Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sioux Falls, SD and Family

From Mitchell it was a short drive to Sioux Falls. We stayed at the Grand Falls Casino in Iowa, ten miles east of town. This is a good stop at $20.00 a day during the week and $30.00 on the weekend. Of course, we left more than that in the slots. We are very happy that while we were here we did get to watch the Pens win the Cup for the fifth time.
They really have a thing about big roadside art in the West. This is Porter Sculpture Park west of Sioux Falls. The bull head is 60 feet tall.
There was a full moon while we were there and Nanc got this picture of a pterodactyl flying at the moon.
We have seen the LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia but I think I love this one better, It was outside an interesting little brew pub, Monk's House of Ale Repute.
Falls Park on the Big Sioux River is a great 123 acre park in the middle of the city. The falls drop 100 feet over the Sioux Quartzite, the second hardest rock after diamonds. Many historic, local buildings were constructed with this rock.
Monarch of the Plains. All of the plains states we have been through this spring celebrate the buffalo that once roamed the plains by the millions.
The falls attracted many businesses that harnessed the power of the water. This was a grain mill and an electric plant. The mill was not successful because there was neither enough grain or water. Only the walls of a couple floors remain from the seven story building that burned in 1956. There is also a 26 mile bike trail that starts in the park and loops around the city.
How about this RV. It looks like it could take on any kind of road. We talked to this couple from France who are traveling from the United States to South America on a 16 month adventure with their two kids.
Downtown Sioux Falls has an interesting sculpture walk. The artist's place their works along the street and the city buys the people's choice for permanent display. I like this one for its usefulness. 
A neat variety of works about people.
A few whimsical works.
And some interesting animals.
The main reason we stopped in Sioux Falls was to see my cousin Grace. We have not seen her in over ten years so it was great visiting and getting caught up. What a bonus, she has a wonderful pool. Nanc and Grace soaking up the sun.
Marlene and Jim trying to play paddle ball. I loved being in the water on one of the hottest days of the year.
Grace, Jim, Nanc and Marlene after a great meal. We spent several hours at their place and had a wonderful time hearing about all their adventures. As we always say, meeting and seeing friends and family on the road is the best part of our RV lifestyle. 
WOW!!  The casino was celebrating its sixth anniversary so they had fireworks for us.
On Sunday we had our own fireworks as we watched the Pens clinch the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row. Another great championship for Pittsburgh.

Since leaving Sioux Falls we spent a very busy week in Omaha, including a trip to Lincoln to tour the capitol, in addition to doing several things in the city that will be covered in our next post. We are now in Des Moines, IA for a week to add another capitol to our list and explore the area.   

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mitchell, SD - Corn Palace and McGovern

