Most places we travel, camp and visit are, by some definition, destination locales. Tourism bureaus publish slick magazines and brochures promoting local and regional draws. In some places, visitors’ dollars account for a good chunk of the area economy, so no effort is spared to bring them in.
Mitchell has The World’s Only Corn Palace. That’s the draw. Other businesses and attractions count on the Corn Palace luring travelers off the Interstate and try like hell to keep them here. That’s the game. The cool thing, for those of us who take the time, is that there’s a fair amount to see and do.
Five nights here has given us four days off the road to relax, recharge and explore. This morning, on day three, we decided to make a short drive north of the campground to see the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.
Discovered in 1910 by a student at Dakota Wesleyan, it was designated a National Historic Site in 1964. Over 1,100 years ago it was home to a cluster of mud-walled lodges surrounded by a defensive ditch and a timber palisade, situated on on a bluff overlooking Firesteel Creek, now Lake Mitchell.
The visitors center hosts a museum, including a reconstructed lodge, and the obligatory gift shop. A short walk outside leads to Thomsen Center Archeodome — a large structure built over the ongoing archeological dig, where guests can watch the painstaking work required to uncover artifacts.
It’s the only active archeological site in South Dakota that’s open to the public.
I think it’s safe to say that the Mitchell Site isn’t a place everyone will make time to visit. Deb and I found it intriguing and informative — it’s a significant archeological site, on its own and in the context of connecting other prehistoric dots. We’re richer for the experience. We recommend it.
We enjoyed dinner this evening at Whiskey Creek Wood Fired Grill, one of six such western-themed establishments dotting Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota. We found it a satisfying compromise between a chain and a local joint.
Deb had the brisket; I chose a pasta dish. With a tall South Dakota beer, of course.
Behind the restaurant is the Mitchell Walmart. Some of you know that Walmart traditionally has allowed travelers to stay overnight in its parking lots. Many stores now discourage or even prohibit the practice, however, especially in the East and in major metro areas.
We’ve found that the tradition is more likely to survive west of the Mississippi. Tonight, casting an eye toward the Walmart here on the south side of Mitchell, we saw a dozen motorhomes, jacks down and slides out, most of them pulling a cargo trailer or a toad.
Among the rigs were three exquisite, multi-million-dollar Prevost buses — folks who parked there because they could, not because they had to.
Deb and I haven’t yet boondocked at a Walmart, a Cracker Barrel, a Cabela’s or anywhere else it’s generally been permitted. On our return from Montana we may well try that.
It’s all about the adventure.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.