Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vintage Trout on I-35, Minnesota

Wednesday, July 24
On day one I made the transition from clams to corn, and today I made the transition from corn to cows.
Spent the night last night in a fledgling motel. .  . a former Super 8.  Apparently the company has just cut it loose due to low occupancy, and a group of young entrepreneurs have taken it on to create jobs for themselves. It has a new sign, and it is called the Magnesun Inn in Albert Lea.  I wish them all the best. Right next door is the Burger King, and only two people were there running the whole show at 8 AM this morning.  Drive-thu’s took precedence over me, standing at the counter. My oatmeal took about ten minutes to get.  I headed out on the road, hoping things pick up for Albert Lea, Minnesota. The first thing I did before getting onto I-90 West for the big trip across Minnesota and South Dakota was to head north just one more town on Route 35, to exit 16, I wanted to take a picture of a giant fish for my husband. I told the folks in the Go-pher store:  Don’t ever get rid of your fish.  They said, Don’t worry, we won’t. That’s our little piece of history. Here’s for my husband Jim:

So my first goal is Sioux Falls, and that’s 160 miles away. Second goal is to drive across the state of South Dakota.  It’s 11:20 before I get myself and Yoko all ready for the drive, gas and snacks and dog walks and luggage loading and all that.  And we begin.  Vast fields of corn. And soybeans. What else? The Native Americans (Samoset, actually) who showed the Pilgrims how to grow corn their first winter in Massachusetts would be horrified to see the corn growing all over this country in the way it does. Chemically assisted. Otherwise, the bugs will get it, the soil will get it, all kinds of reasons why we eat chemical corn these days. Chemical fertilizer, chemical crop dusting, and the seeds are genetically altered with guess what? OK, I’m ranting.  Here’s a nice picture of some Minnesota corn.   

There was enough water in this southern area to make it grow.
I’m seeing random wind turbines in Minnesota, and it is windy. Very windy.  87 degrees F. when I get out of the super field areas for awhile and into some hills, there are cottonwood trees. 

And then, starting at about exit 87 near Esthersville, and a tourist stop called Fort Belmont, there is the beginnings of a huge wind farm that it turns out goes on for many many miles. It looks beautiful over the fields, some thriving, some not, and all the windmills are harvesting lots of power.  I finally see a sign for a hotel called Prairie Winds motel with a picture of the windmill so that’s how I learned the name of this huge initiative, with the turbines mostly facing south, the wind is blowing right across the Interstate from that direction.  More here:  
The wind is blowing so hard I feel like I am sailing my car along the highway, and the tractor trailers and RV’s are swaying in the wind. 

Lots of tiny towns and roads to some town far to the south or north, and then I come to Jackson, near exit 80.  Big tractors are “proudly made” in this town, says a billboard. The billboards save one from monotony, and they are grouped near the exits, most of them.  Corn and soybeans. Corn and soybeans. I hear a lady on the radio complaining that they are going to take the milk out of school lunches here in Minnesota.  Really?
I’ve gone 164 miles, I’m seeing CHS silos, they are the big buyers of most of this agricultural harvest. It’s getting dry as a bone out here. And hotter every hour.  I see a sign at exit 402: US Geological Survey. Also a sign: Home of US Senator John Thune.  We are near Sioux Falls, now, the border city.
I cross into South Dakota, and there are many exciting billboard signs touting the attractions of the state, even the attractions on the other side of the state, like Mount Rushmore, and before that, Walls Drugstore, and the Pioneer Auto Show, all hundreds of miles away. But they don’t give mileage, just exits.
I see a big billboard that says, “Enjoy Life.”  Nice. And one that lets distressed farmers know they can find help at   A major sponsor: Walmart.I could not find the website.
It is now 104 degrees. Road kill evaporates quickly and becomes a dry rug within the hour. My hands turn the steering wheel off Exit 350.  A sign on the highway says: Home of Laura Ingalls, de Smet, South Dakota. When I get to the top of the ramp, a sign points north and says: de Smet, 55 miles. I go right back down the other side of the ramp.  I am in the middle of nowhere. The cows are trying to shade themselves under billboard signs. When the water holes have water, the cows are standing in them up to their bellies. Good thinking.
Yup, it says 110 degrees

