Twice on June 24, I arrived in Rapid City.
I don’t think I even realized that until a couple of days ago. Obviously, the anniversary of our arrival on this date two years ago has been top-of-mind lately. But equally momentous—though I did not realize it at the time—was June 24, 2011.
I have a core group of readers who have been with me for a long time, and I appreciate you guys to death. You know who you are. But I also have a bunch of new readers unfamiliar with my history, so lemme give you the abridged version of My Life nine years ago:
I’m divorced, single, and jobless. In other words, THE TOTAL PACKAGE! Ha. But I do own a townhouse, so points for that, although it is rapidly turning into a money pit because I was a victim of the shady loan scandals that rocked the banking industry in 2008 and instead of gaining equity, I am sinking deeper into debt with each passing month. On top of all that, my complex is controlled by an HOA. Spawn of the devil, those guys. Never again! Also of note, I have shared custody of my kids, Audrey and Rusty (so named because I am the epitome of Clark Griswold). I have them one week, my ex has them the following; we will continue this back and forth arrangement for a total of seven years.
Now that the stage is set, let’s rewind to June, 2011. I’ve been out of work for eight months already and am feeling restless. My ex is planning a trip to Disneyland with the kids, a portion of which will occur during my scheduled week, which means I am suddenly looking at a string of twelve kid-free days. Due to my circumstances, I’ve been feeling introspective lately, taking a hard look at my life. My conclusion? It’s pretty shitty. I’m bored and restless and the idea of being cooped up alone in my townhouse for two weeks feels almost painful, so I hatch this crazy plan to take a solo road trip from Vancouver, WA all the way to Dayton, Ohio—the epicenter of many happy childhood memories. Money is short but I’ve got plenty of time and a big, fat 401(k) account, so I withdraw some funds (consequences be damned) and hit the road on the afternoon of June 22, 2011. Coincidentally, the same date that we left for South Dakota in 2018. Talk about inescapable parallels.
Two days later (June 24), I arrive in Rapid City—carefully chosen because it is another place that means a lot to me. I spent my formative teenage high school years here. (I blogged every day from the road, and if you click on the link, you will note that I named my series “Getting My Griswold On”—further evidence of my Clark-ness.) I loved living in Rapid City growing up, but haven’t been back in a very long time, so I don’t know what to expect. I end up having such a great time, I rearrange my itinerary so I can spend an extra day here. My impressions are eye-opening:
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!
Instead of spending an extra day in Ohio, I’m spending it in South Dakota. I am enraptured by this place all over again, and want to enjoy every last drop of it while I can. If Dayton represents my childhood, Rapid City is my adolescence.
I can’t help but marvel, once again, over the beauty of this area. I liked it as a teenager, even though my parents complained about the brutal winters. This is definitely a land of fierce extremes, and it can be very punishing if you aren’t prepared for it. But the magnificent beauty and abundance of natural attractions make it worthwhile. I’ve often wondered if I could ever picture myself living in Rapid City again, and after returning, the verdict is in: yes, I could. I’m not saying I will – I love the Pacific Northwest far too much – but I wouldn’t rule it out if the circumstances were exactly right.
See, that trip laid the groundwork for my entire future, even though it would take me years to realize this. I know borrowing from your retirement account is never a sound financial strategy, but in this case, it paid off in spades. I should add that I never actually thought I would or could move to Rapid City. The kids were in school and our custody arrangement precluded it, for starters. But then a funny thing happened:
The kids grew up.
But still, I loved the Pacific Northwest…especially Portland! And then, another funny thing happened:
I stopped loving Portland.
I blame this on the rest of America’s sudden infatuation with the Rose City (which, in turn, I blame on the IFC series Portlandia…damn you, Fred Armisen, for making Portland so damn hip!). A mass influx of people descended upon PDX, causing housing prices to skyrocket and traffic to come to a grinding halt at times. Even after I found a decent-paying job and married Tara, who landed an even decenter-paying job, we couldn’t afford to live there any more. Recalling that road trip years earlier, I jokingly suggested moving to Rapid City one day in June, 2017. Tara took the bait, and the rest is history.
Two years ago today, after 18+ hours on the road and 1,250 miles, we arrived in Rapid City. It was love at third sight.
Here we are, two full years later, happier than ever. Everything we hoped for when hatching this crazy scheme has materialized into reality; in many cases, expectations haven’t just been met, but exceeded. I often lament the fact that we didn’t move out here sooner, but Tara brings me back to earth by reminding me that the timing had to be just right (as I mentioned myself in 2011). It’s a classic case of better late than never.
Two years. That’s a long time, but it feels like it’s flown by in the blink of an eye. Believe it or not, all of this somehow still feels new. Two summers, two autumns, two winters, and two springs later, it’s still a novelty.
To anybody contemplating a scary, life-altering change, I wholeheartedly recommend going for it. Sooner, rather than later.
I can’t even imagine what life would look like if we hadn’t done this.