Forced Creativity

I apologize for not updating sooner. I’d planned to, but there was a snafu with the cable company – totally my fault, as I scheduled the appointment for Pacific time instead of Mountain time – so when they showed up to install our cable/internet, Tara and I were actually kicking back at Buffalo Wild Wings enjoying a nice lunch and beverages. Oops. Not that I would have had time to sit down and bang out a blog post, though…

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Moving: it’s not for the faint of heart.

We’ve now spent three full days unpacking, and approximately 80 percent of that stuff has been put away – either in cupboards, drawers, or our storage unit. The apartment is pretty nice, but definitely lacks storage space. We didn’t realize until moving in that we don’t even have a kitchen pantry; this has forced us to both downscale, boxing up much of our stuff that we figure we can live without for a while, and get creative with storing other items. Our wine and liquor collection, for instance, resides on the bottom shelf of our bookcase, and we have canned goods in an old DVD cabinet. You do what you must. Plus, this is temporary; we’re only here for 13 months, and then we should be ready to buy a house. It’s a small sacrifice to make.

Here are some photos of the apartment.

We have already developed a nice routine of sitting out on the patio in the morning, drinking coffee. It faces west, so it’s very pleasant early. The afternoon is another story, but our A/C is very efficient! And we’ve had some clouds to take the edge off from time to time.

Yesterday, I made a purchase that got me really excited: a brand new barbecue grill. grillYou might recall that our apartment complex in Vancouver did not allow grills, so we haven’t been able to grill out for four long years. Considering we cooked out on average once or twice a week prior to that, it felt like an eternity. So I broke down and bought this nice drum-style grill. It’s charcoal, even – something else I wanted to try my hand at. We wasted no time either, grilling up ribeye steaks and corn on the cob last night. It took a little while to figure out the intricacies of getting the coals just right, but after a bit of trial and error we figured it out and ended up enjoying a delicious meal on the patio, complete with wine and beer. Sitting there as the sun dipped low and a few lazy clouds drifted by, I felt utterly at peace for the first time in weeks. The whole moving process sapped all our strength, and taxed us both physically and mentally. It was good to finally be able to relax.

I know it’s only been a few days, but so far we are both quite enamored of Rapid City. We are finding this community very charming and friendly. Seriously; everybody is so damn nice here! Must be that Midwestern hospitality. And it’s the perfect size and speed for our pace of life. No regrets whatsoever.

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It’s been a very wet spring around here, and Rapid City is looking quite green.

Today was hot – not gonna lie. Well into the 90s, and humid. Fortunately, the day we were making multiple trips back and forth to the U-Haul was overcast and pleasant. Thank you, weather gods, for that. Every day convective cumulus clouds have been building up over the Black Hills and there have been occasional thunderstorms in parts of the region, but I am still waiting to experience one myself. My inner weather geek absolutely cannot wait. This weekend looks promising.

After being on the go nonstop for over a week and with cooler weather on tap, we have decided to take a break tomorrow and drive out to the Badlands, which Tara has never seen. We plan to hang around until sunset, weather permitting. I’m going to pick up an annual pass while we’re there, because there will be plenty of visits in our future.

I’ll update again this weekend.

 

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1,250 Miles in the Slow Lane – Pt. 3: Rapid City, SD

Honey…I’m home!

Funny concept, home. Most people have a hometown, or at the very least a place they associate with growing up. Being an Air Force brat, I never had that. Home truly was wherever I hung my hat. Honolulu was home three different times. Dayton was home. Vancouver, WA was home for what I assumed would be forever, until it lost its luster. Rapid City was home once, and now it’s home again. It’s very interesting, this nomadic type of existence. But I’ll tell you what: it makes a big, bold move at a time in your life when most people have long since settled down a whole lot easier to pull off. I’ve had a lot of people comment on how brave I am to do this, and tell me how envious they are. My go-to reply is hey, nothing’s stopping you from doing it, too!, but I guess if you haven’t grown up like I have (and Tara, too) that’s a lot easier said than done.

So, after three days, countless hours behind the wheel, and 1,250 miles – the majority of that devoted to the freakin’ big-ass state of Montana – we finally arrived in Rapid City at 4:00 this afternoon. Today’s leg was not without adventure. We were in no hurry to leave Billings, choosing instead to take advantage of the free continental breakfast at the Super 8 and catch the local news. They were talking about the U.S. Farm Report. The PNW already feels like a distant memory!

I took a stroll around the building before we hit the road, and noticed a bunch of squirrels scurrying through the grass beside the motel. Only upon closer inspection, it turns out they weren’t squirrels – they were prairie dogs!

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Not a squirrel.

