Days 41 and 42 – Rapid City to Minneapolis – Hitting the Halfway Mark

September 15, 2008  (Muriel)

We spent most of the day driving east from Rapid City, SD to Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota.  Rapid City has a population of around 60 thousand but serves a large trade area and has lots of shopping malls.  In the downtown area are statues of all the US presidents plus other notables like Ben Franklin.

Sioux Falls is more than twice as large, with a population of 124 thousand.  We stayed in a hotel near downtown.  To get to our dinner restaurant, we walked over the Big Sioux River and into a downtown area that included many modern financial and business buildings, as well as some restored early buildings.  We enjoyed strolling along the Sculpturewalk on Phillips Street.  Every intersection had at least two sculptures at opposite corners, and there were many additional sculptures along many of the blocks.

It is interesting and perhaps a damaging commentary on West Coast metropolitan living that in these two South Dakota cities we found a bigger and more visible commitment to quality street sculpture than in any big West Coast city.

The drive between the two cities was uneventful and somewhat boring.  Lots and lots of prairie, with cattle, hay, corn as we approached Sioux Falls, and little else.  We crossed the Missouri River, which by the time it crosses I-90 is impressively wide.  The only item of note is the reason for one of the several areas where traffic in both directions shared one side of the 4-lane the interstate.  Each direction got only one lane, but there was so little traffic that there was little slowing.  The two lanes each way are separated by a very broad median.  One side of the highway was closed while hay was harvested from the median and rolled into bales.  It seemed very quaint and very agricultural to us California freeway warriors!  Such light traffic is hard for us to believe.

By happy coincidence we ate in Sioux Falls for the second evening in a row at Minervas, the pre-eminent—and very high quality-restaurant chain of the Dakotas.  Great food, wonderful décor and service that would do well in any city.

An item I meant to include in the description of yesterday’s tour of the Badlands.  At our last stop, we got fairly good looks at a mystery bird.  We had seen a couple of Mountain Bluebirds earlier that day.  The mystery bird was about the same size.  Our impression was that it was a thrush.  It was pale overall, with a slightly yellowish cast to the upperparts.  It had a distinct thin black line through the eye that was bordered above and below in white.  The breast was whitish and the belly had a distinct reddish wash.  It had the general size and posture of a thrush and long legs.  It stayed close to the ground, not that there were any trees or bushes around.  We could not find any matches in our field guides.  Any ideas?

September 16, 2008 (Muriel)After checking out, we drove a couple of miles to Falls Park to see the Sioux Falls along the Big Sioux River.  It was a sunny, balmy morning.  We drove through extensive grassy parkland with trees, robins, a statue of a Canada Goose, and lots of live Canada Geese.

Once we parked and started to stroll toward the falls, we were stopped by a gentleman.  “I need your assistance.  I’m a retired judge and need two witnesses to the marriage I am about to perform.”  We agreed to witness the marriage and introduced ourselves to the pleasant, elderly bride and groom and strolled with them and the judge to a spot where the falls were behind the pair.  Allan took snapshots (film!) with the bride’s camera.  It was a short and moving ceremony.  We signed as witnesses and strolled on closer to the falls.

As we headed back to our car after properly photographing the falls, we found a mystery woodpecker.  Field guide study informed us we had seen an immature Red-headed Woodpecker, a species we had not seen for years and had never seen in immature plumage.  Several Blue Jays appeared, gathering acorns from the oak tree where the woodpecker had been feeding on something from leaf clusters.

The drive to Minneapolis was uneventful, with the countryside becoming somewhat hillier, more verdant with trees and shrubs, less grass, more corn, and lots of grain elevators and other big industrial-looking agricultural buildings.

Some idea of how exciting this trip is shown by the fact that the  highlight of the trip was a lunch break in Mankato Minnesota where we patronized a sports bar restaurant specializing in Buffalo Wings.  The Buffalo Wings were delicious even if the place was not exactly our natural milieu

Early rush hour traffic getting into Minneapolis was pretty bad, but not as bad as in L.A.  After cleaning up, we were taken to dinner by the mother of one of Allan’s business associates.  We strolled along the main mall a bit after dinner and got a brief automobile tour of places near downtown that we might visit during the rest of our stay here.  Our hostess explained that not only is the traffic here slowed currently by lots of construction as we had noted, but a new bridge to replace the one over the Mississippi River is due to open Thursday.

Allan reminds me that today is the half-way point in our trip with 42 days done and 42 to go. He has promised to post some thoughts on the whole pattern of our trip soon.

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