So This is 30.

Recently I came across an article titled (and I’m quoting here) “30 Epic Places You Absolutely Must Visit Before You’re 30,” that, due to my recent birthday, instantly sparked my curiosity. I love a good superlatives list as much as the next guy, but when it’s combined with one of my passions, I couldn’t click on the link fast enough. However, even as I began to scroll became somewhat skeptical, especially after noting that the first destination (#30) was climbing sand dunes Namib Desert, Namibia. I guess the overly obtrusive title…”EPIC!” “ABSOLUTELY MUST!”…should have given it away that this wasn’t a list meant for us “common folk.” But I read on.

It wasn’t until I was seven destinations deep that I finally came across a place that I’ve actually seen with my own eyes: the Washington Monument in DC. And things only got worse from there…by the time I was finished reading, I could check off only one additional place after our nation’s capital for a grand total of two. By now…according to HuffPo anyway…I should have boated beside penguins in Antarctica, swam with jellyfish in Palau, bungee jumped in China, partied in Rio, and mingled with the locals in Dharavi.

Fail. Certainly there are places on that list that I’d love to visit someday, but let’s get real: I could live to 300 and not see all the destinations on their “Epic” list. (For the record, I find this list much more relatable)

So this is 30.

Growing up in Maryland (for me personally, anyway), being born in October meant that I had a “late birthday.”  The cutoff date for starting school was in December, while in Iowa the cutoff date is September first…which means I would have graduated a year behind Missy, and I would have had an “early birthday” making me “old for my grade” if I had grown up out here.  Be that as it may, I was usually one of the last in my grade to turn a year older, which in turn meant that I was one of the last to turn the double digits, the last to get a driver’s license, and to a lesser extent the last to turn of legal age…you know…to vote…


But now that I’ve been out of school for almost 10 years, age isn’t really a thing (yet). I have friends that are my brother’s age while at the same time hang out with guys ten years older than I am. It’s cliché, but at this point age really is just a number. Yet I feel like I should at least acknowledge as I say goodbye to one decade and welcome the next with (mostly) open arms 😉

We’ve come a long way, baby.

If I had to write a narrative to sum up my 20’s, I’m pretty sure the title would be “Tom Hardinge: A Life in Flux”. I’m sure that this isn’t too atypical from most as they transition into the “real world”, but over the past ten years I’ve lived in three different states in two different time-zones while calling at least five different houses home. I also graduated college, married, and, oh yeah…had four daughters along the way. In case you’re missed the point there…that all happened before I turned 30!

Here’s hoping the theme for these next ten years will be stability 😉

*Sappy paragraph alert!* Want to know what hasn’t changed? Want to know the one person that’s been beside me the whole time? My rock, Missy of course!

Convert Selfie

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the man I am today without her with me. She truly is the best a guy could ever ask for in a wife and friend…but you guys already knew that. I just love doing life with her. It’s better that way. Thanks for being so awesome, babe!

That said, Miss went above and beyond the call of duty in planning for the big occasion. And I’m gonna be honest: it was one helluva party. Pardon my language, but for real. I couldn’t have envisioned a better way to spend the last few days as twenty-something even if I had months to prepare for it. I’d love to share the highlights with you!

We spent the weekend prior to the b-day outside enjoying the spectacular autumn weather. On Saturday Miss & I loaded up the bikes for a road trip north of Des Moines for some serious eats…

The Cafe

The Café in Ames is one of our favorite places ever…except for the fact that it’s 45 minutes away and we rarely make it up to enjoy it.


…followed by an incredible bike ride down the High Trestle Trail in Madrid (IA)…


Birthday 12

Birthday 32

…culminating with a gorgeous half-mile cruise across the High Trestle Bridge.

Birthday 11

We’ve wanted to cross this off our Iowa bucket list for some time now and we couldn’t have picked a better day to do it. The fall colors were just starting to pop and the scenic views from our perch high above the Des Moines River valley under the clear blue sky were unmatched.

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Birthday 9



We spent the late afternoon sipping cool beverages trail-side…

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Birthday 15

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Birthday 14

…before heading home for dinner with the folks. Just as I thought our day was done, Missy one-uped herself yet again with 25 people waiting in our driveway ready for a fantastic surprise party/bonfire that Missy had planned in secrecy for weeks as an encore…

Bonfire face

bonfire surprise

…to cap off for a truly unforgettable day of fun. And it wasn’t even my actual birthday yet! (And yes, I’m giving Missy the stink eye for putting such a perfect night together without my knowing!)

Sunday we took our annual trip to Winterset to “help” G-Pa Steve with the harvest…

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Birthday 17

Birthday 18

…and take a few family pictures at our favorite remote, super top-secret Madison Country nature reserve and swinging bridge. I’m sure you’ve all seen the results from that photo-sesh by now 😉

Swinging Bridge

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The big day fell on Tuesday this year, and since I couldn’t exactly just take off work…was a bit more low-key than the previous Saturday. Even so, I had a great afternoon lunch catered by my ladies directly to my office…

birthday lunch

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…and then spent the evening with a handful of close friends biking out to the Cumming Tap for tacos and drinks before returning to the pad for dessert.

And, oh yeah…all that glorious fall weather from the weekend took a nose dive to start the week, leading to grey skies, temperatures in the lower 50’s, and 20 MPH wind gusts to boot. Yet despite the less than favorable conditions, everyone in our hardcore crew was still completely gung-ho for a chilly fall ride…

Bike Ride Crew

…and everyone pedaled hard as dusk fell…

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…pushing all the way through to the end. The warmth and light emanating from the perfectly outdated, hyper-local bar that awaited us was well worth our efforts. Plus the tacos served up by Tacopocalypse at the Tap each week are the best in the state, hands down.

The place is usually swarming with riders on Tuesday evenings, but the weather kept all but the most dedicated at bay this night, keeping the vibe extra low-key. Fine by us!

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After tacos, Missy drove the gals home (we parked my car with bike rack earlier in the afternoon, expecting that this would be the case) while the guys motored up the trail back home for ice cream cake…butterfingerblizzardicecreamcakeomg

Birthday 36

So, yeah…Birthday celebration = massive success. Can I turn please 30 every week??

But seriously: HUGE thanks to everyone for your well-wishes these past few days…from Missy and the fam that helped pull off the big surprise, to the die-hards that showed up in less-than-ideal conditions just for a few tacos, and everyone else sending their love via social media, e-mail, and even snail mail(!)…you sure know how to make a guy like me feel extra loved. Virtual hugs to you all 😀

Back with the regular musings next week!

This entry was posted in Holiday by Tom Hardinge. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tom Hardinge

Loving husband to my wife Missy, loving father to my four daughters Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Lola. I'm a chronic over-packer who loves good coffee, good music, running, waffle tee's, fleece pants, and Jesus Christ!

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