We weren’t anticipating a very long drive today and figured it would go smoothly, but that’s the problem with road trips: they never quite go as planned. Our first mishap? Two minutes outside of Billings, Tara misread the signs and somehow turned onto I-94 instead of I-90. Suddenly, she was headed for Bismarck, ND while I was going in the opposite direction. I grabbed my walkie talkie to warn her – “wrong Dakota, babe!” – but by then it was too late. She ended up going five miles down the wrong interstate before she could find an exit and turn around, while I pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, Montana. That little mistake cost us a solid twenty minutes.

Mishap #2: remember how wonderful Sydney has been this whole trip? Well. Not so much today. For some reason she was not happy being in her carrier, and immediately let me know that. Here’s the deal: I was feeling so confident in her behavior, I didn’t bother applying the Feliway cat pheromone stuff. I guess that really was doing the trick, because without it she was pretty stressed. I finally pulled over at a rest stop and applied some, but it took a little while to kick in and she still wasn’t happy. About 45 minutes into our drive down Highway 212, a two-lane road through the middle of Native American reservation lands, she started clawing at the zipper on her carrier. At one point I glanced in the rearview mirror and was shocked to see her perched on the back seat behind – not INSIDE – her carrier, looking like she owned the place. Then she jumped into the front seat and was trying to get to the floor near the gas pedal, and I knew I had to pull over. So I flashed my lights at Tara, but she didn’t see me and kept on chugging along while I found a place to pull off the freeway. I grabbed Sydney, admonished her for being a brat, and secured her in her carrier. Meanwhile, Tara realized I was no longer behind her and tried calling me, but that went to voicemail because we were in a dead zone. It was a pretty stressful ten minutes, but we eventually found each other again. Sydney settled down shortly after and was fine the rest of the way. Poor thing; she was definitely “over” being cooped up in a vehicle by that point. We all were!

As we drew closer to the South Dakota border, the skies darkened and began looking pretty ominous. This is what I love about the Great Plains!

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Look at that ominous sky!

We crossed the state line around 3:00, and pulled over next to the sign to take pics. A few miles later, the skies opened up and it began pouring rain. That continued on and off for the rest of the way through the Black Hills. Man alive, they were gorgeous, though! Just like in Montana, everything here is really green and lush.

An hour later we reached Rapid City. As we crested that final hill on I-90 and the view opened up to the small city and the vast prairie beyond, I had goosebumps on my arms. It really did feel like a homecoming.

We got checked into our room and immediately headed over to Chili’s. When we visited in October, Tara let out a little shriek of delight when she saw the Chili’s sign. I know they’re a chain restaurant and we generally abhor those, but there are no Chili’s in the Portland area and we’ve both always liked their food, so we were eager to grab dinner there. And a couple of Presidente margaritas. After such a long trip, we’d earned the splurge.

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After dinner we drove over to our new apartment complex to check it out in person. It’s in a very nice neighborhood and, while the apartment itself looks small from the outside, the wilderness park across the street is awesome. It’s quiet and peaceful, with lots of lush vegetation and a gentle babbling brook. There are hiking trails crisscrossing the hill that towers over the park, and it looks like a fairly easy scramble to the top. I bet the views up there are killer. Tomorrow I shall find out.

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Wilderness Park across the street from our new apartment.

Or maybe Tuesday, because tomorrow’s going to be super busy. We have to sign the lease, pick up the keys to our storage unit, and unload the U-Haul. We’re going to spend the night in the motel because the apartment is sure to be a wreck tomorrow. We’ll deal with putting everything away and unpacking the following day.

Thanks for following along on this journey! I’ll be back in a couple of days to keep you updated on our progress.

1,250 Miles in the Slow Lane – Pt. 2: Billings, MT

I am writing from the air-conditioned comfort of a Super 8 in Billings, Montana. It’s roughly 1,000,000x better than the crappy Rodeway Inn we stayed at in Spokane last night. Funny story about this place: when I arrived in town exactly seven years ago, I walked into the Day’s Inn to make a reservation and when they quoted me a price, I told them there was no way in hell I wanted to pay that, so I walked across the street to this very Super 8. And they quoted me an even higher price, as did two other places I tried. So I ended up crawling back to the Day’s Inn with my tail tucked between my legs, humbled by the whole experience.

At least it makes for a humorous story.

Today was very long. We covered 540 miles over the course of 11 hours, including gas and rest stops. The first 75% of the drive was cold and rainy; it wasn’t until we hit Livingston that the clouds broke up a little and the sun shone through. This whole area has had an extremely wet spring – Rapid City included – and so everything is lush and green. It’s quite beautiful.

