Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Corn States, Plains Indians, Floods, Shooting Fish and a Visit to Hospital!

I don’t know how it happened, but I have got behind on my blogging, so this is my “catch up” post.

I have been riding in a number of states in the last 3 days – Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Okay, some of these States I have only just flirted with, but I was there all the same. As you probably know, I like riding on the back roads, for these show you the true America. You get to see a wide range of people and things. In riding these roads over the past few days, I have seen one thing more than anything else....

Corn.

Mile upon mile of it. I will do a post in the next few days about corn, but for now, I will just call these states I have ridden through “The Corn States”. Away from the cities and on the back roads corn has an enormous influence on the way of life and farming in particular. You see almost nothing else. Except beans!

Such is the different way of life, that I have seen things for the first time in these states that I haven’t seen in the other areas I have been through. I get the feeling that farming shapes a lot here. Much is geared towards maximising the crop yield from the land and this is on a huge scale. The people no doubt work hard and it shows – the people look tough. They do things differently here from the places I have seen in the US before. Indeed I think the people are different. I don’t feel as welcome here as in other places and I entered a cafe to be looked at by everyone in there. But I am sure that if I needed help, I would get anything I needed or asked for. I saw a great example of that today when my GPS stopped working (again!) and I while I travelled for about 20 miles on the back roads, I got hopelessly lost and stopped at the side of a very straight road and resorted to looking at a map. I was in a very remote area and hadn’t seen another vehicle for a while and the VERY FIRST truck that went by stopped and a huge guy with well worn face and hands climbed down from his cab to check I was ok. Even though I didn’t need his help, I might have done and I was very pleased that he stopped.

One thing struck me a s funny, but maybe that was just my city-boy background. I stopped to fill the bike up and saw this....




















Now, where I come from people have very smaller mowers and they certainly don’t drive them to the gas station! Somehow the thought of driving it there typified the way of life here. It needs filling up so just take it and fill the damn thing up!

I saw these in a field and stopped to see what they are. I am guessing wild turkeys?.... You don’t get many of these in London....


















I have now ridden over 6000 miles and for the first time I saw a wind farm. I believe I rode near one previously, but didn’t see it. I am surprised I haven’t seen more....




















My route took me through the city of Pipestone in Minnesota. I had heard of this place and wanted to find out more about it, plus the Leading Ladies were filthy and if they could speak they would be asking for a wash, so I stopped early at a motel and gave them a bath. Here they are looking lovely once more....




















I can pass on two tips about cleaning your bike on the road. 1. Always ask the hotel / motel if they have any rags or towels that you can use to wash / clean your bike with. I have done this a couple of times and have always been given towels that they can no longer use for guests. At one hotel, when Mike asked, they had a box of towels marked “for motorcycles” – how cool is that! 2. Don’t waste your money on “bug remover” fluids. Thanks to Mike I now know the best way is to get a towel or large piece of cloth, soak it in really hot water and just lay this over your windscreen or whatever the bugs are on. Wait a few minutes and take the towel off, rubbing any stubborn bugs. It works a treat! Getting them out from between your teeth takes a different technique however!

When I woke early the next morning, I was treated to this terrific view outside the motel....


























I wasn’t sure if I would have time to look at it properly, but as Pipestone National Park was just down the road from the motel, I thought I would go check it out. Am I glad I did! It is very small but the story and history of the place is tremendous. It is said by the Plains Indian people that about 2000 years ago there was a great flood in the area which caused the death of many Indian people. One young woman escaped the flood waters by climbing a hill. The Great Spirit, in the form of a large bird landed and talked to the young woman. As the waters receded, they exposed red rock under many layers of normal rock. The great Spirit said the red rock was the blood of those that had died and this rock became sacred. The Indians quarried the rock and made smoking pipes from it, hence the name Pipestone.

