can see 100 miles into the distance, including the Badlands. I am hoping when my brother Scott comes to visit we can recreate this photo.

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The family Truckster.

When my dad was assigned to Ellsworth AFB in 1983, after spending three years in Hawaii, he knew we needed a car that could handle those punishing South Dakota winters. So he went out and bought an AMC Eagle Wagon. She may not have been pretty, but boy could she handle the snow!

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No asphalt? No problem!

The great thing about visiting National Parks in the offseason is, you have them all to yourself. Especially when there are plowed snowdrifts 8′ deep on the side of the road, as evidenced by this photo taken in the Badlands. This is why the Eagle was the perfect car for us at the time. Sure, we had to plug the engine in to a wall socket on those nights when the temperature dipped below zero, but the car was reliable in all kinds of weather and never got stuck. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for this vehicle – it was the car I learned to drive in, after all.

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Mitchell could double for Moscow.

One of the most unique attractions in South Dakota is the Mitchell Corn Palace. The building dates back to 1892 and is decorated every year in murals made from corn and other grains in a nod to the area’s rich agricultural history. The theme changes each year. The arena is home to concerts, sporting events, and rodeos, and naturally there is a Corn Festival. It doesn’t get any more kitschy than this, folks, but 500,000 tourists a year flock here. I can’t wait to take Tara!

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Pretty sure this was our family Christmas card photo.

This last photo has actually held up pretty well. We visited the Badlands many times during the three years we lived there, and personally I never tired of the stunning rock formations. The great thing is, every time you go, the place looks different. The lighting changes based on the time of day, season, and weather. During my visit there in 2011 on my road trip, I watched a magnificent band of thunderstorms march across the prairie, thunder echoing off the sharp canyon walls. And on the way back to Rapid City, I had to pull over to the side of the interstate during a fierce hailstorm. What a rush! When Tara learned that we had been just a few miles from the Badlands on our trip in October, she wondered again why we didn’t push on. Well, we were running out of time…and I knew we’d be back. Often.

Countdown: 29 Days