10 Things I Love About You

I woke up Sunday morning and asked Tara, “Hey, wanna move to South Dakota this week?”

Fortunately, she was down.

So: here we are. Moving week. Four more days! It still feels surreal, even though Tara’s last day at work was Friday and mine is Wednesday. This is the final push! She’ll be busy packing and cleaning this week while I somehow try to keep my focus on work. I expect only limited amounts of success there. Sorry, boss. There’s a great adventure awaiting us and I don’t know how I’ll be able to not think about it. But I’ll try.

We pick up the U-Haul on Wednesday after work. Thursday we’ll load it, and Friday we hit the road. It’ll probably be around noon. BTW, Sydney is back to her normal self (whew!) so we’ll have a cat to entertain for 1,250 miles. But after last week’s scare, that’s a good problem to have.

I will, of course, blog from the road. I want to chronicle every moment of this move. It’s not often you do something like this in your life; I’ve often wished the internet existed in 1994 when I left California for the PNW. It would be fun to read about that journey now and look back on everything I was feeling. Memories can be fickle.

We took a whirlwind trip to Tacoma Friday night/Saturday for one last visit with Tara’s family before we move. She and her mom wanted to get matching tattoos, so while they were getting inked up my friend/coworker Candace, a Tacoma native who happened to be in town, showed me around her old stomping grounds. The attraction I wanted to see most was Stadium High School, which famously served as the backdrop for Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, and Larisa Oleynik’s high school characters in the 1999 comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s a great movie, one of my favorites, and both the school and its setting on Point Ruston in the southern Puget Sound are gorgeous. I have no idea how the students there focus on schoolwork.


My high schools looked nothing like this.


You’re just too good to be true/can’t take my eyes off of you…


We got home late Saturday night after visiting with Tracy, David, Anne, and Anthony. Sunday was a full day; we drove down to the Columbia River and walked to Shanahan’s for brunch. Detoured through the farmer’s market on the way back, then drove to IKEA, where we bought a couple of bookshelves to hold our burgeoning record collection. It might seem silly to buy furniture right before a big move, but the closest IKEA will be six hours away in Denver, so it made sense to purchase them now. Did a little packing when we got home, then headed to my parents’ house for a Father’s Day Hawaiian dinner with my folks, aunt and uncle, cousin, and Audrey. On the way over we saw ominous looking clouds the color of granite piling up to the east, and even though the forecast called for sunshine, a line of thunderstorms rolled through and for two hours we were treated to lightning, thunder, heavy downpours, and gusty winds. It was quite the storm. This type of weather is pretty rare in the PNW, but served as a great primer for the crazy Great Plains storms we are sure to encounter on a regular basis.

With approximately 100 hours to go before we drive away, I wanted to play off the theme of this post a little and look at a few positives. Yes, I am super excited for our move, and looking forward to a brand new life in the Midwest. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate many things about this remarkable area I have been fortunate to call home for so many years. So without further ado, here are 10 Things I Love About You, PNW.