The red pipestone is covered by layers of quartzite and this has to this day, been removed by hand using only sledge hammers and wedges. It is extremely hard physical work and no modern equipment is used to uncover and then quarry the sacred rock. Once quarried the pipestone was and continues to be used to make the most important items to the Indians, their pipes. As one woman explains in an excellent video shown at the visitor centre “You have your Bible, we have our Pipes”. Many different tribes used pipes for ceremonial smoking, especially by the elders. Here are a few photos....

Pipestone quarrying continues to this day. This is Pete, who I talked to for a while. He is standing in his “quarry”. Like many Indians, he spends a few weeks a year removing the quartzite to get to the precious pipestone. It was really hot and humid on this day and to work here, with no breeze must have been exhausting....




















Pete’s simple tools. This is all he uses....


























Another quarry, showing the red Pipestone at the bottom....


























Piles of quarried quartzite, which is not used....


























One of the stone workers. She is the 3rd generation in her family to work the stone....


























Some of the pipes. You can buy these at the visitor centre shop....




















They don’t only make pipes....




















If you are in the area, a visit to Pipestone National Park is very worthwhile. Make sure you watch the orientation video. It is very good.

Soon I was on my way again towards Sioux Falls, but on the orad I saw this. It was travelling at about 20 mph....


















The roads around here do not present many cornering challenges....


























I was told that a huge amount of rain had fallen in these states in the past few days and I could see the impact this has had....




















Here is my 6000 mile photo. Wow, I have done 6000 miles already!....




















Another hazard you don’t get in London.... (it smelled good though)....


























I arrived at Sioux Falls. The weather wasn’t great for good photography and due to the high amount of rain in the past few days, many of the areas close to the falls were closed. The extraordinary amount of rainfall had resulted in a raw sewage overflow into the river upstream and the Falls Authorities didn’t want people close to the spray from the falls. Fair enough! Here are a few photos however....






























































































This is my personal favourite. It was statue called “The Thinking Farmer”. Probably like thousands before me, I wondered what he was thinking about....


























There was lots of flooding as I neared Vermillion....




















I had to find another way to get around this....


























As I was taking this photo of the flooded road, something quite disturbing happened. Two young men drove up in a car, got out and walked towards me carrying a loaded hunting bow! Having got over my initial concern, I talked to them and discovered they were shooting their arrows at the fish in the water. I watched and took a few photos....



















































I wasn’t happy with what they were doing. The fish they shot was a carp of about 25 pounds. I knew from fishing in the UK that a fish of this size was probably 40 years old. These two just shot it, pulled it out of the water and left it on the side of the road. Truly gruesome. Knowing the answer, I asked them how old a fish like that was and they quite rightly said about 40 years old. They had no compunction about doing this – to them it was fun. To me, a fish like that would be greatly respected and released back into the water if caught on a rod and line in the UK. To them, it meant nothing and I was pretty angry about their attitude, but I didn’t say anything – they were after all carrying lethal weapons! I did take pictures of the fish one of them shot. I have spared you that picture though.

----------------------------------------------------

Day 43 was a strange day.

The previous day I had rubbed my left eye and I think I pushed a lash into it. I put up with it all day when riding and it bugged me all day. It also stopped me from sleeping as did the backache that I had managed to collect from somewhere. It was still there when I woke and I rode about 40 miles before deciding I had better do something about getting it out. I found The Burgess Health Center, a small hospital in Onawa, Iowa. I was registered by a very nice lady called Kris Fox, who told me she used to be a Wolf. By name that is, before she got married. She had quite a time entering my details onto the hospital computer system as it seemed to only want to take a zip code, which “not being from ‘round these parts” I did not have! She managed to find a way around it soon though.

I saw a nurse (an ex military guy who had been stationed in Basra, Iraq), who took my blood pressure, temperature and pulse rate (yes, I wondered why as well) before he and the ER doctor set about my eye with staining fluid (orange!), numbing drops (they sting) and finally a bottle of eye wash to flush the little bugger out! Note to self – don’t do this again soon as even nice doctors can hurt you even if they are trying very hard not to! I smiled as I discovered the numbing drops don’t work very well....

