The Moment When Everything Changed

One year ago, at this exact moment – June 16, 2017, 8:07 a.m. – everything changed. My entire future was altered with the push of a button. At the moment, I never imagined such far-reaching consequences would result from sending a simple email. Here it is, in its entirety:

“You know, if you wanted to expand our search area, there’s always this beauty. And lots others like it!”

And the beauty in question…

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This was the Friday morning after what had turned into a frustrating week full of highs and lows. We’d finally gotten serious about buying a house, and were pre-approved for a loan. So we started shopping around, and found the perfect home just a couple of miles from where we currently live, in Vancouver, Washington. Experienced a bit of sticker shock over the asking price, but the housing market is red hot here and we figured we could probably make it work. We might have to contend with eating nothing but ramen for a few years, but that seemed like a high sodium sacrifice we’d be willing to make. So we drove over to take a look at it, and the first thing we saw was several other carloads of people who had the same idea. The house wasn’t even officially listed yet.

“Uh-oh,” Tara said.

Prescient words, because a bidding war ensued – something that is all too common in the Portland area these days. We never even bothered throwing our hat in the ring, because the listing price was already more than we were comfortable spending. The loan amount we were pre-approved for would require a hefty down payment in order for us to afford anything decent around here and would leave us so strapped with mortgage payments, there’d be no discretionary income left over, so our initial giddiness quickly gave way to despair.

So one year ago, I turned the tables on Tara and her Zillow addiction, and sent her the above listing. I can’t stress enough that this was just for fun. I’d long had a secret love affair with Rapid City, but figured ours would be an unrequited romance. Even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined Tara would be the least bit interested in moving to the Midwest. Desperate and frustrated, I typed “Rapid City” into the Zillow search bar, just to torture myself, I suppose? And was blown away by the cheap housing there.

Shockingly, so was Tara. It still seemed like “a pretty farfetched idea” when I blogged about it two days later, and would remain an unlikely dream for about six weeks, when I finally began to believe it might actually happen. But that one email opened a dialogue and unleashed a chain of events that have led us here: in a mere six days, we are leaving the PNW for a new life in Rapid City.

The house that started this all, by the way? It never did sell. The listing was removed two months later. Who knows why these things happen, but they do. How funny would it be if it hit the market again…and we ended up buying it? The odds are ridiculously long, of course. Everything would have to fall into place perfectly.

But that’s exactly what we said about moving to Rapid City in the first place.

Countdown: 6 Days

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This Here’s the Rubber Duck

We bought walkie-talkies on Amazon last week, and I have to admit, I’m pretty excited. More so than any self-respecting adult should be.

Good thing I have so little self-respect!

The whole thing was Tara’s idea; she’d suggested a while ago that we purchase walkie-talkies so we can communicate more easily between vehicles while driving across the country. There’d be no fiddling with cellphones that way, and besides, service is spotty at best in some of the rural areas we’ll be driving through. Like the Continental Divide and probably 90% of Montana. The funny thing is, when I mentioned buying them last week, she completely forgot she’d already thought of that, said “What a great idea, babe!” and called me a genius. I was tempted to go ahead and take the credit – it’s not every day that your wife calls you brilliant – but in the end, I agreed that while the idea was smart, it was not mine.

I have already warned her that she can expect a lot of “Breaker 1-9” and “10-4, good buddy” talk from me. And I’ve been listening to C.W. McCall’s classic 1975 rock ‘n roll hit “Convoy” to brush up on my CB slang.

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The best part is, even after we move, we’ll be able to use the walkie-talkies on our hiking adventures in the Black Hills.


We had a really nice holiday weekend that was both fun and productive. Saturday was spent at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge hanging out with our good friend Chris. We meet up with her every couple of months for a day of frivolity, and while the day was bittersweet knowing we won’t be having any more of these get-togethers, we did not let that stop us from having a great time. There was good food, lots of drinks, and endless conversation. We played shuffleboard and pool and walked around the gardens and talked about her coming out to visit us in South Dakota. Plenty of people say they’re going to do that, but I take it all with a grain of salt. I believe Chris actually will.

