Monday, April 17, found us zig-zagging northwest through Unionville and crossing into Iowa south of Seymour.
The Hawkeye State was welcomed into the union on December 28, 1846, as the 29th member. Its capital is Des Moines, which is also the largest city. Iowans are a pretty independent breed who live by the slogan “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” I think that is a little bit like the “Don’t Mess With Texas” slogan, just said a nicer way. It also makes it to the top on the list of safe states in which to reside. Notable Iowans include President Herbert Hoover, Ashton Kutcher, and two Johns…Wayne and Carson. Oh, and those who brought you the “American Gothic” painting, “The Music Man”, some Nancy Drew stories, and sliced bread. Really! In the heart of the Corn Belt, Iowa has always had a strong agricultural economy with about 60% of the land mass covered in crops. Beginning in the late 1800s, the growth of industry began a slow shift to mixed exports. Still, six of the top ten exports are agricultural, with corn in the #1 spot, so industry isn’t taking over anytime soon. They do export a LOT of large tractors, though. That’s number two. Just a few of the cool Iowa things we’ve seen: 1) the Field of Dreams movie site near Dyersville, 2) the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, 3) the Matchstick Marvels Museum in Gladbrook, and 4) the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend.
Our original route would have taken us through Osceola, but after receiving a road closure warning from Sam (GPS), we rerouted. Instead, we meandered north to Indianola, and turned west on IA-92. As we passed I-35 at Bevington, Mr. Wonderful (MW) saw Good Life RV, a Grand Design dealer, and pulled in. (After replacing the lead landing gear leg last week, he decided to buy replacements for both legs to have onboard. They are a standard RV part, so if we don’t use them for this one, they will most likely fit the next one.) They had both in stock, which made our earlier re-route a blessing. I also found a cover for the door window where the sun is occasionally a nuisance. Back on the road, we continued west to Winterset, then north to Adel, where we found Brickyard Burgers and Brews for lunch (good burgers with fresh ground beef).
Back on the road, we took F-60 west, then turned north through Perry and Rippey, up to US-30 west. At Carroll, we took US-71 north to Auburn, then headed a few miles west over to Black Hawk State Park. It had been a great drive and we saw THREE bald eagles! The first was sitting in a tree overlooking a river, the second was flying beside the road over a cornfield, and the last flew down the lake shoreline right past Petunia’s rear end after we got settled. Wow!
Tuesday was the final day of tax season, and amazingly, I had everything caught up. I spent a lot of time writing while MW took care of some truck repair. You may remember that the squealer (what MW calls the “brake wear indicator”) decided to start its infernal racket on the day we left the barn. Knowing that he would have to remove the tires to replace the brake pads, MW checked maintenance for Brutus’ current mileage and decided to go ahead and add new rotors, too. The whole job took him about 3-1/2 hours, not too bad for working on gravel in the campsite. While he was in the middle of the job, loud sirens went off, which typically are tornado warnings in this part of the country or something even more ominous near a nuclear power plant. We both were trying to figure out what to do, when it stopped just a few seconds later. With clear skies and sunshine, we decided it must have been a system test. After he got cleaned up and relaxed a bit, we headed into the tiny town of Lake View, just a few miles away. It is truly just a lake out in the middle of Iowa corn fields. Too cool! Their “season” hasn’t started yet, so there are no crowds. Judging by the number of campsites around the lake and vacation houses, it must be crazy in the heat of summer, though. Before coming back, we picked up some groceries and took a ride around the park for pics.
FUNNY NOTE: In the last post I mentioned that I bought a cover for the door window. The wind has been horrendous, so it is still sitting on the counter waiting to be installed. The other night I looked up and my brain read “Life is Rotten”. What!!! I can’t have that!! I jumped up to see what the heck I had bought, and MW thought I was crazy. It actually says “Life is Better at the Campsite”, but it sure threw me for a second.
