When we arrived to the gate at Ellsworth, it was about at non-ceremonial as the rest of our trip and departure had been. We were already past the main sign before I could get my camera or phone out for a picture, and Husband had given the guard his military ID and been ushered through the gate before we could appreciate that we were driving through the base that we had been praying over for so long.
My initial thoughts were that the base seemed a lot bigger than Maxwell, well, more spread out at least. Most of the buildings looked new. There weren’t many people around. And while it was in a sense, beautiful, as people had described it to me, it was most definitely a different kind of beautiful than Asheville. Again the expanse of the plains was getting to me.
Before reaching the gate we could see Rapid City in the distance, butted up to what we assumed were the Black Hills. I have never been so happy to see mountains in my life. I never knew the comfort they brought to me!
We had reservations at the base hotel (Temporary Lodging Facility), called The Pine Tree Inn, so we clumsily followed signs until we found it. Only to learn that our specific room was actually in another location. We had been driving for over six hours, the dogs were officially OVER traveling, the wind was intense, and it was obvious that the weather was turning for a cold front…and we had not packed sufficient cold weather clothes.
Stepping into our room we were pleasantly surprised at the size and amenities. We were expecting something similar to the base hotel room Husband had been living in during JASOC. This room was double or triple the size of that room and even had a stove! It was, however, cold, dark, and very gray at first. We brought our things in, walked the dogs, then decided to go over to Centennial (our future neighborhood) to take a peak at the unit we were supposed to move into two days later, and then head downtown to find something to eat.
|Should have put the toilet seat down sorry!
This is where the story got about as gray as our room. I had the address in hand from our leasing agent, and we had the base map given to us by the guy at the hotel check in desk. As we made a turn here and a turn there, our hearts began to sink.
When we received our orders I immediately started researching housing options. We initially really wanted to find a house off base to rent, preferably something near some woods. Basically, there is very limited housing, period, in the Rapid City area. Also very little turnover. What was available was very dated and run down, and surprisingly expensive contrary to what we had expected.
We were put in contact with one of the other JAGs currently living at Ellsworth who told us about Centennial Estates, which was an on base housing development (that was going to be moved off base by October). With an understanding that most of the officers lived in that development I contacted the leasing office for information. Centennial offered multiple kinds of housing, but specific to us we had the option of a three bedroom quadraplex, a three bedroom duplex, and a three bedroom stand alone home. The latter two requiring that we go on a waiting list until a unit became available. I asked the question regarding the difference between the different unit types and after being told they were essentially the same thing, AND deciding with Husband that we didn’t care about a two foot patch of grass between the next house and ours, we went with the $300 less a month quadraplex. At the time I was so excited to have our housing taken care of. The movers were scheduled to deliver our things two days after we would arrive, and we would be on our way to settling in our home.
Turning onto our street, cars filled every inch of space, the houses were crammed together, and to put it politely, it was very…cluttered. We identified our unit, pulled in the driveway and got out. The wood post on the front porch was dry rotted and attached to a dilapidated front porch. Walking around the side I peered into a window near the ground to discover that it was a bedroom window, to a bedroom that didn’t look big enough to even hold our small full sized bed (and we only brought king and queen sized beds with us). Around the back the fenced in yard was miniature, and the back deck looked as if it would fall down the first time someone stepped on it.
We were not happy.
In fact, Husband said it looked like the projects.
And he was right.
Thoroughly depressed, and tired, we gathered ourselves and went downtown to get dinner.