Saturday, June 20, 2009

What a long, strange trip it's been.....


Minnesota sucks you in as soon as you cross the state line from WI, with a stunning drive along a winding road with water on the right, a gorgeous rockface on the left, and greenery everywhere. That of course is all shot to hell once you drive on a certain distance and come to endless miles of flatness and cornfields, or whatever it is they grow in Minnesota. Turnips maybe.

Of course, as I drive I’m continually on the lookout for Roadside Attractions, the heart and soul of America, as it were. Nothing yet, though I do start seeing signs for something called the Corn Palace, which might have promise though I’m skeptical.

In short order, I’m in South Dakota, having found no appropriate RAs at which to wile away some time. There’s a moment of excitement when I see a sign for Laura Ingalls’ home in DeSmet, so I take the exit to check that out. And then see the sign – “DeSmet – 55 miles.” Sorry, Laura, even for you I’m not going 110 miles out of my way. Honestly, just what does one have to DO around here to see a Roadside Attraction, dammit??

After about the 100th sign, I think, FINE, I’ll stop at the damn Corn Palace. I picture it as a tacky, schlocky, new-age homage to All Things Corn, and as soon as I get off the interstate, start looking for large corn stalks rising from the sky. What I come across is, well, it’s something. In recounting this later to friends, it was suggested that I revisit my thrill over the Corn Palace when I’m not quite so sleep-deprived…but no, I still think it was kind of cool. Instead of the modern monolith I imagined, the Corn Palace is a large building of interesting architecture, with domes and all, painted every year with a different theme and artwork that’s designed by local artists. Even better is the history of the Corn Palace, which I discover when I stroll around inside and look at the pictures/photos everywhere. The first CP was built in 1892 as a showcase for South Dakota, was rebuilt in 1905 to expand it, and then upon the realization that large wooden structures into which thousands of people were crammed at once for various events wasn’t such a good idea, the current CP was built, in 1921.

What impresses me is that every sign in and just outside of town gives directions and proximity based on closeness to the Corn Palace. “Antique mall, 2 blocks south of Corn Palace.” “Indian Village, ½ mile north of Corn Palace.” Needless to say, these people take their corn seriously.

* * * * *
As I drive – and as a side note, why the hell does ALL of I-90 have construction going on? Seriously, through every state, miles of one-lane roads – I take note of some of the billboards. There are the many for Wall Drug, naturally, and as soon as I entered South Dakota there were (in rapid succession) billboards that were anti-abortion, with religious sayings, and for gun shops. But what really made me wonder about our educational system were the ones for some garage/auto repair service, that boasted about the shop’s skills in car repair, and then had this in large print: “24-HOUR TOE SERVICE.” At first I thought, what, they do pedicures too? And then realized that the actuality was far, far worse, that that's how they think you spell "tow"…….

* * * * * * *

It is while in South Dakota (still) that I hear the most odd and disturbing radio commercial I’ve ever heard in my life. It starts with a voiceover talking about John, who left the house that morning never to return, as he was killed in a car crash on his way to work. And yet, before he walked out the door, never to see his family or kids again and leaving his kids without a father (they emphasize this part), he took the time to leave a screensaver message on his son’s computer, telling him how proud he was of him for playing a great basketball game the night before, and that he loved him. Going on, the ad then stated that most people don’t take the time to do those things, “not because they’re too busy, but because they’re neglectful.” Yet John did the uncommon thing, and therefore left an uncommon legacy for his family, and we should all strive to do the uncommon. “This message was brought to you by the uncommon…”

(and here I’m thinking that it’s going to be from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, or some other religious or non-profit group)

“……folks at Gary Marshall’s Chevy Dodge dealer! With uncommon deals, so come in NOW to get yours!”

I kid you not. What. The. Hell. How exactly did THAT meeting go over at the ol’ Dodge dealership?

Bob: “So boss, I was thinking, for our new ad we could parallel this guy’s death in a car accident and how unexpected that is, with OUR dealership and how we have these great unexpected deals! Or something like that.”
Boss: “Bob, I like the way you think.” Barking at another poor sales lackey who doesn’t have the brilliance of Bob, “Mike, get our ad people on this. And why the hell don’t the rest of you come up with these great ideas, like Bob here?”

(to be continued)


t-odd said...

Saw that you are in from the swim - looks like it might have been a rough one - some of the pro times seem slow. I'll keep checking in.

Roadie in Vancouver said...

BOOTYLICIOUS TRIBABE is listed as your profession in the results ;-)

Can a pictorial in the annual Triathlete Magazine swimsuit issue be far behind?

t-odd said...

I have no defense for the boringness of southern Minnesota. It got flattened in the last ice age and never really recovered. But Spam is made in Austin, MN so I guess there is one contribution. South Dakota is a mess - I do not understand that state. (I must say that there are many wonderful people who live in S. Dakota, unfortunately, collectively the state is a nightmare.)