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…

RC House

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

Advertisements

Mystery Solved

Remember the mystery animal cracker that appeared out of nowhere on my parents’ front porch, leaving me and Tara befuddled and a little bit creeped out? We have an explanation, and sadly it involves neither ghosts nor aliens. My brother had texted me and said, “Hey, I think dad eats animal crackers all the time! Check with him.” So I did, and he does. Much to my chagrin. It didn’t take much sleuthing to figure out that he’d been eating them in his recliner, dropped one that fell between the cushions, and when we dragged the chair to the curb that afternoon because a stranger was on his way to pick it up, the cracker must have dislodged itself and fallen onto the welcome mat, which perfectly explains why it had not been there before. As proud as I am of our Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning, I’m bummed that we debunked any possible paranormal activity. I always want the world to be weirder than it is.

Oh, well. The incident inspired me to write about synchronicity, a pretty interesting (and illogical) topic in its own right, so all was not for naught.

Speaking of synchronicity, I’m kind of amazed at the way dates are lining up for me. Not dates with other women – Tara might not approve – but rather, calendar dates. Our move is coinciding remarkably well with my 2011 road trip, and it’s completely unintentional. Consider the following:

  • I set out on the afternoon of June 22 and spent the first night in Spokane. We are setting out on the afternoon of June 22 and spending the first night in Spokane.
  • I drove from Spokane to Billings, MT on June 23 and spent the night there. We are driving from Spokane to Billings, MT on June 23 and spending the night there.
  • I arrived in Rapid City early in the afternoon on June 24 and checked into the Super 8 on Rushmore Road. We arrive in Rapid City early in the afternoon on June 24 and are checking into the Super 8 on Rushmore Road.

There were crazy thunderstorms a few hours after I arrived, so if this pattern continues, I guess we can expect to be greeted by some interesting weather. We shall see.


Still no change with Sydney: she just absolutely refuses to eat or drink. We are basically forcing her to swallow water through a syringe. Trust me, this is not nearly as fun as it sounds.

And yes, I know. It doesn’t sound fun at all.

The vet is still convinced it’s all stress related to the move. We told her we cannot afford to run any more tests, and she says doing so would be useless anyway, because they have all come back normal.

She still curls up on our laps, and purrs when we pet her. Other than giving us the stink eye after trying to force feed her – and the fact that she refuses all food and water in the first place – she seems okay.

So, we just don’t know. The vet is going to check in with us again on Friday.


When we decided to move to South Dakota and I began researching hiking opportunities, I was excited (and relieved) to learn there are no bears in the Black Hills. I have long been afraid of encountering a bear while hiking through the forests of the PNW, so I figured this was one less thing to worry about.

And then, a couple of days ago, some poor sap was golfing in Spearfish, SD, when he was bit by a rattlesnake and died.

Umm, what?!

prairie-rattlesnake-adult

Great. A new source of nightmares.

Turns out the prairie rattlesnake is common throughout South Dakota, including the Black Hills. Hmm…that was news to this former resident. Hikers are urged to exercise caution when out and about, especially this time of year.

I guess I’m trading in one phobia for another.

Countdown: 9 Days

Pomp & Circumstances

Things never really go as planned, do they?

We’d scheduled a farewell event at our favorite local pub on Sunday. It was to be a casual, low-key affair, an opportunity for friends to drop by at their convenience and see us before we leave. Despite months of planning, it never happened; instead, we spent a good part of the day at an emergency veterinarian clinic. Which, trust me, was about a thousand times less fun than hanging out at Shanahan’s and eating fried pickles would have been.

The issue? Sydney had been vomiting for a few days. Add in a lack of appetite, lethargy, and anti-social behavior (normal in most cats but not her), and we knew something was wrong. So we took her in and after waiting many hours, they were able to see her and run some tests. Which came back inconclusive; her vitals were normal and there wasn’t anything obviously wrong. They suggested admitting her to the hospital and running an ultrasound, or giving us some anti-nausea meds and hoping for improvement in 24-48 hours. We chose Option B because yesterday alone set us back $800 – money that we were counting on for our move. I don’t know that we can swing anything more. Which makes the whole thing a bit stressful, with our move happening at the end of next week. Poor Sydney. It’s breaking our hearts to see her this way. And she just got a clean bill of health less than two weeks ago, so the whole thing really came out of the blue.

