Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nashville to Sioux Falls and Home

Up early once again for the short drive to Nashville airport, rental car drop off and check in.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful.
Then we boarded our flight to Sioux Falls a few hours later and sat and sat. They had a fuel gauge problem but "it was being fixed."
Nope, not fixed, everyone off!
Luckily they had a replacement plane quite quickly for us as Chicago is a United hub so our arrival was delayed only a few hours.
On the Saturday, Kay and Scott accompanied us on the drive up to St.Paul, Minnesota to see a live performance of A Prairie Home Companion. I had become aware on this radio show purely through the movie many years ago and am now a fan.
We went to Mickey's Diner (featured in the film) for lunch. The place was quirky and a little grotty and the staff were wonderfully off hand. So no disappointments there.

In the evening we came back to the Fitzgerald Theatre for the two hour performance of the radio show. Garrison Keillor and company were in fine form, the resident and guest bands (in particular the French Canadian Le Vent du Nord) were terrific so it was a great evening far exceeding expectations. You can listen to the actual show we attended on this link.
Thinking the show was an institution, I was continually amazed about the number of mid westerners who had not heard of it. We passed on the meatloaf and mashed potato supper and street dance outside the theatre afterwards in favour of Japanese starters in one restaurant and Mexican mains in another as the porta potty queues were a mile long!

On the way back to Sioux Falls we stopped at Cabela's in Owatanna for my bi annual clothes stock up. Sadly most of the summer specials were gone but there were still plenty of cheap jeans and short sleeved polos.
Kevin and Lisa held a family get together that night with deep fried turkey among other delicious offerings particularly Kelly's baked beans made from scratch.
The rest of the week we caught up with family and friends, revisiting old eating haunts, finding new ones (Cooks Kitchen in Brookings), shopping and drinking lots of Caribou coffee.
After an evening spent in Hills, Minnesota at a small town diner with childhood friends of the co driver, I just managed to fit in a gambling date with my usual partner in crime, Lisa, at the new Grand Falls Casino over the border in Iowa.
I say 'just managed' because we inexplicably (according to them) got lost for some time in the dirt back roads among the corn fields in an area where the co driver and her mom had lived a great deal of their lives. So it's just not me who thinks all these roads look the same.
Lisa did extremely well at Grand Falls.
I didn't.
We also managed to satisfy our cravings for prime rib at Mad Mary's in Flandreau with Karen and Emmett and have the usual great Reuben sandwich at the Phillips Avenue Diner courtesy of Mom.
The co driver had enrolled in yoga classes in town so that gave me an opportunity to explore downtown Sioux Falls in more depth than before. I spent a bit of time in Falls Park (yes, there are falls in Sioux Falls) learning about the unique geology of the area and its industrial development when the power of the Big Sioux River at the falls was harnessed to drive a flour mill, the ruins of which still stand there today.

The pink and sometimes red rock in the area is called Sioux quartzite or jasper. It's very hard (7 on the Mohs scale) and was heavily quarried for building stone which was used in many prominent structures in the town.
Now it is used mainly for industrial purposes eg.road fill, rip rap and railway ballast but still finds use for architectural and decorative applications.

After the hustle and bustle of New York and DC, Sioux Falls was a welcome change of pace. The picture below is the main street downtown around lunch time. Not exactly busy.

There is an annual summer sculpture display/competition with works set up in Phillips Avenue.
I thought some of these deserved a post of their own at a later date.
We stayed in an area an hour or so out of town ie. Colton/Trent/Elkton. This is farming country given over to corn and soya beans. The main centre is Brookings which is a university town (SDSU) and the headquarters to electronic scoreboard and sign manufacturer Daktronics.
And no matter where you are you always seem to come across the meandering Big Sioux River as it makes its way down to the Missouri on the South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska border just to the south.

The next weekend saw another family gathering, this time at Kay and Scotts. Great hamburgers and hot dogs and an energetic game of volley ball for those so inclined. The next day we had a family photo shoot in Dell Rapids Park and later the ladies had a rhubarb and raspberry jam making session in memory of Granma Helen. Mark and I retired to Cubby's Sports Bar for a few beers and a burger to watch his beloved Minnesota Vikings once again blow a substantial first half lead and lose in the last minute. Having seen the Wallabies perform similar sporting suicide on a few occasions I was sympathetic.
During what remained of the following week we caught up with Becky and another Kevin for a nice dinner at Granite City Microbrewery as well as have a nice smaller family picnic in the zoo park.
Between the layers of hard jasper soft layers of catlinite have formed. This is a red carvable rock used by Native Americans for pipes and effigies.

Just over the SD border in Minnesota is the town of Pipestone and the Pipestone National Monument where this rock is quarried by hand and worked today. I had been there before but am always pleased to go again, walk the track along the Pipestone Creek, feel the spirit, take in the views across the restored prairie (only 1% original prairie in MN remains), see the pipestone quarries, watch the native Americans carving it and buying a few small pieces. This time it was two small owls to keep my turtle, already at home, company.

The pipestone quarries are a significant site for many American Indian cultures. It is still considered a sacred place by many who come to quarry the rock or visit and is treated with reverence and respect. Native Americans believe the red pipestone is the blood of their ancestors. Pipes carved from the rock are used in religious ceremonies and the smoke carries prayers up to the Great Spirit.
Along the path past the waterfall we walked by a rock formation known as The Oracle. The stones form a face. Legend says if you're very quiet The Oracle will speak to you about life and about the history of this piece of earth.
All you have to do is listen.

Kevin gave me the opportunity of touring the Sioux Falls National Guard Air Force base. It was great to see lots of F16's up close with many going through maintenance phases. They are really just one big engine with a tiny cockpit on top. I was also allowed in the munitions area which was pretty interesting as well.
So soon my time had run out and it was time to head for home. The co driver was staying a few extra weeks so driving me to the airport she managed a detour to fit in a butter burger and a frozen chocolate custard at Culvers. Complimentary food is non existent on United domestic flights and is pretty dire on international routes so I needed fueling. Luckily there is a Caribou Coffee and a Ben & Jerrys in DEN and a good Mexican restaurant in SFO International Terminal.
All the flights home were full which can make things a little uncomfortable. But on the 24 hours I was in transit I managed to keep in my zen zone and even slept some of the 14 hours between San Francisco and Sydney.
My ride was already waiting for me as I exited customs in Sydney, so I was soon in more familiar surroundings where I spent the next few days fighting off the affects of jet lag.
Another very exciting trip was over.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the super travel blog entries - they've been thoroughly entertaining!