We moved on from Pierre stopping for a couple of days in Mitchell. Once again our travel plans were dictated by the wind and being where we could watch the Penguins (out here there is no guarantee you will be able to get over the air stations).We are very happy the Pens have won the Stanley Cup and now we only need to worry about the wind. We had two things we wanted to see in Mitchell, the Corn Palace and The McGovern Center.
The original Corn Palace, dating back to the 1892, was built for the purpose of promoting South Dakota as having a good climate for agriculture. It was so successful that it soon outgrew its usefulness. The present Corn Palace, which was completed in 1921, is the third one. The street beside the building is being turned into a pedestrian plaza so the streets are a mess right now.  
Mitchell is all about corn, from the light posts, to the radio station KORN, to this corny mascot, and the sign on the door apologizing for the corn-struction.  
The building has a basketball court where about 150 games a year are played. During the summer the court is turned into a souvenir shop. The stage is used for performances during the Corn Festival and other times during the year. A little known fact, years ago my father sang on the stage.
The theme and the corn murals are changed every year. Local Yanktonai Nakota Sioux artist Oscar Howe did all the murals from 1948 to 1971. These are some of his most famous murals that have been restored and moved inside the palace. 
Oscar first sketched the murals and then did colored drawings. The sketches are then enlarged to the full size and made into what looks like a paint by numbers pattern then installed on to the wall. Then 12 different colors of corn that is grown in carefully separated plots so they don't cross pollinate are nailed in place.   
This mural above the stage shows the different lives of the Native Americans and the Early European Settlers. It was created by the local middle school art teacher. The two bottom murals show them working together. After it was up someone noticed that the handshake in the middle was backwards.  They determined the pattern was accidentally reversed when installed, making it appear that they are shaking with their left hands.  
The frames around the murals are bundles of ryegrass and sour dock, a hearty prairie plant. This is a close look at Willie Nelson as part of this year's theme Rock of Ages.
One reason they change the murals every year is they have the best fed birds in South Dakota. Many of the ears from last year have been picked clean and all of them have shrunk as they dry out.
Because of the corn-struction of the new plaza by the palace, the Rock of Ages theme will stay up for 2017. This gave us a good look at the process of corning the murals.  The black and white panel on the bottom is the enlarged pattern that the ears of corn will be nailed to. The workers are putting on the new trim of ryegrass on the frame of the top panel. The old cobs in the mural itself will be removed and new ones nailed in place.
All the murals are now created by local artist Cherie Ramsdell. Covering the entire building requires 275,000 ears of corn. We found the Corn Palace to be worthwhile and interesting and a convenient stop if you are traveling I-90 in South Dakota. And, the admission is free.
Also in Mitchell is The McGovern Center Museum and Library on the campus of  Dakota Wesleyan University. The center explores the lives of Eleanor and George McGovern, one of my early political leaders.
The center explores their early life growing up in South Dakota, attending Dakota Wesleyan and his service in WWII where he flew 35 missions as a B-24 pilot.
There are several exhibits about his life of public service in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and various roles under Presidents Ford and Carter. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, in 2000 by President Clinton.  
Another exhibit deals with his failed run for president in 1972. This election started my interest in politics that continues to this day. The center is a great tribute to a man who dedicated his live to serving others with the goal of improving the lives of all people. 
Another worthwhile stop we found in Mitchell is the the Carnegie Resource Center which has an entire room dedicated to the Corn Palace and the many people who performed there over the years. The center's dome was painted by Oscar Howe, who designed the Corn Palace murals for many years. The painting Sun and Rain Clouds Over Hills goes back to his Yanktonai Nakota Sioux roots.
On the wall under the dome are several of his paintings. They combine his Native cultural roots and a modern style of art. 
These three places are all very neat and make a stop in Mitchell a must do. Since leaving there we have been to Sioux Falls where we saw my cousin Grace and are now in Omaha. Unfortunately, the repair of the slide did not work out at the facility where we had an appointment. We did get the part number so we are going to call another repair place down the road and have them order the part so it is available when we get there.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pierre, South Dakota