By the time we finally got home it was late in the afternoon, so we just hung around the apartment with Tara’s friend Betsy, who is visiting from Las Vegas. We listened to records and I made a pot of Italian wedding soup, the perfect antidote for a surprisingly cold and wet June weekend. After two extremely dry and warm months, it just figures that the one weekend we had a lot going on, the weather gods refused to cooperate. Looking ahead to late next week, they are predicting very hot weather the day we load the U-Haul, so that’s going to be fun.

At least Saturday worked out a little better. Audrey’s graduation went off without a hitch, crazy weather notwithstanding. There were torrential downpours during the ceremony, and even a little hail and thunder. But that didn’t stop her from beaming with pride when she accepted her diploma.

IMG_1533

Because Audrey was senior class treasurer, her name was the fourth one called. This was great – no waiting through an endless parade of names to reach hers (letter P). To be honest, we left right afterwards. But the place was so crowded we were in the very back at the top of the bleachers, standing. Fortunately, it was covered by a roof, but still. Why stick around after seeing what we came for? Instead, we went to Gustav’s and enjoyed a cocktail and some fondue. My parents, Audrey and her girlfriend, and Rusty joined us for dinner and a photo session afterwards. I think Tara did a great job, especially this one!

IMG_1576

And just like that, I have no kids in school anymore.

Back in 2006, when I got divorced, I knew I’d be bound to Vancouver, Washington, for the next 12 years, unable to move because of our shared custody arrangement. At the time I imagined that move would entail crossing the river to Portland, not uprooting my life for the Midwest. Ahh, life. It’s like I wrote in my opening paragraph.

In any case, it’s very hard to believe a dozen years have passed. And with that passage of time, I am now a father to two grown adults. I don’t know how to feel about that. There are moments of nostalgia, of course. Occasional despair over the idea of growing older. But also excitement. The future has never felt so wide open.

Countdown: 11 Days

 

Soft Kitty, Stoned Kitty

If you’ve followed me for any significant amount of time, you know how important music is to my life. Tara and I have seen so many concerts over the past six years, we’ve lost track of the number. We were trying to figure this out a few nights ago and gave up, declaring it an impossible task. Our best guess? We’ve seen about 100 bands, give or take a dozen.

Knowing this, a blog reader recently asked a random question.

What is the music/entertainment scene like in Rapid City? Are you guys going to be going from The Music Hall of the Northwest to The Church Basement Puppet Show of the Midwest?

I couldn’t help but chuckle over her perception, because she basically hit the nail on the head. Portland is a hotbed of music venues and great shows, while Rapid City is…not a hotbed of music venues and great shows.

But that’s okay. I long ago came to terms with the idea of “retiring” from concert-going. If we never see another live show, that’ll be alright, because there aren’t many artists left that we haven’t seen or care about seeing (though it would be great if The Moondoggies came to town – are ya listening, Kevin?!). Plus, there’s the expense and the hassle and the ever-present danger of tinnitus.

Still, it would be nice to have a few options, you know? Currently we can travel to Deadwood to see has-beens or never-was’s perform in casinos, or catch somebody like Luke Bryan in the civic center. Neither is particularly appealing. So when an initiative to build a new arena in Rapid City hit the ballot, I was stoked. Voters were given a choice on Tuesday: renovate the aging, non-ADA compliant, too-small current Barnett Arena, or build a fancy new one.

I’d been following this measure with keen interest, bummed that we were unable to cast a vote ourselves. We missed the June 5 election by less than three weeks! Fortunately, the measure passed, and our soon-to-be-hometown will have a shiny new $130 million arena in a couple of years. Woo-hoo! Our concert-going days might not be over just yet.

barnett

Sorry, buddy. Your days are numbered.

Good job, Rapid City. You’ve done me proud.


