Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 9 / South Dakota and Home

Previous visits to the Bro's at Lake Hendricks have proven unfruitful fishing wise to the point of our renaming it Lake Disappointment.
This time, armed with a South Dakota fishing licence as a change of luck charm, we hit the water to try again. Previously I had purchased Minnesota licences (cheaper!) as the states' border dissects the lake.
We fished from his swish pontoon boat and from his dock. We fished with varying rigs eg. crappie which I had not seen in Australia and different baits (minnows, worms, leeches). We fished trolling with lures. We fished at all times of the day and night. We fished all over that lake.
Crappie rig

Result (after an estimated 30+ hours fishing time) : Bro 2 Blogger 1
Lake Disappointment had once more lived up to its reputation.

But really it’s all about the fishing, not the fish. And it’s a beautiful area to contemplate in while waiting for a bite with plenty of wild life to see. Plus the sunsets can be stunning. And the 'fishing lodge' ain't bad either.
Inspecting a trap line was an unusual experience. The state is paying money to reduce the increased vermin population.
From there, one very foggy morning, we visited the Fagen Fighters WW11 Museum in Granite Falls MN and on the way home stopped by the Brau Bros Brewery in Marshall for lunch and good beer.
The donuts in the Hendricks bakery are great (get there early or they sell out!) as are the very small movie theatre, the golf club bar and surrounding small towns eg, Taunton and Ivanhoe.
I spent some time at my old haunt, The Royal River Casino at Flandreu. They are spending a lot of money on extensions and improvements. They didn't get much of mine!
From Elkton, I had the opportunity of visiting the family farm travelling over Buffalo Ridge with its numerous wind turbines stretching north and south into the distance. It is beautiful country. Pity it has been so wet this season which has put a lot of strain on the planting schedule.
In Trent we visited Steve's Bar and Grill for our usual jalapeno burger and a few beers and had a nice birthday get together at 'home' with various wines from all over. I guess the wine must have influenced the hilarity when we played Watch Ya Mouth (Adult version).
But try it sometime. It's fun!
Finally our time was up and we headed for the airport.
Our little plane out of FSD arrived late then had a small technical problem which delayed departure.
Some tape had come loose on the landing gear and needed to be replaced.
Tape? On the landing gear? The plane is held together with duct tape?
Well, no, as I found out later it's speed tape and is used for non structural temporary repairs on aircraft.
It was a long trip home with two four hour layovers in Denver and San Francisco then the 15 hours across the Pacific.
Unfortunately that latter plane was 100% full and I had a large guy next to me and we 'fought' for shoulder room the whole trip. I got little sleep.
No problems with formalities or baggage in Sydney and the car started first try after being parked at the airport for six weeks.
We stopped for coffee a couple of times on the way down the coast to ward off the tiredness so it was good to eventually arrive.
Everything was in order with the property (no storm damage, healthy cattle, no mice (thanks for the inspections, Annabelle!)) and we began our 5 day battle with jet lag (15 hours time difference) while getting our lives back into our normal domestic routine.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 8 / South Dakota / Road Trip 2

If anything the rain and wind had increased overnight.
From Fort Pierre we travelled across the rolling green hills of the National Grassland towards the I90 with the Badlands National Park as our destination.
With ever worsening conditions on the freeway we debated whether to abandon our plans and turn back east.
During a potty break at Murdo, I randomly checked my iPad and found I had an Internet connection.
The weather forecast for Wall, near our destination, was for clearing conditions in two hours.
We decided to carry on.
As we arrived at the NP gates, the rain stopped!
But the wind didn’t.

When I got out at the first Badlands overlook  I estimated the temperature to be below 0℃ with windchill and the occasional slap of sleet in the face confirmed that. The co driver stayed in the car!
This was my second trip here, the first many years ago being a quick drive around ‘the loop’. This time would be a lot slower.
What an amazing place.
Deep multi coloured canyons bordered by the flattest prairie land.
We stopped at many overlooks, walked some boardwalks and then descended into the valley to the visitors centre.
The centre offers an indoor theater, interactive exhibits, an orientation film plus a bookstore.
The exhibits focus on the cultural history, prairie ecology, and paleontology of the Badlands.
There is a clear explanation of the deposition and erosion process that formed of the Badlands and began around 70 million years ago.
From there we drove through the canyons and then climbed back up to the prairie. We saw some wild life eg. prairie dogs and big horned sheep, but no bison.
Photos and videos don't do this area justice.
From the NP exit it was only a short drive to Wall and the famous Wall Drug which is a shopping mall consisting of a drug store, gift shop, restaurants and various other stores.
This is a bizarre place with an interesting history. Very popular with tourists and full of kitsch. We had lunch of buffalo hot dogs and fries at the 'intimate' 530 seat cafe.
Then it was east back down the I90 to Oacoma just across the Missouri from Chamberlain and Indian tacos for dinner (supper) at Al's Oasis.
Crossing the river next morning we visited the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center which is committed to promoting the knowledge and understanding of the Northern Plains Indian.
The proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux is Oceti Sakowin, (Och-et-eeshak-oh-win) meaning Seven Council Fires and here their culture past, present and future is presented through the preservation of historical artifacts and contemporary works of art.

