Friday, August 24, 2007

South Dakota? Cool State.

So, I had a good night sleep. There was a dry thunderstorm but it was mostly north of Wall, South Dakota. I was sad, I lost my cat. He must have escaped either at a rest stop in Montana or a gas station in Wyoming. I hoped that someone might take pity on him and adopt him. I tried to ease my conscience by knowing I gave Spookie another two plus years of life. So, I grabbed some continental breakfast, returned my key and headed to Wall Drug. As I entered the driver's seat I heard the familiar sound of my cat as he did a leap on my lap. I was lucky that it was cool in the van, so he seemed alright. Maybe he was finally getting used to being in the van. I took off to see the wonderful tackiness that is Wall Drug.

I came across Wall Drug by accident. When I decided to drive across the United States, I made two plans depending on whether I was going to leave in the winter or in the summer. I didn't want to wait too long, I had someone anxiously waiting for me in New Jersey. She would not wait until winter, so I sacrificed two weeks paid vacation by leaving in August. This meant that I would travel the north route instead of going through Arizona or Nevada or what not.

Anyway, my former employer, 5-Spot had changed its menu theme every season, and one was a "heartland" theme. One of the things I had to do was paint a sign for Wall Drug, a place that is located in South Dakota. This worked out for me because it added another tourist site between Mount Rushmore and the Corn Palace.

It was early in the morning, Wall Drug had just opened. I had the place to myself. the first thing I did was to grab some ice cold water, because that's their schtick. I filled up all my water bottles and bought ice so I can have cold water on my long day ahead. Wall Drug is great, it has a small church, lots and lots of statues including a jackalope. They have a T-rex animatronic head that roars every ten minutes or so. If kids were around it would be a little more fun.

I got my fill of Wall Drug within an hour and headed back on I-90. It will be a long boring trip, now that I'm in a flatter part of South Dakota.

Next stop: Corn Palace! 225 miles away.

Well, the trip was not boring at all. I had my mixed cds I made by rating my songs on my I-tunes, and burning my favorites. The radio was lame, at one point there were only 5 stations working and three of them had Rush Limbaugh! the scenery was great, it was almost desert like, except the air was cool. I was making great time, because there was no traffic at all, and I was speeding like a demon. I noticed that I had not seen one cop car since I left Seattle. I stopped at a rest stop, made a necessary phone call, taking in the South Dakota landscape. You can see forever! The breeze was great! I think I love it here. It certainly impressed me, South Dakota.

Mitchell, South Dakota is the home of The world famous Corn Palace. It too is a tourist destination, albeit one that actually has a function. It serves as an events hall. Every year they change the facade of the building making murals using various color corn parts to make a design based on the year's theme. They had a photo gallery featuring the designs over the years. I was amused at the fact that a mural from the teen years featured a swastika. It was a symbol of good luck in those days based on an ancient Hindu symbol. It was a few years later that it got adapted to use by the Nazis. The Corn Palace had to explain that in a caption underneath the photograph. Thankfully there was no way to associate it for a pro fascism leaning.

As a bonus, the Corn Palace was across the street from a doll museum. Yeah, I know, but I went in anyway, what else was I to do, I had a very long trip ahead of me. I wanted to make it to Kansas City before the baseball game started at 7:30, but I was making good time.

I headed back to I-90 and headed east to Sioux Falls, SD. It was here that I finally left I-90and headed south. I-90 was fine, better than I thought. You can travel all the way form Seattle to Boston on I-90, but I headed south on I-29, where I flitted into Nebraska to get gas and coasted down the west border of the state of Iowa. Now, I am starting to see the boringness that is the heartland. I found it ironic because I was in view of the Mississippi at times, the road had curves, but it was just so boring. The cities came up with greater frequency but it seemed like a longer gap between them. I was still making good timing. I had bought a USA atlas, that was accurate in estimating times between the various cities. I knew as long as I went the right roads and kept my speed, I would be in plenty of time to see the Kansas City Royals play the Red Sox. When I was approaching Kansas City I confronted for the first time, traffic.

This was due to some bridge construction. I had my map on hand but I didn't have the details correct. I got a little lost, but found my way to the Royals parking lot. I got out of my car and experience for the first time on my trip, humidity and a slew of bugs. Seattle doesn't have either in great numbers, so I felt that I was getting closer to home, my future or past home.

I planned this trip so I would be able to visit some ballparks along the way, I tried to schedule it to attend as many games as possible. Three was going to be the most if I included the Minnesota Twins. I did not want to see the Metrodome.

I did want to see Royals Stadium though. It's the best of the baseball stadiums built in the "Cookie cutter" era. Kansas City went against the 70's trend of building multi-purpose stadiums in favor of building separate parks for the football and baseball teams. It was nice but it seemed a little small, although it was nice, compared to Safeco, it lacked some amenities I had gotten used to. Still I enjoyed the atmosphere. The sunset was beautiful as I talked to people back in Jersey on my rent a phone that was running out of power quickly. The game was fun, the Red Sox were winning when some rain started to fall, when they stopped play for a rain delay, I headed out. I wanted to take a tour of Busch Stadium, actually Busch Stadium II, the next day.

The rain was falling pretty hard, but I wanted to get some distance behind me before I stopped. The rain was falling hard and the distances between exits was growing in distance. I didn't want to make the same mistake I made two days before by putting faith in a stray hotel that may pop up like they do on the coasts. I crashed, hoping to take my cat in for a rest, but my room was too close to the receptionist. So one more night in the van for my cat. At least I know he's there, although he's been getting even more quiet.

I would soon realize it was a harbinger of things to come.

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