Community Pride and a Man Named Dale

The day started innocently enough at the Kelly Inn And Suites, in Mitchell, SD.  While it was a comfortable place to stay, the breakfast was more limited than any hotel we have experienced on this trip.  The highlight of breakfast was the group of pheasant hunters dining with us.  Apparently, the area is a big one for hunting.  Not having visited Cabela’s before, we decided to go since it was just a short way from the hotel.  I have never been to a place where the number of men shoppers outnumbered the women 10-1.  Donned in fluorescent orange, they were piling out of trucks four at a time! The inside of the store reflected the season.  I have seen lots of deer hunters in my day, but never in these numbers all in one place, shopping!!!



Inside Cabela’s

In Cabela’s Parking Lot

The Corn Palace is in Mitchell.  We could not leave without visiting there.  And it is free!  The volunteer senior citizen ladies were so congenial.  You could tell they enjoy what they do.  We were told that the first Corn Palace was constructed in 1892.  The photograph was taken in 1902.  It was conceived as a place where citizens could come together for a fall festival and concert. The second one was built in 1905, but with the success it generated, the building was soon too small.  The third was completed in 1921.  It is now home to basketball tournaments, concerts, business conferences, graduations and a host of other events.  Over 500,000 visitors come to admire the murals.  It is redecorated every year using 13 different varieties of corn, other grains and native grasses.  Different themes are chosen every year.  The murals are designed to reflect the theme.  The old ones are stripped in August, with new ones completed by October.  This year’s theme is “Holidays”.  I came away with an appreciation for the skill of those who design and create the murals.  But more than that, I felt that it truly reflects the American spirit and community pride.


2012 Corn Palace

Original Corn Palace

Second Corn Palace

Close up of Design outside

Information about Corn Palace

Information about Corn Palace


Mural in Gym 1

Mural in Gym 2

Mural in Gym 3

Mural in Gym 4

Mural in Gym 5


Corny snack

Leaving Mitchell, we continued on I-90, then turned south on I-29.  Before we realized it, we were in Iowa, stopping at a most unique welcome center, an old riverboat, the Sergeant Floyd .  (Charles Floyd was the only casualty of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition.).  After touring the old boat, we had our traditional toast!

Iowa Welcome Center

Welcome to Iowa

All day long as we drove, we were amazed at the changes in the landscape.  For miles and miles, there were rolling hills and plains.  One could become mesmerized by mile after mile of interstate with no real interesting sites.  And we did.  Polly was driving when she noticed that we had only 16 miles left before we ran out of gas.  And I had been so careful to keep the tank full.  Well, we saw an exit, pulled off and went into the small town.  Alas, no gas station.  But, there was a man who offered to give us a gallon of gas.  He took us to his house, poured the gas in the tank and off we went to the exit with a gas station.  Thank you Dale.

Our home for the night is a Springhill Suites in West Des Moines, Iowa.

358 miles,

October 30, 2012

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Of Time and the Badlands

Trying to get an early start this morning, we awoke at 6:30.  After checking out at the Rocket Motel, we made our way to the Wrangler Restaurant just down the street.  When you see work trucks parked out front, you know that it is where the locals eat.  So it must be good.  Polly and I had eggs, toast and buffalo sausage!

Polly and the Buffalo Sausage

Driving through Hill City and Rapid City, we made our first stop at the famous Wall Drug, established in 1931 by a young pharmacist and his wife.  It is now managed by the third generation of Husteads.  Of his free ice water, Ted Hustead said that it taught him a valuable life lesson in that “no matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are you can reach out to other people, with something that they need.”    Click on the link to read more of its fascinating history.  You will find that “free water” and “5-cent coffee” were significant players.

Wall Drug

Larry and Janine advised that we not leave Wall Drug without trying the maple donuts.  Polly included the 5-cent coffee and I had the free water!

Free Water and Maple Donut

We contributed to the local economy once again in the gift shop.  It was fun taking photos of the various characters sitting on benches in the atrium.

Polly and her Cowboy

Poker Lady

Buffalo Bill

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans-Happy Trails

Nancy with Annie Oakley

And, as someone suggested earlier…we needed to recreate the “horse” photos of the 1950s.  Boo hoo, the bucking horse was out for repairs, so we settled for the jack-a-lope.

Polly on the Jack-a-Lope

Nancy on the Jack-a-lope

The next attraction was Badlands National Park, a 242,756-acre preserve, was authorized as Badlands National Monument, on March 4, 1929 and was redesignated as Badlands National Park on November 10, 1978.  As the park brochure describes this place, “for centuries humans have viewed South Dakota’s celebrated Badlands with a mix of dread an fascination”.  The Lakota and early French trappers viewed it as the “badlands”.  Some folks have seen the peaks, gullies, buttes and prairies as works of art.  Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, described it as “an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it”.  The history of what formed this place, click on the link Badlands National Park.The loop road (280) took us through the Badlands Wilderness Area.  With each turn we saw a different landscape, each dramatically different than the one before.  We were fortunate enough to see some little pararie dogs and big horn sheep.  What an awe-inspiring place.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Big Horn Sheep

Badlands National Park

Our Smokey Enjoying the Badlands

Badlands National Park

Nancy in Badlands Nat. Park

Badlands National Park

The last place that drew us off I-90 was Al’s Oasis.  Kind of reminded me of South of the Border.  We spent the night in Mitchell, SD.

