Thursday, August 15: Central Time to Mountain Time
Weather: Periods of clouds, sprinkles and sunshine, high 70sF through South Dakota (cool for them)
Route: Des Moines KOA → I-80W → I-680W → I-29N → I-90W → Belvidere KOA
Today's plan: Drive 488 miles/7 hours west from DesMoines to the Holiday KOA in Belvidere, South Dakota, stopping for lunch and a quick visit to the Sioux City Iowa Riverfront Park
- In South Dakota the speed limit was 80mph but Hubby set the cruise control to about 74mph to maintain better gas mileage. Alas, the average miles/gallon fell from 27.3 to 26.8 throughout the day as we gained elevation to 1700’ above sea level and encountered more cross winds. Even so, we passed four vehicles, which perhaps were also trying to be gas-efficient. At Sioux Falls we turned west onto I-90 and stopped 40 minutes later at the Salem Rest Area to change drivers. This is one of the South Dakota rest areas with a large tipi-like structure representing the nomadic lifestyle of the Lakota people, one of respect for and knowledge of the natural world they traveled through. The cement lodgepoles are 56 feet tall and weigh 6 tonnes each. The building was modelled after the settlers' energy-efficient prairie sod houses. In the late 1880s Salem was an important hub for both the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway and the Dakota Central Railway.
- Every State has their own method of road construction. In South Dakota one lane of the westbound traffic was marked off with construction cones while the other lane stayed open. We take construction zones seriously and slowed to the posted speed, even though we didn't see workers. Apparently not everyone does and apparently 65mph was not fast enough for one crazy truck driver in one of the construction zones. The driver drove through the road markers into the right lane still under construction to pass us at a high speed, almost losing control of the truck when it hit a cone and swerved back into the left lane to continue at 80mph. We added this new driving violation which we had never seen before to our "Crazy Driving Hall of Shame". Less than two minutes later we had cleared the construction zone. Otherwise we had no road incidents on today's drive.
- I like to describe South Dakota’s landscape as “complex”. Granted, some areas just have rolling hills but other areas have deep coulees and mounded hills of various heights. It might be difficult for a landscape artist to capture the shadows, colours, perspectives and textures of the views we saw. The fields of sunflowers made me wonder how Van Gogh would have painted South Dakota landscapes. Or maybe Henry Von Genk III should travel here from Florida for a challenge. In addition to sunflowers we continued to see corn and soybean fields, although now we saw more cows grazing on land that did not look suitable for planting. Everything looked green. Numerous ponds and wetlands attracted animals to them.
- We expected much hotter weather through South Dakota. The low 80sF, low humidity and partly cloudy weather was pleasant. There were more flying insects hitting the windshield here than in States we drove through yesterday.
- At Exit 260 near Oacoma we chose Al’s Restaurant as our dinner stop and the nearby Dakota Shell to fill the gas tank ($3.00/gal). The much-promoted Al’s Oasis was a one-stop tourist delight, with a restaurant, grocery store, gift shop, hotel and campground all layed out in an Old West Town setting. The restaurant had two large rooms filled with tables. I chose the unlimited salad/soup buffet. Hubby chose a grilled chicken breast entree with green beans, rice and the salad/soup buffet. He tried to give me one of the two breast halves but I only could eat a small section of one. The buffet offered the standard salad choices with one soup flavour and a small dessert selection. We thought all the menu items were priced too high for the quality of the food but with few other dinner choices for miles the visitors were willing to pay more (we did too).
- We crossed into the Mountain Time Zone after leaving Al’s Oasis and before turning north on SD-63, making our arrival at the Belvidere KOA 17:30 instead of 18:30. It was a good thing we had a reservation because by that time many guests had already settled in. During a short stroll around the property we spotted several Killdeers and a Yellow-headed Blackbird, neither of which we see in our Pennsylvania neighbourhood. Sitting on the porch swing we enjoyed the light breeze and ate chocolate before writing postcards and checking email. The air cooled off enough tonight to close the windows by midnight.
The Belvidere Holiday KOA was a small-ish property ½ mile off I-90, far enough that traffic noise was limited to very loud truck sounds. The bathrooms, while clean, were the older style with wooden stalls and cement shower floors. The older style stalls were twice as large as the modern ones at other KOAs, which hardly have enough room for me to dry off and dress in (and I am a petite 5’ tall). The wi-fi was very strong at K1 Kabin – even during peak hours -- and did not time us out. K1, a standard kabin, had a ceiling fan, TV and A/C unit. Lighting in the bathrooms and kabin was the standard commercial neon lighting. I was amazed that the grass throughout the property looked so healthy, even in the designated parking spaces.