From Sioux Falls to a Straight River

THE MONARCH OF THE PLAINS (AKA THE AMERICAN BISON OR BUFFALO).

We spent the weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and enjoyed a gathering of Jerry’s extended family on Sunday.  Monday morning, we headed off in the car for a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But, on the way out of Sioux Falls, we stopped at Falls Park, a beautiful place northeast of downtown on the Sioux River.

LOVE THAT MUDDY WATER.

The park was developed in the 1990s and improvements continue to be made.  The 1908 Sioux Falls Light and Power Company hydroelectric plant is now the Falls Overlook Cafe.  It’s got a great menu, charming spaces to sit and relax, picture and history books to browse, historic photos, and gourmet coffees. Jerry’s maternal grandfather worked in that very building beginning in the 1930s; he would have appreciated a good cup of coffee at the time.

THE HYDROELECTRIC PLANT: NOW, FALLS OVERLOOK CAFE.

Sioux Falls was still a young city at the time the hydroelectric plant was built, having been founded in 1857.  South Dakota became a state in 1889 — although most of my New York family still think Jerry grew up in Dakota Territory or, as my father used to say, “the Dakotas.”

THE RUINS OF THE OLD QUEEN BEE WHEAT MILL IN THE CENTER BACKGROUND.
OPENED IN 1881.  CLOSED IN 1883.  DESTROYED BY FIRE IN 1956.

The old plant and other structures were built from the beautiful Sioux quartzite mined right there at the prison quarry on the river.  Prisoners from the prison on the bluff overlooking the falls mined the quartzite and then used horse-drawn wagons to haul the dressed blocks of stone up the bluff to add onto the prison and to create the wall that replaced the original wood stockade.

JOHN MORRELL & CO. MEAT PACKING PLANT VIEWED BEHIND THE PARK’S VISITOR CENTER.

Adjacent to the park is John Morrell & Co., founded in England in 1827 and considered to be the oldest continuously operating meat manufacturer in the U.S.  Jerry’s mother, father, and several aunts and uncles all worked there at some time.

JERRY’S MORRELL MEATS TOY TRUCK.  PURCHASED BY HIS MOTHER IN THE EARLY 1950s.
DONATED TO CHARITY IN EARLY 2011.

Jerry remembers taking tours of the plant when he was a kid.  “Tony” gave the tours and you could actually walk on catwalks and observe the animals being slaughtered.  I’m glad they don’t do that anymore.  A little bit of trivia from Jerry:  The sheep were led to slaughter by a goat (because sheep would willingly follow goats).  So, the goat was called the “Judas Goat.”

ONE QUICK PHOTO OUTSIDE MORRELL’S — THE STENCH WAS INTOLERABLE!

We left Sioux Falls, South Dakota, late morning for our 262-mile (422-km) drive to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we now enjoy the city and incredible friends.  On the drive up through Minnesota yesterday, after stopping along the way for lunch, gas, and to wash more bug guts off the windshield, we made a final potty stop at a rest area about an hour south of the city.  We probably would have stopped at this particular rest area whether we had to go or not.

REST AREA ON THE STRAIGHT RIVER IN MINNESOTA.  WE USED THE FACILITIES.
NO ONE CHALLENGED US.

One Last Pass Through the City of Mitchell, South Dakota

“A ONE AND A TWO…”  LAWRENCE WELK.  A CORN PALACE ICON BORN AND RAISED
IN THE GERMAN-SPEAKING TOWN OF STRASBURG, NORTH DAKOTA. 

Jerry and I drove today to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for a family get together on Sunday.  It’s about a 4-hour drive from Pierre and on the way — about 3 hours into the trip — we passed through the city of Mitchell, South Dakota.  It seemed only appropriate that we stop in Mitchell, my namesake, one last time before our move to Spain.

THIS YEAR’S THEME.  OVER THE TOP WITH PATRIOTISM, CONSERVATISM, AND CHRISTIANITY.

Mitchell, South Dakota, is the home of the Mitchell Corn Palace.  It is proudly billed as the “world’s only corn palace” and hosts stage shows and sporting events in its arena.  The original Corn Palace, called “The Corn Belt Exposition” was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building’s exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The current building was completed in 1921.

TWO OF THE SIDE “MOSAICS.”
WHAT’S MORE AMERICAN THAN APPLE PIE AND UNCLE SAM?

The Corn Palace is a classic example of American kitsch.  But the detail and workmanship is very impressive since all the mosaics are created using corn and grains.  The latest art is still in progress.

THE STREETS OF MITCHELL  COWBOYS, GAMBLING HALLS, SALOONS, AND MORE.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed the artwork on the Corn Palace.  But this time, I was a bit put off by the two separate panels depicting Christians (and only Christians) — the cross prominently displayed — preparing to worship with their families; and the ultra-patriotic (which I should expect and be used to, I suppose) panels depicting conservatism and American chauvinism… subjects that make me extremely uncomfortable.

ON THE WAY OUT OF TOWN.  AN ENORMOUS FIBERGLASS COW. 
MAKES YOU WANT TO RUN TO CHEF LOUIE’S FOR A STEAK, DOESN’T IT?