Al’s Oasis

Giant Buffalo at Al’s Oasis

326 miles, approximately

October 28, 2012

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Crazy Horse Memorial, A Sacred Place

Most if not all of the people reading this post will remember that we brought Bill’s ashes out to Crazy Horse Memorial in July, 2010, as he had requested several years before his death.  Eleven family members came to celebrate his life and release his spirit in this memorable place.  So when Polly and I planned this trip, there was little doubt that we would visit Crazy Horse again.  And, the events of this day assured us that Bill is still making sure we enjoy life. The day started with an invitation to breakfast at the home of Larry and Janine Barnes.  Janine had helped to arrange Bill’s celebration in 2010.  I emailed her several days before our arrival.  She suggested that we stay at the Rocket Motel and asked that we give her a call when we arrived.  Yesterday she called to invite us to breakfast.  Meeting us at the motel this morning, she led us out to their home near Crazy Horse.  And, what a home it is!  The beautiful log home is located off Highway 16.  Moving from Iowa several years ago, they spent a couple of years constructing the home, with Larry doing most of the work himself.  There is an old wood-burning stove used as their main source of heat in the living room, kitchen area, an old coffee grinder that belonged to Larry’s grandfather, and other unique collectibles that made the house so special.  We enjoyed a delicious meal of omelets and French toast before reluctantly telling them goodbye and heading to Crazy Horse Memorial.  What a joy when your life is enriched by new friends!

J-9 Farms

Larry and Janine Barnes

Larry’s Coffee Grinder

Barnes”s Wood Stove

Under a beautiful blue sky we made our way up to the Visitor Center.  I am a member of the Grassroots Club, which enabled us to get in free.  Janine had suggested that we get in touch with Duane when we arrived.  When we introduced ourselves he offered to give us a van ride up near the mountain for a closer look, some photos and a progress report on recent activities.  Last year workers drilled more than 8 miles of 1 ½ inc drill holes and removed over 42, 000 tons of rock.  The rock debris that has accumulated from blasts over the years has slowly grown almost to the level at which they are working.  Some is hauled in old pickup trucks to the Visitor Center and offered to tourists.  Yep, we got some!  But now most is hauled a short distance to a rock crushing center.  It is crushed and used to maintain the gravel roads and to build a new parking area for the annual 1.5 million visitors  It will also be used to develop the site for the proposed 4-year college, medical center and new museum.  Since the dedication in 1998, work has focused on blocking out the horse’s head. The horse’s head will be more than 219 feet tall, and the mane 62 feet tall.  For more information on how the mountain is carved, click on this link, Carving the Mountain.

Crazy Horse from a Distance

Polly and Nancy at Crazy Horse

Never Forget Your Dreams-Korczak Ziolkowski

Duane and Nancy

Then we spent some time in the museum and money in gift shop (of course).  There is some irony in the fact that we visited Little Bighorn Battlefield before coming here.  As I reflect on this trip, I feel that there is order in the universe.

Survivors of the Battle of Little Big Horn-Sept.2, 1948

Crazy Horse Museum

Crazy Horse Museum

Nancy and Polly at Crazy Horse

Model for Crazy Horse

Throughout the visit, I felt Bill’s spirit watching over us.  Somehow I know he must be pleased that we were there again.  To learn more about Crazy Horse Memorial, I encourage my readers to click on the link, Crazy Horse Memorial.  There you can find out more about the history and future of this place.  If you are so moved, you can send a donation in Bill’s memory. Leaving Crazy Horse, we rode into Custer State Park, specifically to Sylvan Lake, a recommendation from Larry and Janine.  We saw the lake and were happy to find out that the Needles Highwaywas open.  There were signs of the bark beetle everywhere.  In fact, Duane had told us that 34,000 trees had been removed from the Crazy Horse property with another 11,000 scheduled to come down.  But the drive was spectacular.  The photos tell it all.

Sylvan Lake

Needles Highway

Needles Highway-The Explorer made it!

Needles Highway

Needles Highway

Needles Highway

Our exciting day came to an end after dark.  We ate some snacks in the room and fell into bed early.

Approximately 50 miles at most October 28, 2012

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A Day Of Rest In Custer, SD

Made it to Custer

Rocket Motel

If you travel as much as Polly and I have in the past month, every so often you need a day of rest.  We slept in, washed clothes, gassed up the car, ran the car through an automated car wash and just rested.  There is not much tell because most of the stores in Custer were closed for the winter…that is until we walked into the Naked Winery Tasting Room.  We had a few laughs with the signs there and learned that there was live music later in the evening.  Read more on that later.

Silly Girls

After riding around the town a bit (didn’t take too long), we returned to the Rocket Motel.  I have been having wifi issues from time to time.  Polly reminded me that I could use my iPhone as a hot spot.  It works like a charm!  As luck would have it, the town was sponsoring a “trick or treat” event for the children.  They walked around downtown and local merchants would hand out treats.  Don and Brenda, the owners of the Rocket Motel, were doing their part.  I walked down and photographed a few of the children.  It reminded me of Metter.  Too cute.

Trick or Treat in Custer, SD

Trick or Treat in Custer, SD

Trick or Treat in Custer, SD

Trick or Treat in Custer, SD

Trick or Treat in Custer, SD

Trick or Treat in Custer, SD

Tonight Polly and I went back down to the Naked Winery Tasting Room to hear the live music.  We were not disappointed.  The musician, Terry Tomlinson, sang mostly country songs for about two hours.  Along with three other folks (one of whom was Terry’s mother), we often sang along as he played.  He told us that some of his folks were Tomlinson’s from South Georgia.  His nephew, Jerry is connected with SunTrust Bank in Atlanta.  Small world.  What a great ending to the day.

Terry Tomlinson

Nancy, Terry, Polly

0 miles

October 27, 2012

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