This is a fine historical and cultural museum and worth a few hours.
Then, after a quilt shop visit it was up to the Missouri Overlook to check out the amazing sculpture Dignity, (a.k.a. Dignity of Earth & Sky).
The 15.24m (50ft) high stainless steel statue by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere depicts an indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. The Lone Star design (also called the Star of Bethlehem), is a variation on Morning Star designs that had been featured on Native American clothing and other items for centuries. According to Lamphere, the sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota peoples who are indigenous to South Dakota.

Lamphere's latest project involves the construction of a sculpture, The Arc of Dreams that will span the Big Sioux River in downtown Sioux Falls. It was in the process of being erected the week we left.
From Chamberlain it was back to Sioux Falls via Mitchell (lunch at Culvers!) for our traditional SD date night.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 7 / South Dakota / Road Trip 1

Rain and wind and more rain!
Our road trip out west was not going to be an easy drive.
Instead of taking the interstate, we decided state highway 34 would be more interesting and it would be an easy linkup to the Native American Scenic Byway at Fort Thompson.
The rain eased a little when we stopped at Wessington Springs. The main attraction here appears to be, of all things, the Shakespeare Garden and Anne Hathaway Cottage. But we were just interested in a coffee and donuts at Sweet Grass Bakery which came with a good reputation. And good they both were too.
But a little further down the road, weather conditions deteriorated considerably and we abandoned our Scenic Byway plans and headed directly to the South Dakota capital Pierre.
At least we got glimpses of the Missouri River towards the end of this leg although it was obvious that it was the upper reaches  of the Lake Sharpe dam. We were now on the Lewis and Clark trail and I wondered what they would think of the current state of this once mighty river.
Pierre has a population of around 14000 making it the second least populated capital in the USA.
Founded in 1880 on the east bank of the Missouri River opposite Fort Pierre it has been the state capital since South Dakota gained statehood on November 2, 1889. Fort Pierre was named after Pierre Chouteau, Jr., a major American fur trader from St. Louis, Missouri, who was of colonial French origin.
Despite the weather, the town was busy with traffic and people going places.
We had a good Mexican lunch at a crowded Guadalajara.
Two of the major attractions here are the State Capitol and the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. The visitors car park for the former was too far a walk in the torrential rain so we opted for the latter.
The Center opened in 1989 to preserve and interpret the heritage and culture of the people of South Dakota beginning with the stories of Native tribes who inhabited the land before statehood and to follow the state's history into the 21st century.
It is an impressive building nestled into a bluff north of the capitol.

The 63,000 sq ft (5850㎡) underground building serves as a reminder of the earth-berm lodges of the Arikara Indians who historically lived throughout the Missouri River Valley. The building is covered with native prairie sod from Jones County and landscaped with native grasses and plants just like the sod houses and dugouts of early prairie settlers.

The Museum’s main exhibit, ‘’The South Dakota Experience’’, includes three galleries that illustrate the history of the state from its earliest inhabitants to present day.
Oyate Tawicoḣ’aŋ: The Ways of the People explores the history, heritage, and culture of the Oceti Ṡakowiŋ (The Seven Council Fires), more commonly known as the Sioux.

Proving Up: shares the experiences of explorers, trappers, settlers, miners, and immigrants to a remote territory and how pioneers and statesmen established a booming state.

Changing Times: examines the changes and challenges the people of South Dakota faced during the 20th century and follows the state’s history from the boom of the railroads and automobile to the bust of the drought and Depression. This  gallery highlights the introduction of power on the plains, telephone communication, and the shrinking of space between neighbours with the construction of highways and interstates.

