How is This My Life?

I can’t believe we’ve lived in South Dakota for nine days already. It still feels brand new! I’m guessing it’ll take a full year for the novelty to wear off. I will say that Rapid City is such a compact and easily navigable town, we already know our way around pretty well. It’s hard to get lost in a city of 75,000.

Exploring the area has been my favorite part. On Sunday, we went to Canyon Lake Park, a gorgeous 29-acre park with expansive grassy areas, trees, gardens, a pagoda, fishing piers, walking paths – and of course the namesake lake, which appeared to be teeming with fish and was being enjoyed by kayakers and paddle boaters. We took a 2.5-mile stroll around the grounds, stopping beneath a shady willow tree to dip our feet in the cool water. After a week’s worth of moving madness, that was an incredibly relaxing moment. Best part of all? This amazing park is just a few minutes from our apartment.

After spending a glorious couple of hours at the park, we drove a few miles away to the Chapel in the Hills, a beautiful Nordic retreat nestled in the foothills. We’d seen photos online, but it’s even more impressive in person.

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I can’t wait to check the place out in the winter.

Sunday evening, we met up with longtime family friends, Carol and Bruce, who were visiting from South Carolina. Carol was stationed at Ellsworth AFB along with my dad, and Bruce is from the area; they actually got married in the Chapel in the Hills. Not only that, but Sunday was their 34th anniversary, so it turns out they also paid the chapel a visit. We got together for a nice Italian dinner at Botticelli Ristorante. The food was great and the conversation lively. They’re both very easy to get along with, as evidenced by the fact that we commandeered the booth for 2.5 hours. Oops.

Monday, I went back to work. But it was a different kind of work – my first day ever as an independent contractor. While it felt a little weird at first, within the first hour I decided that I freakin’ loved it.

Because I don’t yet have a desk or any sort of viable home office setup, I decided to take up residence at Harriet & Oak, the coffee shop I’m always raving about. I grabbed a spot in the upper mezzanine, ordered myself a coconut cardamom latte (yum!) and a bowl of oatmeal, and got to work. I logged into their free wi-fi, slipped on my headphones, fired up my laptop…and proceeded to get hugely distracted for the first half-hour because of the novelty of the situation. I was working! From a coffee shop! With no boss looking over my shoulder and nobody to answer to but myself! Plus, there were people milling about below, and that practically begged for some people watching. Eventually I realized the articles I’ve been tasked with weren’t going to write themselves, so I got down to it and was super productive.

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My cozy little office.

I’m not real familiar with coffee shop/wi-fi etiquette, so even though I ordered food and a couple of coffees, by noon I felt I might be overstaying my welcome so I packed up my gear and headed down the street to Main Street Square. This is Rapid City’s answer to Pioneer Square in Portland – sort of the city’s “living room” – but on a much smaller scale. I grabbed a table at Klinkeltown, ordered a “Dijon Blackbird” grilled cheese sandwich with black pepper cheddar, whole grain dijon, chicken, bacon, and arugula on whole wheat, along with an iced tea, and sat outside beneath an umbrella, watching everybody frolicking around the square. Ahh…heaven. It was in that moment that I thought to myself, I could get used to this lifestyle.

After lunch I stopped in at a media/publishing company I’d talked about work with over the phone earlier in the year, and they were kind enough to give me a tour of the place. I swear, it’s like a miniature version of the company I worked for in Camas, right down to the roll-up garage doors and reclaimed wood furnishings. Their building even used to house an automobile dealer, just like my company’s in Washington did. Uncanny, the parallels. They do have a conference room made from a converted shipping container, so these guys get bonus cool points for that.

I didn’t want to go back to Harriet & Oak and take up more space, so I Google Mapped the local library and drove down there. Rapid City is so compact, it was like four blocks away. The building itself is a little dated and the wi-fi was less reliable, but I mostly work from Microsoft Word documents anyway so it wasn’t a huge deal. At least there I was better able to blend in with the other patrons. And the books.

I wrapped things up at 4:00, and that is something else I love about this situation: setting my own schedule. I had errands to run, so I ran ’em!

Today was a virtual repeat. I started out with a morning walk through the wilderness park across the street, where I saw a good-sized buck bounding through the grass, in addition to rabbits and ducks. And thought to myself, how did this become my life? And how awesome is it that it did?

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Instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to walk, I slept in until close to 7:00. Gone are those super early mornings and 9:00 bedtimes, folks. I’m a 10:30 – 7:00 person now, and I love it. After returning home, I got showered and dressed and headed back to Harriet & Oak for a few hours, then I walked around downtown for a bit, stopping in a bunch of stores to check them out. I met Tara for lunch at (kōl), a wood-fired grill/pizza restaurant that we’d been following on Instagram for the past year. The atmosphere was super cool and the food was out of this world. Best of all, they have a Sunday brunch with bottomless Bloody Marys for $5 (!). The odds of a return visit? 100 percent, guys.

This evening we are going to head out for a drive to Sheridan Lake and a quick loop through the Hills. There’s a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, so we’re keeping a close eye on the skies. And bringing our cameras.

