13 June 2015 Minneapolis, MN - Badlands, South Dakota

     Madison, WI, was a great treat for cyclists and was terrific for us but difficult to leave.  Time to press on to Minneapolis which is the number one among the top 50 most bike friendly cities in our country.  Bill had to celebrate that fact by doing a 60 mile ride on his little 20” wheel Bike Friday.  He loved “setting a record” for himself.  Now he wants to go 70.  If he had a real bicycle, he could probably keep up with the young hot dogs!  On the day he chose to do that, he came upon a GM old car show so that gave him even more delight.  We took a ‘day-apart’ day and I stayed home and did things I wanted to do and never stepped out the door while he was out laying out the miles and seeing old stuff.  

      While in that city, we made several futile attempts to locate Minnehaha Falls by bicycle and HAD to see it before leaving so we drove there and discovered a beautiful park.  Se Salt is a cute little restaurant within the park that a bike shop employee told us about so that’s where we had lunch.  When we spied Surly Bender beer, you know we had to have it even though we don’t really care for dark beer but this was quite good.  I’m sure the name had a lot to do with it.

     Loved that city because it IS a city and because it has so many little funky eclectic areas reminding me of Atlanta’s Little Five but with different flavors.  Look forward to going back there again.

    The Corn Palace, is a place Bill visited as a child and he was eager to take me there. It’s uniquely American on the rolling prairies of Mitchell, South Dakota.  The building is famous for the huge colorful murals on its outside walls. They are redesigned every year but this year it’s also going through major face lift.

     In June, the rye and sour dock from last year are removed from the building and new bundles are stapled there and completed by the end of July.  Artists transfer their sketches to roofing paper which is attached to the mural panels.  13 shades of colored corn are planted locally each April in carefully separated plots to ensure plants don’t cross-pollinate and dilute the purity of the colors. Then they are hand-picked, along with other prairie plants especially for the murals.
     Artisans combine bundles of rye grass and sour dock, a hearty prairie plat, and staple the bundles to the frames..  The end result is the colored ears of corn being carefully sawed in half, trimmed, and nailed to the wall to create the variegated images for which the Corn Palace if famous. They work all summer to complete the mosaics so that it’ll be completed by fall for their festival to celebrate agriculture and the productivity of the South Dakotas.  

     The theme is different every year—-it’s sort of a corn-by-number mosaic as they use 3,000 bushels of rye, oat heads and sour dock to complete their designs. They were only about ¼ of the way completed when we visited.

     Next, we visited the small town of Wall, SD, whose Main Street is definitely western and is home to the world-famous Wall Drug Store, circa 1931.  I always like to know “how come” so here’s the story.  In 1931, a couple bought the only drugstore in Wall and after a 5 year trial, they hadn’t grown too much but they were still seeing many cars passing by without stopping.  On an a sizzling July day, they had an idea.  The folks traveling through the hot dusty prairie must be very thirsty so they put up signs on the highway announcing “free ice water” and the rest, as they say, is history.  FREE ICE WATER!  This uncomplicated and creative idea rocketed them to success. As a child, Bill was also wowed by this icon but 60+ years later it’s experienced exponential growth to 76,000 square feet and probably just about that many opportunities to make purchases. As the saying goes, “if they don’t have it, you don’t need it.”  

     I found the Trip Advisor reviews to be very negative but when we arrived, it was mind-boggling to see the varieties of “stuff”—both  quality items and tourist-trap junk. Wall Drug is a must-see——if for nothing else but just to say you’ve been there.  

     The Badlands Country beckoned us next and is a short drive from Wall.  For almost 2 centuries, the area in and around Badlands National Park has been an important center for paleontological research.  Some of the most spectacular fossil and rock accumulations in North America were found in this area.  and give scientists clues about how early animal species lived. It’s a wonderland of water chiseled spires, ragged ridges, rugged canyons and prairie.  The lower prairie lies along the floodplain of the White River, is grass-covered and scattered with isolated steep-sided hills with flat tops somewhat like a mesa but more narrow.   As you approach the upper prairie, the grassy flat lands begin to undulate—-and then there it is! 

“The Wall”, standing between the two as a barrier to north and south travel.  “The Wall”, is a rugged ribbon 0.5 to 3 miles wide displaying a succession of pigmented steeples and ridges with snaking ravines.   So that’s “how come” the town of Wall got its name. 

     In this land of the Sioux Indians is revealed some of the most rapid landscape changes anywhere on earth.  Hundred of centuries and erosion has hewed blade-like margins and abysses, chimneys, turrets and turtle back humps.  The siltstone, mud stone and volcanic ash area are easily worn away by nature’s forces resulting in a sculpted fairy land. I was fascinated by the strata while learning about the origin of each with explanations of the variations in coloration.  

     The Visitor Center has interesting displays of the geology and paleontology.  Two paleontologists were at work in a display room and were more than eager to answer my multitude of questions.  It was hard to pull myself away from watching them carefully and gently remove tiny particles of mudstone to reveal a hidden treasure.  One, who was working with a minuscule jack hammer, said that his project, about 37,000 years old, has already revealed to him that his treasure contains remains of a carnivore identified by feces that has a pink cast to it.

     The Badlands National Park’s 250,000 acres continue to be rich in prehistoric animal fossils and a variety of wildlife.  Prairie dogs are plentiful and the herds of majestic Big Horn sheep and bison continue to roam and graze.  We didn’t see any eagles but those little prairie dogs would be easy pickings for them.

We're loving it and please stay tuned.

Bill and Laura
Monaco Dynasty Motor Coach


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