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We are both operating on very little sleep the past couple of nights and sore muscles from packing and loading the truck, so the drive these past two days has been rough. But we only have 316 miles to cover tomorrow, which should translate to about 6-7 hours max, so we don’t have to rush out the door in the morning. Hopefully we can sleep in a little.

One disappointment: the Pickle Barrel, the local sandwich shop we discovered on our road trip last October and had had our hearts set on for dinner, closed five minutes before we arrived. Total bummer. We ordered Chinese food instead; at least they’ll deliver that directly to our room. I can’t imagine sliding behind the wheel again after such a long day, at least not without a gun pointed at my head. Even then I might just tell ’em to go ahead and shoot me.

The walkie-talkies, by the way, have come in handy. We’ve used them frequently and they are working out great! No issues whatsoever. I’d share our “handles” but they’re too risque, knowing my mom is reading this.

Once again, Sydney handled the trip without any problems. The vet gave us a small supply of pheromone-scented wipes and instructed us to rub down the inside of her carrier; they’re supposed to calm cats down during long trips. I’m not sure if that’s what is doing the trick, but she is certainly behaving far better than any previous car trips we’ve taken her on.

Oh, one observation about all this driving in the slow lane: I actually like it. Call me crazy, but it’s a lot less stressful sticking to a steady 60 mph in the slow lane. You don’t have to worry about passing slow cars, moving over for fast ones, and there’s no dealing with annoying semi trucks. Also, no chance whatsoever of getting a speeding ticket. True, it takes you a little longer to reach your destination, but I almost think the lack of stress makes up for that.

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One other thing to point out, since I’ve had more than one comment about this on Facebook: yes, Tara is driving the U-Haul. I’m surprised that surprises anybody! She is, after all, a mini stock car track champion (2007) and has long driven big trucks, while I’ve got a Mazda 3. She wanted to drive the truck, and trust me, we are all better off for that. She knows how to handle it much better than I ever could.

So, here we are: heading for the home stretch tomorrow. We should reach Rapid City by mid-afternoon. I am so excited!

1,250 Miles in the Slow Lane – Pt. 1: Spokane, WA

Greetings from Spokane, WA! It’s official: the Biggest Adventure of My Life® has commenced.

We were up bright and early this morning, out the door of my parents’ house at 6 a.m. We would have loved to linger, but there was still lots of work to be done – loading the vehicles, cleaning the apartment, and getting rid of more junk in the garage. We took a break at 9:00 and met Audrey for breakfast at Linda’s Homeplate, then I had to run to Comcast (always a joy) to return our cable equipment and deactivate our account. Once that business was taken care of, it was back to the apartment, where the three of us – Audrey included – were scrambling like crazy to get everything done before our final walk-through. That was originally scheduled for 11:00, but I managed to push it back to noon. We were still hauling things out of there four minutes before 12:00. It’s certainly been a stressful few days!

After that we had to pick up the U-Haul from my parents’ house, say goodbye to them and Audrey (ouch…yeah, there were a few tears shed), and then drive to the U-Haul rental center to hook up the trailer and load my car.

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There was a brief stop at McDonald’s for a bite to eat, and then we finally, finally hit the road. And promptly ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic once we crossed the bridge into Portland. And again a little while later in the Columbia Gorge; we actually came to a dead stop and sat there, not moving, for ten minutes. I have no idea why; there weren’t any accidents or road construction taking place. Suffice it to say, those delays cost us quite a bit of time, so we got into Spokane a couple of hours later than anticipated and had to scrap our plans to visit the cider tasting room Tara wanted to check out. Which explains why I am blogging at 11:40 after a very long day as we await a pizza delivery.

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But our trip is underway now, and the excitement is building. Tomorrow’s going to be a solid 10 hours, at least, as we drive through Idaho and Montana. Destination: Billings.

By the way, Sydney did remarkably well in the car. She didn’t let out a single peep the whole time, which makes me wonder if somebody swapped her for a lookalike when my back was turned.

Anyway. It’s late, and I should wrap this up. Long day ahead tomorrow. Mountain time zone, baby!

Desperation Purge

It’s been a crazy, emotional, and tiring past couple of days. And we haven’t even left yet. They do say moving is one of the most stressful events in life, and they were not kidding. It’s brutal, guys.

Yesterday was my last day at work. I’ve been with the company for five and a half years and love my job, so leaving it willingly is bittersweet. I’ll still be working for them, but on a contract basis, so I’m no longer an official employee. This has led to a few panicky moments over the past few weeks, but Tara has been supportive, reminding me that we are doing this in order to have a better, happier life. I have no doubt things will work out for us in the long run. At least I have the comfort of a guaranteed income that will help ease our transition to a brand new life in the Midwest.