In other news, we tested out the Gabupentin Sydney’s veterinarian prescribed last week. Holy crap: that stuff works like a charm! I broke open a capsule on Sunday evening and mixed it into her wet food as instructed. Apparently it really is odorless and tasteless, because Sydney scarfed it down without a second thought. Two hours later, she was stumbling around like a drunken sailor on shore leave, and could barely lift her head. Before long she stopped trying, and pretty much plopped down and went to sleep. But it was a weird kind of semi-consciousness, because her eyelids never completely closed. It was actually heartbreaking to witness. We felt badly for her, but reminded ourselves that the medication is harmless. If anything, she was probably feeling really, really mellow. And the next morning she was back to her regular self, showing no signs of being stoned 12 hours earlier. So now we have confirmation: the medication will knock her out and she shouldn’t have a care in the world about being stuck in a car for a whole day.

We’d planned on taking her for a test drive before leaving, but at this point there is no time left for that. I think I’m going to try the first leg of our drive without medicating her. It’s about six hours to Spokane (probably have to figure on seven with the U-Haul and trailer); she’ll either cry the whole time or settle down after a little while. I’m hoping for the latter, but if not, I’ll just turn up the music and dose her up with Gabupentin for the all-day drive across Idaho and Montana the next day.

Countdown: 15 Days

Sleep Away Montana

Holy crap. It’s June.

There have been a lot of milestone dates as we counted down to our move – January 1 comes to mind (“we’re moving this year!”), as well as March 15 (“99 days – we’re down to double digits now!”) – but none have felt as momentous as today. Because now I can say we are moving this month!

It boggles my mind. I mean, on the surface this just feels like any old Friday, turning of the calendar page notwithstanding. But when this month draws to a close, our lives are going to be dramatically different than they are today. The office I’ve worked in for three years, the apartment I’ve lived in for four, the city I’ve called home since 1996 (!) – all will no longer be a part of my life. It doesn’t even feel like that’s possible, and yet, here we are. Barreling toward that moving date like a runaway locomotive. With broken brakes. Going downhill.

And actually, when July 1 rolls around, we’ll have been living in Rapid City for a week already. I won’t say it’ll feel like old hat by then – I’m sure the novelty will take a long time to wear off – but it won’t be a brand new new thing, either.

Three weeks, man. Three weeks.

This explains why we’ve been so damn productive lately. In the past week we have found a place to live, set up cable/internet and scheduled an installation appointment, Tara bought new tires for her vehicle, I changed the phone number I’ve had for 15 years, and we picked up a hand truck to assist with the move.

Panic is a great motivator, it would appear.

Part of the preparation included taking Sydney to the veterinarian. Our new apartment lease requires proof of current pet immunizations, and I realized that I had not taken my cat in to the vet clinic since I first adopted her. In 2007. Yes, I know that was 11 years ago. I feel badly about that, but at the same time, she is strictly an indoor cat and has never had so much as a single flea, let alone any health problems.

So I scheduled an appointment for yesterday morning and showed up promptly at 9:00. I apologized to the vet that I didn’t have any prior history on Sydney because I’d been lax in my cat dad duties, but there was no judgment on their parts. Instead, they raved over her. Called Sydney a “model patient” and said they wished every cat that came in was as chill as mine. You know, I’ve said many times over the years that Sydney is the best cat ever. I even use that hashtag on Instagram when posting pics of her. Y’all probably just assumed I’m biased, but everybody says that. Even those who profess not to like cats. Actually, the word they end up using is “cool.” And the staff at Hearthwood Dog & Cat Clinic were no exception. They commented on her great personality and even said that calicos are notoriously, umm, not-quite-so-nice. I’d always assumed they were quite docile based on Sydney, but I guess not!

She was super nervous in there; her heart was racing at 210 bpm, but that is because she never, ever leaves the apartment. The car ride in a small plastic box, followed by a strange, brightly-lit room with a bunch of people poking and prodding her freaked her out, I’m sure. Fortunately, she got a perfectly clean bill of health. In fact, the vet could not believe that she’s 12 years old. She’s got good eyes, excellent teeth, a strong heart, a healthy coat, and is the perfect weight. The veterinarian kept telling me “good job!” as if I had something to do with my cat’s excellent genes, but hey – that more than made up for the bad job I did in not bringing her in for regular exams, so I’ll take the kudos. Sydney did not even flinch when they gave her shots for rabies and distemper; the vet said she was probably so hopped up on adrenaline she didn’t feel a thing.

Sydney

Sydney being a trooper.

