Tuesday, November 12, 2013

RTW 2013 / Midwest USA Part 1

We had gratefully accepted accommodation from family (and friends) around the Sioux Falls area. All of it was out in the countryside surrounded by corn and bean fields. It's a nice environment to be in for us non city people.

When we arrived everything was green but as time went on the crops started to dry out and turn brown, ready for harvest. At the end of our visit the combines were working in the fields 24/7 as were the trucks on the highway taking the grain to the elevators. The landscape began to change.

The sunrise over the prairie was almost always spectacular.

As were the sunsets, this one over one of the many lakes in the area.

Our first job on arrival was to pick up our rental car and Enterprise had a nice little blue Chevy Cruz waiting for us. We probably drove a few thousand miles in the month we were there and this car did not miss a beat.
We visited with everyone as much as we could and enjoyed a lot of great hospitality.
We also did plenty of clothes and fabric shopping (the $A is strong and the $US prices cheap especially with Mom's coupons). I found myself a nice pair of cowboy boots which could set a new trend at home.
Or maybe not.

We also visited our usual as well as some new eating haunts.
Addtional places now on our list are Knotty Pine in Elkton (the 10oz prime rib is great) and the Carnaval Brazilian Grill in Sioux Falls
Foleys held its place on top of our 'formal' restaurant list while the Perkins and Culvers chains didn't let us down either. Lots of good Mexican as well. And the Rueben at the Phillips Avenue Diner still can't be beaten.
Only one failed to make the cut. Cooks Kitchen in Brookings was a major disappointment.
Wine shopping was a bit of an eye opener. The range of Australian wine on the shelves had shrunken considerably since last visit, a result of the strong $A I guess, and the remaining selection, the lower end of the market, was disappointing. However quality wine from France, Spain and Italy was at bargain prices (for us) and there was always plenty of 'local' wine. Buying the unknown is always a gamble but can be fun. I don't think we had too many undrinkables.

One minor excursion found us in Watertown, a few hours north of Sioux Falls. The town is famous for the Redlin Art Centre.
Most everyone must be aware of Terry Redlin's work. His landscapes filled with glowing light (and wildlife) have world wide appeal.
The beautiful building is a fitting monument not only to him as an artist but to his philanthropy that his art enables.

It is however  a little disconcerting to see so much of his work en masse. It all becomes a little overwhelming, in my mind, to its detriment. Also interesting is to see his work start to deteriorate as he ages with the empashasis on his trademark "light" at the expense of attention to detail. He does not paint the South Dakota and environs that I know so it was a quick walk through the gift shop.
Just to the west of Brookings is De Smet which is Little House on the Prairie Country. It is a very small town which relies greatly on the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

I think you would have to be 'into' her books (or the TV show) to make the journey here but it was a pleasant enough diversion and the coffee shop had great donuts (but terrible coffee). Just a few miles outside town is the site of Manchester, birth place of artist Harvey Dunn. It was completely destroyed by an F4 tornado in 2003. Only thing left is the town pump.
I also took time to visit the South Dakota Art Museum on the South Dakota State University campus at Brookings. It has a nice collection of local art and sculpture from the past as well as from current students. The Harvey Dunn and Oscar Howe collections are particularly notable.
We did a 'down memory lane tour' with the co driver visiting her old home town and surrounds (including cemeteries of course) ending up in Garretson for an ice cream at a place that had been closed for seven years. Time does get away
We remedied that situation though in Dell Rapids, close by. Three scoop waffle cone for $0.99 at Subway/TCBY.
Mark's family own a property a little to the east in Minnesota and he helps out with harvest.

It was my chance to ride a combine!
Well mechanical troubles saw that plan thwarted but I did see a lot of the countryside as well as some big machinery on our quest for spare parts in various small towns in the area.
Gotta love big broad acre machines!
  I also had some spare time to drop into the Royal River Casino in Flandreu on a few occasions.
I like this little place. Very relaxed with good simple food and slots that don't drain your wallet too quickly, if at all.
Some days I seemed to be the youngest there as the venue caters to coffin dodger bus tours.
We also did some extended traveling into other neighboring states and that is coming up in Part 2.

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