Monday, June 19, 2006

From Corn to Custer

In the back of my mind, I had been planning a trip to the
Corn Palace for many years. 34 years to be precise. In
1972, because of certain circumstances, a family vacation
had to be altered and we never made a western trip that
would include a trip to the Corn Palace. So, today was
the day. To be honest, although it was impressive as far
as large convention halls devoted to major cereal grains go,
I could have gone another 34 years without seeing it. A
lot of work by artists go into making it what it is and it
is indeed impressive, but eh...not worth a special trip.
Overall, the people of Mitchell left me kind of cold.
They acted like they wanted the tourist money, but not
the tourists. And it's only June. What are they like
when August comes around. The Corn Palace labels itself
as the "World's Only Corn Palace" While we were looking
around inside, I secretly schemed to build a small Corn
Palace in my back yard. Then the one in Mitchell would be
"One of 2 Corn Palaces in the World". However, I wouldn't
want to put hundreds of people out of work, so I quickly
abandoned the idea.

After driving for about an hour, we came to the Missouri
River and a really nice visitor's center devoted to the
Lewis and Clark expedition. They passed through this
area in 1804 and camped on the riverbank nearby. At each
of the Rest Stops in South Dakota, they've constructed
these concrete tepees. It's fun to stand inside of them
and look up into the sky for a unique perspective.

We'd been to Wall Drug several times before and in need
of lunch we stopped again. Yikes! It was packed! Of
course getting there at lunchtime was probably a mistake.
After a good hamburger we strolled about the small trinket
and "junk" stores located inside and even tried our hand
at a shooting gallery. Inside there are pictures from
all around the world, stating how many miles their location
is from Wall Drug. We found a couple of Antarctic pictures,
but not recent ones from McMurdo, so we'll probably take
one of those this year and send it to them so we can
be on their Wall.

We like Rapid City. It's very similar in most aspects to
Grand Junction, except for the temperature. It's cooler
in both summer and winter compared to what we're used to.
At one time, we considered it a place we might want to live,
but overall, it was cast aside in favor of Grand Junction.
We found that knitting isn't a very big hobby in town since
we couldn't find any yarn stores in the Yellow Pages.
However, we did find a cool sandwich shop that we'd eaten
at the last time we were in Rapid City about seven years ago.
It serves Grinders. Grinders are a type of sub sandwich that
are served in the Northeast. Lynn had grown fond of Grinders
while growing up in Connecticut and hadn't had one since we
found this place. I couldn't remember the name, or exactly
where it was located, but I followed my nose and found it
right away. I was pretty impressed with myself. BJ's Grinder
King is awesome! Not much chance that many reading this will
be wandering through Rapid City, but if you do, stop by and get
a Grinder.

On the edge of Rapid City is the Stavkirke Chapel. It's an
exact duplicate of a chapel built almost a thousand years ago
in Norway. The blueprints were even borrowed from Norway under
the stipulation that it would be built identically. There are
only about 20 of these churches left in Norway and only three
in the United States. The other two being in North Dakota and
Minnesota. It's made completely of wood and the intricate details
are amazing. We had the place to ourselves, and in it's wooded
setting, it was very calming.

Another place we'd visited before was Mount Rushmore. We didn't
feel like fighting the crowds and it was getting late in the day
so we just did a drive by. We got some cool pictures from some
different angles including one of George Washington from the side
of the monument.

After leaving the Mount Rushmore area, and on our way to Custer,
we drove by the Crazy Horse Memorial. They'd made some progress
since we had last seen it, but I doubt it will ever be finished
in my lifetime. The family of the original carver is continuing
the project, but refuses to accept money from the federal government
since it is a carving dedicated to the Native Americans and especially
the Plains tribes. I've read that the Sioux (Lakota) find Mount
Rushmore offensive and have given their support to the Crazy Horse
project. Maybe it will be finished someday.

We pulled into Custer just before a fairly big storm was about
to hit. Custer is a nice little town we've stayed in several
times before. Kind of touristy, but the people are friendly
and the prices aren't that unreasonable. Tomorrow we head for
home. A long drive ahead of us, but it should be fun.


Lori Murray said...

Hi Tom,
It looks like you guys had a good trip. Did you know my mom's from Custer? Her dad was one of the head blasters on the Mt. Rushmore project. I have an Aunt in Hill City and 2 Uncles who live in Rapid City. It like the Black Hills but can do without the flat land surrounding them :-)

Tom said...

Hi Lori,

I remember you saying something
about that and I thought about it
while we were there. Didn't someone in your family own the land that's now Jewel Cave?
We've been to the Black Hills several times now and it seems like a nice place.