And before we left, she gave me a small bottle of Gabapentin in 100 mg capsules. “This will help with the road trip,” she said. I wanted to make a joke about how it’s okay, I’ve got stronger stuff I’ll be snorting the night before, but then I realized the pills are for my cat. You can understand my confusion, though; Gabapentin is actually a human drug used to treat pain and control seizures. Turns out veterinarians use it as a mild sedative for cats, as it reduces fear and anxiety and causes them drowsiness. She suggested I try it out on Sydney in advance before dosing her up, but assuming she tolerates it without any problems the stuff should keep her nice and mellow for about 12 hours. I’m hoping she sleeps her way across Montana.

Tonight we’ve got a show at the Doug Fir Lounge. We’re going to see Damien Jurado, an indie singer/songwriter who is sort of a cross between Nick Drake, Neil Young, and Lou Reed. Weird that this will be our last concert in the PNW! Then on Saturday we’re driving to Cannon Beach to say goodbye to the ocean.

Audrey graduates in one week. Our farewell party at Shanahan’s is the next day. Wow – things are happening so fast now!

Countdown: 21 Days

Homeless Crisis Averted

I am happy to report that we will not be homeless in Rapid City.

Not that I actually thought that would happen, but I will admit that I flew into a quasi-panic the other day when I realized two things:

  • How close our moving date is
  • The fact that we had no idea where we would be living

Tara and I are compatible as hell, but we do have different approaches to life. I’m more of a planner, while she prefers to fly by the seat of her pants. Sometimes this is a good thing; turning down random dirt roads like we did last weekend can lead to adventure. But when you are pulling up stakes and moving 1,250 miles away, I personally think it’s important to know you will have a roof over your head. Some things you just don’t leave to chance, ya know?

We booked a Super 8 Motel in Rapid City for six nights, with the vague plan of having a list of places we wanted to look at when we got there. But I was never comfortable with this, because too much could go wrong. What if there was no availability? What if we did not qualify for a lease due to underemployment? People kept asking me for a forwarding address, and when I couldn’t give them one, I became a nervous wreck.

Luckily, Tara got scared, too. She suggested a few days ago that maybe it would be a good idea to have a place all lined up before we hit the road after all.

HALLELUJAH!

So I jumped on Craigslist, like, right that second. Spent a few hours combing through rentals. I was looking at everything: apartments, townhomes, houses, teepees. Nothing was off the table. The only real requirements? They had to be cat-friendly and have at least two bedrooms. As much as we want to buy a house NOW, we’re going to need some time to settle in, and I assume we’ll have visitors. A/C was high on the list of amenities as well; ours went on the fritz here and we were without for a couple of days this week. That was unpleasant enough, and we live in the temperate PNW. If you want me to admit that I’m a hot weather wimp and spoiled, FINE.

I found a place that looked promising enough. It’s a condominium complex on the far western side of town, practically right up against the Black Hills – where we want to be. The units are two stories, so you don’t have to worry about noisy neighbors upstairs. They’ve got A/C, allow pets, and there’s a 28-acre park and wilderness area right across the street, complete with hiking trails. So we filled out the application this morning, paid a processing fee, and consented to credit and background checks.

Within 30 minutes, I got a phone call from the leasing agent letting me know we were approved. And wouldn’t you know it, they have a 2-BR unit available on our desired move-in date, June 25. The day after we arrive. She quoted me a price that was a little higher than we wanted to pay for a 12-month lease, but they had a special going on: sign on for one extra month, and the rent dropped $73 a month, perfectly in our price range. So we took the plunge and put down a deposit to reserve the unit. For the first time in my life, I have an actual address in Rapid City, South Dakota!

Silver-Springs-Apartment-Homes-Welcome-Silver-Springs

This will be home in ONE MONTH.

Silver-Springs-Apartment-Homes-Scenic-Beauty-Everywhere

Wilderness Park, directly across the street.

Suddenly, there’s a HUGE burden lifted off my shoulders. Granted, renting a place sight unseen requires a leap of faith, but with Google maps – especially satellite and street view – it practically feels like I’m strolling through the neighborhood. And it looks pretty nice. Even if it isn’t, well, we’re only on the hook for 13 months. After that, we’ll be good and ready to buy a house. Oh, and best of all, our rent is $600/month less than we are paying here.

I knew there was a reason we decided to move to the Midwest!

Countdown: 28 Days

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.

IMAG5955_2

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.

