Monday, October 31, 2016

House of Corn, Stone Presidents, and a Sioux Triumph

Mitchell Corn Palace
We recently moved from Arizona to Omaha and are still getting to know the neighborhood. Friends—and sometime relatives—wanted a road trip to check out the northern hinterlands. We blasted through Iowa to get to South Dakota to our first stop in Mitchell. We came to see the world renown Corn Palace.  Each year, the town decorates the outside of the building with artworks made entirely from corn cobs. Pretty cool. Or at least cooler than a big ball of twine.

K Bar S Lodge

After gawking at the ethanol cathedral, we speed down the road to spend the night at the K Bar S Lodge, which is in the shadow of Mount Rushmore. The huge lodge closes at the end of the month and guests were sparse. As we wandered the buildings, we kept an eye out for a tyke on a trike or a pair of scary twins. I never spotted a worrisome apparition, but the next day at Mount Rushmore, I spotted Gary Grant strolling around in a dark suit and pristine white dress shirt. We found Mount Rushmore to be an impressive feat of art and engineering and the park service has done a good job of presentation.

North by Northwest

The Knuckle Saloon in Sturgis

Lunch found us at the Knuckle Saloon in Sturgis, host city to the seventy-eight-year-old motorcycle rallies. We saw only one lonely rider, but the food at the saloon was good and the ambiance iconic.

Sheridan Inn a bit before we arrived

In the afternoon, we drove to Sheridan, Wyoming and stayed at the historic Sheridan Inn. This hotel didn’t seem haunted either, despite one of the long-term employees having her ashes buried inside the wall of her room. The photographs on the walls are reason enough to pay the inn a visit. After breakfast, we drove to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Here we found ghosts and restless spirits aplenty. Little Bighorn is a sobering experience that reminds us that there are two sides to every story.

Art work detail at Little Bighorn Battlefield
We returned by way of Sheridan and stopped for lunch and a shopping spree at King's Saddlery. If you’re ever in this part of the country, King’s is a must stop. It reminds me of the tent in Harry Potter that looks small from the outside, but goes on forever inside. This is not a tourist store but a serious place to buy ropes, tack, and appropriate attire for horseback riding. If you want something western, whether it be leather goods, belt buckles, clothing, jewelry, art, dishes, books, ropes, or whatever, you can find in at King’s.

Kings Saddlery

On the way home, ate breakfast at Wall Drug and took the 240 loop through the South Dakota Badlands. Due to thousands of signposts, Wall Drug is as hard to find as a fly in a cow pasture. It’s worth the trip, however. Good breakfast, cheap coffee, and lots of western art and artifacts. After breakfast, we sauntered through the Badlands. We saw very few cars, but we did make a sharp turn and almost ran into a Rocky Mountain Big Horn sheep. I stopped the car, wondering how much damage those curved battering rams could do to my side panels, but luckily he seemed more interested in eating the vegetation alongside the road. The Badlands landscape is impressive and when it’s uncrowded, you can feel connected to some bygone era. If you make this trip, late October is perfect … unless it isn’t. Weather during late autumn can be unpredictable, but we had it near perfect. Good luck to you, as well.

Just before we scooted home, we made a stop at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. We stopped at the Visitor Center, and then went on a guided tour of Launch Control Facility Delta-01. Both are must-sees, but the Launch Control Facility requires a reservation. These nuclear weapon delivery systems are now thankfully in the back of our consciousness, and hopefully will remain there.

This road trip was my second favorite. My favorite is the Grand Circle. It’s a shame more people don’t hit the road nowadays. The expansive countryside of the West has awe-inspiring landscapes, a fascinating history, and friendly people eager to help a tenderfoot.

1 comment:

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