Monday, May 26, 2014

Onward to South Dakota and John Wayne

May 19

By the first rays of daylight we are up and making preparations to leave.  Gaining an hour as we crossed time zones the day before, we feel like super-achievers when we pull out of camp at 7 a.m. local time.  The road out still has that horse and flock of goats guarding it.  The goats scram when they see us coming, but the old horse stays put as we drive around it.

With a touristy destination along our route, we head for Winterset, Iowa, the birthplace of The Duke, Mr. John Wayne.  Hubs grew up on John Wayne movies, and I am pretty sure that my father-in-law is John Wayne, so we had to stop and see where he was born.  

The modest white house is charming, but the pièce de résistance is the 1980 Chevy van under a carport a few paces away.  If bad taste drove, this would be the automobile of choice.  

Poor Mr. Wayne.  He looks as if he just had his wisdom teeth pulled and is suffering from jaundice.  

The inside is decked out in brown shag rug…on the ceiling, doors, and everywhere else but the floor.  

It is about 7:30 local time and the museum is not open yet, but we feel as though nothing could top the airbrushed masterpiece before us and leave.  

Incidentally, we are in Madison County, Iowa, home to the bridges of Madison County.  Apparently they are red covered bridges that all look the same and cannot be driven over.  We don't see any, so I drew a picture instead. 

Iowa is turning out to be a lovely place.  Rolling hills dotted with grazing cows and little farm ponds are reminiscent of JRR Tolkien's shire.  

We stop in a town along the way to take care of some banking, and are helped by the friendly branch manager, Eric, who immediately impresses me with his ironed shirt.  I don't think I have ever seen a more crisply pressed shirt and spend most of our interaction with him wondering how the sleeves are pressed so well without having a crease running from the shoulder to the cuff.  

Could it be that I have not had a proper shower in a few days and am already wowed by the trappings of civilization?  

Eric warns us that Iowa is about to get ugly again, and he is right.  The hills go back underground and vast swaths of nothingness greet us for mile after mile.  

Soon Hubs notices that there is another Airstream right behind us!  Several days on the road, and we have not seen a single Airstream until this one shows up on our tail.

They are in a bigger hurry than we are and pass, but not without a friendly Airstream wave.

As afternoon wears on, I start researching places to camp for the night.  We decide on Newton Hills State park in South Dakota, but are very disappointed to learn that it will cost $27 for one night ($20 for the camping fee and $7 for the entrance fee).  We don't need electrical hookups and don't have time to explore, so at this point beauty is wasted on us.  $27 is too steep for our wallets and we drive on. 

I hear internet rumors of free camping at the Menno City Park in South Dakota.  Menno is the next town along our route and we soon find ourselves in a blip on the map with a population of 608.  For anybody else looking for this free camping spot, the locals probably don't even know about it.  

It is located on Park Street and is actually a rough basketball court with three electrical hookup posts along the back side.   

When we finally find it and pull in, puffs of cottonwood drift by in the evening glow, giving the illusion of snow.  The town cop stops by and informs us that this spot costs $10/night (he says it is for the electric, so I don't know if it is free it you don't plug in) and collects the due.  

The rest of the evening does not bear mentioning, as we discover a problem with the 120 volt electric that has the potential to be catastrophic.   Exhausted and frustrated, we don't even have an appetite for dinner and go to bed.  

p.s.  If you have found this in an internet search for the free camping spot in Menno, there is also a free dump station all the way at the end of Park Street after passing the City park on your left.  It will be on your right and is next to a track.  

That square of cement in the lower left corner is the dump station.

When we were there, the potable water pump did not work, so we hauled water from the pump next to the playground (by the flagpole) in the park.  

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