They threw me a farewell party yesterday, and because my boss knows me well, he planned a Bloody Mary bar. One of the owners of the company gave a very heartfelt speech about how much my contributions have been appreciated, and really, it was perfect. I had an opportunity to say goodbye to the coworkers I have known for so many years, many of whom I consider friends now. I swear, I miss them already.

Leaving would be so much easier if you never had to say goodbye.

We picked up the U-Haul after work, and started loading it early this morning. Tara hired two helpers for two hours, and that proved to be a godsend; they hauled most of our stuff down three flights of stairs and loaded it into the truck for us. Smartest $140 we’ve ever spent! Unfortunately, we had a garage full of stuff to load ourselves, and we quickly discovered we didn’t have enough room in the U-Haul. I knew we should have gone for the 26′ truck! This led to a desperation purge in which we were forced to part ways with a lot of things we’d been holding onto forever. Thankfully the dumpster next to our garage was empty, because I ended up filling that sucker to overflowing. And we’ll still have to make a run to the dump tomorrow before we leave, most likely.

By mid-afternoon things were feeling hopeless; the garage was still pretty full and we were rapidly running out of room in the U-Haul. “This is impossible,” I said to Tara, and it certainly felt that way at the time. I reached a low point then, feeling more dejected than ever, and wished that we’d been able to afford the $7,000 the professional movers had quoted us. Things would have been so much easier that way. Tara felt it too, and actually suggested we delay our move by a day, rent a trailer and hitch for her pickup, and load the extra items in there. I was not down for that at all – we have a schedule to keep, after all; there are motel reservations and appointments next week – so I dug deeply, searching for whatever inner reserves of strength I could find, and somehow we powered through. Determined to make everything fit come hell or high water, I channeled my inner Taurus and, through a combination of sweat, perseverance, and stubbornness, we did it! Finally finished loading the truck shortly after 5:00. Whew! It felt like we were playing a real-life game of Tetris for eight hours.

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Like playing Tetris. We filled every square inch of this truck!

I am currently parked on a comfy chair in my parents’ living room. We are staying here overnight, and then tomorrow morning we’ve got cleaning to do, breakfast with Audrey, our final walk-through in the apartment, and then we have a couple of errands to run. We have to return our cable equipment, pick up the trailer for the U-Haul, and hook up the Mazda.

And then we get to drive seven hours to Spokane. With a cat who is 100% back to normal. Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled that Sydney is her old self again – but now I have to worry about her freaking out in the backseat.

Hey, in case you haven’t heard: moving is hard AF. And next Monday we get to do this all over again, only in reverse. Ugh. We’d better be happy in Rapid City, because I don’t want to move again anytime soon. Like, ever.

Because I want to chronicle every moment of this journey, I plan to blog from the road. So I’ll check in tomorrow from Spokane.

This is it! The culmination of a solid year’s worth of planning. We are both ready to go!!

Countdown: 1 Day!

Fox Paw’s Coming Home

When we lived in South Dakota in the ’80s, my parents bought an ice scraper. Not just any ol’ ice scraper, mind you; this one was special. It was called the Fox Paw and came wrapped in faux fur, so your hand would stay warm when scraping ice from the car’s windshield. Pretty ingenious, actually.

Sunday they had me over for an early birthday celebration since they will be traveling on the actual day. The grilled teriyaki chicken and potato salad were delicious and the carrot cake divine, but the real joy came when it was time to open gifts. They handed me a wrapped package and said, “It’s time to pass this on now.” I had no clue what that might possibly mean, so I tore open the package and found…

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Wait. Could it really be?!

It was!!

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The Fox Paw is coming home!

Scoff if you will, but know this: when it’s ten degrees below zero and snowing like mad, my hand is going to be nice and toasty while I clear my windshield. (Actually, when it’s ten degrees below zero and snowing like mad, my whole body is going to be nice and toasty because if you think I’m venturing outside in that shit, you’re crazy. But, if I did, then yeah. My hand would be nice and toasty.)

There’s a beautiful symmetry to something coming full circle, don’t you think?

They also got me a gift card to Murphy’s Pub & Grill in downtown Rapid City. We stopped in for dinner and cocktails after our whirlwind Saturday there last October and loved the place. So the gift card is greatly appreciated and sure to get used. After all, they’ve got fried pickles there.


This past Saturday, we met up with my coworker Candace and her husband, Devon, for a day of cider tasting in Portland. And when I say “day” I do mean that in the all-day sense, as we ended up hitting three cider houses and a distillery over the span of seven hours. It was a lot of fun, though. And something we’d talked about doing for a long time.