This is a warts and all exhibition covering the dispossession of Native American land and subsequent treaty violations with resultant conflict to the struggles the pioneers endured with the environment to
progress stemming from mechanisation and advances in technology.
We spent a couple of hours here.
Highly recommended for adults and for kids with many interactive exhibits to play with (like milk a cow!).
We stayed in Fort Pierre across the river in another time zone (Mountain time) which is thankfully conveniently ignored and where I got another Lewis and Clark ‘fix’.
A major encounter which affected the destiny of all inhabitants of the region occurred in Fort Pierre on September 24-28, 1804. At the mouth of the Bad River, in present-day Fischers Lilly Park, members of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery met for the first time with the Lakota people, known to them as the Teton Sioux. Differences in trade objectives, diplomacy, and the lack of an interpreter lead to an armed confrontation, the closest Lewis and Clark came to a premature end to their expedition.
The confrontation was diffused, largely through the efforts of Chief Black Buffalo, and the expedition continued. The flag of the United States was flown for the first time over present-day South Dakota at this council with the Lakota.
Dinner for us that night was at the Cattleman's Club Steakhouse which came highly recommended by numerous sources.
The place was jumping despite the atrocious weather and we had to wait 30 minutes for a table.
Well worth it, however, with the best prime rib (medium rare) I have ever tasted and an introduction to Meiomi Californian Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 6 / South Dakota

Flights from New York to Sioux Falls via Chicago went without a hitch.
We picked up our rental at the airport and headed out!
I guess now is the time to discuss briefly the weather we experienced during our four week stay.
The fact that it snowed on us on day one when driving from Sioux Falls to Elkton should have been a warning.
The region had experienced a lot of rain before we arrived and this continued. Some days it was very windy and cold, some were very rainy and cold and others were very rainy, windy.....and cold.
In fact it was so wet that farmers in many areas could not get onto their fields to plant and the corn crop for the year was looking to be in jeopardy. I travelled into Minnesota with Mark to look at soil conditions on the family farm there and it was obviously very boggy. Many fields in the area were virtual lakes.This is a major problem for all mid west USA.

At least we got to do a little bit of machine maintenance (well he did, I just held stuff) as well as buy seed in case conditions improved.
I had never seen the Big Sioux River so high and in flood in so many places and the Falls carrying such a torrent.
Then strangely on a few days in between it was sunny, warm and very still.
Things improved in the last week of our visit and it looks like the beans will get in the ground before the seasonal 'deadline'.
Of course our main purpose being there was to catch up with family and friends.
And this we did by moving around various locations as well as participating in family get togethers.
The Memorial Day grave run was fun as was the Christmas in June get together with both kids and adults enjoying the traditional greed game, eating good food and catching up.
The co driver caught up with a long term friend from Las Vegas, attended a Cher concert and did a quilt retreat in Canton.
We did the Sioux Falls sculpture walk and again enjoyed the diversity of work.
It is the largest and most recognized annual exhibit of public art sculptures in the country.
Our 'must do' restaurant and fast food list was mostly covered with a new find being Crave in the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls.
Caribou coffee at their dedicated store was as good as ever and their coffee bagel combo at Einstein Bros Bagels was terrific as well.
Sadly the Phillips Ave Diner and Coffea Roasterie downtown missed out this time around. 
Our date night at Morries Steakhouse was as outstanding as ever with excellent food, wine and service.The encyclopedic wine list is always a pleasure to scan.
Wine shopping was interesting as usual. Supermarket Hy-Vee had an excellent range as did the Brookings Liquor Store. Sadly higher end Australian wine was hard to find. [Yellowtail] and cheaper export brands seem to dominate the shelves.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 5 / New York Days 4-6

Sunday dawned again wet and windy.
The co driver had a day’s basket weaving class in Brooklyn and I was having a father/daughter day also beginning in Brooklyn.
So chancing our luck with the revised weekend subway timetables, we set off from a station some distance away from what had become our usual one, transferred, rode 4 stops passed our desired station (downtowns were not stopping there this weekend), transferred and rode back on an uptown which did stop where we wanted to get off.
Made it! Phew!
I also made it back to the daughters, inspected their new apartment and the building’s facilities (very nice), walked in heavy rain around Brooklyn Heights to get a feel of the place (much nicer than Fort Greene) and then we subwayed it into Times Square for a taco lunch at Los Tacos No.1.
No cards, stand up at a communal tiled bench to eat, clean up after yourself. Best tacos ever!

