Faded Past, Bright Future

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

How did we get to this point?!

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

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


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

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Ohio Ave. – Ellsworth AFB

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

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Jurassic Mark.

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

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The family Truckster.

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

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No asphalt? No problem!

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

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Mitchell could double for Moscow.

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

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Pretty sure this was our family Christmas card photo.

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

Countdown: 29 Days

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The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Now that it’s May, I can say we will be moving to South Dakota next month.

Whoa.

I’m pretty excited and anxious to get out there. Right now it feels like we’re living in limbo, standing on the precipice of a brand new life while still going about the daily business of living this current one. Our whole world changes next month and, like the late, great Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part.

My only real trepidation has to do with the fact that we have no idea where we’ll be living yet. It’s hard to look for an apartment long distance when you still have 50+ days to go. I figure by the end of the month we’ll start searching in earnest; our plan is to have a few places lined up and start checking them out the day after we get there. We’ve got six nights booked in a motel and we can always extend that if necessary. I’m more of a planner than Tara so doing it this way makes me nervous, but I’m sure it will all work out.

Also, saying goodbye will be tough. I don’t want to downplay that. It’s nice having family so close by. At the same time, I did live a couple of states away from my folks for a nine-year stretch, and the world did not implode. My brother’s lived far away for a lot longer than that. Leaving Audrey behind will also be hard, but the transition will be a bit easier given that she has already moved out. She wrote us a very heartfelt, touching letter the other day expressing how thankful she is for our love and guidance these past four years. She’s a good kid and we’ll miss her. If she ever changes her mind about coming out to South Dakota with us, she will forever be welcome!

Well, forever is a mighty long time. But I’d say up until 27 or so, lol.

It’s back to reality today after a nice, long weekend, but I don’t mind. Like I said: I’m too anxious at this point to get going. By the way, here’s a pro tip: if you ever go to the Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival, by all means do it on Sunday. The crowds were about half the size we are used to, so instead of being jammed into the convention center like a can of  sardines (fitting analogy though that is), we were able to move about freely. And with the festival shutting down in a couple of hours by the time we got there, the vendors were willing to wheel and deal. Tara bought two cases of her favorite peanut butter and saved $1 a jar. Score!

Also, I cannot say enough good things about the Sou’wester Lodge. Here’s the trailer we stayed in:

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And the lodge itself:

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It’s just a great, relaxing getaway.

This was our last major trip before we move. Here’s what our Farewell Tour checklist looks like as of this morning:

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With only seven weekends left in the PNW, and four of them booked up, I don’t think we’ll be able to cross every item off that list. A couple more, sure. But places like the zoo and Indian Heaven Wilderness are looking less likely. Still, I like the progress we’ve made.

Countdown: 52 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

 

Lipstick on a Pig

As far as Friday the 13ths go, this one is anything but unlucky. The Moondoggies’ new album, “A Love Sleeps Deep,” came out today. It’s been five years since their last record; that’s basically an eternity in the rock ‘n roll biz.

If you are unfamiliar with our history with the band, let’s just say much like sleeping love, it also runs deep. They are basically the soundtrack to our relationship, and against all odds, I’ve developed a friendship with their lead singer, Kevin. I am not name-dropping, by the way; hardly anybody knows who The Moondoggies are! If I were going to do that, I’d talk about the time I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand, lol.

Seriously, though. The new record was on heavy rotation for me today. And it’s awesome. Harder and heavier than their last album, and more topical. These are good things. Kevin embodies all that I appreciate: he is an anti-Trump, feminist, socially conscious rocker who plays in a band because he loves music. He doesn’t care that his band isn’t very well known. (Having said that, you should check out the album. He might not care about fame, but I’d love it if more people “discovered” them!)moondoggies-alovesleepsdeep

We’re going to see The Moondoggies play a show at Mississippi Studios next week. It’s bittersweet; it’ll be our eighth (and final, at least in the immediate future) time seeing them live. We’re not quite stalkers, but close. Unless they happen to play in Rapid City on some future tour, of course. Doubtful, but I do plan to run that by Kevin after the show on Wednesday.

I can also see us planning a trip back here timed around a show of theirs someday. This isn’t a permanent goodbye, guys.


