Mitchell, South Dakota

August 18th

The front entrance to the Mitchell Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

Who could want more ... FREE Parking, FREE Admission, FREE Guided Tours and FREE Tourist Information. Do you think the vendor at Mount Rushmore could take a lesson from these folks?

After setting up camp, we took a ride down to the point at Lake Mitchell

"I´m not cooking dinner tonight ... I´m gonna sit here and relax a while!" Ok, but what´s up with the undone belt buckle?

Ken, our camping neighbor, giving John updated information on Indiana

It was Sunday morning and time to leave Lead, South Dakota partly because we´d done everything we´d wanted to and partly because the forest fire, just 30 miles southeast of our campsite, was out of control and growing larger. We went to bed Saturday night with news that the fire had consumed 4,500 acres, was out of control and the town of Rockerville was being evacuated. Sunday morning we discovered that Route 16 was closed, the town of Keystone may be evacuated and the fire had grown to over 6,000 acres overnight. We could see and smell the smoke, so it was an early start down the mountain toward Sturgis and I90.

Breaking camp at 0600, there was ice on the bike and it was 33 degrees outside. Showers were first (this time in the cottages) and then it was time to pack up. John had a hard time getting the bike started, but after it cranked over and was put inside the trailer, we backed up the rig to dump the tanks and take on some more water. A quick truck rinse was next to get the dust and dog pee off, and then we headed out toward Deadwood for fuel. We were actually on the road by 0730.

Smoke from the forest fire was thick enough to almost block out the sun over Rapid City, South Dakota

The sky was clear when we reached Sturgis, but as soon as we hit I90 and headed south toward Rapid City, the smoke became more evident. Once inside Rapid City limits, the smoke was so thick it almost blocked out the sun completely. It was rather interesting also because the blanket of smoke seemed to lay on another blanket of fresh air, so we couldn´t even smell it as we drove under. Then, I90 wrapped around the town and began taking us to the east where they sky cleared up nicely.

The landscape for the rest of the day ranged from grasslands to cattle ranges to badlands and finally to green trees and rolling hills near Mitchell, South Dakota. We´d planned on stopping in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace (Skip told us about this one), but had to fuel the truck first. Stopping in Oacona for fuel, about 60 miles west of Mitchell, was a quick pit stop and then it was eastbound again. Why fuel? Because our mileage was terrible with the southerly winds pushing on the trailer all day about 30 MPH.

On our last leg of the day, we saw a pretty severe traffic problem on one of the on/exit ramps to the interstate. About 10 cowboys (complete with horses, hats, chaps and whips) were trying to herd at least 200 cattle (moo-moo´s) into an area where they could be controlled. Spilling over onto the roadway and going wherever they wanted to, the cows wanted no parts of that! Shortly thereafter, and while driving east, we saw 3 cattle semi´s heading westbound. The drivers were chatting on the CB´s about who gets the bulls and who gets the cows, how much each cow weighs and how much the bulls weighed. It was rather comical listening to them on the radio as they joked and kidded each other, but times like this are very serious. Just think, one of those moo-moo´s might escape and not make it to your dinner plate! Or worse yet, one might escape, find a stray bull somewhere in the woods, have mad passionate love for weeks and then have a calf that could grow up in the wild and become big foot´s pet!

Did we have to pay to park while visiting the Mitchell Corn Palace? Unlike Mount Rushmore ... absolutely not!

We told you on our last page that an update would be forthcoming about the parking situation in Mitchell and at the Corn Palace. Whelp, not only did we park for FREE, but the Corn Palace also had FREE Admission, FREE Guided Tours and FREE Tourist Information. Maybe the vendor at Mount Rushmore could take a lesson or two from the folks in Mitchell, South Dakota.

After our visit inside the palace and the gift shops nearby, it was on the road again to our next campground. Just 1.25 miles from the palace, Lake Mitchell Campground was easy to find and beautiful. It was a full service campground sitting right on Lake Mitchell. We registered, purchased some firewood and then setup camp in a paved, pull-thru site. Next, it was on the bike down to the point at the lake and then a quick spin around the park.

Sissy acting a little corny across the street from the palace

The laundry was close by inside the park, so Sissy accomplished that while John started a fire in the pit. John had already been told he wasn´t getting a fresh cooked meal (left overs were on the agenda), but we both wanted a campfire to sit around and smell (you´d think we´d had enough of fire smoke). Our neighbors (Ken and Maxine from Ohio) and (Teddy and Shondra from Minnesota) stopped by for some chat during the evening. Ken even gave John some paperwork on Indiana after finding out Goshen and Elkhart were in our plans.

Teddy, enroute to a wedding in Colorado with his wife, kids and another friend, was heading west in the morning anticipating staying a day in Hill City (a short distance from Mount Rushmore). He was not familiar with the forest fire there, so we promptly filled him in. We even listened to the news for updated information so he wouldn´t be caught by surprise and be forced to evacuate his campsite there. He ultimately decided to drive to Rapid City and call Hill City for updated information before setting up camp.

Shondra and Teddy posing for a pic before heading back to their campsite.

As soon as the sun went down, the mosquitoes began munching so it was time to head inside and hit the sack. We were asleep not long after turning the lights out because we´d had a long day. A day we thoroughly enjoyed with excitement and boredom all packed up in one.

John & Sissy EXCLUSIVE RATINGS: (1 bad - good 10)

  • Campground - 10
  • People - 10
  • Roads - 9
  • Scenery - 8
  • Traffic - 10
  • Things to Do - 9
  • Weather - 9

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