Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 9 Mitchell, South Dakota June 11, 2009

Captain’s Blog

The weather has continued to be mild and sunny despite weather reports to the contrary. We left Cutty’s at around 10 AM – early for us. We continue westward and have been through one time change and by tomorrow we will be in Mountain Time. Usually we fly West and the three hour difference is brutal for the first few days but this is a gradual change and easier to adjust. So far we have traveled over 1900 miles and paid only one toll of $1.75 in Illinois. We find it amazing that on the East Coast toll roads are everywhere but out here are very rare to non- existent.

Our destination, Badlands National Park is about 550 miles away. Iowa is flat farmland and although pretty not very exciting. We stopped at a roadside rest area for lunch then continued on.

At the welcome center in South Dakota we picked up maps and info on the Badlands, Black Hills, Custer National Park and all the surrounding area. There is a lot to see and although we are running ahead of schedule we’ll be in this area for better then one week.

Our destination today is Mitchell, the home of the only Corn Palace in the world – yes I said Corn Palace. There have been three Corn Palaces built in Mitchell each larger then the previous palace. In 1892 founding father’s hoped that constructing a palace of grain would draw interest to the regions agricultural capabilities. Early settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building’s exterior to prove the fertility of the regions’ soil.

The building is famous for the huge murals made entirely of native grains, highlighted by multicolored corn that is gown within a few miles of the city limits. The murals require thousands of bushels of corn, grasses, straw, milo and sourdock.

Each year the theme is different and for 2009 it has been American Destinations. Work will begin again on the palace removing the exterior designs with a new theme for 2010.
Designing the murals is a prestigious honor and had been done by famed American Indian, Oscar Howe from 1948 to 1971. The current designer is Cherie Ramsdell a local college art teacher who took over the position in 2003.

Once the new murals are completed a huge festival is held in late August. The festival is carnival, county fair and an entertainment extravaganza with big name national artists performing.

The Corn Palace is used during the rest of the year for community events, basketball games, proms, graduations banquets and even a place to get married. Sounds corny but the place is really “a-maize-ing.”

Before arriving at the Corn Palace we made a stop at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose. The park covers acres of farmland with fields of high grass and rolling hills.

The road to the sculptures was another story. Long, narrow, winding and dirt we weren’t sure if we should believe the sign at the entrance stating RV turn around. The road was so narrow there was no option for two way traffic and Ron did turn the rig around with only inches to spare – what a driver.

The artist was at the site and was a little quirky to say the least. He was wearing glasses with fake eyes painted on when we went in to purchase our tickets. He told us he wears them to scare the kids.

After walking the filed and marveling at the variety of sculptures and the many different objects used to make the sculptures we headed out. We thanked him for the tour and for allowing Jewel to enjoy herself running in the fields.

We traveled 359 miles so by the time we pulled into WalMart at 9:30 PM we opted to join the eight other RV’ers for the night. Tomorrow it is on to the Badland’s.

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