On my previous post I covered my travels from Omaha to Kadoka, South Dakota along the Oyate Trail. This post covers the second part of that day, basically, my visit to the hauntingly wondrous Badlands National Park in western South Dakota.
Before I get into the Badlands visit, one more final comment about Kadoka. While at a gas station off if I-90 I came across this giant scrap metal buck. I did some research and found out that it’s name is “Scrappy” and it is the creation of metal artist Brett Prang, who resides in the Badlands area and runs Incredible Metal from his Guest House and their Frying Pan Ranch. I wish I would have known about his scrap metal art while I was in the area….. He also has an amazing 37 foot tall metal cross that I would love to have seen. (See article about Prangs here)
Scrappy was originally created as the mascot of Tivy High School (The Antlers) in Kerrville, Texas. It was auctioned in 2005 to raise funds for the school. It has now returned to its South Dakota birthplace.
Now, off to the Badlands!!
From Kadoka on I-90, I took Exit 131 and headed south on South Dakota Hwy 240 which passes by a big trading post and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site which I did not visit. Another couple of miles south on 240 is “The Ranch Store” which is a tourist stop for Badlands and Prairie Dog mementos, but is also home to the Giant Prairie Dog statue and about a gazillion little prairie dogs. If you make a visit to the Badlands, this is a must stop, especially if you have children and a camera.
According to the Ranch Store’s website, they got their start in Kadoka in the 1950s, but once I-90 was completed their location was no longer viable. So, they moved their store and their 6 ton pink prairie dog statue to its current location in 1971. Not only can you get your souvenirs and ice cream, but you can also feed the prairie dogs that reside in their own huge underground village on the side of the store. I got some nice shots of some of these cuddly looking little guys….
These little Prairie Dogs have great personality!!
I saw this mother prairie dog cuddling her two babies. It was absolutely darling and almost human. Had to put three of the photos together to give a better feeling of her care.
And just one more fond farewell….
Rather than drive the full loop from Cactus Flats, I decided to head back up to I-90 and then take the exit for Wall Drug to head south to Badlands National Park at the Pinnacles Entrance. It had been a long day’s drive from Omaha and across southern South Dakota, so the sun was beginning to set in the west and shadows were beginning to fall on the Badlands, which, in my opinion, was a great time to view the park. Following are a few of the nearly 300 photos I shot in the Badlands.
Of course, the park has herds of mountain goats. As I drive down into a valley a couple of them appeared on the side of the road grazing. Unfettered by my stopping and shooting, they continued. Here are a couple of shots of them.
The Badlands offered many amazing views. I will devote a photo gallery to this trip later on. But, I don’t think there could be a better time to visit than at sunset…
As the sun began its descent, I headed back to I-90 and then west towards my eventual overnight stay in Gillette, Wyoming. My next day would take me west though Cody and into Yellowstone National Park. That will be another a post in a few days.
April 3, 2013: Yet another day on the road home as Julianne and I take our time to see a few of the sites on the way. This day we drove from Des Moines to a couple places in Iowa and eventually into Illinois. Here is our route:
First thing we did was head to Pella, Iowa, which is not too far from Des Moines. Pella prides itself as being a “Touch of Holland” and indeed is very Dutch. Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States. Pella was originally settled in 1847 by about 800 Dutch immigrants. They named the town Pella, which in Dutch means City of Refuge, due to the fact that these immigrants were fleeing religious persecution in their home country of the Netherlands. Pella is also the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, the famed sheriff of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
We had been advised by friends to definitely try the “Dutch Letters” while here. Dutch Letters are a flaky almond paste filled pastry. Shaped like an S, they were apparently a traditional Christmas pastry in Holland. We stopped at the Jaarsma Bakery on Franklin Street in Pella to have some of these. They would be our breakfast. Turns out they have a lot of other goodies!!
Another treat we were advised to try was Pella Ring Bologna. There are two well known places to get this ring bologna in Pella and we stopped at Ulrich’s Meat Market which is a couple doors down from the Jaarsma Bakery. Not onl is the ring bologna good — the meat sticks were fabulous!!
The town of Pella is quaint and picturesque. It was a pleasure to walk around and see some of the scenery, including a few smaller windmills and the larger one. Here are a few scenes from Pella.
Pella is famed for its tulips, but we were too early for them. But, daffodils are another Dutch bulb plant. And they were in full bloom.