The daughter had booked to see the revival of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! on Broadway.
She had seen the show during its Off Broadway tryout late last year and liked it.
It has been a favourite of mine since the late 1950s when I saw it as a movie. I can’t count the number of times I have seen it since in that form as well as live on stage. This stripped down revival was a radical departure from the traditional but it had the approval of the R&H Trust so I had confidence that although I might be challenged, I would like it.
The Circle in the Square Theatre was small and almost ‘in the round’ so the audience was close to the action.
To say it was ‘different’ is an understatement. It was at times raw and confronting. But I enjoyed it immensely. The only quibbles I had were with Jud’s demise, not quite the accident portrayed in the original story, and the strange and almost irrelevant dream sequence.
But all in all, an amazing experience with a brilliant 12 member cast and an exceptional 7 piece band.
Just goes to prove that no  matter what the setting, Oklahoma!’s book, lyrics and music still hold their own, even 76 years on from its debut.
The show just received two Tonys. One for Best Musical Revival and one for Best Featured Actress in a Musical to wheelchair confined Ali Stroker for her role as Ado Annie.

And they served the audience chilli and corn bread (see red crockpots on the tables) on stage during interval. How good is that?
This review which I agree with 99.9% says it all better than I can.
Back onto the rainy streets and then an extremely crowded subway, we headed for Williamsburg and a favourite restaurant of the new New Yorkers.
Called Have & Meyer, it specialises in Italian cuisine and
‘natural’ wine from grapes mostly native to Italy made by small producers. All are available by the glass, over 100 of them! I tried some good wines that I could rarely afford a bottle of and slipped into oenophile mode for a while.

Monday and the sun is finally shining!
Subway to Grand Central Station for breakfast and then a train ninety minutes up the Hudson River Valley as far as Cold Spring.

The further you get away from the city, the more leafy, green and rural it gets. This small tourist town was still gearing up for the season and was pretty quiet. Many shops were still closed.
The main street could have been a movie set for a small town USA saga.

We had probably the worst cappuccino ever at a local cafe but lunch at Hudson Hil’s was excellent. We browsed the shops and eventually sat by the river and enjoyed a quiet break in the sunshine.

Back to the city late afternoon for a quick shop at Purl Soho for thread and yarn, drinks again at Cocette and a meal at Pinch Chinese.
Nicko ordered for us all and his Chinese heritage enabled us to experience dishes we would normally not consider. They were all great.

A fitting end to our short New York City adventure.
Thanks, guys for looking after us!
Next morning we were up at 4am to catch an early flight from Newark to Sioux Falls via Chicago.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 4 / New York Day 3

Saturday dawned rainy and windy.
We were meeting the daughter at the Tenement Museum for a tour but she came to escort us there as the subway gets a lot of maintenance done on weekends and the revised timetables put in place, to quote her, ‘ confuse the hell out of tourists’
The Tenement Museum is located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighbourhood of Manhattan.
These two historical tenement buildings were home to an estimated 15,000 people, from over 20 nations, between 1863 and 2011. The museum’s aim is to promote tolerance and historical perspective on the immigrant experience.
These days that is probably needed more than ever.

The building at 97 Orchard Street was contracted by Prussian-born immigrant Lukas Glockner in 1863 and was modified several times to conform with the city's developing housing laws. When first constructed, it contained 22 apartments and a basement level saloon. Modifications over the years included the installation of indoor plumbing (cold running water, two toilets per floor), an air shaft, and gas followed by electricity.
In 1935, rather than continuing to modify the building, the landlord evicted the residents, boarded the upper windows, and sealed the upper floors, leaving only the stoop-level and basement storefronts open for business.

No further changes were made until the Lower East Side Tenement Museum became involved with the building in 1988. As such, the building stands as a kind of time capsule, reflecting 19th and early 20th century living conditions and the changing notions of what constitutes acceptable housing.
We did the Hard Times tour which covered two families’ occupation of an apartment from the 1870s to the 1930s.
This was the recreated home of the Gumpertz family, whose primary breadwinner disappeared during the Panic of 1873, and the Baldizzi family, who persevered through the Great Depression.
An interesting ninety minutes and well worth the time.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures so a few have been ‘borrowed’ from the museum web site.