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Sunday I spent hours packing, while Tara went into the office to catch up on work. I’d say we’re about 90% finished at this point; the apartment is looking pretty bare now and sounds echoey. We did take a break midday to grab sushi for lunch, and went over my parents’ house for dinner.

Monday we lazed around in the morning, then headed down to the Hawthorne District for one last hurrah in my favorite Portland neighborhood. And in doing so, crossed yet another item off our Farewell Tour.

After lunch and browsing/shopping through book stores and vintage shops, we shot over to Burnside and picked up a few records from Music Millennium. I know we’re supposed to be boxing things up rather than accumulating new things, records are the exception.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at home. Back to work today, but no end-of-the-weekend blues for this guy. Every day gone by gets us one day closer to the biggest adventure of our lives.

Countdown: 24 Days

That Voodoo That I Do

A few weeks ago, we went through the pantry and mentally catalogued what was in there. After finding a random assortment of items – garlic chili paste, barley, a packet of fajita seasoning (to name but a few) – we began to plan dinners around those things in order to use them up. Waste not, want not is something my mom always said!

Actually, I don’t think she has ever uttered those words in her life. She also never told me to clean my plate because there are starving children in Africa and didn’t warn me not to make a face or it would freeze that way, so she missed the boat on stereotypical parenting tropes. But it’s sage advice regardless, so those odds and ends stashed on the back of the shelf turned into Asian lettuce wraps, beef and barley stew, and shrimp fajitas. Mmm, right? I’m thinking we should have cleaned out the pantry a heck of a lot sooner.

With our time here dwindling rapidly, we’re also being very conscientious with what we buy at the grocery store. Think a small bottle of cooking oil vs. a bigger one, for instance, because there is no way we’ll go through 48 ounces in five weeks, you know? I’d rather not haul boxes full of half-used groceries 1,250 miles.


Tara drove up to Tacoma to spend the weekend with her mom on Saturday, which gave me an opportunity to tie up a few loose ends.

Which is really just a fancy way of saying I ate a donut.

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Not just any donut, mind you. Long-time readers will recall my fondness for Voodoo Doughnut. I mean, we even served them at our wedding in lieu of cake. Despite this, I had not been there in years, for a variety of reasons. Namely, sugar. I mostly avoid it these days for health reasons. Also, if I’m being honest, Voodoo doesn’t make the best donut in town. I’m not even sure they’re in the top five. It’s all about the experience, which includes long lines of tourists, off-the-wall flavor combinations, and a few XXX-rated sugary confections.

But the bacon maple bar is really good, and I decided I needed one more in my life before we move.

Mission happily accomplished.

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On Sunday, I loaded Sydney into her carrier for a test run. Results were mixed.

First off, she is a full-time indoor cat. Has been for her entire life, the occasional foray onto the back deck being the lone exception. So the moment I carried her outside, she was uncomfortable. Started meowing on the way down the stairs, and really let loose once we were in the car and started driving.

But she sort of settled down after a bit. These quieter moments were punctuated by periods of not being settled down. All things considered though, the experience wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I think she will eventually accept the fact that she’s going to be stuck in the car for a while and that cat brain of hers will conclude that complaining about it is useless.

Of course, we might be halfway across Montana before that happens…

Countdown: 38 Days

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

 

A Love Sleeps Deep

I feel sorry for all the Midwest folks who are still waiting for spring as they dig out from a seemingly endless parade of snowstorms. You guys are my peeps (or will be in a couple of months), so I feel your pain.

However, I am not yet a Midwesterner, so I may feel your pain but I am certainly not experiencing it. Because spring is going nuts out here.

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I like fall the best, but spring is no slouch.


