Letting the cow out of the bag.

I’ve been keeping a little secret, but it’s time to let the cow out of the bag.

I was in Madison, Wisconsin again last week. Just me; Tara stayed home. I left on Saturday morning, driving to Sibley, Iowa, where I spent the night. It was a charming little town. Quintessential Midwest.

I chose Sibley because it’s roughly halfway between Rapid City and Madison. Driving straight through is do-able — we did it coming back on July 5, when we encountered that derecho in Sioux Falls — but it’s a slog, especially if you’re alone. I hit the road early Sunday and was across the Wisconsin border by 10:30 a.m. Decided to make a detour to Grandad Bluff overlooking the town of La Crosse.

Wisconsin is beautiful, guys. It amazes me how dramatically the landscape changes. The moment you cross the Mississippi River, you go from flat prairie and farmland to rolling green hills.

I’ve missed the color green.

Green isn’t the only thing I’ve missed. And that brings me to the reason for this spur-of-the-moment trip. Prepare to have your minds blown.

Tara and I are moving to Wisconsin.

I’ll let the dust settle a bit before moving on. Go ahead and enjoy a few pics in the meantime.

The PNW Spoiled Us

Madison. Wow. Who’da thunk?

Well…me, I guess. In my junior year of high school, I’d narrowed my college choices down to two: Trenton State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Both had stellar communications programs. I ultimately ended up at San Jose State University for all the wrong reasons, but that’s water under the bridge. I was perfectly happy living in the Pacific Northwest for twentysomething years.

And then I wasn’t.

Rapid City has been good to us, too. We love our house. I have a great job. If it isn’t everything we’d hoped for, it’s damn close.

But.

(There has to be a but, otherwise, why would we be doing this crazy thing?!)

Portland/Vancouver spoiled us. We had great restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. And gorgeous scenery.

Here, we’ve got the scenery. The Black Hills and Badlands are incredible. But everything else is a cultural void. How many times have we driven five hours to stock up at Trader Joe’s? And we can’t find a decent Mexican restaurant to save our lives.

Without getting into politics, the politics here are godawful. Our governor sucks. She overturns the will of the voters seemingly on a whim. We despise her.

The weather’s fine. Sometimes, anyway. Summers are HOT. We average 32 days with 90°+ temps. It’s been in the 100s twice in the past week alone. It can feel interminable. I don’t mind the cold and snow. But it’s also dry. The average annual precipitation is 16″. It’s usually nice and green in the spring, but by July, the landscape is a brown palette.

Having said all that, we could live here forever if we wanted. That would certainly be the easier choice, the path of least resistance.

And we probably would have if we hadn’t spent a night in Madison last May. Even though we were there for all of 16 hours (and asleep for half of that), we kinda fell for it hard.

In Which We Hatch a Crazy Scheme, Discard It, Then Revive It

Still, we never even thought about living there until earlier this year. Right around the 1st of April, no foolin’. Tara was knee-deep in garden planning and lamenting the constraints of our backyard. Or something. It’s a beautiful yard, but she doesn’t have a lot of room in which to work. Maybe she asked if we could rip out the grass in the front yard and fill it with raised beds. And maybe I said, “Or, we could just find a new house with more land in Wisconsin.”

It had always been our plan to move into a house with more land someday. Yet, the more we searched for the perfect property, the more we realized the Black Hills were becoming too stinkin’ popular. (Fun fact: Rapid City is the fastest-growing metro area in the Midwest, according to the US Census Bureau. I never saw that coming.)

I swear, everywhere we move becomes trendy. I apologize in advance, Madison.

Anyway, we tossed around the Madison idea for a few days, then decided against it. “Maybe we’ll end up there someday,” Tara said.

I felt great about that decision for about two days. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

“We’re not getting any younger,” I said. “If we are going to make another big move, I’d rather do it now versus later.”