  1. Beautiful scenery. Between the evergreen trees, snow-capped mountain peaks, and cascading waterfalls, this place is like a little slice of heaven on earth, gorgeous year-round.
  2. The Pacific Ocean. The coast is often my salvation, and I’ve gotten spoiled knowing the ocean is a mere 90 minutes away.
  3. Great food. Between the delicious fresh seafood, the most amazing berries on the planet, and the wide variety of great restaurants – not to mention the food carts – it’s amazing I don’t weigh 400 lbs.
  4. Progressive politics. Yeah, I’m a bleeding heart liberal. Yeah, I know South Dakota is a red state. Somehow we’ll find a compromise, I am sure.
  5. A mild climate. I prefer more dramatic weather and am looking forward to lots of snow and thunderstorms, but there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s rarely too hot or too cold here. Sure, it rains a lot, but it’s usually more of a steady, light mist and northwesterners never let that get in the way of having fun.
  6. An excellent music scene. If you enjoy concerts, you will never run out of options here. No wonder we’ve seen so many shows, ranging from intimate performances in small venues like the Doug Fir Lounge to outdoor shows on grassy amphitheater lawns and national headlining tours in 19,000-seat arenas.
  7. Hiking and camping. We’re big fans of the Great Outdoors, and the sheer number of hiking trails and campgrounds is mind-boggling. Thankfully we are moving to a place where these things are also abundant.
  8. Farmer’s markets. I don’t want to lump this in with “food” because the markets – some of them, like PSU, open year-round – carry so much more than fresh produce. The farm-to-table movement is huge out here, and when that produce is in season, there’s nothing better than filling your bag with fresh fruit and veggies.
  9. Portland. It may have lost its luster over the last few years, but Portland is still a great city with a lot to offer. I will miss so much about PDX: Powell’s Books, Voodoo Doughnut, Music Millennium, the Saturday Market, and the best airport in the U.S.
  10. Seattle. The Emerald City has long been a favorite weekend getaway. Touristy or not, Pike Place Market alone is worth the trip. Let’s not forget Beecher’s Cheese, the Mystery Coke Machine, and the view from Kerry Park.

I didn’t put “family” because they would top the list regardless of where they lived. Places don’t define people; people define places.

Fortunately, because they do live here, we’ll have many visits to look forward to in the future.

Countdown: 4 Days




Billy, Birds & Beesley’s

With just 15 weekends left until we move, we are in full-on prioritizing mode now. We already have about 1/3 of those weekends planned out, plus at some point we’re going to have to actually start packing. Everything is happening so fast now!

Which is why we drove up to Tacoma over the weekend to visit family. A two-hour drive is a lot more doable than an 18-hour drive, so we’ve gotta take advantage while we can. On the way there, we stopped at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, which is a real mouthful but also proved to be a great way to kill a couple of hours on Saturday morning. We have driven up and down this particular stretch of Interstate 5 pretty regularly for more than six years, but had never pulled over to check out the refuge. I’m glad we finally did, even if approximately 500 other people had the same idea. Seriously, the parking lot was so full we were lucky to snag one of the last spots. The wildlife preserve features a boardwalk that traverses an estuary, salt marshes, and mudflats located within the Nisqually River Delta.


Boardwalk spanning the delta.

It turned out to be a 4+-mile walk on a sunny but chilly/brisk late winter morning. Tara had read that the best time to visit was 1-2 hours after high tide and, though we missed that by a good 60 minutes, it was still a pleasant stroll. We saw lots of birds (mostly blue herons, bald eagles, and Canadian geese), plus a furtive seal. Naturally, we took lots of photos.

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After exploring the wildlife refuge, we hit the road again for Tracy and David’s apartment, less than a half hour up the interstate. We had a nice visit and Tara made chicken paprikash for dinner. In case you are unfamiliar, paprikash is a traditional Hungarian dish of chicken and dumplings. It also happens to be my dad’s favorite meal, but because it is a heavy and labor-intensive meal, my mom only makes it once a year, on his birthday in January. A few years ago she handed the family recipe down to Tara, who – I am happy to say – has perfected it. She even tweaked the recipe a bit by replacing the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, which lightens it up a bit and adds protein. I can’t even tell the difference. My great-great-great-grandparents would be proud.

To make the dumplings, she used the practically-antique dumpling maker I inherited from my grandmother. We all gathered around and watched as she was toiling away, ha. In our defense, it’s not every day you see homemade dumplings coming to life, and this was the first time Tracy, David, and Annie had tried paprikash. Anthony was being a typical 5-year old and insisted on frozen pizza instead. Hey, his loss! Everybody else raved over it, and rightfully so. It’s so good!

Sunday morning we visited for a couple of hours before driving back home. Stopped for lunch at an unassuming little family-owned burger joint just off I-5 in Toledo. We used to eat here fairly often when we were making regular trips to Seattle, but it had been a couple of years since our last visit. Mrs. Beesley’s might not have been on our official Farewell Tour list, but we definitely wanted to stop in one more time before leaving. As usual, it did not disappoint.


Countdown: 110 Days