Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wrapping up Our Summer Vacation

So let me finish up with our vacation :). We spent another fun day visiting a quartzite quarry and then a cheesy ghost town. First, the quarry. We took a bus down deep into the quarry, where they were preparing to dynamite that afternoon. The quarry is full of Sioux quartzite, which is what Sioux Falls is built on, so it's plentiful and it's cheap. It’s so cheap there you can get it for around $10 a ton. An hour away, you might pay $20 a ton, and more the farther away you go, but locally this beautiful pink rock is incredibly cheap, so it is used in many building projects, which leaves you with pink buildings, sidewalks, and roads. Some are overtly pink, others simply tinged with pink. But everywhere you look, you see shades of pink.

After we went down into the quarry, we toured the place where all that rock is ground up into smaller and smaller sizes, from 6 inch rocks to 4 inch rocks, to 2-inch rocks and gravel. (They even make pink sand there.) The quarry also does a lot of recycling. We saw huge piles of used concrete and asphalt, along with freshly ground mountains of pink, gray, tan, and black stones. Some people on our bus were locals, who had attended an elementary school nearby, and told of how the children would cover their heads when the quarry dynamited, as the building would shake and dust would filter down from the ceiling. A roller skating rink also used to be in the vicinity, and each time after they dynamited, the quarry would have to send workers over to help put the roller skates back on the shelf, as they would roll off from the vibrations.

The ghost town we saw was just that. A ghost town. At one time it was someone’s great passion, and you could see that he put his heart and soul into it, but that was twenty years ago, and my guess is he grew older and couldn’t keep the place up, and his family doesn't share his passion for western history. So what was designed to be a replica of an old ghost town has indeed become one. It’s sad, as the information there was fascinating, but the displays and mannequins had been exposed to the elements way too long, and things were either rusted, rotting, or falling apart. Clothes were shredded on the mannequins, leaving them looking like zombies. In all, it had a creepy Halloween feel to it, and I was glad we were there during broad daylight :).

After the quarry and before the ghost town, though, my son and I took a trolley ride around town, got off at Sioux Falls park, and had a relaxing cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe overlooking Sioux Falls. (if you click on the link, scroll past the three maps to see the photos of the Falls.)
Afterward we went up into the observation tower overlooking the town and the falls, and could have bought our own piece of Sioux quartzite at the gift shop for a dollar, but we passed. Didn't seem right to pay $1 for one rock, when we knew we could get a ton of them for $10 :).

On a different day we attempted to visit the South Dakota Art Museum, on the campus of South Dakota State University, but when we got there, we discovered only one of the seven galleries was open, due to renovations. One gallery didn’t take long to get through, but they did have a nice gift shop, and I did end up buying some art created by local homeless women as Christmas presents for friends. We then wandered down the street to the nearby SDSU Agricultural Heritage Museum, which once again I found fascinating. Not so much the tractors and farm implements, but they'd apparently commissioned a local artist to draw cartoons about what life was like on the farm, which made reading about it much more interesting than reading a simple plaque.

The highlight of the day, however, was visiting the SDSU Dairy Sales Bar, an ice cream shop in the Dairy Micro building of the SDSU campus. There, students made their own ice cream from cows in the Dairy program on campus. It was, I swear, the best ice cream I have ever tasted. (And I have managed to pass up any and all ice cream since, because it made even my die-hard favorite all-natural brand taste like nothing but sugar.)

This ice cream tasted like the ice cream of my youth. I haven’t had a butter pecan that tasted like that in years. They gave us huge servings, and for very little money. I told my son they have all a college student needs to survive here—lots of calories for cheap, and cheap coffee.

After that, we walked through McCrory Gardens (the horticulture part of the campus) to let our ice cream settle. In all, it was another fine day in South Dakota. We were blessed. Because while everyone was frying back home and out on the east coast, we had the best weather you could imagine for our trips and tours.

Until we tried to come home, and storms in Detroit and mechanical difficulties caused us first to be diverted, then delayed, then cancelled and rescheduled by Delta Air Lines, and in all spend 30 hours getting home for a trip that took us only four hours on the way out there. I was NOT planning on sleeping in my clothes in some strange hotel in Minneapolis, no sir, but that is what happened.

But even that was a learning experience, for my son if not for me. I've been stranded before, a few times. Now he'll know what it feels like, and know there's not a whole lot you can do about it when you're at the mercy of an airline. What I want to know, however, is why when they give you a meal voucher, it never covers the cost of even the simplest meal at the airport. Surely they know what things cost in those terminal shops.

But I'll save my sour grapes for another day. In all, we had a wonderful time in South Dakota, and would go back again in a heartbeat. It's a very beautiful and creative place. I left with a whole new appreciation for life on the prairie, then and now.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey Liana,
Though you didn't think it at the time, I'm sure you will look back on the end of this trip as an adventure, and I'll bet your son will remember it long after the wonderful ice cream and sightseeing memories fade. He'll also have your conduct during that time as a role model for future derailments. I'm so glad you had lots to see and do in South Dakota. I just finished Black Hills by Nora and thought that SD might be a place I'd like to one day visit.

Morgan Mandel said...

The ice cream place would be the highlight of my trip somewhere also! I don't keep it at home, but I'm sure there's no calories, sugar or cholesterol in ice cream elsewhere.

Morgan Mandel

StephB said...

Liana what an interesting blend. I remember growing up in NH we had plenty of quarries. We had an old abandoned one, not far from my Jr. High School. It was very deep and rugged. Beautiful in it's own way. Here in California, there's a ghost town not far from Barstow that I visited. Very different landscaping from NH. Not as picturesque, or picturesque in a different way. Sounds like you had the best of both on your vacation.

Thanks so much for sharing.


jodi said...

lol, sounds like my trip back home. Sleeping in the Houston airport on a bench, and trying to browbeat people into giving me a seat on the next flight out. It sounds like your tour was a lot of fun. When you get out this way, you "know" you have someplace to stay. We can check out the Olympic mountains and ride a ferry. (((hugs)))