Leave it to me to be a medical anomaly once again.

On Monday, I had an appointment to get my eyes checked. As far as I can recall, this was the first time I’d ever had a vision exam. There was no overriding reason for me to have one this week – I’m sort of the black sheep of my family, the only one who does not wear glasses – other than the fact that I’m covered under Tara’s plan and figured I might as well take advantage of what amounts to a free exam before we move.

I walked in there wearing sunglasses and proceeded to stumble around, bumping into walls and such, while making a general commotion. The front office staff laughed and Tara, who had arrived before me and had no idea I was going to make a grand entrance by faking blindness, said, “See what I have to live with?”

I considered that a compliment.

Because I’d never had an eye exam before, I was caught off guard when they puffed air into my eyes. For the record, they did not warn me in advance. After I jumped a little, I told the assistant to assume I knew nothin’ about what was coming next. Because, well, I knew nothing about what was coming next. The assistant apologized and told me she should have told me what to expect.

No shit.

Anyway. She asked me next if I wanted dilation (no charge) or hi-res photos of my eyes instead ($20). I asked her to tell me more about this dilation thingy, and she rattled off a laundry list of not-pleasant-sounding side effects that included sensitivity to light, dizziness, and nausea, but promised these symptoms would “only last 4–6 hours.” That was a no-brainer for me. I told them I would happily fork over twenty bucks to avoid that nonsense.

So they took some crazy up-close pics of my eyes, which the doctor put up on his monitor. He pointed out my retina, optic nerve, etc. Trippy. Everything looked good, though.

This was followed by the good ol’ fashioned eye chart. At least I knew what was expected of me at that point. Afterwards, he broke the news to me.

“You’re an unusual case,” he said.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that…

Turns out I am nearsighted in my left eye and farsighted in my right. Together, my eyes compensate for each other. I personally like to think of myself as having self-correcting vision, but the doc didn’t see it that way.

“You probably haven’t noticed any problems with your vision,” he said. A true statement. But then he had me cover one eye, followed by the other, and read more lines from the chart while trying out various prescription strengths on me. I couldn’t help but admit it: they made a difference.

So, the bottom line is this: he wrote me a prescription, but I don’t need glasses. At least not for regular, everyday use. He suggested a few different options: distance glasses for driving, especially at night; reading glasses; or progressive lenses to help with both. Now, I wasn’t falling for this sugarcoated “progressive lenses” crap and called him out on it.

“You mean bifocals?!” I shouted asked.

“We don’t usually refer to them in those terms,” he replied, stealing a page right out of the you-can-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-but-it’s-still-a-pig book.

Fine. WHATEVER.

Really though, I’m okay with this. I have nothing against glasses, per se. The doc said it’s unusual for somebody to have reached this advanced stage of life without needing any sort of corrective lenses, so I should just count my lucky stars that I’ve gone this far and been able to see fine.

Oh, also, the eye doc really needs to work on his bedside manner.

So Tara and I will take a trip to Costco at some point and I’ll go ahead and order up a pair. They will probably spend most of their time gathering dust in their case, but I’m willing to try them out in certain situations.


Work has been pretty busy, which means the days are chugging along quickly. We only have a little over two months before our move now!

Hardly a day goes by where a coworker doesn’t comment about this. One young lady happens to have grown up on a farm in a small South Dakota town nobody has ever heard of, and her family is still there. She came in yesterday and asked, “Did you see the weather forecast?!”

She was referring to the blizzard in Rapid City today. 🙂

I just smiled and said yes, I had. I check the weather there on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I still want to move there.

Even though a blizzard in mid-April is hard to fathom. It hasn’t exactly been summer-like out here – cool and wet – but that’s typical. Winter feels like it ended long ago. Meanwhile, in my soon-to-be hometown, the snow is piling up and the winds are howling. Good thing I like the white stuff, huh?

Countdown: 71 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

 

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

Fake Like 38

I stepped outside this morning and was greeted with a blast of cold air and a brisk wind. A couple of hours later Tara called and, as we were chatting, I mentioned how chilly it was outside. But I immediately caught myself and retracted the sentence.

“It’s not really cold outside,” I said.

