Make a Change

The timing of our trip was pretty fortuitous. Yesterday was devoted to exploring the Black Hills, and the weather could not have been more perfect: sunshine, a deep blue cloudless sky, and a temperature in the low 70s. Today was grey and rainy and it never climbed out of the 40s. We didn’t care though, as most of the day was spent either in the car or indoors.

We drove downtown this morning and stopped by Harriet & Oak for a light breakfast. We’d ducked in there yesterday for a cup of coffee and decided we had to come back again today, it was that good. I even splurged and got a caramel macchiato, the first time in years (literally) that I had such a fancy (read: sweet) coffee concoction. It was smooth and creamy and came decorated with an oak leaf. To die for. I had it with a sweet potato and sage scone that was also delicious. This place is right up my alley and again, kind of reminds me of Portland: funky vibe, tatted/pierced staff, indie rock soundtrack, and a VW Bus parked right there in the middle of the coffeeshop. If I were a local, I’d frequent the hell out of the place. 

After breakfast we walked around downtown a little bit, but a light rain had begun falling and the wind was blowing briskly, so we did not linger. Instead, we drove around to check out a bunch of houses Tara had found on Zillow, just to get a feel for some of the neighborhoods around town. We learned that we really like Black Hawk and west Rapid City. Actually, there were a couple of nice houses in east Rapid, too. Only a couple of Tara’s listings were in areas that did not appeal to us.

We finished fake house shopping around noon, and decided to drive back into the Black Hills to check out Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City. They make fruit wines and have won all kinds of awards for them. I’m not normally a fan of fruit wines, but we sampled 10 different varieties between the two of us and pretty much loved them all. Which explains how we both spent over $100 on bottles.

Once we were finished going into debt on wine, we drove back to Rapid City to grab cheesesteaks from Philly Ted’s, at the insistence of our friend Kara, who visited the area once and swore by them. Oh, on the drive, we actually saw some snowflakes in the air, a reminder that winter arrives early in this part of the world. Anyway, the cheesesteaks: they were good and totally hit the spot, but honestly, there’s a place in Portland we both agreed does them better. (Grant’s on Sandy Blvd. if you’re interested.) We ate them in the car speeding down I-90 east toward Wall and our next destination, the ever popular tourist mecca known as Wall Drug. Bought the requisite souvenirs and spent a couple of hours there, bummed that we didn’t have enough time to hit the Badlands, which are just a few miles further down the interstate. But I’m telling myself this isn’t a big deal, because we have crammed a LOT into the two full days we have had here.

On the drive back to Rapid City, my gas gauge warning light came on. Somehow, in all the excitement, I hadn’t realized that I was in danger of running out of fuel. Oops! We were sweating it for a few minutes, because on that stretch of highway there is a whole lot of empty prairie land; you can go for miles and miles without seeing any sign of civilization. Luckily we found a gas station in one of those podunk little towns where you wonder what the hell people who live there do for a living. Or for entertainment. Or how they even manage to pry themselves out of bed every morning when they’re out in the middle of freaking nowhere. Then again, I suppose that could be a draw. In any case, we filled the tank and made it back to town no problem. We actually had one glorious hour to kill in the motel before heading out yet again. I spent it writing most of this blog post and uploading pics. Man, social media sure does require stamina. No wonder I’ve had so little sleep these past few nights.

For our last night in Rapid City, we made dinner reservations at Dakotah Steakhouse. We wanted to finish our visit in style, and we did just that. If whiskey cocktails and breaded walleye fingers and prime rib and savory mushroom bread pudding are your idea of “in style.” The meal set us back $101, which by Portland standards is a steal. Yet another plus for RC. (By the way, gas here is ridiculously cheap. It’s $2.18 a gallon. And it’s amazing how quickly you adapt to a new reality. When we pulled off the interstate for our emergency fuel-up in New Underwood and paid $2.43 a gallon, I complained about the expense. Never mind that gas cost $2.89 a gallon at the 7-Eleven down the street from our apartment complex.)

Other observations: the city has a vibrant and surprisingly robust food scene. It’s far more diverse than I expected. We did not have a bad meal here. And while I wrote yesterday that there were no parking meters, I was wrong. We found a few. But get this…

They’re actually “donation stations” that raise money for helping indigent people down on their luck. We fed them some change, and every time you put a coin in and turn the knob, a little “thank you” flag pops up. Is that not the best thing ever?

Also, the newscasts are very different here. When we arrived Friday night, the sportscasters devoted most of their broadcast to recapping the local high school games. And they did it in poetic verse. Seriously. A word-for-word example: “Trevor Pullman shows off some nice moves/all you hear from the crowd are cheers and not boos/the Belle Fourche Broncs would get the stop/here they go again with time ticking off the clock/Tate Hofstedder with time in the pocket/passes to Jackson Tindle, look at that rocket!”

The wholesome earnestness is off the charts, folks.

I love it here. I do.

And yesterday at the farmer’s market, we spotted a pickup truck in the parking lot sporting Obama and Hillary bumper stickers. This may be a red state, but there are pockets of resistance, which brings me hope.

Tomorrow, we begin our long journey back home. Neither of us is looking forward to the drive, but we’re breaking it down into two manageable segments, so we won’t end up stuck in the car for 15 hours either day. So, bittersweet that it’s coming to an end so quickly. We both really enjoyed this getaway. It’s safe to say that Tara digs it here too, which means…we’ve got some things to figure out.

We’ll just leave it at that for now.

Tomorrow’s plan is a little up in the air. We know that we are driving through Spearfish Canyon to check out the scenery and fall colors. Tara brought along a rod and reel and had planned on doing a little walleye fishing at the reservoir, but we may scrap that idea. It just depends on how we feel (and how cold it is).

I won’t update from the road tomorrow. There won’t be much to say (“we drove…we drove some more…”) and I’m sure we’ll be dead tired anyway. I’ll catch up with you all in a few days instead, and promise to respond to comments (and read your blogs) then.

Adios for now, Rapid City…


Published by Mark Petruska

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

10 thoughts on “Make a Change

  1. Nice wrap up! We actually stayed in Hill City for 2 nights on the main drag until I could get our 1 night at the K Bar S Lodge (with profile views of Mt. Rushmore!) I’m curious on the housing prices…..price per square foot?

    Donation Station? How awesome is that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure what the price per square foot breaks down to…I suppose I could grab a calculator and figure out the math. But I can tell you we are finding lots of houses in the $150K-$175K range: three-bed, two-bath, 1500-2000 square feet on average. This is more than $100K less than comparable houses where we live now.


  2. Mark, I LOVE the idea of those “donation stations” – brilliant!

    Being a wine drinker, I got very excited to read about your wine purchase. OMG…I love the name Red Ass – HA!

    Rapid City (by the looks of that final picture) looks so charming and cozy!


  3. Rapid City sounds like a great place. Of course I’ll hate it if you move, but since I mostly communicate with you online, it probably won’t make that much difference, right? Right? Sigh.


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