The Corn Palace is an 8th Wonder of the World. Conceived in 1890 as a celebration of the harvest and to promote the town, it is today the only corn palace left in the world. And YOU get to see it here:
It is made of corn of various colors, wheat, and other grains, attached to the building to create murals depicting various events or themes. This year’s theme is Rock of Ages, and portrays various singing artists from Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson.
At the beginning of the year, a committee decides on the theme. A local artist creates the murals and chalks what goes where on the building which has a black chalkboard type surface. Then the workers attach the corn and grains, sort of like paint by numbers.
Inside is a 3200 seat theater and basketball court. The Palace hosts the local high school basketball team, The Kernels.
Tidbits of information: South Dakota became the 40th State in 1889. I bet you were dying to know that.
Barbara says we have to stop dilly-dallying around and head west toward Mount Rushmore.
The direct route from here to there is Interstate 90. We generally travel 4-5 hours between campgrounds. That takes us about 180 to 200 miles, with a stop for lunch. Although I am quite comfortable driving the Sphinx, as you can imagine it is a tiny bit stressful. Since we are in farm country, campgrounds are spread out. So, it would be going much longer than 200 miles, or shorter.
Our first stop is Welcome, Minnesota, population 689.
There is absolutely nothing to do in Welcome. Since the town was established in 1890 and there are only 689 people living here, that tells the story.
We saw smoke a short distance from our camp, so we went to investigate. It was a fully involved barn fire. That was today’s excitement.
We were welcomed everywhere.
There are miles and miles of corn fields.
Barbara tried talking to the local people, but they were not very responsive.
Wabasha, Minnesota to Welcome, Minnesota 169.5 miles
It was a beautiful day to take a paddle boat ride down Old Man River.
Lake City is where the Mississippi meets the Chippewa river and widens out to Lake Pepin. Not only is it the largest lake on the river, but also one of the few natural lakes, formed about 400 million years ago. The others are man made as a result of 21 dams on the Mississippi.
Many were out enjoying themselves.
The Pepin lake is 22 miles long and 2 miles wide. There is only one working lighthouse on the Mississippi River, and here it is:
By coincidence, Lake City was having their annual Junk Crush. And boy, did they have junk.
Everything you could imagine, and more, including a barn door.
Barbara did take time out to dip her piggies in the Mississippi River.
In 1782, after a 6 year debate, the US Congress chose the Bald Eagle as the symbol of our nation. To them it represented courage, freedom, and immortality (who knows why immortality). The more practical man, Benjamin Franklin, wanted the Turkey to be our national bird.
As you can see, the Bald Eagle is not bald. The name actually comes from an old English word — balde — which meant “white” rather than hairless. The English settlers therefore named the “Bald Eagle” meaning “white-headed eagle”.
The National Eagle Center, located in Wabasha, Minnesota, has an amazing exhibit of Bald Eagles. Their purpose is to educate about the eagles, and encourage their growth.
Why here? The Mississippi river meets other rivers here in Wabasha. The rapid current prevents the river from freezing. This, therefore is a feeding ground of fish for the eagles migrating South looking for food. During the winter there are over 500 eagles in this area.
This education center was built to view the river and the eagles. Eagles that are injured and can no longer survive in the wild are brought here to help in the education.
Continuing our westerly direction we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. We followed the scenic byway along the west side of the river from Wisconsin to Wabasha, Minnesota. Wabasha is the oldest town, established in 1830, in what is now the State of Minnesota. It is named in honor of an Indian Chief of the Sioux Nation, Chief Wa-pa-shaw. Minnesota became a state on Tuesday, May 11, 1868. The territory became a US possession as the result of the War of 1812, known here as the Blackhawk War, named for Chief Blackhawk who fought on the side of the British.
Of course, the first thing we did after setting up camp was to go down to the river for a nice dinner.
The town of Wabasha is now best known as the filming place of the 1993 movie Grumpy Old Men, starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.
The author of the screenplay lived here and the movie is based on stories his grandfather told him of the colorful characters of the town.
From this point, the Mississippi River is 1,151.2 miles from New Orleans. Barbara wrote a letter to her brother who lives there, put it in a bottle and dropped it in the river at 7:02 PM. Al, the letter should reach you in 11 days 13 hours and 43 minutes. Wait for it.
Baraboo, Wisconsin to Wabasha, Minnesota 147.3 miles