Why Did it Have to be Snakes?

It’s finally feeling like spring out here. We were a cat’s whisker away from hitting 60º last week, and as a result most of our snow has melted. I’m pretty surprised at how quickly it disappeared, considering we’ve had snow on the ground nonstop since December 1. I guess that’s the circle of life. (The circle of life also means lots of mud and creeks that are running pretty high.)

One day last week, there was a knock at the door shortly after I got home. It was Ed, our neighbor from two doors down, armed with a couple of steaks. He had brought us over a ribeye and t-bone – thanks, he said, for the Christmas cookies we gave him in December. This was very timely, as literally one day earlier Tara was suggesting we grill steaks soon since the weather has warmed up. I thanked Ed profusely and offered up the usual you-didn’t-have-to-do-thats, but he insisted. He’s a nice guy whom we chat with on occasion. With a high of 68º expected on Tuesday, I’ll be busting out the grill and putting those steaks to good use. Funny, nobody ever came to our door bearing meat in Washington (though we did get a note telling us our recycling bins were an eyesore and to remove our plants from the front entryway). Rude!

IMG_20190322_203250.jpgFriday night, we redeemed the vouchers we won during last month’s library scavenger hunt for Rush hockey tickets. The season is winding down and there were only a few home games left, so we figured we’d better get on the ball. Or on the puck, as it were. I assumed we’d be stuck in the nosebleed section, but they actually gave me my choice of seats from all that were available. We ended up in the second row near one of the goals (and eventually the first row, since those seats were empty). Had a great time as usual despite a 3-1 loss. It’s kind of bittersweet that we’ll have to wait six months before we can see another game.

Yesterday, we played tourist in our own backyard. When my family lived here in the 80s, we never once went to Reptile Gardens, a wild animal park and premier attraction in the Black Hills since 1937. Or Bear Country USA either, for that matter. I’m not sure why; we weren’t averse to hitting tourist attractions given the fact that we visited Mount Rushmore roughly once a month for three years. I guess it wasn’t something my parents were interested in? We would have loved it as teenagers though, because I loved it yesterday! How can you go wrong with 18′ crocodiles, some of the most venomous snakes in the world, and giant tortoises?


Spoiler alert: you can’t! Reptile Gardens has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest reptile zoo and I am not surprised: we spent a couple of hours there and could have easily stayed longer but we were getting hungry. The great thing about it is, locals get a pass for free admission for one year with the purchase of a ticket, so we most certainly will be back. Hey, mom and dad – wanna check out some snakes?!

By the time we left it was after 2:00 and we hadn’t eaten lunch, so we drove a few miles up the road to Rockerville, a tiny ghost town best known for its rustic saloon, The Gaslight. We had heard excellent things about the place but hadn’t been before. I’m glad we got to check it out, because everything was great! I had an excellent Bloody Mary, we found fried pickle spears to rival those from Shanahan’s in Vancouver, and the chislic was the best I have had out here so far.

I need to write about chislic in a future post.

Not much else to report. Busy gearing up for another work week. Tara has a solo trip to Ely scheduled for the end of the week – she plans to leave Friday and return next Tuesday, but as with everything around here, it is weather-dependent. This time of year is especially topsy-turvy. It’s supposed to snow a little tonight and then hit close to 70º on Tuesday, followed by another chance of snow Thursday night/Friday. She won’t bother going if the weather is iffy, so we shall see.

Devilishly Good Day

Saturday was pretty much the perfect day. We zipped over to Wyoming (and by the way, how cool is it that we can actually zip over to Wyoming whenever the mood strikes) to check out Devils Tower. Tara had never been and it had been over 30 years since my last visit. Fun-but-annoying fact: there is no apostrophe in the name due to a clerical error when the proclamation declaring Devils Tower a National Monument was signed. Drives the grammarian in me a little nutty. I don’t know which I despise more: missing apostrophes or unnecessary one’s.


Heading northeast the clouds thickened and it was snowing lightly by the time the monument loomed into sight, prompting fears that we might not even be able to see it. Fortunately this was not an issue as the visitor’s center is right there. Despite the cold and snow, we hiked around the base of the mountain, a short but scenic 1.3-mile stroll that afforded us great views of the Tower from every possible angle, not to mention the Wyoming countryside – prairie and hills and Ponderosa pine forests, all blanketed in an early-season layer of snow.




Afterward we made a loop through some pretty rural towns, each of them with successively smaller populations, culminating in Aladdin, WY. Population: 15. The whole town, it turns out, is for sale. For $850,000, all this can be yours:

  • 30 acres (zoned commercial)
  • House & storage shed
  • Trailer park
  • Post office, general store, & gas station
  • Liquor license

The general store was awfully cute and charming. I was thinking somebody should make a television show, a fish-out-of-water sitcom about a big city couple who buys a quaint rural property and has wacky interactions with the colorful locals, but then I remembered this had already been done with “Newhart.” Oh, well.

Back in South Dakota, we took the scenic route through Spearfish Canyon, where the snow picked up a bit. It sure was beautiful; all the colorful autumn leaves from a month ago are gone, but we were treated to dramatic frozen waterfalls and pretty much had the entire canyon to ourselves. More kudos for the offseason! By 4:00 we were hungry and it was already growing dark, so we stopped for an early dinner at Cheyenne Crossing, a cafe and former stagecoach stop along the Cheyenne to Deadwood route in 1878. Tara got an Indian taco and Bud Light, I ordered a buffalo burger and glass of Malbec, and we watched the snow through the window as twilight deepened. It was falling pretty thickly driving through Lead and Deadwood, but petered out by the time we reached I-90. When we got home we watched “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as an homage to Devils Tower.




Today will be much less exciting. Unless you consider trips to Target fun, in which case, it’s going to be a blast! Tara’s making homemade clam chowder, which will be the perfect antidote for our cold weather (and possible snow this evening). It actually got down to zero on Friday! Well technically, it was half a degree. Our high was 21. This is how crazy the weather in South Dakota is: it’s going to reach 31 on Monday, 64 on Wednesday, and 42 on Friday.

At least it’s never boring.

Tara’s got tomorrow off for Veteran’s Day but alas, the work of a freelancer is never done. At least as long as the projects roll in, so I’m not complaining! I’ll either work a few hours in a coffee shop in the morning or, if the weather is bad, hole up in the office upstairs.

Last Wednesday, Tara’s company was offering employees tickets for the Rapid City Rush hockey game. Neither of us had ever seen live hockey before, so we decided to take advantage. The Rush are the closest thing Rapid City’s got to a professional sports franchise. They play in the ECHL, a minor league with teams scattered across the U.S. and Canada. They have no NHL affiliation this season and play their home games in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. IMG_20181107_192147_220.jpg

Despite a lack of knowledge regarding hockey rules – I’m still not sure what constitutes “icing” unless we’re referring to a cake – we had so much fun! And our seats were great: third row next to one of the goals. Those players were bouncing off the plexiglass just a few feet in front of us, which was both exhilarating and a little frightening. Before long we were stomping our feet and chanting “Let’s go, Rush!” with the cowbell-ringing crowd. We even bought Rush gear and within minutes felt pride for our home team even though we had never paid much attention to them before. We’re already looking forward to going back for more games. The season lasts until early April, so we’ll have plenty of opportunities.

In other news, we already have our turkey for Thanksgiving. Which is next week. Yikes!