Wanderlust In Our Blood

I want to start off by saying that I love the Pacific Northwest. This should be obvious to anybody who has ever read my blog. It’s been my home for almost 23 years now, and I always figured I’d spend the rest of my life here. I probably will.

But maybe I won’t.

When I short-sold my townhouse in 2014, our plan was to spend two years in an apartment and then buy a house. It’s been over three years now and we’re still here, not really any closer to our goal. Part of the reason is, we are waiting for Audrey to graduate from high school. She’s got a year to go, and after that, we figured we’d buy a place in Stevenson. But S-town (not that S-town, podcast fans) is small, and there aren’t a lot of houses for sale. We’ve been paying close attention to the real estate market. And by “we” I mean Tara, but it’s all semantics.

Tara’s got a Zillow addiction, and is constantly sending me listings. Because it’s slim pickings in Stevenson, she’s been focusing on Vancouver, where we live now. That would be okay if we could find the perfect place. And last Thursday, we thought we had. Until we crunched the numbers. Every week, it seems, prices are creeping up. We are in danger of being priced out of the market, especially if we can’t realistically buy anything until next summer.

So, in a moment of inspiration on Friday, I turned the tables on Tara and sent her a Zillow listing. The house was a gorgeous three-bedroom, two-bath split level ranch, 1680 square feet, with a covered deck and spacious backyard. And at only $189K, it was a steal.

It also happens to be located in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

I guess I was sort of half-kidding when I sent her the listing, but: not really. I have long had a fondness for Rapid City. After all, I lived there for three years in the mid-80s. Three formative high school years, I might add. And when I visited again six years ago this month during my solo road trip, I was so enamored  that I switched up my itinerary and stayed an extra day. In looking back through those old posts, I stumbled upon these eye-opening passages.

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! I am enraptured by this place all over again, and want to enjoy every last drop of it while I can.

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 makes it worthwhile. I’ve often wondered if I could ever picture myself living in Rapid City again, and the verdict is in: yes, I could. I wouldn’t rule it out if the circumstances were exactly right.

There are definite pros and cons to living there. The weather can be punishing (though it’s also right up my alley) and the Pacific Ocean is a lot farther than a mere 100 minutes away. And Rapid City isn’t exactly a destination for most touring musicians. But houses comparable to what we’re looking at here are at least $100K less. The Black Hills offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. The population – 72K – is close to ideal (big enough for the essentials, small enough that gridlock is not a problem). There’s a surprisingly robust local food scene. And Denver is a mere 5 hours and 56 minutes away by car, so we could see a lot more Broncos games.

Downtown Rapid City from Skyline Drive.

As for work…I can do my job from anywhere. All I need is a laptop and an internet connection. I have no idea if my company would even entertain that option, but we’ve been hiring a slew of remote employees lately, so you never know. I feel like it’s at least a possibility.

Surprisingly, Tara was more receptive to the idea than I’d expected. We both just want the best life we can live, and if that means pulling up roots and starting fresh somewhere else, we’re open to the idea. It helps that we both moved around a lot growing up. Wanderlust is in our blood, I suppose.

When I left the Bay Area for Portland in 1994, those were the most exciting days of my life. Everything was new, and the sense of discovery was like a drug. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to experience that all over again, this time with Tara by my side.

I’m not saying this is going to happen. It still seems like a pretty farfetched idea. But we are now planning a long weekend so Tara can see the place (she’s never been) and we can get a feel for the neighborhoods and downtown. Rapid City is an 18-hour drive from here, which isn’t too bad. We’re tentatively looking at early October – specifically, Columbus Day weekend. The weather that time of year should be perfect (though, this being South Dakota, there’s always the possibility of a little snow).