Of course, perhaps the most famous thing in Pella (besides the famed Pella window factory) is the huge authentic working Dutch Windmill. The Vermeer Mill, as it is called, is an 1850s style working windmill. It is 124 feet tall and is the largest working windmill of its kind in the United States. The mill is totally wind powered and is actually used like the windmills of old to grind wheat into flour. It was built in Holland and assembled in Pella in 2002.
There is a Dutch Interpretive Center and small Dutch Village attached to the Windmill. Within its confines are a number of Dutch style buildings , including Wyatt Earp’s birthplace. We didn’t go into the village since admission was $10 per person, which we though was rather pricy.
After a pleasant time in Pella, we were back on the road. With my penchant for going to strange named towns, I wanted to make our way down some back roads to What Cheer, Iowa. Originally named Petersburg in 1865 but was renamed What Cheer in 1879 after the Postal Service declined the name of Petersburg. The Wikipedia article linked here has some details as to the origin of the name What Cheer.
Ironically, as we drive through town, I exclaimed to my wife that the town name should be “What Cheer?” as the small town looks like it is falling apart and many of the businesses have been abandoned. There were a little over 600 people in this small town according to the 2010 census.
Reminiscent of downtown Pella, there is one nicely kept building in What Cheer, with the nice corner turret. It used to be a bank, but is apparently now a residence.
There was one other refreshing site in town. One home had some unique artwork surrounding the yard.
From What Cheer we made our way northeast to I-80 and then into Le Clair, Iowa, a small touristy town along the Mississippi River. This was my second visit to Le Claire as I had been here before to visit Antique Archaeology, home of the “American Pickers” TV show on History Channel. On my previous visit back in June 2012 I even got to meet Danielle and get a shot with her.
When I visited in June last year Danielle had a shop in Le Claire across the street from Antique Archaeology called 4 Miles 2 Memphis. She is actually well known for “up-cycling” things and making them into clothing, jewelry, etc. The shop has since moved to Chicago.
There are lots of unique things for sale at the shop, many which had been picked from shows past. Here is a small sample of some of the things in the shop. Recognize anything?
A video clip of the American Pickers episode with the Laurel and Hardy masks.
You would be mistaken if you think that Antique Archaeology is the center piece of Le Claire. This unique little town is chock full of personality, antique shops and more.
Pelo’s is your typical old sundry and fountain type shop, except that it now has a coffee shop, open mike nites and more.
Julianne was thrilled to visit some of the shops, but her biggest thrill was being able to “pick” a 1930s quilt from a shop in Le Claire. This hand pieced and hand sewn quilt was in a small shop along the river. The gal in the shop obviously didn’t know quilts like Julianne does as she had this quilt for sale for $150!! It was a splurge purchase for us, but, we believe that the value of this quilt is really closer to $800 or $1000 due to its age and almost pristine quality, along with all of the 1930s fabric.
We could have spent more time in Le Claire, but had to move on. My ultimate goal stop for the day was to get to Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois.
Springfield is one of those iconic Route 66 towns and along this road is the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the home of the all-American famed Corn Dog! Though there is some dispute as to the true origin of the corn dog, the Cozy Dog story is that Ed Walmire and his friend Don Strand invented the deep fried battered hot dog on a stick while stationed in Amarillo, Texas during World War II. They called them crusty curs, but, upon Ed’s return to Springfield, Ed and his wife decided on the name “Cozy Dog” and began selling them from their house and at the Illinois State Fair in 1946. Ed’s wife designed the “hot dogs in a loving embrace logo” for the drive in. In 1996 they moved their Drive In a bit up the road to its current location and gave it a decidedly Route 66 theme.
And of course, this is why we come to Cozy Dog – not healthy at all, but sure Yummiferous!!
This was officially our final stop on the way home so it was a perfect place to “cozy up” with my sweetheart….
After spending the night in Springfield, Julianne and I booked it back to our old Kentucky Home in Lexington. It was a long trip, almost 2,800 miles (including side trips into towns, etc.) and over 55 hours of driving time. We traveled from Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT (to see the grandkids) and then across northern Montana, south into North and South Dakota, east thru Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and finally home. This was Julianne’s longest road trip ever (her previous one was when we moved from Mesa, AZ to Frankfort, KY in 1991 — that was about 2100 miles).
