#WOMBATSDOAMERICA Day 9
Posted by wombat37
Blogging our recent US trip day by day, four weeks after the event.
Wednesday 13th August – South Dakota
We were up at 3am and pretty soon on the road, Tom driving, Kim chatting in lively fashion. Bless those two for getting up at sparrowfart to drive us the two hours to Buffalo, an airport which is helpfully built in a straight line.
We had TSA-pre on our new tickets and so breezed through security. At the gate the agents were asking for volunteers to give up their seats as the flight was overbooked. When the woman on the gate also asked if anyone wanted any bags checking through to the final destination, we handed over our (fairly cumbersome) carry-ons, on the grounds that it would make it harder for them to bump us off the flight. Things worked out fine as it happened, as on the flight we saw two people who had volunteered for the $400 compensation. Mary wondered whether they got to keep the compensation if, as here, there had been room for them after all.
Most of my thoughts on the flight to Minneapolis were picking over the fact that in the Twin Cities we needed to check for our seats on the flight to Sioux Falls. I also fretted about our bags. Would they make it all the way, given that we lacked seat numbers? I should have kept one back. Worry worry worry – wombats are born to worry.
A child sitting by the window closed the blind before take-off. Strange child. Kim had provided us with snacks for the flight – cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels. Yum and nom, and possibly other three letter words ending in ‘m’.
All went without a hitch at Minneapolis, the desk agent simply printing off our seat-numbered boarding passes as soon as I asked. The aircraft taxied for so long at Minneapolis that Mary wondered if perhaps we would simply drive all the way to Sioux Falls. This was a dinky little plane, a CRJ200, and perhaps the smallest yet. It made plenty of clunks and rattles. I rather like the small aircraft, I’ve decided. The roads far below became remarkably long and straight.
Our bags did arrive safely with us at FSD, although my backpack had an odd yellow smudge across it. Janine, looking radiant, met us at the gate, having apparently just that minute arrived. South Dakota was Technicolor sunny. Janine’s car was dead posh, with button-operated sliding doors that took me at least two days to get the hang of.
Janine and Barry immediately took us to a place called, I think, Perkins for an enormous breakfast – eggs, bacon, hash brown, bread. There might have been a sausage. There was certainly syrup. My eggs were scrambled rather than my requested over-easy – oh the discomforts of foreign travel. Barry sloshed his over-easy eggs onto my plate in a show of manly consideration. I took to him immediately. The food was like a big warm hug after our early start and airport travails.
Half-way between Sioux Falls and Chamberlain we stopped at a town called Mitchell, and looked over a large building the walls of which were plastered with different coloured corn cobs laid in intricate designs. This was the Corn Palace, a large hall that is used for lots of community functions, and is decorated every year with corn murals. It was interesting to see the templates for which murals had not yet been stuck up. Inside were a number of merchandise stalls, which made for a good browse. I’d have bought myself a Davy Crockett hat but they only had child sizes, the fools.
Another hour along the interstate brought us to the Missouri River, and the bridge that led across to Janine’s sprawling home. A quick drive through Chamberlain first gave the impression that it was very small-town America, which was just the sort of place I wanted to see. Oacoma, the town name used in Janine and Barry’s address, was almost not there. Just a scattering of houses with no shops.
The dogs greeted us – irrepressible Ranger, old farty Sam, and Lady, a black lab who was not at all well. Barry took her off to the vet shortly after we arrived, where she was kept in overnight for tests and observation. Janine’s house is large and lovely, very well appointed and laid out, with a marvellous sweeping view of the river. We had our own suite – bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and bathroom – close to Barry’s study which was stuffed with books and animal heads on the walls.
On his return, and after we’d settled, Barry took me out on his Grasshopper – a small open-to-the-elements 4×4 thingy. Ranger sat between us, peering ahead. That was enjoyable in itself – the wind in my face, bugs in my mouth, and a big dog’s ears flapping against my face – but having fun with Ranger was even better. We halted by the river, at a boat dock, where Barry flung a wooden duck, Ranger’s retrieving toy, into the lapping water. Ranger leaped into the water with a mighty splash, swimming powerfully back, duck in his mouth.
After a couple more leaps, we drove the Grasshopper around an undulating lea while Ranger looked for rabbits. More often than not we spotted them before he did, and had to point them out. He managed to corner one by a bush but it outsmarted him, dashing away between his legs. He continued to sniff the bush, confused. An excellent dog indeed.
Towards sunset we crossed to the eastern shore and up the side of the valley to a viewpoint that overlooked the broad sweep of the river. A stone sculpture, tipi-like, reached out of the trees to the cobalt sky. Lewis and Clark had passed through there, and we were able to admire a view that they too must have witnessed, the crimson sun setting across the wide Big Muddy. The name Missouri, I’m told, comes from the Missouri tribe, whose name in turn means ‘people with wooden canoes’.
I was surprisingly sanguine at Janine’s tales of ‘chiggers’, small bugs that would crawl up your legs and bite your ‘private underneaths’. My bollocks felt unthreatened. Perhaps it was a sign of relaxation combined with fatigue, but I was also unperturbed by the sign that read ‘DANGER, POISONOUS SNAKES’.
For that evening at least, this wombat did not worry.