Wednesday, after I took care of come work in the morning, we went back into town to check Dorothy Jane’s Bakery. Only open from 6-10 AM, it was a worthwhile stop, and I got to talk to strangers. Bonus!
Next we headed north to check out Sac City and the world’s largest popcorn ball. Not kidding. Weighing in at 9,370 POUNDS, it is 12 feet across and looks like a bunch of popcorn in a giant bowl. The signage showed how it was made, and it is actually all stuck together in a ball. Co-located with Sac City Museum & Historic Village, we were able to check out the latter, although the main museum wasn’t open. It is a mix of buildings brought in from the area to show a bit of the history.
We roamed around a bit, popping in at Sac City Hardware and checking out the veterans and war dead memorials. Near the river and along the main drag there were rock gardens with sculptures of giant butterflies, cattails, eagles, and grasshoppers, among other things. Lunch was at the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. Sac City is true small-town Iowa, but when you walked in this place, you felt transported to the big city. More contemporary and upscale-looking with prices to match, we were surprised at the consistent lunch crowd. Turns out that two of the three owners are culinary instructors at one of the nearby colleges. One taste and there was no doubt they knew their stuff. MW and I both had the Filet Steak Sandwich….perfect meat, fresh toppings, and homemade baguette…the bomb! The other thing we both really liked were their fries. They were too thick to come out as chips, but just barely. (We’ll be giving that a try in the air fryer.) We’re gonna count big toes and say they get EIGHT thumbs up, and it’s totally worth the price!!
While in the restaurant I saw a pic that was outstanding. It is of an old Sac City Race in a 1940 Auburn. How’d you like to be the guy keeping it level?? Even at the lower speeds back then, that had to feel insane!!
Earlier I showed a pic of a painted rock in Glidden, Iowa, by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II. There is another one of these Freedom Rocks in Sac City. Turns out that Bubba put one of these in each of the 99 counties in Iowa, plus an extra that was auctioned off. His purpose is to honor America’s Veterans, and it has done a good bit for Iowa tourism to boot. The paintings are very detailed, beautiful, and thoughtful, and feature specific veterans from the areas where they are placed. Look for them next time you are in this beautiful state. He is currently working on putting one in all 50 states, too, so you may be able to find them elsewhere, too.
Back at the campground, I took off for a nice ride around the lake, 6.4 miles, trying to beat the coming storms. Man, they were serious storms, too! I felt the first raindrop just as I returned to the campsite, so we promptly stored the bike. A little later the camp host came around to advise us that the women’s bathhouse, although not ready for use, was unlocked in case of emergency. Although there was not much rain at all, the wind was horrendous, and a vicious-looking, black cell skirted us for a while. All night long was intermittent light rain, wind, and lightning, plus a quick period of sporadic hail. Knowing the tornado warning siren worked, though, kept me from losing any sleep. (Truth be told, I almost always sleep like a log during storms.) The next morning we found out that the same cells that skirted us were responsible for about 17 tornados across Missouri and Iowa.
Black Hawk State Park is situated around the 957-acre Black Hawk Lake and the smaller Arrowhead Lake. The former is the southern most glacial lake in the United States, and offers excellent fishing, both by boat and from shore. The nearby town of Lake View has a grocery store, bakery, and restaurants, some seasonal. Park amenities include multiple picnic shelters, a year-round cabin built by the CCC in the 1930s, a swim beach, playgrounds, volleyball court, disc golf course, a fish cleaning station, a 1.6 mile nature trail, and access to the 33-mile Sauk Rail Trail for hiking, biking, skating, running, etc. The Thirty Acres Campground is located on the south side of the lake, nestled among the trees. It has 127 campsites, most of which are 30-amp electric only. (There are 10 that also have water and one full-hookup.) Most sites are reservable, but about 25% are first-come, first-served. During our visit, the seasonal bathhouses were still closed, but there were vault toilets available, although far from clean. This was a beautiful, peaceful place, but I’m certain it would be very noisy and crowded during the warmer months. I enjoyed the sites that backed right up to the water and bird watching. Cell coverage was good and there were plenty of over-the-air TV channels. For this stay in April 2023, we paid an amazing $40.50 for 3 nights off season!
