Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travelblog episode 5: Corn Palace, Badlands and Bad weather

Tuesday we were woken by the sun and the birds. We got up, ate some breakfast, and hit the road for South Dakota. First stop that day was at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, a building that is entirely deocrated by corn and grains and advertised for miles around by bilboards with really corn-y jokes. The history of the Corn Palace dates back to, um, the early 1900s. or maybe the late 1800s. One of those. Anyhow, they're on their third building now, after a couple wood ones burned down. The current Palace serves as the city's (and possibly county's) convention center, sports arena, and tourist trap. Every year the exterior is decorated in a series of murals around a central theme, all done with corn.

The exterior of the wonderous Corn Palace

On the inside there are more murals, these designed by an artist back in the, oh, 1930s or so, that show the ways the Native Americans and white settlers viewed the land and how they work together to preserve it. Or something. All I really remember was that it's made of corn and looked kind of cool. We bought some corny souveniers, and headed off to find some lunch and a grocery store for more ice. Once that was done it was back to I-90 and further west in to South Dakota.

Interior corn murals and the spacious corn-y gift shop

Maya and Megan picking the nose of a sculpture across the street from the Corn Palace

We pushed on across most of the state, finally pulling off the freeway at the exit for the Badlands. We were heading for the white River KOA, just south of the park. it was running about 95 degrees out, and we weren't really looking forward to getting out of the cars. But we did, once we got there, and set up the tents. Since none of us were hungry for dinner yet, we decided to split up: the girls and Logan changed in to their swimsuits and headed for the pool, and Matt and I went off to take pictures of the Badlands. And here are a few:

We met up back at the campsite at around 7, made some spaghetti, slapped more bugs (no-see-ums now in addition to the mosquitos), and spent some quality time with the internets. Said internets showed that there was a good chance that we'd see a thunder storm that night. "Well," I thought, "the tents have good rain flies, so we'll stay dry...I'll just make sure everything gets put away in a car before we go to sleep." Here's what the nice, clean camp site looked like:

We got in the tents at around 10, and Paige and I lay there watching the lightning in the distance. Maybe we'd luck out and the storm would stay to the south...No such luck. The wind hit at around midnight or one (I didn't check my watch). This was my first wind storm in a tent with fiberglass poles. I'd weathered a few storms in the Timberline, but not one like this. The wind was howling - no idea how strong it was, but I'd guess 60 or so on the higher gusts - and every time it gusted hard the tent basically collapsed on top of us. So I pushed on one pole with my hand and the other with my foot and tried to keep everything standing up. After 5 minutes of this or so Paige got up to check on the girls and I got up to make sure the guy lines hadn't pulled out of the ground. The girls evacuated their tent and came in ours, but with noone pushing out on the poles they were basically as well off as if they'd stayed in their own tent. And then...snap! one of the poles on our tent broke. And by "broke" I mean "split in two and punched a hole through the tent and the rain fly." Crap. Then snap! Snap! two poles in the girls' tent broke. Double crap. And then one corner of the timberline that the boys were in pulled free, which wasn't nearly as craptastic as broken poles, 'cause Matt could tie it to the conveniently nearby picnic table.

But by now it was raining. Hard. And even the timberline was getting wet inside thanks to the wind blowing the rain fly up against the wall of the tent, so we all retreated to the cars.

If you've never spent a night in a car in the middle of a thunder storm, I don't recommend it. Really. It's not comfortable. You have to crack a window so it doesn't get totally stuffy and hot, but then the rain drips in. And you can't recline the seat, 'cause either the back seat is full of crap or full of another person. So you can't really relax, and you can't really sleep, you can just doze and get dripped on. Which we did for another hour or so, until the storm had blown through. By then Logan was asleep curled up in the back of the Sebring, and I sent Matt back to the Timberline (which, even at 25+ years old, had weathered the storm just fine) to sleep on the dry side). I took the passenger seat, reclined it as much as I could without squishing the boy, and dozed until about 6. Not the best way to spend the night, but hey...we weren't dead!

1 comment:

Matt Rigby said...

Winds really rolled in around 12:30 and I think tents gave out around 1:15