This weekend the Queen B and I headed across the state on a weekend road trip to Sioux Falls on the eastern side of South Dakota. The official reason for the trip was a furniture run, but it also served as a brief escape from recent burdens of real life. Sioux Falls is about a five hour drive from Rapid City through the heart of prairie country, which is a poetic way of saying that the trip is extremely flat and largely boring. Nevertheless, there are some neat things to see along the way.
Sioux Falls itself is mighty pretty. I was shocked to find that the city’s central attraction is its cascading waterfalls, which, in retrospect considering the city’s name, shouldn’t have been so surprising. The falls were once used to power the city’s old hydroelectric plant and textile mills, but now instead power the city’s tourist trade. The falls themselves cut their way through slick black rock at sharp angles, twisting their way past the burned remnants of the Queen Bee textile mill* and the old generator room, now resurrected as a fetchingly decorated waterfront cafe.
* Really! I may not rock the cosmological community, but apparently I rock the clothmological one.
Sioux Falls also has a beautiful Japanese serenity garden. It’s a place of natural beauty and thoughtful contemplation. Or at least, it would’ve been had I not been bitten alive by mosquitoes and gnats.
On the return trip, we stopped off in the little burb of Mitchell, South Dakota, to see the world famous Mitchell Corn Palace. Well, I don’t know if it’s actually world famous, but I suspect it’s the world’s only attraction to be advertised solely by billboards with excruciatingly bad corn puns. I kid you not, it’s just miles and miles of signs with phrases like “You’ll be a-maize-d'” or “See our corn-ceptual art” or “From ears to eternity” or any number of variations on this theme. I’m not sure exactly what I expected a “corn palace” to be, but I’m sure it involved some cob-shaped towers and a maize moat. Instead, the Corn Palace is nothing more than a kernel-covered sports auditorium decorated with (paradoxically enough) large onion-shaped domes.
Ah, shucks. (Apparently, the billboards are contagious.)
The exterior walls are decorated in large murals comprised solely of corn cobs. On the one hand, each of the murals is a fascinating work of meticulous art, as scenes of striking clarity and style are brought forth by painstakingly cobbling together thousands of ears of different species of corn. On the other hand, it clearly illustrates with frightening clarity just how fucking little there must be to do in the city of Mitchell.
Another stop was the famous Wall Drug in the city of Wall, South Dakota. What Wall Drug’s advertising lacks in quality — as compared with, say, the purposely poor poaceaen paronomasia of the Corn Palace — it makes up for in sheer volume. You can’t drive a quarter mile along Interstate 90 without seeing at least 14 different Wall Drug signs, all of which highlight the store’s many exotic consumables, such as “free ice water” or “real dirt”.
In reality, Wall Drug is every bit as tacky as the quintillion roadside signs suggest, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, you can find just about any kind of kitschy knick-knack, from stuffed jackelope heads to souvenir spoons to life-sized replicas of dinosaur skulls, somewhere in its gargantuan bowels. I picked up “jellyfish yo-yo” and some sort of disgusting net-covered water balloon thingie that swells into a number of bright green sacs when squeezed, like a macroscopic version of Bruce Banner’s innards.
Anyways, it was a strange weekend of midwestern shenanigans. And as always, there’s lots of pics: