Monday, August 15, 2011

This Is The Last Stop

This is it. Although I have one more major day of stuff to do tomorrow, it really feels like I’m on final approach. Back in Central Time, I’ve only been through blue states since lunchtime, and I crossed back over the Mississippi River this afternoon.

I’ve been trying to take pictures of all the welcome signs as I enter each state.

But after Minnesota and Wisconsin today, when I reached for my camera as I approached Illinois, I realized that I’ve already been here since I’ve been gone. In fact, all the rest of the states I’ll be going through (Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) I’ve already passed through once before. But fear not! There was no sense of an impending end to the trip today – I had too much to do.

After staying in Mitchell last night, my first destination today was, naturally, the Corn Palace. Functionally, I learned today that the Corn Palace is an arena – one of the largest in South Dakota, in fact – that hosts semi-big name concerts and high school basketball tournaments. What makes it unique is that it’s decorated from top to bottom on the outside, and partially on the inside, with murals made from ears of corn. It made me wonder, if the Corn Palace is decorated with corn, what does that say about California’s Cow Palace?

Other than seeing the place, a visit to the Corn Palace isn’t really much to write home about, although the orientation film (which comprised the vast majority of my time there) fell squarely into the category of so-terrible-its-awesome. It began with a narrator with Stone Phillips levels of gravitas delivering a monologue about the values of America’s heartland embodied by the Corn Palace, set to patriotic music and images of waving flags. Later, he invoked Abraham Lincoln, but I can’t exactly remember why. After the incredibly schmaltzy introduction, the video was actually pretty good. It talked about the reasons for building a corn palace (basically because there wasn’t one, and Mitchell needed publicity) and described the process of creating the new murals every year.

Despite the strange video, I feel like there are 2 things you have to do when you visit a place like the Corn Palace: Take pictures and go to the gift shop. With the former out of the way, I set off to accomplish the latter. I was actually a little disappointed that the items in the gift shop weren’t tackier than they were. I pretty much just got the standard items (including a post card that proudly proclaims that “I was EAR!”).

From there began the long road towards Chicago. The next 643 miles took me through Minnesota (probably the most boring part of Minnesota – like Kansas without the vastness) and Wisconsin. When I think of Minnesota I think of snow and cold, so I obviously couldn’t bring any of that home with me. Wisconsin, on the other hand, conjures images of one thing – cheese. I was determined to find both real cheese and a foam cheesehead. I encountered both at a cheese outlet store south of Madison. This was, perhaps, the most incredible thing I’ve seen in all 10,000 miles of this journey (and I’m not kidding – I went past the 10,000 mile mark today).

It’s a store that sells nothing but a smorgasbord of cheese varieties (all real cheeses, too. None of that spice-infused nonsense), smoked meats, and honey. As far as I’m concerned, that covers all the essential food groups. After looking around for a few minutes I decided I could probably live their happily for many years, but I had miles to go before I slept, so I had to settle for 2 pounds of 5-year-old cheddar, a bag of yellow cheddar curds, and the requisite cheesehead hat (which was way more expensive than I expected. That’s why none of you are getting one.)

Having accomplished all my goals for the day, I contently drove through the miles of construction on I-90 in Illinois (although they do it right here – drop the speed limit, work on one lane at a time, and keep traffic moving), reaching Chicago by 8:30.

Unpacking all my stuff, I realized 2 important things: 1) that if I buy 1 more pair of socks I’ll have enough clothes that I won’t have to laundry again before reaching New Jersey, and 2) that I did not have enough stuff planned to fill up all of tomorrow. So I gathered my free maps, opened up (my best friend in planning this entire trip), and plotted a course for myself. Hopefully I don’t have too much stuff in there and I can get to each thing before it closes, but if I can’t, I also realized today that I’m only scheduled to drive 350 miles the day I leave here, so I can finish up Chicago that morning if I have to. After all, once I leave here the only things in front of me are road, road, road, and home.

1 comment:

  1. Cheese and corn palaces. An epic day.-amysue