Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Corn Palace in South Dakota, and Omaha

on March 13, 2013

On our way to Corn Palace, and about an hour after leaving the Deadwood area, we suddenly realized wCorn Palace Lewis & Clarke were passing a “Dances with Wolves” film set – a fort on the side of the road. I can’t remember which one, and I’m not willing to watch the movie again, to find out. Maybe you’ll recognize it from the picture… (I didn’t love the movie – sorry! I am sorry for those of you who may have.  If you really want to know why, I can tell you.)

Anyway – we didn’t go look at the film set. I’m not a fan.Dances with Wolves

Besides, I was really anxious to get to The Corn Palace, in Mitchell SD! I mean – how can that not be intriguing!?  It is, after all, the World’s One and Only Corn Palace… (as per the Visit Mitchell website.)

More Corn PalaceI guess it’s ridiculous to assume that someone just shows up every year with a wheelbarrow full of corn, and makes a picture by gluing corn on the side of the building and hoping for the best!

In actual fact, a local farmer grows all of the corn (12 different colors), the design team (The Corn Palace Committee) starts discussing and planning the theme months in advance, a local artist designs the mural and numbers each section according to the color of the corn, draws it onto black roofing paper, which is nailed to the wall, and then a design team nails the corn to the wall, according to the number scheme.  (It’s a new display every year, and the old one stays in place until they are ready to put up the newIn progress mural, at the end of August.)

Interesting.  Although I was kidding about the wheelbarrow full of corn and the glue, it’s still much more complicated that I originally imagined.

Corn PalaceOriginally called The Corn Belt Exposition, the tradition of the Corn Palace was established in 1892, when the farmers would display their harvest on the building to “prove the fertility of South Dakota soil.”  In 1921, the first festival was held at this current existing building.

As if Corn Palace isn’t enough! We had the fortunate timing of visitingStreets of Mitchell Mitchell while they were doing repair work on their streets.  Really, it is a pretty good idea, isn’t it? to cover the fresh tar with biodegradable toilet paper, so the tar doesn’t get stuck to your car!? I can’t believe I’ve never seen this anywhere before!!  BRILLIANT!

After we left Mitchell, we went over the state line into Nebraska, just to cross Nebraska off our list of places we hadn’t been before.  The plan was:  Go to Nebraska, and do a U-turn, and come straight back out, travel across the bottom of South Dakota, through corn fields, to Iowa, and then take the I-80 across to Winterset (where the Bridges of Madison County are – this was after choosing to go to the Bridges instead of crossing across Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant – and we chose the Bridges, because they are old and could, potentially, fall down..over time, and we could miss our chance to see them at all!)

More CornHowever, what ACTUALLY happened was: The car died. We made it safely through the corn fields (which was a relief since we passed absolutely nobody the entire time we were out in those cornfields.)  The car died somewhere around the Junction of Highway 29 and Interstate 80..about 5 miles before the junction, the car completely died. So, after refilling the transmission oil, we decided to do what you are supposed to do – don’t go forward, go back to where you last saw civilization – which was about a mile back at an old gas station.

When we got there, Peter wanted to see underneath the car, so he – I don’t really know how to explain this – but he drove into the curb so that the car popped up and the front wheels were on the curb and the back wheels were on the dirt… so it was lifted up and he could see underneath.

Once we got the car back on the road, and turned onto the I-80, there saw a sign that said: “Next gas station, 140 miles.”  Yes, that DID seem adventurous, but Peter was pretty much finished with adventure that day, so we started to consider a PCouncil Blufflan B.

On the side of the road, we decided to call U-Haul, and see about renting a little truck, camping in it, and returning it on the other side of the country. $3000!!!!! THAT was the quote!! and we had to be there (in Council Bluffs in 6 minutes.)

$3000 seemed like a lot, so we decided, instead, to just rent a car, and since we were passing a sign that said “Omaha Airport” – that seemed like a good start!!  Not having “Google” back then, we didn’t really know who to call, but just then! out of nowhere, I remembered the jingle to “1-800-go-Alamo”!

This is kinda crazy because we had never actually rented with Alamo before, but you know how some things seem to just work out too wonderfully? well!

THIS is amazing AND, though it was a long time ago now, has always been one of my favorite memories.

1) when I called (thanks to modern technology – even though we didn’t have Internet on the cell phones yet, we DID have a cell phone!!), the man from the call center transferred me to the Omaha location, so that the nice man at the Alamo airport location could talk to me as we drove in – “about now, you should be passing a trailer park up on the hill” – and we were!!!

2) when we arrived in the airport, we passed a few car rental locations we had previously used, and actually went over to get quotes, even though the Alamo guy was holding a reservation for us.

3) the Alamo guy could see usOmaha meandering through the airport, getting quotes, and knew (somehow) we were the people with whom he’d been talking

4) the Alamo guy was very helpful about finding a tow truck to come pull our disposable car out of the parkade… but, as we were trying to figure out what to do and how to do it, with the car disposal issue, Peter said, “Unless, of course, you know someone who wants a 1984 Ford Marquis”.   He said, “A WHAT?? No! I don’t need a car, BUT – HOLD ON!!  FRANKLIN!!”

Franklin came out from the back, and the Alamo guy said, “These people have a 1984 Marquis to give you, if you want it…?”

OH GOODNESS! Franklin started to cry.  Apparently, he was a new father, in the less affluent part of Omaha, and was having a really hard time getting to work and transporting his family around, and had just been saying “if only he could afford to get a car” and happened to (of all the craziest things!) love the Ford Marquis.  (Seriously! I am NOT making that up!!)

We sold it to him for the appropriate $1, and threw in all of the stuff we couldn’t fit in the rental – including the remaining transmission fluid and a barbecue (remember, we were camping.)  (Also, he’d be driving inner-city, so, as you recall, it was fine under 30 miles (50 kms) per hour.  He might never even need the transmission fluid.)Franklin

By the time we were driving away in our rental car, he was leaving to go home to show his wife his new car …

How ironic, too, that I planned to avoid Nebraska, except that little trip in and out that we made earlier, for the sole purpose of crossing it off The List – only to have one of my best memories of all time, take place BACK in Nebraska a few hours later!!!

With a brand new and fast car, we headed off in record speed to Winterset, to see the Covered Bridges!! More on Sunday.

PS. It looks like the first Iditarod musher is coming into Nome maybe today.  Mitch Seavey (who I didn’t mention, I don’t think…?)  He’s an Iditarod icon – his whole family has participated in the Iditarod – his dad, his sons, and him.  As a family, they’ve had over 30 Iditarod finishes.  THIS year, his son, Dallas, is currently 4th.

Right on his heels (according to an 8pm report for March 12th, 24 minutes behind.), is Aliy Zirkle. HER website tells us: “In 2000 she was the first and only woman ever to win the Yukon Quest — “The World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race.” Including her first Iditarod in 2001, Aliy has completed the 1,000+ mile race tweleve consecutive years. In 2005 and 2011 she received the Iditarod’s “Humanitarian Award” for supreme care of her dog team. Her best finish was 2nd place in 2012.”

(Addendum, 8 hours after publishing this blog: Not only did Mitch & Aliy finish the race (and, it seems, probably around the time I was typing, they were coming into Nome), but 9 others also did! Congratulations to all the finishers!)

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One response to “Corn Palace in South Dakota, and Omaha

  1. Shannan says:

    Love this story!!!!!!!

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