09/13/2001: Thursday 9/13/01
We slept long, and woke to a rainy day in Sioux City, IA. It took us a while to get going, so we didn't hit the road till after 11:00. We drove through the city of Sioux City to find the Sioux City Public Museum. It is a nice town with many Victorian houses. The museum is in a house much like we see a block from home in Compton Heights. Fancy woodwork, servants' stairs, high ceilings, etc. Besides the nice house, it really is a museum worthy of a bigger city. For animals, geology, and especially Native American arts, it's worth the stop.
Then we went up to Stone State Park. The nature center is geared to kids, and uses materials provided by the timber and mining industries to illustrate proper prairie and woodland maintenance. But they have a wonderful glass walled beehive, with a glass tunnel connecting the hive to the outdoors. You can watch the worker bees fanning the air into and back out, filling cells with honey, and other bee-like activities.
Finally we de drove up to the scenic, "see 3 states" overlooks. We looked it over under our umbrellas. Misty hills and the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers. Pleasant. The unique geological feature of the area is the loess hills. In brief, sharply defined hills composed of glacial runoff soil on top of glacially scraped rubble moraines.
Finally, we headed out of Iowa and into South Dakota. I liked the concrete teepee sculpture at the rest areas. At the Welcome Center, we were told that the best buffalo burgers were to be had at Al's in Oacoma, SD. We drove. We stopped after a couple of hours in Mitchell, SD home of the Corn Palace. Yes, it's a cute tourist town. The tradition of the corn palace was chronicled at the Sioux City Public Museum. Basically, you build an exhibition hall and decorate the outside with murals and patterns using only ears and husks of corn. Mitchell, SD has kept the tradition alive since 1892, while the rest of the country gave it up in decades past. Every year the entire exterior of the building gets re-corned with a new set of murals and patterns. September is when it is done. You see, the corn is ripe. We've been seeing harvesters, loaders, and trucks of corn (maize) all along our drive.
While in Mitchell, we also stopped in at the Cabela's sporting goods emporium. Big. Dioramas and murals and many stuffed beasts. I was amused by the acre of guns, rifles, and the aisles of handguns and ammo and stuff.
South Dakota reminds me of what I expect from Montana. Fields turned to plains as we headed west. We saw signs denouncing animal rights activists, signs proclaiming the god given right to mine the countryside for furs and other resources, and there seems to be a general keep-the-gummint-off-my-life feel.
So, from Mitchell, we drove in the downpour, keeping our speed well below the speed limit of 75 because of the tendency of our tires to hydroplane. About 5 miles before our dinner destination, there was a "Rest Area, Scenic Overlook" sign. The rain had subsided to a drizzle, so I could see the slightly rolling, basically flat plains to the horizon. I looked again at the blue sign, and cynically said to Karen, "Yeah, right".
We passed the rest area exit, and crested a slight rise. Then, spread before us, was a deep river valley. Quite a vista after the apparently endless plains. We're learning about the surprises one can find in South Dakota.
We stopped at the buffalo burger joint we'd had recommended back at the Iowa border, Al's Oasis. Good food, 5 cent coffee, and to my surprise, decent 40 cent biscotti! Then we spent the night at the adjacent Inn. Tired. I'm again fighting off some rhinovirus.