By lunch time the rain had gone and the sky began, thankfully, to clear.
We had booked a One World Observatory: Skip-All-the-Lines Ticket tour and bad weather wouldn’t be good for that.
We arrived at the marvellous World Trade Centre transport hub, and its central space, the $US4billion Oculus at Westfield World Trade Centre.

After some time at the memorial pools we bypassed the long queues, went through strict security and then entered the elevator (lift) for our 30 mph (48kmh) ride up 102 storeys in 47 seconds. On the way up you watch a virtual time-lapse showing how the New York City skyline has changed from the 1500’s to today.
Wow! Check your stomachs in at the door!

There was still some residual mist in the air but the 360°views were still pretty awesome.
I did the circuit a few times, took photos and videos, and we sat for a while with our complimentary drinks and took it all in.
A new NYC icon not to be missed.

Down to earth once more we headed for Tribeca and the Terrior wine bar for huge selection of wine by the glass and Italian tapas.
Then it was onto Bubby’s for good old fashioned American comfort food for dinner (supper).

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 3 / The Met Cloisters

The Met Cloisters opened to the public in 1938. It is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The building stands high on four acres within Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River.
This is a modern museum building and not a copy of any specific medieval structure. It is really an architectural jigsaw with its many parts made up of various European monasteries and other historic buildings eg. features relocated from four French medieval abbeys of Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefont and Trie.
There are also reconstructed medieval gardens dotted around the cloisters, one featuring plants used in medieval medicine, magic, ceremony and the arts,  

Our few photos do not do the exhibition justice. There are so many wonderful things to see and even our half day there just brushed the surface.
More information here and on the Met website.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 2 / New York Days 1-2

After a good night's sleep we were ready to meet the day, albeit a very foggy one.
We had breakfast at 12 Tables Cafe a Mediterranean restaurant we had found last time, just down the road from our hotel. The Greek omelette and strong coffee was just what the doctor ordered.
Then, after purchasing a weekly subway ticket, we headed down to South Ferry and the Staten Island ferry wharf for the return free 'cruise' to blow out the jet lag cobwebs. We could barely see the NYC skyline or Statue of Liberty through the fog.

At the Staten Island terminal a group of six African Americans (and one Caucasian base player) entertained waiting passengers by singing oldies but goodies eg. Under the Boardwalk in Capella.
The trip back was clearer and we got some reasonable views of the NYC icons.
Too early for lunch so we decided to make the short ferry ride to the 172 acre Governors Island in the heart of New York Harbour. It had just opened a few days before and businesses were setting up for the summer season so this was again free.
The island has been used as a military installation from 1776 during the American Revolution. From 1783 to 1966, the island was a United States Army post, serving mainly as a training ground for troops and as a strategic defense point during wartime. The island then was a major United States Coast Guard installation until 1996. Following its decommissioning as a military base, it was sold to the public for a nominal sum in 2003, and opened for public use in 2005. It is now used by New Yorkers as open space.
We walked around the perimeter through trees heavy with blossom, across green playing fields, passed old stately homes and decaying army barracks and got some great views of Manhattan.
And it was here we first came across a business that wouldn't accept cash, only cards or electronic payments. This is becoming quite common in NYC. Using a foreign CC for a $US2 bottle of water is not the best economic way to go.

Then it was lunch time and some of Luke's lobster and crab rolls in FiDi.
After another afternoon nap, we met up with the daughter for drinks at Cocette and then pizza with Nicko at Rubirosa in Nolita washed down with a good bottle of Le Marche Verdicchio.
This was our second visit here. It didn't disappoint.
Next morning looked like rain so we canned our planned rail trip up the Hudson Valley and, after a bagel and coffee, took the long subway ride to northern Manhattan to The Met Cloisters
We had forgotten we were told it was quite a climb up to the museum but took it easy up the zigzag path stopping often to enjoy the quiet of the parkland.
The Cloisters is quite a place (see separate post).
Back downtown, the co driver visited what could be the smallest quilt shop in the world. On their recommendation we had lunch at a hole in the wall Mexican which was great.
After another afternoon nap we had drinks with the daughter and Nicko at the Petite Boucherie in the Village and then dinner at Snack Taverna in west village.
It was some of the best Greek food I had had in a long time and the wine selection, all from Greece of course, presented a bit of a challenge. However the waiter's recommendation was excellent.
So with that another successful day came to a close.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk / Part 3

The sculpture below was one of the standouts. It is made entirely of cutlery.

And our final two favourites