The Conversation Evolves

So, we planned a trip to Wisconsin in early October. Figured it would be a great time to scope out the area and enjoy the fall colors. Only, the more we talked about it, the more impatient we got. October felt too far away. We bumped up our trip to July. And researched the hell out of the place. Madison has all the culture Rapid City lacks (a great food scene, awesome farmers market, tons of concerts, and if all that isn’t enough, a Trader Joe’s…not to mention a Costco and a Raising Cane’s). Nine days of 90-degree weather versus 32. Twice the precipitation. The tradeoff is humidity, but the tradeoff for that is it’s so freakin’ green there.

By the time we visited over the Fourth of July weekend, the conversation had evolved. Initially, we’d planned on visiting to see if we could see ourselves living there. By the time we arrived, we were looking for reasons not to live there. A subtle but significant difference. And we couldn’t find any.

So, we started applying for jobs. Mostly me. And, I was getting a lot of responses. Had a bunch of phone and virtual interviews.

Then, I had an opportunity to interview in person. They gave me the option of a Teams interview, but I thought driving out there would show great initiative and let them know I was serious about the position, distance be damned. I also dropped hints with a couple of other companies I was applying with that I’d be in the area for a few days if they wanted to meet in person. One of them took me up on that. It was sort of a gamble…

…and turned out to be completely unnecessary. Because this morning, I got a job offer from a company I’d interviewed with virtually. We met twice via Google Meet, but never in person. I did drive by their office when I was down there, just to check it out. Now I’ll be able to get there without getting lost, so I guess it wasn’t a wasted trip. Plus, it 100% cemented my resolve to move.

I’ll talk more about the job in another post. This one is long enough.

More Midwest

Today, I met with my supervisor and boss and officially gave my two weeks’ notice. To their credit, they were gracious and supportive. Congratulated me on the new job and, while they are happy for me, will also hate to lose me. The idea of a counteroffer was floated, but I told them the decision has nothing at all to do with CenturyCo. The company is great. It’s the lifestyle we want.

I guess you could say Rapid City isn’t quite Midwest enough. Team MarTar wants to be More Midwest.

Tara gave her two-week notice, too. But she’d already given them a heads up a month ago.

I start my new job Sept. 6 — the day after Labor Day. They’re being extremely flexible with the schedule and letting me work remotely at first. It’s a hybrid position, which will be a nice change of pace.

Here’s the plan:

  • List our house. Tara already met with our realtor when I was in Wisconsin. The housing market is still hot here.
  • Start packing. We’ve been collecting boxes for weeks now. Time to start filling them.
  • Figure out a place to live. The plan is to rent for maybe six months so we aren’t pressured into buying a house right off the bat. We’re doing this for the perfect property and refuse to be rushed. We’ve found some apartments online; that’s how we did it when moving to Rapid City, so I’m not afraid to move sight unseen. Google Street View is very helpful in that regard.
  • Move in. We’re going to head back out there at the end of August to get settled, wherever that ends up being.

I may or may not come back from that trip. We’ll probably have to live apart for a few weeks until the house sells, but that’s a small sacrifice to make for following our dreams. There is still much to discuss.

We are in for a lot of hard work the next few weeks. Months, probably. Just thinking about all the moving pieces has my stomach in knots. But, Tara and I have never been afraid of change. In fact, we embrace it. Every move we’ve made together to improve our lives has turned out to be the right one. We expect this latest adventure to be no different.

All these paragraphs upon paragraphs of explanation are fine, but really, out attitude boils down to one simple thing:

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

More to follow. Much more.

P.S.: Still not becoming a Packers fan.

42 thoughts on “Letting the cow out of the bag.

    1. You need to be way more specific than that. Flavor, style, how squeaky, etc. And then you’ve still got to decide between eight or nine different brands.

      This is going to take some getting used to…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow. Just… wow. Sometimes you have to follow your heart. And if it leads to the land of cheese? Who are you to say no. I’m excited for you and hope you love the new job. Renting first is smart, we did that as well. Be sure to keep us posted.
    👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How exciting! I often think about moving, at this point, I have less than 4 years until my house is paid off, so at that point I can either sell it, or keep it and rent it out. I would love to move somewhere warmer year round. I had been mulling over Florida, but the last 3 weeks here have been roasty-toasty and humid, which was horrible. So if I can’t handle 3 weeks of that, 12 months of it? Nah.
    I don’t think I could handle the Midwest; living on the ocean has spoiled me and I would miss it. Who knows what will happen? I’ll keep mulling it over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve been talking about Florida or Key West for years! One thing we’ll have to get used to is more humidity. But also: fireflies!! I’m pretty stoked.

