Thursday, August 13, 2015

Venturing Fourth

Day One : Here We Go Again

We had stopped just outside of Mitchell, South Dakota on 7/28, after a less-than-happy day on the road. I pulled out the Biolite campstove and grilled some lamb that mom had brought with us, and popped one of the Surly Furious I'd purchased earlier in the day.
There were enough sticks at this KOA that I could power the campstove

Wednesday morning was bright and early, since we were firmly in the central time zone, but our brains were still on east coast time. After getting on the road, mom suggested that we go to the Mitchell Corn Palace, which was featured on a postcard she'd bought for me at the KOA general store when she checked us into the campground. 

I've seen signs for the Corn Palace on my previous trips, and I figured it was super hokey, like Wall Drug or the Pioneer Auto Show. But, we had time, right? So, I said, "What the heck, let's go by it." 

The Corn Palace is an arena. It's primarily used as a high school and college basketball arena, but it also hosts concerts; if I recall correctly, the upcoming concert when we were there was Theory of a Deadman. It's been around for over 100 years, while other "palaces" have come and gone. The "corn" part of the arena is in the decorations, which are done with various colors of corn and straw.


The outside corn decorations change every year, and while we were there, they were putting the finishing touches on the new pieces. The end of August is the Corn Festival. 
Completing the outside decorations
The other thing that was new were the minarets, which have been completely replaced. They used to closely resemble the domes of Middle Eastern and Turkish design, but have been revamped. There are other upgrades that are currently in progress, but for us, it was just a wander-around-and-go-to-the-gift-shop experience still. 
The new light up domes had been put up just a week or so prior to our visit
Our next stop wasn't for a few hours down the road, when we got to exit 131 off I-90. That's the exit for the Badlands National Park, but we decided to go to the Minuteman Missile first. Mom said that she and dad had been there previously, but the visitor center when they were there was just a trailer. 

The visitor center is still a work in progress, but the real disappointment for me was that the visitor center wasn't the missile site. In fact, the biggest reason to go to the visitor center (besides getting a stamp for your National Parks Passport) is to try to get the tour of the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility. However, if you want to do the tour, make sure you're there before the visitor center opens in the morning. We weren't (we arrived around noon), and so no tour for us. 

So, we went on to the Prairie Homestead, which I've seen previously, but mom had not. She'd seen my photos from my prior trips, and was intrigued -- like I was -- by seeing things she'd grown up with in the context of an historical recreation. 


The stereoscope was something grandma had in the antique shop.

This is a scarier cornsheller than the one John almost lost a finger in

Then it was time for the Badlands proper. 


I'd brought a Matchbox Camaro with me, and it served as an avatar for this trip

We stopped at the visitor center, and while there, we decided that it was as good a place as any to make what we would later refer to as "a deposit."

We'd brought some of dad's ashes with us on the trip. It had been a last minute decision, but we'd both thought of it, and so without consulting my brother (sorry, John), mom prepared a small bag to bring with us. Here, at the visitor center where I'd called my parents full of wonder while trying to describe this rugged terrain, where I'd conceived my effort to convince my dad that he should venture this far, this was our first "deposit."

It was tough. While mom went back to the RV to gather some of the ashes, I posed my little diecast Camaro on the rocks. When the time came, it struck me that I will never be able to separate my green terror from the loss of my dad. 

The green terror rolled off the assembly line on April 2, 1996. 

My dad passed away on April 2, 2015. 

A photo posted by Karen (@kiirenza) on
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen every "deposit" made. The posts evolved from essentially stating that we'd left ashes behind to more of a message for my dad that I somehow hope he gets.

Leaving the visitor center area took us into the area where I'd filmed my video, and it was just a tough, tough time for both of us.


Hoosier Bear was a source of comfort for some of those tough times

I'd somehow either never seen or didn't remember this cave. 

I wanted to see the Delta-09 Missile Silo, so we decided to do just one more stop in Badlands, and that was at the Yellow Mounds, mainly because I can't get over just how strange they are.


The Yellow Mounds are pretty close to the "end" of the Badlands tour when you enter from the eastern side, so we were able to get back to I-90 and down to exit 116 for the silo pretty quickly. The silo site closes at 4PM, but we arrived with time to spare, considering there isn't much to do or see, even if you do the self-guided cellphone tour.
The window isn't part of the original installation, but everything else is.
"Worldwide delivery in 30 minutes or your next one's free!" -- Minuteman joke
Obviously, the missile in the silo is inactive, but it's still a chilling reminder of the Cold War. While this (and all Delta) facilities are no longer in commission, there are several across Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana that are, because there are still idiots out there that need the threat of a nuclear warhead as a deterrent to their evil.

There was more in the area that we wanted to see, so we didn't want to go much outside of Rapid City for the night. So, since it was barely 4PM local time (mountain), I tossed out the idea of going to Reptile Gardens before calling it a night. Mom was on board, and we arrived there in time to catch a few of the shows, plus see several exhibits, including a tremendous diversity of orchids.
The snake show was fun, as an alligator wrangler was doing it, and he didn't like the snakes. This boa didn't like him, either.

We were actually allowed to touch the Aldabaran tortoises. Such a majestic animal.

A unique fossil of multiple turtles that perished simultaneously
Pancake!




This is exactly how Bruce flops out
We stayed just outside Rapid City at the 3 Flags RV Park, and planned to head back east to see more military craft at Ellsworth AFB and then go to Deadwood in the morning.

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