Gotta do what you gotta do, yo.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

21 thoughts on “Wanderlust In Our Blood

  1. You certainly don’t mind car travel. A mere 5 hours 56 minutes. Wow! And “18 hours isn’t too bad.” 🙂 It does sound exciting. I love looking at zillow too. If we ever wanted to change up our living situation, we’d have to leave our state too at the rate prices are climbing, until or unless there’s another bubble burst. But, wouldn’t you still have to wait a year until your daughter graduated? Too bad that particular house will likely be gone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, six hours is nothing! 18 is, but we’d break up the drive – 6 hours one day, 12 the next. That’s totally do-able. And yeah, this particular house will be long gone by the time Audrey graduates, but there are many others like it, so I’m not worried about that. This is more of a long-term idea, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You make some convincing points! My kids still talk about the time we were the only people at the Rapid City airport! LOL! It was fabulous. And another plus is that you would be close to Wall Drug, offering up lots of interesting blog fodder!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tara moved out here from Ely, Nevada, and lived in Island Park, Idaho – where snowfall is measured in feet, not inches – prior to that. She’s got more experience than I do when it comes to snow!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 189k sounds like a steal compared to Vancouver’s hot housing market. Change is good! My parents sold our first house to a couple who was living in Australia. They saw a virtual home tour and bought it sight unseen.


    1. It most certainly is! The cynics (and my mom) might say, “Sure, but then you have to live in Rapid City!” – but for me, that isn’t a bad thing.

      I don’t know that I could ever buy a house over the internet without actually seeing it in person first, but I admire their sense of adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! We thought they were crazy. I just realized that Rapid City is near Mount Rushmore. I begged my mom to go there when I was ten, but only because I’d seen it on The Simpsons. She still points out that reference when I mention Mount Rushmore.


  4. Mark, as you know, I have wanderlust within my soul as well!

    I’ve never heard of Rapid City, but from what you’ve said and the picture you shared, it sounds/looks like a GREAT place to live!

    I too have been thinking/working on moving as well. And as you probably can tell from my posts over the past few years…it’s New York City! Yup, I need to move back there. It’s my “soul city.”

    So I say, if it feels right next year for you and Tara to move….go for it 🙂


    1. Ahh, but Ron, you commented on my Rapid City posts six years ago (thank you, btw!) so you actually have heard of it. But because it’s “Rapid” City and not “NEW YORK” City I’m sure it barely registered, lol. Good for you, though! You belong in NYC. I say follow your heart and DO IT!


  5. I needed a change as had been in Miami since I was 5 (60 years). Gridlock ? It’s red light to red light block to block. The heat is unbearable. It is 80% minority and 55% foreign born now and I was sick and tired and even outraged at being treated as though I did not belong there, a stranger in my own country.No more Americanish stuff any more. Few have any understanding of what Veterans Day is and the like. Very little work ethic from whom you must deal in the private and public sector. And they are still building and building. Had been with my daughter and her kids all these years and now it is time to be with my son and his child in Greensboro, NC. I sent him to Guilford college here, graduated 2004. So left in Jan of 2015. It was very challenging for father and me to start out all over again. We are settled in now but social security, new doctors, veterans affairs, state income tax, new license tag and vehicle title registration, new bank, new health care facilities, the utilities, the list goes on and on and was stressful. Got a 3/2 with living room, dining room, huge den for $129,000 in upper middle class hood. The population here 240 K is much like the 74 K you describe. Miami Dade County is a NE, SE, NW, SW numbered grid and you can get anywhere without a problem even in areas where you have never been. Here it is a street names. I have more people in my life here than in all my years in Miami. English is spoken here too. I just turned 68 and dad coming up on 94 so it was a fearful matter of change and adjustment. I love the change in seasons (Miami has 4 seasons to but they are hot, hotter, really hot and hot). Spring and fall delightful except in fall I have to rake up elevendy thousand 50 gallon barrels of leaves. I was stuck in life. Now I am really glad I made the dramatic change. I am fearful of getting on a highway though. Fearful of getting lost even though I got one of those talking map machines for the car but every thing I need is about an 8 mile radius of the house. There can be days when the traffic is testy. For instance, yesterday I spent most of it reading on the front porch and like 14 cars went by ! Keerist…


    1. This sounds like it was a good move for you, Carl, for about one million reasons. I’m glad it worked out and that you are enjoying your new home. $129K is an absolute steal pretty much anywhere.


  6. Oh, that does sound intriguing. We’re considering changing up our scenery but have thus far not found another place that calls to us quite like this one.


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