Not sure what we’re doing for the 4th yet. Either heading downtown for the festival at Main Street Square and fireworks at Founder’s Park, or checking out Lead/Deadwood for their festivities.

Have a great holiday!

 

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I Don’t Give a Damn for the Same Old Played Out Scenes

I’m sitting in our apartment on a rainy, cool Saturday afternoon in Rapid City, listening to records and enjoying a Fernson tart ale. Our friend Heidi commented that it’s funny we had to move to South Dakota in order to experience rain. No kidding! It’s been a very wet month here, with over 6.00″ of rain in June, about triple the monthly average. Hell, that’s an impressive total even by Portland standards in the middle of winter. No wonder it’s so ridiculously green!

The cool weather is a relief after a couple of hot days, though. We were also working our asses off, which didn’t help matters. After four nonstop days of physical activity, we were more than ready for a break, so we declared Friday a day to play.

Our first stop was Harriet & Oak, the coffee shop in downtown Rapid City that we first visited on our trip last October. We grabbed a table and ordered delicious coffee drinks and breakfast burritos. I am planning to spend a lot of time at Harriet & Oak, starting on Monday; they’ve got wi-fi and a nice little upstairs lounge with comfy couches and cozy tables, so I intend to take advantage and work from there at least once a week, as I do not yet have a desk or home office set up. It’ll be the perfect distraction-free “office” space for me!

Stop #2 was Prairie Berry Winery, about a 30-minute drive away in Hill City. We fell in love with their South Dakota fruit wines in October and have been ordering their wine by the case and having it shipped to us for the past eight months. It’s great to be able to go straight to the source now and buy whatever we want without worrying about paying for shipping. We even signed up for their wine club! We get four bottles hand selected by the vintner every quarter, and in return, a 20 percent discount on all purchases and access to members-only events. My parents will be proud! I feel like such an adult now.

We were most excited to visit the Badlands, and that was our next stop. Tara had never been and while I have gone too many times to count, it’s just about my favorite place on earth. Originally we were planning on staying until sunset so we didn’t head out until noon. It’s about an hour’s drive east down Interstate 90, thanks in large part to the 80-mph speed limit. We decided to stop in at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site first; this didn’t exist when I lived here last because, well, we were actually at the height of the Cold War, and some 1,000 nuclear warheads were hidden in underground silos beneath the Great Plains. We really enjoyed the visitor’s center and learned that they offer tours of an actual silo, but you have to make reservations in advance. Next time for sure!

The next four hours were spent exploring the Badlands. Words cannot describe the beauty and splendor of this majestic place, but pictures always help!

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It’s safe to say that Tara was impressed! (And don’t worry, Tracy – she wasn’t as close to the edge as it appears in this last photo.)

Despite the heat – it was about 85 degrees in the park – we did a lot of walking and hiking amongst the dramatic castle-like rock formations jutting up out of the prairie. Instead of hanging around until sunset as planned, we decided to head back around 5:00, because it had been a long enough day and the weather back home was turning ominous. But not to worry; I shelled out $40 for an annual pass, and have no doubt there will be many more trips to the Badlands in our future.

As we merged onto the freeway, the sky to the west was looking very ominous. We got a weather bulletin that there had been three tornados spotted in the Black Hills and there were reports of softball-sized hail, so we drove on with a mixture of trepidation and, I’ll admit, excitement. I have long been a weather geek and wannabe storm chaser, so I was both apprehensive and thrilled about the approaching storm.

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A few minutes into our drive we pulled over to the side of the road to take a few pics, stepped out of the vehicle…

…and HOLY SHIT. Those prairie winds were blowing so hard (we learned later they were gusting to 70 mph), they tore my baseball cap off and nearly knocked me off my feet. I went chasing after my hat and, luckily, was able to retrieve it before it blew all the way to Nebraska. We wisely decided at that point it was best just to get back into the car and drive home.

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The sky continued to darken, and streaks of lightning split the horizon.

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A few minutes later, the storm was upon us, and it was as though hell unleashed all its fury. Heavy rain started falling and, worse, quarter-size hail began pelting the Mazda. It sounded so loud I was certain it would punch a hole through the windshield at any moment, so we tried to take cover beneath an overpass but found half a dozen other cars already parked there. Fortunately the hail did not last long and we were able to continue on our way. There was rain and lightning the rest of the way to Rapid City, but that was nothing compared to what we had just been through.

The front page of this morning’s Rapid City Journal is devoted to the storm, and shows the damage these severe thunderstorms caused a few vehicles. One couple’s windshield was smashed in, so my fears were not completely unfounded! Man alive, if there was any lingering doubt that the weather here is more dramatic than in the Pacific Northwest, it’s all been erased after yesterday’s storm.

Today, by contrast, was much more relaxing. We hit some garage sales and ran a few errands. Picked up a cheap TV stand and a nice solid wood end table, and made a quick grocery store run to stock up on these fantastic Wisconsin cheese curds we discovered the other day. Tara was worried we wouldn’t be able to find Tillamook cheese in South Dakota, but I figured here in the heartland we’d have access to even better cheese. Sure enough, this stuff is the creamiest, tangiest cheese we’ve ever had. Our Safeway actually does carry Tillamook, but screw that. This stuff is so much better.