The hospital....













































I must be really lucky. I have managed to miss all of the rain everybody has been telling me about. The whole area has been deluged and I have only seen a few spts of rain since Lake Placid 19 days ago. Here is more flooding I saw ....







































After so many straight roads, I loved seeing this on my Sat Nav / GPS. This was on the Loess Hills Scenic Byway....



This is in the tiny town of Moorhead, Iowa Pop 232, where I stopped for a very late lunch. So late in fact the place was closed, but the two very kind old ladies who were still there clearing up, made me a lunch anyway :-) ....


























As I was running late due to the eye thing, I decided to catch up some time by using the Interstate. Silly me, for as I went over the bridge to join it, I saw this.... one carriageway, had been eaten and chewed up by an angry road monster....




















Finally, as I neared Lincoln, my stop for the night, I saw a lorry (US = truck)that made me think of home....

20 comments:

biker baby said...

Hopefully, those boys don't have pets. They obviously have no respect for life. I understand hunting for food, but not just for the kill.

Chris Luhman said...

Pretty crummy about the fish. At least they weren't using dynamite. Yikes about the eye! I'm glad you are alright!

Eve said...

Ah!! There was the 6000 mile photo! Hi Gary, yes those were Wild Turkey. I used to get a "herd" of 50 or so at a time. They remind me of dinosaurs.
I was NOT amused by those stupid boys at all.
I LOVED the pictures of the falls! Wow!
Glad your eye is better...but what about your back? Maybe it was the sidecar?? hahaha! That was a bumpy ride!
I'm totally amazed at how far you've gone. Yes Americans are hard working, and most of them is give you a helping hand in a heartbeat!
Ride Safe!

Axel said...

Great report again, thank you. At my parents house we had a small green/yellow John Deere lawnmover to sit on, but we never drove it to the gasoline station :)

Jackie, the Wife xx said...

Hi MD: I was pleasantly surprised by the things you found to write about whilst riding in this part of the Country. :-) ..... The States you are currently touring are not typically known for their extreme beauty, excitement, etc. As you have shown, corn is their way of life and has been for a very, very long time. ..... The pic of the tree in the mist was superb, rather enchanting. :-) ..... The birds you happen to come across were Wild Turkeys. These are the "girls". hehehe Only the "boys" have the huge, beautiful tails. If anyone is interested to learn more about this wonderful bird, please click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Turkey ..... Here are some pics of the "Boys and Girls": http://www.google.co.uk/images?rlz=1T4GZAZ_enGB356GB356&q=wild%20turkey&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1419&bih=676 ..... Cute pic of the man riding his lawn more to the service station. It somewhat reminds me of my Grannies farm in Missouri, remembering how it was it seems like 100 years ago. ..... The road monster certainly did a thorough job of ripping the road apart.!. LOL ….. As for the guys shooting fish, I am absolutely appalled, sickened by this activity and very sad to think of it happening. Why do people like that have to exist.?. I think they should be hung out to dry, without any mercy.!. Thank gawd they didn’t try their arrows out on you.!. The possibility of getting the 3:00am phone call from the police to say something has happened to you, is not a comforting feeling, to say the least. xx ….. Your story about the Plains Indians and their red pipestone pipes was incredible. To think that they still produce the pipes in the same way as they did hundreds of years ago is amazing. ….. Apparently, there are eight Indian Tribes in the South Dakota region of the USA, who are native to this region. I have always found Indian Folklore to be fascinating and worthy of note. Here is some additional information on those Tribes. Click Here to learn more: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/southdakota/index.htm ... I am so relieved to know that your eye is getting better.!. Take care and travel safe. Kz, J xx

Milwaukee Dan said...

I've just added Pipestone on places I wish to visit. Thanks for the report Gary. Hope your back is feeling better!

SonjaM said...

Glad your eye is better after the ever so painful treatment. I can't get over those stupid morons with their hunting bows. Hope they get back to their video games soon, or join the military and get sent off to elsewhere.

bluekat said...

I'm glad you're behind on blogging because I'm behind in reading! :)
Great trip report and congrats on 6,000 miles.
The pipestone carvings are beautiful.