We had a moving company representative come by on Tuesday to give us an estimate. It was far higher than expected: $7,300, which is about 2.5 times more than we budgeted. I guess we vastly underestimated the cost of an interstate move. (Actually, that’s not true. In reality, we had no freakin’ clue how much it would cost. I think we just hoped it would be under $3,000.)

Considering we can rent a U-Haul and hire a couple of helpers to move our heavy stuff down three flights of stairs for roughly $1,800, we’re most likely going to go that route. It’s hard to argue with the economics of the situation, especially given that I’m the only one with a job locked up. We’d have to haul one of our vehicles on a trailer and the trip would take a bit longer because of physics (and that pesky Continental Divide that will surely slow a heavy truck down), but it’s do-able. We might have to leave a day earlier than planned in order to make up some of that time, because we’ve already got a week’s worth of lodging booked in Rapid City. Would I rather just hire somebody to do the dirty work? Of course. But I also really happen to like saving money.

Nothing is set in stone yet. We’re still weighing our options.

After the estimator left, we celebrated Audrey’s 18th birthday with my parents. BTW, she moved out last week, renting a room in a house with a coworker/friend. Kids grow up so fast!


Wednesday was our Moondoggies concert at Mississippi Studios. My favorite part of the evening occurred two hours before the show even began. Tara and I had arrived early and were seated by the window of Bar Bar, the adjoining bar and grill, enjoying cocktails and a burger and fries, when Kevin Murphy – their lead singer – walked by. He spotted us and waved. Then he came over, shook our hands, and chatted us up for a few minutes. I eat that shit up, not gonna lie. I love that he knows us (by name even) and doesn’t consider us stalkers, even though we’ve been front and center for eight Moondoggies shows over the past six years. Later he and the band signed a copy of their newest record for us, and even personalized it.

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The show was great, of course. Beforehand I realized that the very first time we went to Mississippi Studios was to see The Moondoggies, so it was only fitting that our last show there would also involve them. Unless something last minute comes up, that is, but we’re running out of time. And I’d kind of like to end it on that high note anyway.

The band played until 11:30 so it was a late night, and we had to go to work the next day, but in the end it was totally worth it.

It always is.

I’m not going to change my countdown app until we have solidified our moving plans, so we might have one day less than indicated, but for now…

Countdown: 64 Days

What’s Wrong with 69?!

69 days to go!!

Speaking of 69, about a month ago I decided to create a new gmail account because the one I’ve been using for years was getting a lot of spam. And I don’t mean the good kind that comes in a can! So I chose first name last name 69 at gmail dot com. Deb and Not A Palindrome at work were all, “No, don’t do that!” When I asked why not, they said, “69, Mark? Really?”

Now, I’m no dummy. I know full well there is a sexual connotation associated with the number 69. But I figured my coworkers were blowing things way out of proportion and over-exaggerating the negative response such an email address would receive. 69 is a perfectly respectable number and, conveniently, the year of my birth, so it made sense for me to use it. Throwing caution to the wind, I set it up and messaged all my contacts, asking them to update my information.

And then the emails started pouring in.

I fired up Ye Olde Internet and learned that Deb and NAP were correct. Using 69 in an email address is a no-no.

Don’t ever use the number 69 in your email address, even if that’s your birth or graduation year. Assume readers will think the worst.

Well, crap. Quit thinking the worst, ya perverts!

For the record, you should also never use 420 or 666. Who knew?!

I walked away from the experience pretty embarrassed after so many people had a good laugh at my expense. And also, I might add, feeling sorry for the number 69. What did it ever do to earn such a reputation, anyway? Other than look like…well…umm…

Never mind.

Anyway. 69 days until we move. One month ago was our STP concert and the next day our countdown dropped into double digits and I thought, holy shit, 99 days. It’s coming up fast. Well, folks: now it’s coming up really fast!