We moved south to Pierre (Pier), South Dakota. Who knew that was the way it's pronounced! Pierre is the second smallest state capital city. We continue to use two lane roads when possible and for the drive from Bismarck they were the only choice. We had a head wind most of the way so it was not a fun drive but once again there was very little traffic.
  Before we were out of North Dakota we passed the Lawrence Welk birthplace in Strasburg. We opted to not stop as it was two miles up a dirt road and we were not sure about parking for Opus. While Welk is a bit before our time, we both remember our parents watching his show every week. 
The capitol was built between 1905 and 1910 in the Greek, Roman and Celtic styles with a central dome. It was designed by the same architects who did the Montana capitol and is a modified version of that building. It was built with native field stone, Indiana limestone and Vermont and Italian marble.
The interior dome is 96 feet above the rotunda floor. It is another 65 feet from the top of this dome to the top of the copper, outer dome.  
In the four corners of the rotunda are statues that represent Integrity, Courage, Wisdom and Vision. The background is the terrazzo floor that was repaired a few years ago. During the repair each worker was given a heart to place in the floor as their signature for the work they had done.
The Great Seal of South Dakota showing industry, farming and transportation. The Black Hills, the Missouri River and the Great Plains show the main geographic features of the state.
Off the rotunda are two corridors where the Supreme Court, Governor's office and other official rooms are located.. The Supreme Court has not been open to the public since 9-11. The columns are scagliola, made-made marble that we have seen used in many capitols, because it is light weight and less expensive than real marble. These columns are hollow with structural steel beams inside. 
Above the doors in the corridors are paintings with scenes of the state's history and geography. The background is the terrazzo floor. When the capitol was built, 66 Italian artists were hired to hand lay the tiles. Each was given a blue stone as their signature stone to be placed wherever they chose. Only 55 of these stones have been found.
The Governor's Reception Room has been restored to its original 1910 appearance with the first governor's desk and furniture. The walls are now plain because the original mural, inserted here, with the woman placing her foot on the Native American on the ground, is offensive to the Native American population.
The Senate chamber. There are 35 Senators who serve two-year terms. Both houses meet every year for a session lasting from 35 to 40 days. The chamber, which has been restored to its original appearance, is decorated in green tones, scagliola columns, Vermont granite, cherry wood and African mahogany.
The House of Representatives Chamber. The House has 70 members who are elected and serve the same terms as the Senate. No member is allowed to serve more than four consecutive terms in each house. They can serve as many non-consecutive terms as they want. The chamber, which was restored in the 1980's, is decorated in earth-tone colors, decorative plaster and oak.   
The Grand Staircase is Vermont Whitecloud Marble. As you can see, it is still used in important processionals for special guests. The vaulted ceiling is leaded stained glass. The painting. The Advent of Commerce, shows early Europeans trading with Native Americans. It is a bit of arrogance to presume that there was no trade before white men arrived.
This display shows replicas of the gowns worn to the Inaugural Balls by the First Ladies of every governor. There is also a bit of information about each.
We walked in on the dedication of this new display the Hall of Honor. It is dedicated to those South Dakota residents who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award. The Hall of Honor had been located on the second floor of the Soldiers and Sailors Building. Moving it here makes it  more visible and accessible. 
The grounds of the capitol were especially beautiful. The Fighting Stallions Memorial honors the lives of eight men, including Governor George S. Mickelson who were killed on April 19, 1993 in the crash of a state aircraft.
The WWII Memorial pays tribute to the 65,000 South Dakotans who served in that war. The six statues represent the different roles the people of the state played.
The Flaming Fountain is part of the WWI and WWII memorials. The wall and the two soldiers honor those who fought in Korean and Vietnam wars. 
This memorial honors fallen Firefighters, Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Technicians who lost their lives in the line of duty. This is the first such memorial that we have seen that honors EMTs.
We stayed at Fischer Lilly Park across the Missouri River from Pierre in Fort Pierre. It is a great little community campground with water and electric hook-ups on the bank of the river. 
We saw on the map that we were near the Buffalo Interpretive Center so we drove out to see more buffalo. We found the center was boarded up and the only buffalo were far from the road. The drive was through land that had been eroded into hills by the Missouri so it was neat even if we did not get a good look at the buffalo.
On a bluff overlooking Fort Pierre and the Missouri River is the Verendrye Site. French explorers Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye buried a lead plaque here on March 31,1743 claiming the land, that later became the Louisiana Purchase, for France. In 1913 local teens found the plate and tried to sell it to the print shop. Fortunately, the state historian heard about the plate and saved it before it was melted down by the printer. The plate verified that the French were the first Europeans to explore this area.  
The first school house in Pierre dates back to before South Dakota was a state.
The dome of the capitol looking across the Missouri from Fort Pierre. There is a community RV park in Pierre, but we liked the one we stayed in better for both location and the fact we had water.
At this site, where the Bad River flows into the Missouri, Lewis and Clark made peaceful contact with the Teton Sioux. They were here from September 23 - 28, 1804. This spot is less than a half mile from where the Verendryes claimed this land for France over sixty years before. 
We found the Pierre area a neat place to visit. Seeing the capitol so soon after seeing Montana's that was designed by the same architect was interesting.