Originally built in 1892 as the “Corn Belt Exposition,” it became an iconic landmark and attraction in Mitchell after 1921. Every year the exterior decorations are stripped and a new theme is created. The work is done by local artists. The 2013 theme is “We Celebrate” and each mural is a depiction of an American holiday. The artists use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate with. Typically there are over 275,000 ears of corn used annually on the murals. There is a nice list of the history of the murals here. The Corn Palace has a full sized basketball court inside and even has big name concerts.
From Mitchell we continued east on I-90 toward Sioux Falls. Unbeknownst to me, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, right off the freeway (near Exit 374), there was an unusual site. I actually pulled onto the shoulder to get out and get shots of what is known as the Porter Sculpture Park, which includes an amazing 60-foot tall bull’s head, which is what got me. For some reason I had overlooked this one!! I got a few photos from where I was, but was already past the exit and we were pushing the clock.
Vultures that represent politicians and buzzards holding giant knives are just some of the over 40 creations that came from the inventive mind of Wayne Porter, a blacksmith who uses his appreciation of history to create metallic works of art at his establishment. Apparently, Porter spent approximately three years creating the 25-ton bull’s head which is mostly made out of railroad tie plates. This could definitely be the largest bull’s head statue around.
From Montrose we continued east towards Sioux Falls and then on to I-29 south past Sioux City, Iowa. Along the way I saw a sign for Onawa, Iowa noting it as the home of the Eskimo Pie. I had to drive through the town of about 3000 and see if we could find where it was invented. Research shows me that someone named Christian Nelson invented it in 1920. Interestingly enough, he originally called it an I-Scream Bar. He later partnered with candy maker Russell Stover to patent the product. (See History here) They also claim to have the widest Main Street in the U.S.A. Though I drove around a bit, I couldn’t find a museum or anything…but, there were the hanging banners!! I wish I could have found an Eskimo Pie!!
First thing you see in Winterset is the amazing Madison County courthouse! This courthouse was built in 1876. The Renaissance Revival structure has four wings which join to form a Greek cross. The silver-colored dome reaches a height of 136 feet (41.5 m) into the air and it contains a 1500-pound (680.4 kg) bell. The inside is wonderful as well. I got to go in for a look see.
Across the street from the Courthouse is the famous Fons and Porter’s Quilt shop. Fons and Porter are two famous quilters that have produced a TV Show, the Love of Quilting Magazine and more. Though I am not a quilter, my wife is and she was excited to visit here. We found out that the store front was built specifically because people were always looking for one in their travels to Winterset.
Winterset is also famous as the Birthplace of John Wayne. I did drop by there for a visit. The visitor’s center was closed when we got there, but I did get a photo opp in front.
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, the son of Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison. Interestingly, on May 24-25 (in nine days), the center will host Maureen O’Hara, who starred with John Wayne in 5 of his movies. Over his 50-year career, John Wayne appeared in more than 175 movies from major Hollywood epics to shorts, documentaries, promotional films, television shows and special appearances. Though there are actors who may have appeared in more movies, it is yet to be seen if any actor will ever better Duke’s record of being the lead in more than 140 films.
But the real interest in Winterset was the covered bridges. Our first one was the Cedar Covered Bridge. This bridge was built in 1883 by Benton Jones and is 73 feet long.
Unfortunately, the original Cedar bridge was destroyed by an arsonist in September 2002. They have reconstructed it and the new bridge was dedicated on October 9, 2004.
Like the Cedar Bridge, the Roseman Covered Bridge was also built by Benton Jones. It is 107 feet long. This bridge is also known as the “haunted” bridge. Apparently this is where two sheriff’s posses trapped a county jail escapee in 1892. It is said the man rose up straight through the roof of the bridge, uttering a wild cry, and disappeared. He was never found, and it was decided that anyone capable of such a feat must be innocent. This bridge was renovated in 1992.
The Holliwell Covered Bridge is another bridge built by Benton Jones in 1880. It is the longest of the Madison County bridges at 122 feet. It is located in Scott, Iowa. Like the others, it was renovated in 1995.
Along the way to Holliwell, we came across a nice pond with a Blue Heron ( I love these birds!!) and a nice windmill shot.
We didn’t have time to get to the Hogback Covered Bridge or the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, but we did make it to the Imes Covered Bridge in St. Charles, Iowa. This bridge was built in 1877 and actually moved three times. It was moved to its current location in 1977. this is the oldest of the remaining covered bridges, though it was also renovated in 1997. It is 81 feet in length.
From St. Charles it was a short jump to I-35 and we went north into Des Moines for the night. It was a beautiful day going through Iowa.