it's so hot out there for the cattle! these are lucky.
Little town I pulled into to get gas
I come to the exit for the Mitchell Corn Palace, and there is also a pre-historic Indian Village 3 miles north of Mitchell. A big sign says Mitchell Technical Institute, with a huge blade for a wind turbine on its side. Good thinking.
It’s 3:25, and now it’s 110 degrees. Wowza.  You know I take very quick pit stops at rest areas and leave the A/C on. I wake a mom up who is sleeping in her car, motor running, three kids in the back.  Thank you, she said. Thank you. 
At Exit 272 we come to the top of a hill and look down at the Missouri River. She’s big, she’s beautiful, and she’s not flooding like she was last year at this time. Much lower than last year, but still impressive.

On the other side of the river we go up to high elevation again.  Still a few corn and soy operation, s but now the real ranches start, with the cattle round-up pens, the honey bee hive groups summering up here, and the dry, golden grass that can’t give cattle much nutrition. 
Yoko's never felt such a hot wind, except for a hair dryer
5:08, have driven hundreds of miles today, very hazy up here. At Vivian, around Exit 214, there is a rest stop.  Yoko gets out to go pee, she’s been standing and looking out the window, that’s her signal. So hot the blackbirds were panting, I kid you not.  Blackbirds flying with their beaks wide open.  Sitting on the roof with their beaks wide open, trying to cool off in the stiff wind.
Every flag I see flying at half mast for the victims of Colorado movie theater shooting.
The geography is so different than the east side of the Missouri.  I can fix my eyes on a point up the road and clock it to see how far it is to get there. . .and I’m clocking 4 to 7 mile views.
Exit 170:  After many billboards proclaiming the features of the 1880’s town, as seen on Discover Channel and reviewed by the New York Times, I pass it.  No one in the parking lot. Too hot to wander around and view the town. No A/C. 
Soon I’m at Exit 152, the gateway to the Badlands.  Jim is on the phone with me. He’s describing my route to me, he’s on Cape Cod looking at Google Satellite Earth.  He likes to trace my trip this way. But he can’t see the amazing views, this is one of the reasons why I must drive. These views are like medicine. The sky is unbelievable; I can feel a whopper of a thunderstorm up there.

And now I start to see the Badlands landscape off in the distance, first to the south, and then soon, on the north and south.
A National Grasslands exit at 150, and that’s also the exit for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Anyone my age will remember what happened there not so long ago.
I stop at a grasslands overlook, and get Yoko out again. The sky is amazing. It’s starting to cool down.  102 degrees.  I pass the beckoning Exit 131 “Badlands Loop.”  Could have taken that and driven for hours in the Badlands. Did that with my hubby in 2007. Not ready again yet.  70 miles to go to Rapid City.  I haven’t passed a city all day, it seems.  I pass the exit (61) for Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. And finally, I make it to Rapid City around 8:30 PM after stopping one last time at the Cheyenne River rest area. I got gas three times today.  With heat like this, I don’t let it get down less than 1/3 of a tank.  No way.  Took a tow down to Main Street in Martin City. . . and it’s upscale urban with lots of stuff going on.  Very nice to see out here on the high plains.
And so I can’t think of a segment of the trip where the geography changed more dramatically in 500+ miles. A huge thunderstorm did hit, late, around 10:30.  I was inside my Super 8 motel room, carbon fiber leg off. The thing makes me into a walking lightening rod.  And then, I stayed up all night with phantom pains in my “residual limb,” something I haven’t done for a long time. Electrical storms get to me, I guess.  Good thing I had this blog to write. Man, do I need some distraction. Pain killers don’t work. Never did.
the last rest stop of the day, storm brewing and brewing
The Cheyenne River
No development
Development. But, gotta say it looked good after the long day

Big sky. . .big medicine

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