With this in mind, yesterday we started packing. We spent 3+ hours boxing up a whole bunch of stuff – mostly books, but also miscellaneous living room, bathroom, and kitchen items. On the surface it doesn’t look like we did all that much, but step into Audrey’s vacant bedroom now and there’s a pretty good pile of boxes there. It’s a process, one that we will devote a few hours every to weekend between now and late June. I’m glad for the early start. Breaking down the work into manageable little chunks like this makes it feel much less overwhelming.

By evening we were ready for a break, and embarked upon a date night. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those. I wanted to treat Tara to a nice dinner to celebrate my impending remote employment opportunity, so we settled on a little French bistro in Portland called Verdigris. Dinner was good from start to finish: an asparagus soup amuse bouche with crumbled bleu cheese; sea salted dinner rolls; lobster bisque and scallops for her, a mushroom tarte and duck two ways for me. Plus a couple of pineapple and rosemary greyhound cocktails.

We drove to Powell’s Books next, and I got a little choked up when we walked through the doors. I love that place and have many fond memories there. I consider Powell’s the single best thing about Portland. We wandered around for close to an hour, which is barely enough time to scratch the surface, really. Inspired by “Hamilton,” I picked up a couple of books on the American Revolution. Ahh, Powell’s. I shall miss you dearly.

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After shopping for books, we drove across the river to Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse for coffee and dessert. I’ve mentioned this place before; we took blogging friends from Texas there when they were visiting Portland in 2016, and have gone a few times on our own. It was definitely on our list of places to visit again before moving. Besides having a very clever name, it’s the very definition of “keep Portland weird” – dim lights, flickering candles, creepy piano music, tables that move on their own accord, and a bathroom that defies description. I had a slice of warm ginger cake and a cinnamon latte, Tara got the chocolate pot de creme and a cinnamon mocha. Both were superb. We got back home around 10:00 and declared it a perfect night.

Today won’t be nearly as exciting, but also, we aren’t packing. So there is that.

Countdown: 69 Days*

*quit snickering

Never a Duel Moment

I’m on a Hamilton high today.

Last night Tara and I went to see the hit Broadway show, which is currently playing in Portland March 20 – April 8 as part of its national tour. I was lucky enough to snag a pair of tickets, probably because I was online the second they went on sale. Literally. We are fans, and this was a Christmas gift for Tara. One that I also benefitted from!

How was it, you ask? So awesome, I have no words. But I am not throwing away my shot at trying to describe it anyway.

I’ve listened to the soundtrack a million times, but seeing it in person was a completely different experience. The way the cast members interacted with one another brought a whole new dimension to the experience, adding a bit of comedic levity to the show. The original Broadway cast might have moved on to bigger and better things, but these guys were no slouches. Much to my surprise, King George stole the show. We were also super impressed with the actors portraying Hamilton, Eliza, Angelica, and Jefferson. It was all so entertaining, those three hours flew by. I can easily declare this the best show, on- or off-Broadway, that I have ever seen.hamilton

Granted, I’ve never actually seen a show on Broadway, but I’m sure I’d still feel the same after last night.

Getting there proved to be a little stressful. We started out with a nice dinner and pre-show cocktail at the Doug Fir Lounge, our favorite music venue in Portland. I’m pretty sure this was the first time we went there for a meal only, and it did not disappoint. It was rainy though, and rush hour, so we crept and crawled over there. I was nervous about the time, but we arrived a few minutes before 6:00 and were actually the first ones there for dinner, so service was quick. We were out of there in less than an hour.

Then, on the drive to Keller Auditorium, we ran into a few delays, most notably a pair of emergency vehicles that came screaming past us, lights flashing and sirens blaring, and screeched to a halt, nearly blocking the entrance to the Hawthorne Bridge. Which we had to cross because the show was on the opposite side of the river. The nerve, right?! I was ready to jump out of my car and challenge the paramedics to a duel if they didn’t get out of my way pronto because Alexander and Aaron were scheduled to go toe-to-toe in only 20 minutes, but fortunately I was able to inch my vehicle around them and made it across the bridge without incident. Good thing, as these duels rarely end well. Plus, I suppose there was probably somebody who needed medical assistance. Fine!