Thursday we had to resist the urge to pop back in at the bakery. Yes, it was that good! Instead we hung out at Petunia until later than usual, then hit the road about 10:30 AM. It was a gloomy, grey day, but luckily, we didn’t have far to go. We headed north on IA-471, then east on IA-3 over to Cherokee, where we stopped downtown to check out the Gasthaus Bar & Grill for lunch where the standout was MW’s pork sandwich. After that, we took US-59 north up past Melvin, then zig-zagged up to I-90, crossing into Minnesota. From there we headed west into South Dakota to our stop for the next couple of days, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park of Sioux Falls.
We were only in Minnesota for a short time on this trip, but have spent time there in the past. Our 32nd state, admitted on May 11, 1858, and its official motto is “The Star of the North”. However, most know it as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, which is an understatement. There are at least 14,000 bodies of fresh water, only counting those that are at least 10 acres! All that water makes for a lot of parks, and the very first one in the state is also one of my favorites…Itasca State Park. Lake Itasca is the birthplace of the waters of the Mighty Mississippi, although there it is a tiny stream. I loved seeing how it starts so small and becomes a behemoth by the time it reaches the gulf. Minnesotans are by and large outdoors people. They participate in a large variety of sports during their long, cold winters, including a couple I’d never heard of: 1) Broomball is played on ice where a ball is hit with a stick called a broom. The players are not wearing skates, though. 2) Bandy is similar to ice hockey, but is played with a ball on a larger surface. Minnesota is the only place in the United States where it is played. In addition to organized sports, the state has nearly 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails and more miles of bike trails than any other state. Unlike the states so far on this trip, agricultural products do not rank at the top of Minnesota’s export list. Corn and soy beans are numbers 9 and 10. The number one spot is filled with light petroleum oils. The rest of the list is filled with a variety of industrial supplies including circuits and aircraft parts. The list of notable Minnesotans includes Prince, Charles Schulz, Judy Garland, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Arness, and Chief Justice Warren Burger. Every state has a list of “state” things…state bird, state flower, etc. You can’t say anything more flattering about Minnesotans than that the state beverage is MILK.
Unlike most states, South Dakota’s motto can’t be used anywhere else…”The Mount Rushmore State”. Named for the Lakota and Dakota Sioux tribes, it is the home of nine reservations whose residents make up a large portion of the state’s population. Agriculturally, the state is divided. The eastern half, with its fertile soil, is mostly farms, but west of the Missouri River, cattle is king. State exports tilt decidedly to the farming/ranching side, with a LOT of hams, other pork, and beef being shipped out. Number one on their list, though, is “Brewing/distilling dregs, waste”. What the heck? Turns out that is the leftovers from brewing beer, which can be dried and sold as an ingredient for a variety of animal feeds. Now that is recycling, there! While the entire state is beautiful, the Black Hills in the southwest, home of the heads of presidents and the Crazy Horse monument, are where the tourists flock. That’s also where you’ll find the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, Black Elk Peak, 7,242′. The list of notable South Dakotans includes Tom Brokaw, President Hubert Humphrey, Physicist Ernest Lawrence, and MW’s favorite…Cheryl Ladd. My favorite things about South Dakota: 1) Pierre, 2) Badlands National Park, and 3) the fact that it is the 17th largest state by area, but 44th by population. That’s a LOT of open space!