Donna aka Froggi said...

Hated to read about those kids...just wrong!!

Just noticed that you are going to be in Sturgis area next week. We've been here since Monday and have already done some great riding. If there is any way to meet up, would love to buy you a beer or a coffee and chat a bit!!

Donna & Stu - fulltime RVing riders

bobskoot said...

Gary:

Too bad about the fish. Imagine living in a small lake for 40 years nearing retirement and look what happens to you.

glad you received medical attention to fix your eye.

those pipestones are neat, makes you want to smoke, even though you don't

somehow you find the neatest places

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

Canajun said...

Great photos of Sioux Falls. Actually pretty good photos overall. 6,000 miles! It's hard to believe you've done that many already.

Anonymous said...

Gary, I am glad your eye is feeling better! I was a pleasure to meet you!! When you said you would put me in your blog, I thought you were kidding, Well, you weren't, Thanks!!!
I hope you have a safe trip, your pictures are awesome, God bless you and your family
Kris Fox

682202 said...

I've never seen Sioux Falls before, I should put it on my list.

It's to bad about the fish, It's most likely they were breaking the law on a number of levels. But breaking the law and getting caught are two different things...

Gary France said...

BB – I used to hunt, but we reared the birds (pheasants) and ate everything we shot, so I have a healthy respect for shooting, but what they were doing was just wrong.

Chris – Dynamite would have made for a good photo though....

Eve – I was a bit late in posting the 6000 mile photo! My back is fine now – maybe it was the sidecar! I had hoped to get nearer to the falls and on the bridge that goes over the river, but this was closed.

Axel – Those lawnmowers are fun!

Jackie – I too am glad you didn’t get that phone call! I found Pipestone to be a fascinating place. I have been surprised by thisarea of the country – much nicer than I imagined!

Dan – Pipestone is small, but worth going to.

Sonja – I think the military would do them some good!

bluekat – I am trying to get back to blogging every day as getting behind just makes it harder to catch up. I am pleased you are trying to catch up with your reading!

Donna – I would love to meet you and Stu in Sturgis for a beer or a coffee!

Bob – That is a great way of putting it about the fish. I used to smoke and sometimes I am tempted, but I never will again! I am able to find these places because of all the research I did before I left London.

Canajun – When I look at my overall map (scroll to the bottom of the page on my blog) and see how much green there is no on there, I too find it hard to believe I have ridden all that way.

Kris – Hi Kris! Thanks for looking at my blog. You will be pleased to know my eye is now fully recovered! Thanks for your help!

GAW – Two different things indeed.....

IHG said...

I'm glad that the people of Iowa were kind to you. Mostly Midwestern people are weary of outsiders but once you get to talking to them you will never meet any people nicer or more likely to help you out when you need help. I find the smaller the town the more helpful they are. The story about the boys and the fish saddened me. They could have at least ate the fish instead of leaving it to perish.

Glad your trip has been so enjoyable so far. Have fun in Sturgis!

Gary France said...

IHG - Generally everybody has been nice to me. Must be that strange license plate and the English accent. Except of course, I don't have an accent! I agree with you about the smaller the town the more helpful they are.

Lucky said...

Great post!

I have to chime in about the carp - in the midwest, carp are an invasive species. The Department of Natural Resources is trying to control their population. When I was a kid, if you caught one it was illegal to throw it back. I haven't fished in Minnesota for years, so I don't know if that's still the case. I hear that people like eating them in other parts of the world, but not so much here in the U.S.

Long story short - the kids aren't serial killers in the making.

Moving on, you wouldn't believe how much fun a lawn tractor can be. :D

Gary France said...

Lucky - That does make it just a little bit more acceptable, but only a little! Does anybody make carp pizza?

Anonymous said...

If it was an Asian Carp they are not a local species. Many places are being overrun by Carp in both the USA and Canada. Good riddens

Gary France said...

Anonymous - Good riddance yes, but there must be a better and more humane way of getting rid of them. Shooting them with a bow and leaving it to die on the side of the road is not very humane.