In any case, we got there with about 15 minutes to spare. Whew! I was unable to buy a $9.50 glass of wine because the line was too long, but on the plus side, I saved $9.50 on a glass of wine. I pay $7.99 a bottle at Trader Joe’s. I’m no economics major, but I’d guess the vendor is making a killing.

Soon enough the lights dimmed, the crowd roared, and the ten-dollar founding father without a father who got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter, took to the stage with his ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower who were focused on defeating a global superpower, and the mad dash to get there was quickly forgotten.

Told you I was on a high.

In the end, we loved it! I’d go again tonight if I had tickets. Tara could not thank me enough for her gift; the evidence was right there in her happy tears.

The show ended at 10:30 and it took us a while to get out of the parking garage, but we were expecting this. I really wanted to stop at Voodoo Doughnut on the way back (this is on our farewell tour list and a midnight maple bacon bar would have totally hit the spot), but navigating Portland’s one-way streets after dark and trying to find a parking spot close enough to the doughnut shop but far away from sketchy people proved to be an impossible task. Oh, well. There’s still time.

But not much.

Countdown: 78 Days

Time’s a Wasted Go

I have no idea what inspired me to make corned beef and cabbage for dinner last night. Yes, it was St. Patrick’s Day. I get that. But I am not Irish and have only ever made the dish once before in my life. It’s hardly a tradition in my household. Nevertheless, there I was, cooking a corned beef brisket and assorted veggies in the crockpot. I’m glad I did, too: dinner was delicious. I didn’t have any potatoes since this was not a well thought out plan so I ended up subbing sweet potatoes. I was not sure if these would work, but they soaked up flavor from the brining liquid and were great.IMAG5530

I know what I’m making next year.

Then again, Deadwood has a big St. Patrick’s Day parade and pub crawl complete with a Leprechaun Olympics and live music, so maybe we’ll don the green in 2019 and head out there. I have a feeling we’ll be making a whole new bunch of traditions once we move.

The rest of the weekend was pretty laid back. Tara wanted to get some stuff done around the apartment, so I headed into Portland for lunch and some record shopping. We are taking Audrey out to dinner tonight. Not much else of any consequence is taking place.

I had my annual checkup on Thursday, and my doctor officially declared me diabetes-free. He’s been reluctant to call me “cured” but admitted that my A1C levels have been normal to low for 2.5+ years now and I am not even borderline diabetic, so he removed the diagnosis from my chart. Hallelujah! Now I can start mainlining Lucky Charms again. They’re magically delicious!

I kid, of course. I’m not suddenly going to call a truce with sugar. But I might allow myself a root beer or something, once in a blue moon, now that I know it won’t kill me. Mostly I’ll stick with the diet and lifestyle changes that have been so successful for me. My doctor jokes that I am the poster child for the rest of his patients, and it was a little bittersweet to say goodbye to him. But he shook my hand, wished me well in South Dakota, and made sure I had enough prescription refills to last me six-nine months, so I’m set.

After my doctor’s appointment, Tara took me out to dinner and a concert at the Roseland Theater in Portland. She had bought me Stone Temple Pilots tickets for Christmas, knowing I was always a big fan of the band. Even though Scott Weiland has passed on, they put on a great show with their new lead singer, Jeff Gutt. Played lots of ’90s grunge classics from their oeuvre, to borrow a big word, as well as a few songs from their just-released new album. It was a fun night, and we got to check out a venue we’d never been to before. The Roseland is definitely a bit rougher around the edges than, say, Mississippi Studios. I would say the same thing about the crowd, come to think of it.