The rest of the weekend was spent packing. I’m trying to strike a balance between getting as much stuff as possible boxed up early so there isn’t a last-minute scramble while still trying to make the apartment feel homey, but with three empty bookshelves and nothing but nails on the walls where photos and artwork used to be, it’s inevitably starting to look a bit barren now. On the plus side, since Audrey’s bedroom is empty, we are able to use that as a staging area for all our boxes. When we were preparing to move from the townhouse four years ago, we were surrounded by piles of boxes the last two months we were there. Out of sight is out of mind; at least now it just looks like we’ve embraced an extremely minimalist lifestyle.

Also, we’ve decided on going the U-Haul route as it’s the most economical way to move. Because of that, we’ve altered our plans slightly and will now be leaving one day earlier than originally scheduled – June 22 versus the 23rd. This is a significant date for reasons I’ll get into another time (hint: more symmetry). The bottom line is, our countdown has jumped ahead a day, which means every other post on the blog is now technically inaccurate. My inner perfectionist wants to go back and fix all those numbers, but I’m going to resist the urge. The date was never truly set in stone anyway.

Countdown: 59 Days

 

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

 

100 Days

Today is a momentous milestone. In exactly 100 days, we will be leaving the PNW behind and heading for South Dakota! Seeing that countdown timer drop to double digits tomorrow is going to be surreal.

We have slowly been preparing for the move, but that’s going to pick up steam very soon. Tara is talking about beginning to pack this weekend. Just items we hardly ever use, the stuff in the back of closets and in the far reaches of cabinets. But it’ll mark an important psychological start. What we have been doing for a while now is gradually stocking up on goods we won’t be able to find in Rapid City. I’ve got a box full of food and beverages tucked away.

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Yes, lots of salts. And vodka. That probably speaks volumes about my personality.

Since this is a new blog, I thought I’d take a moment today to talk about how we got here. I don’t mean in the birds-and-bees sense; I trust y’all know about that. More to the point, how – and why – we decided to leave behind Portland for a fresh start in Rapid City, South Dakota, of all places. If you’ve already read this, then you have some background. But no need to click on the link; this will be a standalone post.

It all began a long time ago, back when Ronald Reagan was President and MTV still played music videos…

My dad was in the Air Force, and received a new assignment that took us from Hawaii to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, just as I was entering high school. In the interest of keeping this as short as possible, I’ll sum up our three years there by saying my parents tolerated it, but I loved it. The Black Hills are spectacular. When we left in the summer before my senior year, I was basically devastated and begged them to let me stay, but that didn’t happen. We moved on to California, I graduated from high school and college, landed a job, transferred to the PNW, and never gave South Dakota much of a thought again.

Until 2011, when I took a solo road trip to Dayton, Ohio, another place from my youth. I had planned on staying two days in Rapid City along the way, but enjoyed my time there so much, I changed my itinerary and tacked on an extra day. Sorry, Cleveland – I had to give you up. I was quite impressed with Rapid City, surprised by its proliferation of cool restaurants, brewpubs, and quaint shops. Ohio might have been my ultimate destination, but Rapid charmed me the most. I famously wrote,

I was quite surprised to find a little slice of Portland in Rapid City: quaint coffee shops, a used bookstore, and this cool alleyway I stumbled upon that was decorated all over with graffiti and murals. I strolled through there, taking plenty of pics. Love it! I am enraptured by this place all over again, and want to enjoy every last drop of it while I can.

I can’t help but marvel, once again, over the beauty of this area…and abundance of natural attractions. I’ve often wondered if I could ever picture myself living in Rapid City again, and the verdict is in: yes, I could. I wouldn’t rule it out if the circumstances were exactly right.

Yet, I could never imagine how those circumstances would ever come together, and never seriously thought it would happen. Instead, Tara happened. We started dating a few months after that road trip, she moved out here, and we settled into a happy little life in the PNW.

Until we started looking at houses last year. Seriously looking, anyway. And quickly found that we’d been priced out of the market. While the exorbitant housing costs were the catalyst that made me half-jokingly suggest moving to Rapid City, they were really only the tip of the iceberg. The idea took steam once we talked about our growing disenchantment with the Portland area as a whole, and what once seemed like the most unlikely of scenarios, actually returning to a place that meant so much to me in my youth, became reality when we took a quick trip out there this past October and decided, over a plate of fried pickles – how very Mark and Tara of us! –  to roll the dice and make it official.

And now here we are, stocking up on salt and vodka, bringing home boxes from work, and contacting moving companies for quotes. It still feels surreal, and yet, this is as real as it gets.

Countdown: 100 Days