      I thought I’d miss the ocean, too…but the Great Lakes are almost as impressive!

      Like

  3. Well that’s news! Part of me is not surprised at all, and just to see trees and green and even rain is such a huge draw. Are you taking Doris’ ghost with you? Madison puts you in such a great spot for travel options as well. Congrats to you and Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wuhoo!! Love the Joseph Campbell quote and it seems to be one that you two are well-prepared for. That’s awesome. Hope all the things that Tara has planted are ready to harvest before you go!! Good for you for moving onward to your perfect place!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So…I’m reading this post, working my way down, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking how clever it would be for me to ask in the comments section if this means you are changing allegiance from the Broncos to the Packers…and then I get to the P.S. Lol. As a couple who has also taken a couple big swings in life when it comes to life changing decisions, we absolutely get this and hope it turns out to be all you dreamed and more. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How exciting! I’m looking forward to reading about you and Tara’s new adventure. I’m kinda embarrassed to say that I live in the same town I was born and raised in. Every once in a while, I think about living someplace else, but it’s hard to beat our weather and we love our home and neighborhood, so…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The funny thing about that is, growing up, I always envied those people who never moved. It was tough as a kid, uprooting your life every few years. But it prepared me well for adulthood apparently. Change is no big deal now (and luckily, Tara also moved around a lot over the years).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Mark, I’ve been following you for a long time. I did write you once before about my old letters that belonged to my grandfather. Anyway, the reason I’m writing now is that I am in Wisconsin. I live in the middle of the state just outside of Medford. If you want any ideas about somethings in the state I might be able to tell you. I hope you are able to find the perfect home quickly and are able to settle down sooner rather then later. Just a heads up, it could be an early fall and winter around here, And as for the leaves changing, the best time could be in September. I hope to here from you soon.
    Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I wondered if this was what you were up to with all your visits to Madison. Earlier this summer you mentioned you might have big news later in the year. Congrats. We wanted to live in Madison– and the choice came down to it OR where we landed. Loved that city, loved the university vibe, love WI. I know you’ll be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I figured some of my friends would be suspicious when I made that second trip out there. Even briefly debated not posting any IG pics, but c’mon…where’s the fun in that?

      Like

    1. You thought my IG post was another joke, huh? Maybe if this were April, ha! Thank you very much. Six months ago, I thought we’d stay here forever, too. Funny how plans evolve, isn’t it?

      Like

  9. I admit this made my eyes pop. But I get it. I’m glad I won’t have to read your whining over the lack of Trader Joe’s anymore. 😉 And your weather was nuts, to be sure. Sounds like a fun new adventure! Nice work landing a new job!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Woo hoo! I moved to L.A. with an apartment but no job and was down to my last $11, living off the apple pie the apartment manager gave us when I finally got a job and started working that same night so I’m all for making those kind of leaps into the unknown. I just read your other post so I know you got a job. Congrats!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t mentioned this on the blog, but Tara was so dead set on doing this, she suggested if I didn’t have a job by the end of the month we move out there anyway. I honestly don’t know if I could have done that, but I’m glad it’s a non-issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is so exciting and I’m so happy for you both! Way to live by the seat of your pants..and I agree, life is too short to not be where you want to be. And by that I mean to be near a Costco and Trader Joes. 😳

    I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but it looks gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The grass is always greener. Seems like that’s been true for you so far, or at least for as long as I’ve been following you. I hope that streak continues and, like some other people here have said, since we will both be in a Great Lakes adjacent state, maybe we can meet up IRL sometime. Meanwhile, I must say that MI hasn’t disappointed me much so far. For me, that statement is pretty cheerful!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a surprise. What with the way you were bragging up your job and the Black Hills I figured you’d be there for a while. But in this case, the grass really is greener. (Not to mention the corn.)

    Liked by 1 person

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