Wandering Wolverines - 2008 travel blog

On the road at 6:30 AM (CT). It's sunny and 66 degrees, looks like a great traveling day! We both went to bed early & slept very soundly. Even the occassional plane overhead didn't disturb us! I got up & started getting ready to hit the road, Ron asked what I was doing, it was only 5:15 AM - 6:15 Midland time tho! I have a hard time changing to local times . . .

Before getting on I-90 we stopped in Stewartville for gas ($3.85/gal). Grabbed coffee & ate our breakfast under a big oak tree next to the station, then we headed w again. The station was called Quik Stop, a wonderful store with all kinds of breakfast & lunch items beautifully displayed (like the fresh fruit when we stepped thru the door). It was so clean & neat, just made you want to eat their goodies.

This country is so pretty, large rolling hills & neat farms, but really rough road! We just keep rattling & rolling along. We'd sing, but can't hear ourselves think! It's pretty dry around here, they are irrigating the fields.

We were too early again to stop in Austin, MN (pop. 86,000) - The county seat & one of the largest food processing centers in the nation, it is also the home of Hormel Meats & the SPAM museum - it's quite the tourist destination! We first became aware of it ~8 yrs ago when we went thru here. We stayed in downtown Rochester & saw this on our our way out. We were on the same schedule I guess - couldn't wait around until the 10 AM (CT) opening time. I am sorry to say that we just couldn't fit it in this trip either, I am so sad!

Something I was watching for near Blue Earth, MN (named by the Indians for the blue clay on the river banks) was the Jolly Green Giant - he was there 8 yrs ago, but has apparently retired since the company was sold. This area is a big producer of vegetable crops. We are still seeing some signs of recent flooding, but it is only minor here, in the low areas. Most of the crops are such a deep green & are really pretty against the dark blue stormy sky, we drove thru rain for about 1 hr.

Around Lakefield there are wind turbines on every hill top - we think they are pretty neat & don't detract from anything! There must be a hundred of them thru this area. The roads are red - from all the red clay in the region. Saw the first of what seems like a couple hundred Wall Drug signs - only 355 miles to Wall Drug! Oh sigh! Finally good roads again at Rustmore.Wow, we can think again! Got more gas ($3.85/gal.) Only 44 miles to Sioux Falls, SD.

11:10 AM (CT)we are in SOUTH DAKOTA, you know you are "out west" when the state sport is listed as rodeo & the state animal is the coyote! I like their state motto tho - "Under God, the People Rule"! Drove thru more rain, but it stopped before we got to the Welcome Center. Sioux Falls is a big, modern city with a population of ~124,000. It became famous in the 1850s by the proximity of stone quarries, the harnessing of the Big Sioux River for water power & the lure of homesteading & fur trading. The railroad came in the late 1800s & made it an economically stable community.

We took a by-pass around the southern end of town to the Best Buy store where I received some good help w/WiFi (didn't have any luck connecting last night at the campground) & then we headed back to I-90 & quick stops at the next two exits trying to get an RV question resolved at 2 different RV sales/service places. They were not as helpful, so we gave up & are on the road again. Got some more gas ($3.85/gal).

Arrived at Mitchell, SD at 1:14 PM (CT). The sun is out & it's getting hot & muggy. Located in the James River Valley, this area produces lots of grains & livestock, but corn is #1! Mitchell's hallmark is the Corn Palace, a Moorish-style building covered w/patterns created from various natural shades of corn & outlined w/grasses & grains. We stopped here before too, but they change the designs on the outside of the Corn Palace every year so thought it would be a good place to stretch our legs.

Some Corn Palace facts:

* In 1805 Lewis & Clark noted that "this area was the Great American Desert, suitable only for buffalo".

* first CP was built in 1892 to prove Lewis & Clark wrong & to showcase the vast varity of crops that were produced in the area. This is the 3rd CP.

* Each year a new theme is designed & drawn on roofing paper. It is then numbered to reflect the placement of each of the 11 different colors of corn. "A corn-by-number project". This year's theme is "Everyday Heros".

* All decorative materials are made from local grasses, grains & corn.

* 30,000 bushels of Milo, rye, oat heads, & sourdock are tied into bundles & nailed to the bldg. for decoration.

* 275,000 ears of corn are sawed in half & nailed flat side down on the bldg.

* Work progresses thru June, July & August, with 20 people working on it.

* It is a truely "a-maize-ing" place & said to be the "world's largest bird feeder!

* The town (pop. 14,500) now draws ~500,000 a year!

On the road again after ~1 hr., passed by DeSmote, SD, home of Laura Ingells Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame. Would love to stop there sometime as I've been a big "Little House" fan since 3rd grade!

Our next stop was near Chamberlin, SD on the banks of the Missouri River. The Missouri River divides the state approximately in half, north to south & makes this a big recreation area. We stopped here 8 yrs ago also, but they were just building the new Visitor Center/Museum; however, the views from the high cliff were so awesome that we both looked forward to a return visit. In 1804 Lewis & Clark camped here for about 3 days & the center highlights their stay. From this viewpoint 200 yrs ago they were able to see approx. 3,000 buffalo on the bluffs - they called it Camp Pleasant. After enjoying the new museum, we just stood outside absorbing that incredible view!

Left the Center at 5 PM (CT) & made it across the river in good time. As we drove down the steep hill & across the long bridge it made us wonder what those pioneer families felt as they stood at the top of that high cliff looking down to the very wide Missouri River. Of course the river is dammed up now, so it may not have been nearly as wide back then, but it had to have been a stomach churning experience for most! It is very hot & we have strong winds from the E - that's good as we are driving W.

5:40 PM (CT) we pulled into Presho, SD to the New Frontier RV Park. It is neat & clean but has suffered some heavy rain damage, nothing serious- mostly washouts in the gravel roads & sites. The restrooms were all pretty tile & pine - very clean & nice. There were only three of us camping there! The sites were not real level - but it is away from the hwy & is quite nice. I made a big chef salad & we settled in for the night.

About dark it got really muggy & very still with big black clouds building all around us. Ron was very busy with his SD map trying to locate all of the severe thunder storm, tornado & large hail warnings that were non-stop on both the TV & his weather radio. He was very worried when it appeared one of the biggest storms was only 30 miles away in Pierre & headed our way. The dark clouds turned more yellow - not a pretty sight, but interesting! Storms were hitting all around us & after dark we could see the lightening flashing almost non-stop to the W (Rapid City) & N (Pierre). The storms were moving our way from both directions, but we only got a little of them w/heavy rain & BIG winds - 60+ MPH. The motorhome was parked broadside to the wind from the N & was rocking back & forth so much that we went to the bathroom for a couple of hours. There was almost constant lighting above the lower clouds which created an erie weak light, but it was so high it didn't feel threatening, however, the occasional big bolts were scarey. At least we didn't have to worry too much about trees coming down on us. I was a little worried about debris being blown around. One nearby area received 4 in. of rain in 3 hrs - and several areas had golf ball-sized hail! It was quite a night & we didn't get much sleep as the warnings were on until 3 AM!

Couldn't work on the internet once again : 1) there was an extra fee (which we would have paid); 2) the fella at the desk handed me a card "with all the directions for connecting"; 3) however, I needed a password, & when I asked the fella at the desk, he just stated "I don't know nothin' 'bout those computer things!" and 5) with all the storms in the area, I probably wouldn't have gotten much done anyway. So I am still attempting catch-up & we've only been on the road 3 days!!!

We drove 428 miles today.

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