And it wasn’t. The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees, which – granted – ain’t exactly swimsuit weather, but it is only February. We’ve had an unusually warm couple of months, so a temperature closer to the norm felt extra cold to me.

Besides, I keep reminding myself how cold next winter is going to be. I’ve been following the weather in Rapid City religiously for months now, and there have been many days where highs were in the single digits, and nights have dipped below zero. So I’m trying very hard not to complain about fake cold like 38 degrees, because it’s all relative and a year from now that will feel probably feel warm!


My parents are currently on vacation in Florida, so we decided to take advantage of the situation by borrowing their grill. Being as how their grill is attached to the side of their house via a natural gas valve, we ended up borrowing their entire house while we were at it. (Don’t worry, mom – we brought our own wine!).

Grilling is one thing we both miss. When I was a homeowner I’d grill out at least once a week, pretty much all year long. But our apartment complex doesn’t allow grills, and even though some residents break the rules Tara and I choose to walk the straight and narrow. Which means grilling has turned into a special occasion.

flames

We picked up ribeye steaks from Costco, invited our friend Kara over, and had ourselves a feast on Saturday night, kicking back in their sunroom (we borrowed that, too) with the aforementioned steak, accompanied by sauteed mushrooms, shrimp, apricot pepita cabbage slaw, and garlic bread. We had a great time, even if Kara was a little unnerved by the creepy oversized doll in the living room. I didn’t mention how the thing comes to life sometimes and tiptoes up the stairs in the middle of the night, magically appearing in bed with my parents.

Just kidding, Kara.

Countdown: 131 days.

What’s a “Swinged Cat,” Anyway?!

Like most states, South Dakota has several different nicknames. Most are not surprising. It is called, among other things:

  • The Mount Rushmore State
  • The Coyote State
  • The Sunshine State
  • The Blizzard State
  • The Land of Infinite Variety

But one nickname stands out from the pack: South Dakota’s most unusual moniker is the Swinged Cat State. Wondering where such an odd name came from? You can thank (or blame it on) this guy:

mellette

That’s Arthur Calvin Mellette, the first Governor of South Dakota. In 1890, the state was experiencing a drought. Mellette was doing his best to persuade settlers to stick around. While in Chicago on a trip in which he was attempting to secure financial aid, Moses Handy, an associate of Arthur’s and a newspaperman, turned to his friend and asked, “Well, governor, how is South Dakota?”

Mellette’s response?

Well, South Dakota is a swinged cat, better than she looks.

The term “swinged” is an old colloquialism meaning “singed” or “burned slightly.”

The next day, the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper ran a story about Mellette, governor of “the swinged cat state.” And the rest is obscure history.

I’ve been blogging, on and off, for the better part of my adult life now. The platforms have changed, but writing is the one constant in my life. Since 2009, I’ve been posting semi-regularly on WordPress to Mark My Words. That blog has followed me through many ups and downs in my life and contains memories galore. However, 2018 promises to be a year of change like no other, and I feel it’s time for a fresh start.

Welcome to Swinged Cat. This blog will chronicle the journey of me and my wife, Tara, as we leave behind the Pacific Northwest and head 1,200 miles east, to the Great Plains of South Dakota. I lived in Rapid City many years ago and never imagined I’d ever call it home again, but if there’s one lesson I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the old axiom, never say never, holds true.

If you’ve been following me on Mark My Words, first off, thank you. Please go ahead and bookmark this site instead. That 8+ years’ worth of content isn’t going anywhere, but I will be shifting the focus of the blog to business-related articles.

Swingedcat.com (I kind of love the name!) will be my new home for personal posts and more. I have a few goals in mind here: I want to write more frequently, even if my posts are simple one-sentence asides. Or random thoughts. Inspiring quotes. Photos. Reposts of interesting articles. I want to focus more on the attractions of South Dakota, once we get there. The things we eat and drink, the places we go, the crazy weather we are sure to encounter (“Blizzard State,” remember?). But most of all, I want to document the experience of uprooting my entire life, at the not-so-tender age of…never mind…and start fresh. It’s big, and exciting, and a little scary. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be entertaining, too.

So thank you for following along. Buckle your seatbelts…it’s going to be a crazy ride!

Countdown: 132 Days