Stop fourteen was the KOA in Mitchell, South Dakota for two nights. As originally planned this was a one night stand, but we left North Sioux City one day early making these two stops, two nights each. Traveling on South Dakota interstates is so easy! No confusing directions, the roads are fairly smooth, all you do is set the cruise control and let her go. From there to here was only one turn!
Our hosts Jerry and Jim remind me of the odd couple, only I can’t tell which one is Felix and which one is Oscar. I think most people stay at this KOA to get off I-90 for the night and don’t even disconnect their trailer or toad. Usually, you know what you are going to get at a KOA, but this one had three surprises. 1. The seven striped ground squirrels. They look like a chipmunks until you get close enough to see all the other stripes on their backs. They burrow holes in the ground and scurry all over the fields. They are harmless, and everywhere, and cute actually. 2. The largest wind turbine at any KOA in North America. Probably the only wind turbine at a KOA in North America, but they don’t lie, it is here. 3. Six tornado shelters scattered throughout the property. They look like two 6′ x 8′ cement septic tanks stacked on top of each other, with a steel door with a window that latches to seal you in in the front, and two small air vents in the back. South Dakota averages thirty six tornados per year. Our ratings: 4 out of 10.
As the brochure says: “Everyone brings joy to this campground, some when they get here, some when they leave.”
One of the must see stops as you drive across South Dakota is The World’s Only Corn Palace. You cannot drive by and NOT get off the Interstate to see it. It’s a large hall in downtown Mitchell built in 1892 to showcase local farmer’s corn products. It is still used today for exhibits, shows, banquets, the high school prom, and state and college basketball tournaments. The exterior murals undergo a majestic transformation each year when some 325,000 colorful ears of corn are painstakingly sliced and nailed into place, creating a larger-than-life work of folk art. Thirteen shades of corn are grown and harvested by Mitchell farmers, and the murals are designed by students at Dakota Wesleyan University. It is a year round process of removing, redesigning and recreating the exterior.
Kathryn and I have discovered we really enjoy the off the beaten path kind of places. Jerry gave us a great tip on a local place to visit few have ever heard of, St. Peter’s Rock Grotto in Farmer. It is in the middle of absolutely no where, past corn fields, and down a dirt road. It was hand made by Father Scheier from 1926 – 1933, (there is a permanent mural of him inside the Corn Palace high above the basketball court) using rocks he brought from the Black Hills. It is on the property of St. John Neumann Catholic Church renamed from St. Peter’s in 1998. Fortunately it was restored in 2001. The crown is open to allow sun into the grotto.
The town of Farmer was another discovery. Some time during the 1940’s the entire town was destroyed by tornado and fire except for two houses and the grotto. I tried to research the history of Farmer but could not find much other than the current population. According to the census it is ten people, five men and five women. We saw three young children playing in a yard, which would be thirty percent of the town?!
Also just off I-90 is the town of Alexandra where we discovered the beautiful sanctuary few have ever heard of, the Fatima Family Shrine. It is on the same property as St. Mary of Mercy Church, a convent, and a school. It is truly a prayerful solace in South Dakota. Dedicated in 1987, it is a tribute to the Fatima in Portugal where Mary appeared to Shepard children, Lucia Santops and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Morta.
At the base of the Fatima Family Shrine are soil and rock from the exact place next to the oak tree where Mary appeared to the three children in Portugal. There are four chapels made of South Dakota granite each with marble statues of the Holy Family, Jesus and the angel as he appeared to the children. There are fifteen golden stars in the backdrops of stained glass, representing the mysteries of the Rosary.
On our last day in Mitchell, we went to The Depot Pub & Grill for a luncheon entry into the best hamburger on the trip contest. It is located in the old Mitchell Train Station, downtown, right down the street from the Corn Palace. The Depot Pub & Grill burger is currently in first place!
We ended the night with a competitive round of miniature golf. Kathryn beat me by one stroke. And of course, we had to have two bags of popcorn for dinner.
The complete descriptions and photos of our burger selections as well as all the other places we discovered are on the Post Cards 2021 Page. Check them out! On to Belvidere, South Dakota.