Those Spacious Skies

Thursday, October 24, 2002 Road Junkies 0 Comments

LEWIS & CLARK, Chapter 4:  
Day 4
: Sioux City, IA to Rapid City, SD.  We awoke to find our car and the city blanketed in white, the temperature at 25°.  After cleaning the snow off the car, we visited Sgt. Floyd Riverside Museum in an old Coast Guard boat and the new Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center on the banks of the Missouri River in Sioux City.  A beautiful facility, the museum's exhibits depict a typical day in the life of Lewis and Clark and the Corps.
Leaving Iowa behind, we entered South Dakota on I-29 north.  Soiled snow lined the sides of the road, but the roadbed itself was clear, and the vistas were beautiful.   After we reached Sioux Falls, SD, and headed west on I-90, we began to see more tourists again— mostly seniors and most in vans from Minnesota and Wisconsin.  A group of seniors from Minnesota stayed at our hotel last night, and we saw another group at the Lewis and Clark Center in Sioux City.

Even the most mundane sights took on a picture postcard look (for us Southerners) when covered with snow, including the skeleton man walking a bony dinosaur on a leash in a pasture near Murdo, SD.

Not a sight you see in Georgia

 The speed limit on the interstate highway in South Dakota is 75 miles per hour, the highest we have seen.  Since we entered Iowa, we have heard lots of farm reports when we search for radio stations— cattle sales, prices for cattle, grain and other farm products, etc.— even on FM stations.  The same continues in SD.

Passing through Mitchell, SD, we couldn't resist a visit to the legendary Mitchell Corn Palace.  A multi-purpose facility, the Corn Palace is a popular tourist destination, boasting half a million visitors per year.  The Moorish style building is decorated with "crop art."  The murals and designs covering the building are made from corn and other grains. 
Mitchell, SD's legendary corn palace
A different design is applied each year
As we drove further west, we saw evidence that considerably more snow had fallen in South Dakota than in Iowa.  On some stretches, we saw nothing but snow and a few farm fences from horizon to horizon with only the two gray ribbons of highway bisecting the scene.  With the overcast sky it was difficult at times to discern where land met sky.
South Dakota's wide open spaces
Unlike Iowa and Nebraska, where farms and farm buildings often lined the interstate byways, in South Dakota we have seen very few farm buildings but huge pastures and fields within a stone's throw of the highway.  Many are dotted with cattle.  Most appear to be black Angus, and the contrast of these furry black creatures against the snow has been striking.

We have seen evidence of a number of accidents and other mishaps—mostly in the eastern part of the state where the snowfall was lighter—tire tracks running through the snow-covered median where vehicles lost the roadway and went out of control.  We saw a Minnesota couple at a rest area who told us they had talked to some tourists who had seen many accidents traveling down I-35 in Minnesota due to the icy conditions.

Traffic in South Dakota has been very light compared to areas like Missouri and Illinois.  We have seen an average of about one vehicle per mile coming in the opposite direction.  About 40% are tractor-trailers.  We made our first sighting today of a tractor pulling three trailers.

Near the end of the day we visited Badlands National Park, a quarter million acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the U.S. Archaelogical records indicate that this area long served as a hunting ground for native peoples. Paleontological interest in the Badlands area has also been intense due to the extensive fossil relics there.
Badlands National Park

Mule deer at Badlands NP
As the sun set on I-90, we pulled in to a hotel in Rapid City, SD.  Not knowing when we may pass this way again, we have decided to make a detour to Mount Rushmore tomorrow.  No, it's not a place Lewis and Clark visited, but we will.
Miles today:  429
States today:  3 (IA, NE, SD)

Lewis and Clark Memorial Bridge over the Missouri near Chamberlain, SD

I-90 sunset