The wild and wooly West

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2010

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today we began the long western leg of our trip, leaving Bear Valley and heading for Prairie du Chien and the Mississippi River once again. Prairie du Chien is the oldest community on the upper Mississippi. Then we turned north along the river, passing Lock and Dam #8 (near a converted nuclear power plant) enroute to La Crosse.

La Crosse was an early trading community, almost dying before the closing of the Mississippi below the Ohio during the Civil War made it an important link with the East. La Crosse is notable for its 25-foot wooden Indian overseeing the river traffic. We arrived in the middle of Family Fair, so had to wend our way through throngs of moms, dads and kids to get our Indian photo and on our way West.

Two key stops on I-90 in Minnesota enroute to Sioux Falls, S.D.: Austin, the home of the Spam Museum; and Blue Earth, where the Jolly Green Giant lives. The Spam museum is very cool, with interactive displays and photo opps, not to mention the opportunity to buy about a dozen different flavors of Spam. Who knew? To me, there is only one flavor of Spam and one way to cook it – fried with Velveeta on top. Keep your haute cuisine.

We also passed through Spring Valley, home of the Wilder family, into whom Laura Ingalls married before writing "Little House on the Prairie." (see our previous blog on LIW) and Richard Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck.

Passing Grand Meadow in western Minnesota,we passed a huge wind farm – dozens of tall white masts with huge sweeping blades generating electricity. Up close, they sound like jet engines as they whirl around. The windmills are spread across southwestern Minnesota, all the way to the South Dakota state line.

Carolyn reminds me to note that we have seen a variety of critters on the trip, including deer, pelicans, raccoons, foxes, spotted and striped (Dutch belted or “Oreo”) cows, herons, turkeys, Bald eagles and coyotes. The billboard as you enter South Dakota says, “Watch out for Jack Rabbits.” I'm sure they’re no match for the Jackelopes in Texas.

We got into Sioux Falls about 7 p.m., despite our diversions, after a sunny but windy day. Forecast for lows in the 40s, highs in the 70s in the coming week, a welcome change from
cold, wet Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Tomorrow: Rapid City via Mitchell (Corn Palace) and Wall (Wall Drug.

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Alan Freitag on

Your description of spam sort of put me off my breakfast. La Crosse is a cool town. Did you get to Grandad's Bluff, the make-out spot overlooking the Mississippi? If memory serves, La Crosse is/was the home of either Hamms or Old Style beer, too. Happy trails, ya'll.

Ben on

Seen plenty of critters around here, too. Last night a coyote ran across the street in front of our house with his bunny-meal still hanging from his mouth.

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