The Corn Palance & Twin Ditty

Trip Start Jun 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Thursday, July 15, 2010

      DAY TWENTY-SIX:  Waking up to yet another beautiful view, we all positively stink with sweat and grime, and The Beard is driving into town for coffee before Shmark's had time to come down from the roof.  We pull into a coffee shop full of Jesus paraphernalia get some oatmeal and eggs while enjoying their free wi-fi, then walk to the main attraction of the morning: The Corn Palace of Mitchell.  I don't know where it came from, but my mind draws back memory of such existence, and it’s too absurd not to visit.  The walls are, then, covered in husks and cobs manipulated in designs suiting 2010, while the interior feels like a basic convention center without an event to boast; even the concession stand can’t get behind the corn thing properly.  Ultimately, it boasts a basketball court at the center that smells like Turkish Delight.

            Ready to get out of South Dakota, we fire the engine up and cruise down Main Street, and before The Beard can remark, "it looks like we’re out of –" the bus has already puttered to halt on the drag.  The rest of us hop out to push the thing out of harm’s way, which turns out to be a one-way street in the wrong direction, and we spend the next two hours trying to fix the thing.  The Beard hops on a skateboard toward the nearest gas station, and by the time he’s back, we realize that once diesels are dry, they can’t be run until they are pumped clear of air, and all throw their hands up in confusion and despair.  With Shmark sprawled out on the sidewalk playing the blues, Cornbread rolls up his sleeves and gets under Pearl to see what he can’t fix.  One person after another pulls up with a friendly reminder of the incorrect direction in which our bus is facing, and soon enough, Shmark is yelling at some woman to mind her own business, and she calls the police.  He’s a kindly old fellow that laughs at our situation and asks us to mosey when we can, and, thanks to Navin’s damn phone and the brilliant work of CB and TB, we’re indeed moseying in no time.

            It seems that out here in South Dakota, several things are worth noting: one, the people might be intolerant or nosey (based only on the above situation, of course, making it a very fair assessment), but are considerably friendly and helpful, stretching all the way to the police.  Even when we’re pulled over for the first time, on the interstate out of Mitchell, the officer laughs with his gut and calmly reminds us that it’s illegal in the state of South Dakota to drive an unpainted yellow school bus that isn’t, then lets us off with an innocuous warning, as had the officer in the Badlands and the one described just above; nice to know.  Also, the eating here is rough, and it’s greasy, but it’s cheap.  May the authority remain courteous and patient and the food blossom in the fresh colors of produce and health as we move on to Minneapolis.
            After a quick stop at a Minnesotan gas station full of dried, salted meats and nude magazines, we keep on to the city of our aim, and eventually arrive at the highway signs directing us to either St. Paul or Minneapolis.  We’re all scrambling to find a place to leave the bus, each having friends in varying places, but ultimately Shmark’s friend is in the highest of spots, and we park Pearl in their apartment’s lot amongst Hyundais and station wagons; she doesn’t stick out too much.

            The girls greet us, and Meryl stands at the door, propping it open, as she admits, for no reason.  Shmark knows her sister, Evan, from her days studying at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and one can see why they kept in touch.  Both sisters are friendly and relaxed and, after showing them the bus and they show us up to the apartment, they mock us for being so formal and uptight.  None of us want to soil the couch by sitting on it, so filthy we are, so we take some plastic deck chairs in from the balcony and join them in watching a show called So You Think You Can Dance, where repressed homosexuals live out their characterized fantasies with childhood friends through interpretive dancing, then cry when they get what they came for.  It’s a wildly awkward and reprehensible show when they aren’t dancing, but damn, what entertainment.  Once Navin is out of the shower, I hop in – Meryl gives me a cold beer to take with me, as I’d never had a shower beer, I guess, and she finds this very necessary – and as I sip on suds, I watch mountains of mud thud to the shower’s floor as I have my first bathing session in a very smelly week.

            We watch a bit of the Twins game on TV as everyone finishes their shower; Evan belches as if in a saloon, but it works for her, and I call my friend, John Henderson, a Minnesotan with whom I lived for a few weeks while in Thailand.  After deciding on a meeting place, we hop into a pair of cars as Meryl guides us through Minneapolis’ glimmering Uptown.  John spots me on the sidewalk outside the microbrewery and we all get a table on the patio outside, where patrons play shuffleboard in designated areas strung up with fat bulbs that light up the great night.  We get sliders and sweet potato fries while delighting in dunkelweiss, and John and I chat up about our formerly Asian lives (and currently Asian wives, for that matter).  Soon, Meryl’s so-called sexy cowboyfriend (so honky-tonk that he works in real estate and drives an Audi; no judgment) shows up from the Twins game and they head off, as Shmark does with Evan.  The rest of us stroll down a few blocks to CC’s Tavern, a nice and spacious hole, where we drink local brews (John calls them Minnesotan Pabsts) and then play some pool.  The Beard’s friend – and our bus technician’s cousin – joins us after work, and we uneventfully chat it up before catching respective cab rides home.  We don’t know where we’re going, so our friendly cabbie lets us off in the middle of the freeway and we hop up and over the empty interstate, slide down covered embankments, and twirl around a little bit until we’re magically standing right in front of the bus.  I have to break into Pearl in a way (hopefully) only her guests know how, and we pass out in the fly-filled heat and stink until the morning commuters wake us up.  Okay, so Minneapolis is very cool, but no one is arrested or lost this time, so it comes off as quite boring.  The end.

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Bible Verse Barry on


It was a true pleasure to run into you this weekend. I have to say, I am impressed and slightly jealous of your travels. Just a bunch of good timin' fellas traveling the country in a big yellow "chool bus." I was dog tired, or else I would have joined you out for the shenanigans in "Nordeast" MInneapolis on Friday night.

I have a suggestion for the rest of your trip: Now, don't take this suggestion lightly. It has the power to change the rest of your trip, boost your energy, and make a long day of hot travel like a wonderful sunday drive. If I were riding on a bus across America with you fellas, this suggestion would be an absolute must: Download Tom T. Hall's "The Definitive Collection" Album. Please. Download it, and then play it at top volume on the bus soundsystem. Sing along to it, play along with it, and be inspired by its simple yet ingenious lyrics and honkytonk melodies. Tom T. Hall is a man who can tell a story with songs. It may become the highlight of your trip!

Report back to me when you find your favorite song. Each of you may find a different song that speaks to your heart; and I'm here to tell you that's OK. But do me a favor and spend the $10 or whatever it costs to purchase this music. I'm confident you'll find it to be nothing less than amazing.

Report back to me - you can find me on facebook: Brady Olson.

Bon Voyage!

nearhelsinki on

Hey B.V.B., great to hear from you! Thanks for all the kind words...maybe it can serve as an inspiration for the future! I'll keep my ears open for Mr. Hall and let you know when I hear him. All the best!

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