Once we had everything done that we needed to accomplish in Ohio, we packed everything back into the motor home and took off for Texas where we would be spending our first winter as full-time motor homers. We stopped off in Toledo, OH to visit friends that we made when we lived there while I was still working and then headed for Elkhart, IN for our initial warranty repairs at the Damon Factory. After we there a couple of days and all the little things were repaired, we were off for Texas via Colorado. Yes, it’s out of the way, but we were planning on meeting our daughter there on her way to Florida where her family was moving from Utah.
We had a good time in Madison, SD. We went to our Mail Forwarding Service at 110 E. Center Street and met Terri and a couple of her employees in the office. We took a picture so everyone could see where our mail is actually going. She has a pretty neat setup there. All the mail is sorted into bins located within a walk-in safe (looks like it might have been a bank or jewelry store at one time) and then sent out as instructed.
While we were in Madison, we got our SD driver’s licenses since we had chosen SD as our domicile state. I was hoping to retain my school bus endorsement, but they would not accept Ohio’s physical papers, so I lost that endorsement, but was able to retain the passenger and air brake endorsements along with motorcycle. After thinking about it some, I decided I more than likely wouldn’t want to drive a bunch of screaming Texas school kids to school anyway. They probably carry guns down there. We also registered to vote while we were at the DMV office.
We ate at Skippers in Madison and had their ribs. They were fabulous. We talked to the owner and the sauce is his grandpa’s. He’s been asked a couple of times to take his ribs to Rib Feasts, but he doesn’t see the benefit to his business there in Madison. Linda couldn’t eat all of hers and took the meat home. We had it as sandwiches for lunch the next day and they were still good.
We stayed at Lake Herman State Park just outside of Mitchell. It was really nice and the lots were huge. The lake reminded us of Grand Lake St. Mary’s in that it was shallow and green. It was so green that when the water would wash up on the rocks, the rocks were green with algae. With all that said, the park and lake were really nice as we weren’t planning on swimming or boating on it anyway.
We left for Mitchell, SD Tuesday around noon so we could visit the Corn Palace. The campgrounds along the way are all getting ready to close for the season, so you can just drive into them and pick a lot and put some money in an envelope and put it in their night slot. We stayed at the R & R Campground and it had full hookups, including our first shot at cable for only $12/night. On top of that, diesel fuel is still coming down and it’s $3.85 here in Mitchell. Naturally we just filled up earlier at $3.94.
We learned that the original Mitchell Corn Palace (known as “The Corn Belt Exposition”) was built in 1892 to showcase the rich soil of South Dakota and encourage people to settle in the area. It was a wooden castle structure on Mitchell’s Main Street. In 1921 the Corn Palace was rebuilt. Moorish domes and minarets were added in 1937, giving the Palace the distinct appearance that it has today. It costs $130,000 to decorate the Palace annually.
The exterior corn murals are replaced and redesigned each year with a new theme. The designs are created by local artists. Besides being a tourist attraction, the Corn Palace also serves the local community as a venue for concerts, sports events, exhibits and other community events. Each year, the Corn Palace is celebrated with a citywide festival, the Corn Palace Festival. Historically it was held at harvest time in September, but recently it has been held at the end of August.
Due to a late harvest of corn, the Corn Palace is still being reskinned when we were there. It was neat though being able to watch a crew attach the corn to the murals. They do it on an electric platform and they have the buckets of corn with them along with a couple of electric miter saws. One guy cuts the corn to fit while the other guy nails/staples the corn to the black covered plywood board. Pretty interesting as we never knew how they attached it nor actually seen it being done. The inside of the Palace was neat as the hallways throughout the facility have pictures of the outside murals taken each year. Some of the walls in the basketball court area are also decorated with corn murals.
Cabela’s was just across the interstate from our campground so we naturally had to check that out while we were here. I think we were the only people that went in and came out without buying anything. We do the same thing at Sam’s Club occasionally. I’m sure they think there is something wrong with us, but we all know that’s not the case.
