Saturday, September 05, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

CANADA OR BUST, Chapter 25:  
Day 29:  Sioux Falls, SD to St Joseph, MO
The plan for today was just to lay down miles and move east.  We had no sightseeing locations or even letterboxes on our agenda.  We hadn't even been able to scope out any quirky roadside attractions worth a stop, let alone a detour.  Where's the world's biggest     (fill in the blank)    when you need it?
With a city population of 168,586 (and a quarter million in the metro area), Sioux Falls is South Dakota's most populous city and one of the fastest growing nationwide.  Before leaving town this morning, we completed the solitary item we had planned—going by Falls Park to see the city's namesake water feature.
When we arrived at the falls, we wondered—based on what we learned in Wichita Falls, Texas—whether the Sioux Falls falls were natural or man-made.  The falls tumble over a series of pink quartzite ledges in the midst of a meticulously landscaped park.  So beautiful it looked designed, but it is entirely nature's creation.
After planting a letterbox at the park, we left the city a bit after 10 a.m. headed south on I-29, the exact same route we followed three weeks ago on the way north.  In fact, we stayed at the same hotel last night where we had laid our heads in early August and would do so again tonight in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Today was quite hot.  Though we often say in the South that the humidity is the problem because it intensifies the heat, this dry blast-furnace heat in the Great Plains can be pretty brutal too.  All too often there are no trees in sight to offer any shade of relief from the sun's insistent rays.
Near Lincoln, Iowa, we stopped at Lewis and Clark State Park, where we did find enough shade to enjoy some picnic salads.  Our previous visit to this park was in late October of 2002.  A mere seven weeks later in the year than today's visit, and the weather had been frigid with snow falling.  
The afternoon passed as the miles did on I-29—with a rather boring monotony, though we were being well entertained by Bill Bryson's reading of his book A Walk in the Woods, the story of his on-again, off-again hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Our ennui was relieved when we chanced to stop in tiny Rock Port, Missouri (pop. 1,318) near the Iowa border to purchase some icy drinks at the local McDonald's.  Walking to the counter to place an order, we saw one customer leaving with his order and no others in sight.  Behind the counter, a frazzled sixty-something clerk, a younger manager whose roots were overtaking her blondness, and an acne-challenged teen boy were slogging through the motions of their respective jobs as a machine frantically beeped an alarm, which none of them appeared to hear.
We finally snagged cashier Sadie's attention long enough to order, but before she could initiate the slow process of filling it, a slender, strung-out 30-something guy rushed up to the counter from the side and asked for the manager.  When Sadie wasn't quick enough in persuading her boss to attend to him, the obviously intoxicated guy yelled, "LOOK!  I NEED A PLAIN HAMBURGER STAT!!  I am trying to rescue a dog, and I need it now!"
When I gave him my best attempt at a withering look over his gall in delaying the fulfillment of our order, he suggested that I should go outside and see the dog.  Sadie took him more seriously than I did and soon delivered the burger to him, though he made no move to pay before rushing out the door with the burger.
After we received our drinks, we sat watching him in the Nebraska-plated Subaru he entered with no sense of urgency.  We have no way of knowing who ate the emergency burger, but in a few short minutes, the car moved to the gas station next door, where the female driver calmly exited the car and the man took an obviously healthy dog for a walk and potty break.
Totally entertained by the entire incident in the midst of a ho-hum day, we decided we must plant a letterbox to commemorate this bizarre experience.  Pulling out our resource kit, we found a suitable stamp, put the letterbox together and drove off to find a suitable hiding place.
A single blade
Having seen some wind turbines when we exited I-29, Ken ventured east of the freeway, thinking we might find a spot for the letterbox near one of the windmills.  It wasn't long before we found an exhibit of a massive wind turbine blade in a pocket park near the water tower for the town of Rock Spring.
As we finished preparing the letterbox, Ken asked, "Remember the time we left the interstate to get a closer look at windmills in 2008?  I wonder if that was near here."
"Oh, no," I assured him.  "I'm pretty sure that was somewhere in Kansas."
Let's put the letterbox near the fencepost.
The letterbox finished, we secured it in its hiding place and took a few photos for clue-writing assistance.  Finally the thought that had been nagging in the back of my mind came to the fore.  Rock Port!  I had seen a clue for a letterbox there.  Sure enough, we found the clue, deciphered the cryptogram, and found the box.  It was very close to where we had just hidden our box.
As we logged into that box, another thought was nagging.  "Was this the place we had stopped in 2008?"  Pulling up an old blog post, I found that Ken was exactly right.  There we were in the same exact spot where we had been on September 7, 2008.
Just as in 2008, sunflowers grew near the windmills.
After a good laugh, we began to realize that it must be time to move our travels further afield—to another continent, or at least another country.

Following this bizarre coincidence, there was little to report of the remainder of trip to St. Joe, where we arrived about 6:15, ate dinner, shopped for groceries, and called it a day.


Daily Stats
  • Miles driven:  342
  • Miles walked:  3.6
  • Letterboxes:  2 found, 2 planted
  • Weather:  72° to 90°, clear
  • Gas:  $2.90 in Sioux Falls, SD