We’ve been here almost a week now and are settling in nicely. Rapid City is such a charming and friendly community, I think it’s safe to say we are enamored. Neither of us has any regrets about this move. As physically and mentally demanding as it has been, it was worth the hassle. It feels like we’ve arrived home.

And maybe in a few more days we’ll actually have everything in boxes put away.

 

Commence Downsizing

I think I might finally be coming down from my Hamilton high. Good thing, seeing as how it ended its Portland run on Sunday. Even if I had the inclination to see it again (I do) and money weren’t an issue (it is), I’d be SOL anyway. I do see it’ll be playing in Des Moines, Iowa, of all places, in July; or in road trip terms, a mere 8 hr. and 33 min. drive from Rapid City.

Hmm.

Tempting, but I suppose we’ll be busily settling in then.

Speaking of the move, I’d been meaning to mention that my employer officially approved my telecommuting proposal. Feels like a huge weight has been lifted! Tara and I were fully prepared to move regardless of our respective work situations, but I have to admit, keeping a job I love is highly preferable. And working from home will be so beneficial! I’m not worried about my productivity; if anything, I bet I’ll get more done without the constant interruptions and distractions that are a routine part of the whole open office concept. And if I start to crave human companionship, our favorite coffee shop (Harriet & Oak) is downtown, and they’ve got a wi-fi connection. I can see myself going out there to work for a few hours once or twice a week.

Plus, the place has an actual VW Bus inside.

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How can you go wrong with that?


The weekend was super productive – and we didn’t even go anywhere!

My big coup was selling our coffee table. We are downsizing prior to our move, a process that entails getting rid of a bunch of furniture, because

  • It’ll save us money, whether we rent a U-Haul or hire movers
  • Tara wants to upgrade some of the stuff, which predates her arrival

I’m not too attached to anything, so this works for me. The coffee table was nice; I’d scored it from a coworker years ago, who unbeknownst to her husband offered it to me for $35. She learned later that it had cost them $500 brand new a couple of years earlier. Oops. It took me about two weeks to sell it on Craigslist and I had to drop the price twice; I ended up letting it go on Saturday for – get this – $35. Which means I broke even a dozen years later. Not a bad deal, eh?

The guy who bought it looked to be all of 19 years old. He was probably moving out on his own for the first time. He was a super nice kid, very friendly and polite. I helped him carry it down three flights of stairs and loaded into his SUV.

As soon as he left, I posted an ad for our couch. I bought it new from Fred Meyer maybe seven years ago, and it’s in excellent condition. But Tara has never been a fan (she calls it “too soft,” as if such a thing is possible!) and we never use it; we spend all our time on the reclining loveseat, so it makes no sense to haul a couch 1,200 miles. I mean yes, at some point we will need a couch for the basement, assuming we have one, but we can always pick up something out there. I am motivated to sell and have it priced at $75, and it has already generated some interest. I just dread thinking about muscling this bad boy out the door and down those stairs, though. I plan to warn any potential buyers in advance to expect a little work getting it down to their car, and to bring help.

In any case, this is exciting. Things are feeling more and more real with each passing day. We’ve got a moving company coming out on Saturday for an estimate, and the following weekend, Audrey is moving out. Oh, yeah – guess I haven’t mentioned that either. She’ll be turning 18 and renting a room in a friend’s house. We tried to talk her into coming with us to South Dakota, but she’s not interested in that, at least not at the moment. Can’t imagine why – I just assumed all teenagers were super excited over the prospect of life on the high plains. Apparently not. In any case, we realized that we’ll be able to use her empty bedroom to store boxes in, which is great. I hate living amongst moving clutter. I imagine we’ll begin packing in earnest then.

Also over the weekend, I swung by the leasing office and picked up a NOTICE TO VACATE, which I will be filling out and turning in today. They require a 60-day minimum notice even if your lease is expiring, and since we are sitting at 75 days today, we figured we might as well hand it in. I was also given a sheet of paper listing our many pre-moving responsibilities, which seems excessive. Among other chores, we are expected to:

  • Clean all walls and ceilings
  • Wash all windows, window sills, tracks, and mini blinds
  • Clean out stove hood, exhaust fan, and filter
  • Replace drip pan beneath refrigerator
  • Wash all cabinets inside and out

Tara was freaking out a little, wondering how we were going to get all this done when our plan is to leave the morning after the moving truck is loaded and even talked about pushing our departure out so we could get busy cleaning. I told her that the list we were given is excessive; we’ve lived here for over four years, and there is a certain amount of wear and tear to be expected. In any case, Tara is a clean freak anyway, and keeps the place looking better than most. I just flat out refuse to spend more than a day tidying the apartment up, so we can either have the movers come a day earlier, or hire somebody to clean for us. Maybe both. It’s just not worth delaying leaving or knocking ourselves out; worst case scenario, they bill us and we deal with it later.

No wonder they say moving is so stressful!

Countdown: 75 Days