We also were Culverized while we were in Mitchell. For those of you that are new to the process, this is what happens to you when you eat at Culvers, home of Frozen Yogurt and ButterBurgers. We had lunch there and the ButterBurgers reminded us of a Kewpee in Lima, OH. We then went back that evening after dinner at home and each of us had a small sundae. We both had hot fudge, but I also had brownie pieces added to mine. They were fantastic.
Having done everything that there is to do in Mitchell, we headed out Thursday morning for Wall, SD. We pulled into the Arrow Campground around 2:00 pm, snuck in a quick nap and then took off to check out Walls’ Main Street and the Wall Drug Store. It was in December of 1931 that Dorothy and Ted Hustead bought the only drugstore in a little town called Wall on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands. By the summer of 1936, the business had not grown much. They had given the business five years trail time, but they were still seeing a lot of cars going by without topping. Then on a hot July Sunday, Dorothy came up with a startling idea.
Realizing that all the cars going by on Route 16A through the hot, dusty prairie would have thirsty folks inside, she proposed that they put up signs on the highway telling people to come in for free ice water. And, the rest as they say is history. This simple, but innovative idea has brought the Husteads a long way. They have discovered that no matter where you are, you can succeed if you offer people something they need and serve up good humor, great service and good deals. The business is still run by the Hustead family.
Friday, we headed for the Badlands and took the Loop Drive thru the National Park. Linda was able to pick up the Life Long Senior Pass for $10 that will now get us in any National Park free. What a deal. Since then, I now have my own card also.
Deep canyons, towering spires, and flat-topped tables can all be found among Badlands buttes. Yet, despite their complex appearance, they are largely a result of two basic geologic processes: deposition and erosion. Many years ago, water began to cut down through the rock layers, carving fantastic shapes into what had been a flat floodplain. Many of the layers are gently warped and faulted due to mountain building activities that formed the Black Hills, 70 to the west. Erosion is ongoing and they predict that the buttes will be completely eroded away over the next 500,000 years. I overheard one guy talking about that fact and he commented that he was glad to be able to see it before then.
The Loop Road that we drove on hugs the Badlands wall, a long, narrow spine of buttes that stretches 60 miles from Kadoka west towards the town of Scenic. The Loop begins just south of Wall. The buttes are actually layers of sediment and they are all different colors. Our pictures don’t do the colors justice, but you can at least see the layering effect. Check out our picture of the white prairie dog that was standing up by his burro. Not sure why they are white, but they are known in this area.
On our way back to Wall on I90, we got off at Exit 116 to see Minuteman Missile silo Delta-09. Even though it is just a mile south of the interstate, you can’t even tell it’s there. We had to drive back a dirt/stone county road to get to the actual site – no Ranger is there in the afternoon, but they leave the chained fence open so you can walk into the grounds and check out the silo, etc. They even have a cell phone system such that you call their number and then punch 1 – 10 location numbers and it tells you what you are actually looking at. Being there was really neat but spooky.
The silo is the remnants of the Cold War, including the underground launch control and missile silo. The silo has an actual missile in it and you can view it through a windowed cover over the silo. We assume the actual 1.2 megaton hydrogen warhead has been removed. Minuteman missiles held the power to destroy civilization as we know it. Yet the same destructive force acted as a deterrent which kept the peace for three decades. They were 170 such silos located in SD. They were controlled from a launch control centers miles away. It was not open in the afternoons, so we didn’t get to check it out – maybe the next time. We should all thank God that we never had to use them. The missiles were disarmed after the START treaty signed on July 31, 1991 by Presidents Bush and Gorbachev of Russia.
We’re heading for Rapid City, SD and will be staying there throughout the weekend. We’ve got to be heading south soon – it’s been in the 50-60s throughout the days and into the low 40s at night. We’re having to fire up the furnace to burn off the chill in the mornings and that’s not good. The adventure continues.