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Music of the Storm






-----We left Mitchell at 10:00 and hit I-90 towards Sioux Falls. For the first time since the day we left Olympia, we spent time off of that particular road, as we merged onto I-29 southbound towards Sioux City. But before Sioux City, we got off on ND-50 towards Vermillion, home of the National Music Museum. Like many of the great museums, it's one that withstands repeated visits and elicits the same stupefied fascination each time, even if a great many of their exhibits stay identical. Their Javanese Gamelan—one of the most complete outside Indonesia—had been brought down to the main floor for a recent performance by the local ensemble, and their front desk area was altered, but other than that it remained exactly as expected (and previously described in GART4: VI – "Clarinet on the Cob").


-----My one complaint about the NMM is that, while the girl at the front desk was very pleasant, their Web site—only recently refurbished from the completely inadequate husk of one that they'd had theretofore—is filled with some of the most execrable pretentiousness this side of a tattooed hipster who passes off pieces of gravel as deep artistic expression. NMM policies prohibit returning e-mails of any kind to anyone who doesn't give them at least $100 per annum. Their communications director was, I have reason to believe, the leader of a tour group of entirely out-of-control kids who, despite being of small number, more than made up for it in complete obnoxiousness and loudly voiced desires for two demonstrations of an equally loud nickelodeon-style harmonium, which they got.


-----Road construction marred the South Dakota-Iowa border, and it was the very road construction that, in 2015, gave us the pesky windshield crack that eventually forced us home from southern Utah in the course of three days. They've not made a lick of progress in as far as I can tell, but we got through it unscathed all the same. (It continues to bother me, however, that North Sioux City is the southernmost point in South Dakota.)


-----We came down the western side of Iowa and split off before the Omaha metropolitan area—which we could see in the distance—and then headed halfway across the state to Des Moines. It's stereotypically Iowan countryside, with farmlands of corn and occasional cattle going up and down rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Various two-story houses—not skimpy on size—were placed under the shade of small groves of trees. It's one of those drives where the most exciting thing about it are some of the signs for the minor attractions situated a county away, such as John Wayne's birthplace. (We found the occasional deer sightings much more interesting.)


-----We navigated through the residential area of West Des Moines to our hotel. Upon checking in, my dad almost immediately asked the girl at the front desk how close the nearest Culver's was, and she seemed a little concerned for his Butterburger® craving until we told her of our recent whereabouts and the fact that we can't get them at home.


-----It was Culver's indeed, though to get out we had the issue of construction, which necessitated ... yes, you probably guessed it—a gravel break. (And in true gravel break fashion, we had to pass someone on its 1.5 lanes.) It was pleasant to be in an establishment where there, for once, weren't any rowdy kids under the watch of ineffectual parents. Most patrons seemed to be at the drive-through, and there seemed to be quite a few of them—though we looked out beyond them into the unusual sunset colors against the storm clouds of the south. They seemed to be further south and moving due east, but we didn't want to take any chances where hail two inches in diameter may be involved—and, sure enough, they soon called for such hail in Des Moines. Fortunately for us, the rest of the patrons of this hotel had not had the bright idea of moving their respective cars to shelter under the overhang of the adjoining—and currently unoccupied—convention center.


-----We flipped the TV on, and it took us a while to locate the local channels. When we did, we soon learned that hail of such diameter—baseball-sized now, they warned—was not really much of a concern to them. If anything, the anchors treated the subject with detached fascination as opposed to the programming-preempting red alerts that such weather would warrant in North Carolina. Not even a ticker on the bottomline kept us informed during the commercial breaks. We waited for the hail to come, and the worst-looking cell passed with much lightning and much wind, but not a stone of hail.


-----My dad, when realigning the car underneath its protective awning, let another car park behind, who turned out to be one with an Alaskan plate. As it turns out, the man who drove it was from Fairbanks and was familiar with the barbecue at Big Daddy's. He was shocked to find out that we drove the Alaska and Top of the World Highways with no punctured tires, no dings in the paint, and no cracks in the windshield.


-----Tomorrow: across the rest of Iowa to Champaign, Illinois—unless, of course, we catch up with the slowly moving storm.

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