IMAG5951_2

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.

IMAG5952_2

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!

IMAG5954_2

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.

IMAG5956_2

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!

IMAG5960_2

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

From Chinook to Chislic

I came across an article in Portland Monthly last week on bierocks, a Midwestern staple that resembles a glorified Hot Pocket. Apparently I am not the only one who has never heard of them because Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word, underlining it in red and suggesting I really mean “bureaux.” I do not, MS Word, but thank you for assuming I am an idiot.

In any case, the article was an eye-opener. It made me realize that not only will the climate in South Dakota be quite different than what I’m used to; the food scene will be equally foreign.

I’d already learned of chislic when researching the area. No, MS Word, I do not mean “Chasidic.” Get over yourself already. Chislic is a dish of deep-fried cubed meat served on toothpicks. It’s like a shish kebab, but without the fancy skewer or vegetables. Chislic is a regional specialty of our soon-to-be home state.

chislic

Can’t wait to dive into a heaping plate o’ this!

I’m kind of excited to try some new foods I’d never heard of before. There is a wealth of Midwestern cuisine just waiting to be discovered. Thrillist came up with this list of the most popular dishes there (bierocks and chislic are both represented) and I have to admit, I’m genuinely curious.

It’s a good thing I like meat and cheese. Just sayin’.

Regional cuisines have always fascinated me. No childhood trip to New Jersey was complete without tomato pie or Tastykakes (butterscotch Krimpets, please), and in Hawaii, kalua pork, huli-huli chicken, and hot malasadas were staples. The PNW has its own go-to foods; salmon, huckleberries, hazelnuts, and the infamous geoduck. Trust me, if I can choke down something that phallic-looking, chislic will be a cakewalk.

I’m curious what some of my Midwestern readers’ favorite local dishes are, so if Jess Witkins and Bijoux care to weigh in, I’d love to hear their thoughts!

Actually, I want to hear about your favorite regional dishes, wherever you hail from. What is something you enjoy eating that the rest of the country might not be familiar with? Bonus points if Microsoft Word tries to correct you.

Countdown: 83 Days

Not Montana

I was in the kitchen at work the other day and one of the RMs walked in for a cup of coffee. “So, I hear you’re moving!” he said to me. “Montana, is it?”

I corrected him, but couldn’t help chuckling over it later. I get this all the time; people know I’m moving to the Midwest somewhere, but can’t quite put a finger on the proper state. They’ll guess all the states surrounding South Dakota, but never seem to land on that one. It’s like they’re throwing darts at a map of the northern U.S. and seeing where they land. I have heard that I’m moving to North Dakota, Wyoming, and Minnesota, too. Even my good friend Heidi mentioned how different Grand Rapids, Michigan, is going to be. More than once. But she later admitted to thinking of the Midwest as “one big glob” anyway.275_5564b464d3a0c7.40098105_mw-map-poster-white_1500x

And maybe it’s just my imagination (running away with me), but I’d swear there is often an underlying note of pity in their voices, as if I’m being forced into something I do not want. Like I’ve drawn a short straw and am being exiled to a far-off land where it snows a lot and there are more bison than people. When I tell them no, this is a good thing, I’m leaving on purpose and looking forward to the change in scenery, a glint of relief appears in their eyes, followed by the inevitable question, “Why there?”

It’s okay. Everybody is well-intentioned, and I understand their curiosity. People in the PNW tend to be snobs about where they live. I don’t begrudge them for this; the upper left corner of the U.S. is beautiful, the climate temperate. A lot of people want to move here, while those itching to leave are in the minority. This makes me the weird exception to the rule.

By now I can recite my stock answer in my sleep. It goes along the lines of, my dad was in the Air Force, I went to high school there, loved the area, I want a simpler and cheaper way of life. That does the trick nicely.


Tara is headed home today and should be back by early afternoon. I’ll be glad to see her. A friend asked me today how I enjoyed my bachelorhood, but really, it was uneventful. I mostly watched a bunch of documentaries and cooked foods she would not like. This is what a forty-something party animal looks like, I guess.

My Saturday hike was definitely the highlight. While my last post might give you the impression that the whole hike was one big winter wonderland, that’s not the case. The first couple of miles were green and damp. Here’s proof.

DSC_0024

Countdown: 87 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