Nostalgia is Fine, But the Midwest is Mine

Three years ago today, we arrived in Rapid City. Happy Dakotaversary to us.

Three years, man. It doesn’t even seem possible. There’s a cliche about time passing in the blink of an eye, but I swear, living here still feels like a novelty. The newness has yet to wear off, and I have no idea why. Growing up an Air Force brat, we never lived in any one place longer than three years. By the time that 36th month rolled around, everything felt like old hat.

And yet, it feels like just yesterday that we rolled into town, excited and exhausted after three days on the road. 1,250 miles in the slow lane, Tara and I forming a mini caravan consisting of a U-Haul filled with all our worldly possessions, towing my Mazda, and a pickup truck with a cat recovering from a mysterious illness. We had walkie-talkies and assigned each other racy call signs. We ate gas station jerky and listened to hours’ worth of road tunes and Tara had a come-apart in the middle of Montana after 48 hours with little sleep, and yet, it was all a grand adventure I look back upon with nothing but fondness today. We had rolled the dice, quit our jobs, and were headed into the great unknown. A brand new life awaited us, and I probably should have been scared to death, but I never was. I had confidence that everything would work out…and boy, has it. More than I ever could have expected.

It kinda feels like we got out of Portland just in time, too. The city has changed a lot since we left, and not for the better. Everybody tells me constantly how lucky we are to have escaped. From the protests and the crime and the traffic and the homeless camps and the high cost of living.

I am amazed at how little I actually miss about the place. Family, obviously. Shanahan’s (our favorite divey Irish pub). Rain is nice…we don’t get nearly enough of that out here. Being 100 minutes from the Pacific Ocean was cool. The music scene was awesome; I’ve lost track of how many up-and-coming and/or never-coming-up-but-still-fun indie bands we got to see in intimate clubs over the years.

I feel nostalgia sometimes, but I don’t miss it. There is no way I would trade in this life for that one. Not even counting our beautiful house and great jobs and easy access to the beauty and opportunity the Black Hills provide, I am a midwesterner at heart, and this place will mark the final chapters of my life. For the record: I hope there’s a lot of book left to read still.

Tonight, we went out to dinner to celebrate our South Dakota anniversary. Driving home, I was amazed once again by the sheer beauty of this place. We were treated to rain, thunder, lightning, rainbows, and a sunset…all rolled into one.

Life is good. If we hadn’t taken a huge gamble, we’d have missed out on so very much.

Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Embrace it. You might just be surprised by how wonderfully things turn out.

28 thoughts on “Nostalgia is Fine, But the Midwest is Mine

  1. Your paragraph describing the drive to your new state pretty much describes our move from Montana to Minnesota, down to the walkie-talkies. We didn’t come apart because our U-Haul wasn’t towing a vehicle (I was driving our only vehicle) but that would happen years later (also in Montana) on one of our early trips with the Bobbie. Our drive through NoDakistan was particularly harrowing, with wicked crosswinds. I was zipping along in my car, completely oblivious, while the husband sweated bullets and swore up a storm every time the wind pushed the U-Haul sideways, which was quite often, apparently. We laugh now, but…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your poor husband! At one point, Tara took a wrong turn just outside of Billings and was headed for Bismarck. “Wrong Dakota, babe!” I shouted into the walkie-talkie, but she had to drive five miles to find an exit where she could turn around. Ahh…memories.


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      1. We almost got separated in the Minneapolis suburbs during rush hour. Stressful! (This was in the time before cell phones. If we had lost each other, I think we’d still be trying to find each other today!)

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    1. It sure is! I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in the PNW, but alas, that tree came tumbling down. The new sapling has taken off quite nicely, though.

      (OK, I’ll stop beating the root analogy to death.)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well timed post Mark. My daughter is finally on her way to Colorado on Monday and the story of your drive will be much like what she faces I think! I am oh so happy that she can finally get settled and begin this part of her life. Gamble or great opportunity…sometimes it’s all about attitude!

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  3. So happy for you two! We lived in N. Dakota for four years and fell in love with the area and the people. Quite a culture shock, having moved from Texas, but it was a good move for us.

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    1. I can only imagine! And now you’re in Florida. You’ve lived in some drastically different places, huh? Then again, we went from Ohio to Hawaii to South Dakota. Can’t get much different than that!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this. I’m so happy for both of you; there’s nothing good in life that isn’t worth a bit of a gamble.

    I’ve never been to Portland, but it WAS on my travel list. That is before the past few years; I now have zero desire to visit that area for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

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  5. Happy Dakotaversary! I can totaly relate as I moved to L.A. without a job lined up. Every other time I’ve been unemployed it’s taken me a good year and countless interviews to finally land a job. It only took 9 days and interviews at 2 companies. The second company hired me on the spot and I attended my first meeting that night. I was down to my last $11 and my hair dryer had died so my new boss gave me one so I could look decent for work. I am still amazed at how that leap of faith worked out.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I took that leap 16 years ago with a move from So Cal to rrMiddle TN. I have to stipulate Middle TN from the next relo which was from Middle to East TN. I was miserable most of the time near Nashvillle while close to ecstatically happy and spiritually fulfilled near Knoxville. You may subscribe to the theory that I have many times in the past, mostly based on friends’ experiences, that one can be happy or miserable anywhere i.e. where you live may or may not figure into how happy you are while living there. Happiness may be based on other factors, or not. Obviously I had it both ways in The “Volunteer” State.

    Now I find myself at a similar decision point. Should I stay here in my So Cal hometown, where I will mostly be living alone in the place that I still know pretty well and still like a lot, though with fewer people I already know and love and vice versa surrounding me? Or, should I start fresh in the southern part of the “thumb” of MI where I will be near both my kids and their extended families (including my grandcats!) but in a place that will be strange and very foreign to a “weather wimp” who doesn’t do snow?

    Finally, re your Portland experience and advice re parts of OR to visit, you might want to add Southern OR as another destination. My best friend who was also my neighbor in the OC while we were both raising our families, moved with her husband to the Grants Pass/Medford area several years ago. She has been joined there by her children and their families and her sister as well as a lot of other CA expats. They all love it – wide open spaces, farms (including pot) and ranches (they have their own mini-ranch), wineries and breweries and just a more relaxed and rural lifestyle. Probably not much different from Dakota, I’d guess. Of course a move or visit there right now might not be recommended because of the fires.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Personally, I would choose Michigan over California in a heartbeat. That’s a no-brainer for me, but again, I vastly prefer the Midwest to the West Coast (I lived in the Bay Area for eight years and hated it). I agree that you can be happy wherever you live, but your environment definitely contributes to that happiness.

      I have a soft spot for the Grants Pass area. It’s beautiful country down there for sure.

      Liked by 2 people

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