But, back to the kitsch!  The Mitchell Corn Palace was a big deal when Jerry was growing up.  He remembers going there with his entire family — his grandparents, parents, and sisters — in the early 1960s to see Lawrence Welk and his orchestra perform.  For my New York City family, The Lawrence Welk Show, was entertaining, but primarily as comic relief (my sister and I would imitate the singers and dancers), although he did admittedly retain very talented musicians.  For Jerry’s South Dakota family, Lawrence Welk and his “champagne music” were high art.  So, the idea that they were able to see Lawrence Welk perform live at the Corn Palace was very exciting.  Even more exciting for Jerry was the day during his junior high school years when Myron Floren, Lawrence Welk’s accordion player, came to Jerry’s church choir rehersal to perform.  So, as a little bonus, I thought I’d end with a video of Lawrence Welk with Myron Floren playing the Dakota Polka.

Golfing the Water Hazard

I don’t golf.  Jerry does; well, did.  There was a fairly large lake (aka water hazard) at Yale Golf Course that I remember Jerry talking about.  He said he would prefer to automatically take the penalty, walk around the lake, drop his ball on the ground, and continue playing rather than bother wasting his and everyone’s time — not to mention golf balls — popping balls into the water.  I apologize to golfers for my lack of correct terminology.  I don’t know if you even pop balls in golf (I know you can pop them in baseball).  I did, however, just look up the rules for golfing at a water hazard.  The rules state:  “When a ball is hit into a water hazard, the player may also drop a ball, behind the water hazard, on a line of sight between the hole and where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (no closer to the hole), at a penalty of one stroke.”  This is one of many reasons I don’t play golf.
Anyway, a fellow golfer once suggested to Jerry that he just throw his ball across the lake, which had Jerry laughing since that would probably cost him even more strokes… and golf balls.

HILLSVIEW WATER HAZARD (FORMERLY HILLSVIEW GOLF COURSE), PIERRE, S. DAK.

We drove over today to see Pierre’s Hillsview Golf Course.  Hillsview is now basically one large water hazard.

Pierre, South Dakota

SOUTH DAKOTA’S CAPITOL BUILDING.

We spent part of the day puttering in Pierre.  Jerry and I had coffee at Pier 347, the local café.  We were told yesterday when we ordered iced café Americanos and then tried to describe how we liked them (Jerry knows a good café Americano — made by adding hot water to espresso — when he tastes one) that what we were describing was what they called a café latte (which, as I understand it, is supposed to be espresso made with steamed milk,  and nothing like an Americano).

MEMORIAL BRONZE NEXT TO THE CAPITOL.

Well, OK.  So, we ordered two half-caff (half decaffeinated) café lattes.  What we received were two decent coffees that were neither café lattes nor café Americanos.  And they were a bit weak.  So, today we ordered two double-shot café lattes and we received two better coffees (a bit similar to our café Amerianos).  And, yes, Jerry and I have been living on the West Coast way too long and get carried away with our coffee orders.  The month in Spain in January was very relaxing — dos cafés con leche, por favor!  We’ll learn.

AGGRESSIVE AMERICAN EAGLE AT THE WAR MEMORIAL.

Along with his coffee, Jerry has been getting Pier 347’s bagel bites (deep-fried lumps of bagel dough).  But, until I explained it to him last night, he thought he had gotten doughnut holes and couldn’t figure out why these doughnut holes were so peculiar (not that the idea of a doughnut “hole” isn’t peculiar in the first place).

CAPITOL BUILDING LOBBY.  VERY IMPRESSIVE FOR A STATE OF ONLY 814,000 PEOPLE.

After coffee, I dropped Jerry off at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center, which houses the state archives.  Jerry spent the next two hours looking up dead relatives.  I wandered (drove and walked) around town taking pictures.  All the streets along the river are now blocked off with sandbags and barricades.  The parks and related buildings along the river are completely under water.  Downtown buildings are pumping water out of their basements and hoping the river doesn’t overflow the berms and sandbags.

THIS DIDN’T START OUT AS A WATER PARK.

The capitol building is high above the river, so I was able to roam the parks and the halls.  I tried to get pictures of the senate chambers, but the doors were locked and no one was home.  Anyway, most of the members probably wouldn’t appreciate a visit from a former West Coast, ultra-liberal lefty who’s getting ready to leave the country.

PIONEER WOMAN AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE CULTURAL HERITAGE CENTER.

The Cultural Heritage Center is a beautiful, contemporary building built into the hillside, and it’s surrounded by natural prairie grass (which has just started growing for the season) instead of neatly mowed lawns.  I’m not enamored with the bronze sculpture out front, but I do like the fact that it’s dedicated to the “pioneer women of South Dakota.”

SANDBAGS AND HAY BALES DOWNTOWN.  WHATEVER IT TAKES.

It’s Always Nice to Get Approval

We received the exciting news today from the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles that our visa applications have been approved!  We just need to pick them up.  So, it’s now real.  We will be in Spain mid-July. 

We are so grateful to the Los Angeles Consulate for their well-designed and information-rich website.  We are also grateful to the staff who so quickly responded via email to our questions while we were trying to understand the complex application process.  And we are especially grateful to the people who greeted us so warmly and professionally, and then reviewed and processed our applications.  We can’t wait to become absorbed in Spanish life and culture!