Friday began with me getting my act together to tackle the laundry. Just a couple of miles down the road, though, as I was climbing a slight grade, Brutus started making an odd noise that I could feel in the pedal. Both MW and I had felt it before, briefly, but could not identify the source. This time, it seemed to be worse, so I called MW and headed back to the campground. He dropped me off at the Sioux Falls Laundry – Hilltop, then headed over to Jim’s Automatic Transmission to see what they had to say. They plugged Brutus in and took him for a test drive and found…NOTHING. He couldn’t duplicate the problem, and his sensor said nothing, so there you are. Until something else surfaces, we just have to ride it out I guess. Ugh! After MW picked me back up, we made Target and Costco runs, then grabbed lunch at Kathmandu Indian Cuisine. It’s been a while since I had good Indian food, and their Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan were awesome. (Honestly, I could give up regular bread and just eat naan all the time.) MW said his Chicken Thukpa (noodle soup with chicken, spices, onions, and cilantro) was very good, too. While we were eating, it started SNOWING…a LOT! Thankfully, it didn’t last too long, but it was big, fat flakes.
Oh and for my North Carolina peeps….WE FOUND HER and she’s got a new gig!!!!
Saturday it was time to become tourists and check out more of Sioux Falls. Our first stop was St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Although construction on this beautiful church began in the summer of 1915, the death of the architect and the beginning of World War I delayed completion until the summer of 1919. Thanks to higher material costs and a shortage of skilled labor the project was pushed over budget by more than $100k, making the final cost $390,000. Over the years there have been many challenges and changes, including the addition of the beautiful Kilgen pipe organ in 1935 and a fire in 1942. In a building with incredible beauty in every corner, I found the three-dimensional reliefs of the Stations of the Cross to be the standouts.
Our next stop was lunch at MacKenzie River Pizza downtown, a chain across the north. The spinach salad and Humble Pie were flat out delicious, so give this place a try if you run across one. After lunch we headed to our next tourist spot. The old Minnehaha County Courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in Sioux Falls. Built in 1890, it has a 165 foot high clock tower over the entrance, 47,000 square feet of space, and cost $135,253. Beautiful native Sioux quartzite, much of it quarried on the building site, makes up the exterior. The county courthouse until 1962 when they needed more space, it is now home of the Old Courthouse Museum which contains a number of exhibits about North Dakota and its residents. One of my favorite displays was the Fawick Flyer, a car built in 1908 by then 19-year-old Thomas Fawick. This car could seat five and go 60 mph. An 8th grade dropout, Fawick was brilliant and had more than 300 patents. He played and built violins, composed music, made a fortune in clutches, and built the first four-door car in America. He drove his Flyer for more than 125,000 miles before putting it on exhibit.
Our final stop for the day was the reason for the city’s name…Sioux Falls at Falls Park. Despite the serious wind and cold, we walked around a little bit and climbed the observation tower to get a birds-eye view. The falls are beautiful, and they are now surrounded by a nice park that appears to be used by the locals as well as tourists.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park of Sioux Falls is your typical RV Resort, where sites are basically parallel parking spaces. Just off of I-90 on the outskirts of Sioux Falls, it provides easy access to anything in the area. Seasonal amenities include picnic pavilion, playgrounds, pool, cabanas, dog park, volleyball court, basketball courts, mini golf, laser tag, a food truck, and in the fall, a corn maze. The main building houses a camp store with souvenirs, clean bathrooms with showers, and a small laundry, all open year-round. They also sell propane onsite. Lodging includes 14 rental cabins and the campsites. There are 112 RV sites, with 36 50-amp full hookup pull-throughs, 62 30-amp full hookup pull-throughs, and 14 back-in electric (no noted amps) & water sites. There is a tent area, too. We were there before their season started, and the water was turned off to prevent freezing. I don’t think they had a water source at all during the winter, so it would be necessary to bring it along. Although right on the interstate, the traffic noise was nothing like we expected. I’m sure it would feel like a zoo when full, though. Private parks like this aren’t our bag, but due to proximity and friendly, helpful staff, we would stay again if in the area. The park offers wifi, cell signals were strong, and over-the-air tv channels, abundant. It was expensive, though. For this stay in April 2023 we paid $174.90 for 3 nights!
I’m stopping short this week to keep travel blocks together, so that’s it for now. Next up…the Capitol (Again), Bismarck (Again), and Back on Track. See you on the path!
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