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We still have several shows on our calendar before we leave: Hamilton: the Musical, The Moondoggies, and Paul Simon. Knowing us, we’ll probably add another couple to the mix, as well. Gotta take advantage while we can.

Now that our countdown has dropped to double digits and spring – our final season here – is days away, we’re starting to get serious about the move. I’ve contacted a moving company for an estimate to see if we can afford to have somebody do the dirty work for us. Otherwise, we’ll be driving the U-Haul ourselves.

Countdown: 97 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

 

Pink and Blue

It’s been a fine springlike weekend here in the PNW – all sunshine, blue skies, and blooming cherry blossoms.

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I posted this photo to Facebook, and a friend who used to live in Portland but relocated to Ohio years ago commented, “Such a beautiful view. Brings back fond memories.” I asked her if she ever missed it here, and she replied, “Some things yes, the cost of living NO!”

Amen to that.

Tara and I took the light rail into the city yesterday so we could take advantage of the nice weather. Normally we’d have done a hike, but after the devastating Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia Gorge last September, most of our favorite trails are closed. We focus on urban hiking now. (Such a shame, too. Those hikes are spectacular…I hate that we won’t get a chance to do a few more before we move.)

The MAX ride was interesting. At one point a group of four got on, a young couple and her parents. They struck up a conversation with the person next to them, and it turns out they are from Arizona and planning a move to Portland in a couple of months. They’d flown out for an exploratory weekend of adventure in the Rose City. Sitting across from them, overhearing the excitement in their voices as they gushed about their future, I was aware of the weird dichotomy in our lives. They can’t wait to get out here, and we can’t wait to leave.

We missed our stop – ha, how long have you lived here, Mark?! – and had to backtrack a bit on foot, but Portland is very walkable and the weather was gorgeous. Our first stop was the PSU farmer’s market. Admittedly produce is a bit sparse this time of year, but we were hoping to snag some asparagus. No such luck, so we left empty-handed. Walked to our favorite food cart pod on 10th and Alder next and grabbed lunch, then continued on to the waterfront, where we did a loop around the river and walked through the Saturday Market. Tara bought a print and I got a garlic grater, final souvenirs from a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the years. We made one more stop at Pine Street Market to pick up some corn nuts (sounds weird, but Pollo Bravo makes fresh corn nuts from scratch that are pretty effin’ fantastic) before hopping back on the MAX train.

On the way home, we stopped at a Batteries + Bulbs store so I could replace a key fob battery. When the cashier asked if I wanted to sign up for their lifetime replacement program, I made the mistake of telling him I would, sounds like a great deal, yadda yadda, but we’re moving in a few months so I guess I’ll have to pass. He then told me they have stores nationwide and asked where we are headed. I still figured I’d be off the hook, because – you know – South Dakota, but as luck would have it they just happen to have a store on West Main Street in downtown Rapid City. I was kind of stuck at that point, but free lifetime battery replacements for a one-time fee of $17.95 plus tax isn’t a terrible deal, I suppose. It’ll give me incentive to hang onto my Mazda for a while, anyway.

The real kicker is, the cashier just moved out here from Rapid City last May. Turns out he was born and raised there. What are the odds?! I asked him if it was the weather that drove him away, and he said, nope – it was boredom. Ha! But he was a young guy and you could tell he was the type itching for adventure after growing up in a smallish town in the Midwest, so again, dichotomy was at play. We chatted about the area and he did mention the excellent job market out there, so that was encouraging. Just a crazy weird coincidence to run into a former Rapid Citian out here. You don’t come across many of those.

My parents had us over for dinner last night. We hadn’t been to their house in ages – at least not when they were home, as we did borrow their grill a couple of times when they were out of town – so it was nice seeing them again. We often try to guess what they’re going to make before arriving, and I nailed it yesterday. The grilled teriyaki chicken and macaroni salad were delicious. They even had that elusive asparagus we’d been unable to find, so it was a pretty well-rounded meal.

Countdown: 104 Days