Our 2021 Road Trip #12: Corn Again in the Kingdom of Cob

jazz hands corn!

Photo taken on my phone by some strangers. In exchange, Anne agreed to take pics of the next fifteen or twenty strangers with their respective devices.

Your typical, most famous tourist attractions tend to be singular experiences. You make the trip, you see it the one time, you Instagram it with a trite affirmation tacked on, and you’ve seen all you need to see of it for the rest of your life. The Empire State Building doesn’t add all-new stories on top with all-new features. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t entice repeat customers by changing into different dresses like the World’s Largest Barbie. Mount Rushmore doesn’t rotate the Presidents’ heads and cycle through all 45 of them, because the logistics would require science fiction tech and sooner or later you’d end up with a non-star lineup of Van Buren, Harrison #1, Tyler, and Polk, and attendance would plummet, like that one year the Best Picture Oscar nominees were four art films and a three-hour Brad Pitt nap.

Some attractions benefit from forward-looking designers who realize flexibility is a virtue and construct their dream edifice using a medium that lends itself to creative renewal. Such was absolutely the case for our next stop, a sight both familiar and revamped.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

Castles made of crops were an American phenomenon dating back to the 1880s among farmland cities who wanted to stand out from their equally flat neighbors. Mitchell threw its hat into that crop circle in 1892 and went through a few iterations until the current structure was built in 1921. Each side features murals made of corn in a dozen different colors, as are assorted interior parts. The murals are changed out each year for new ones, typifying a cornfield harvesting cycle. Its domes and minarets loom large over the city, which has seen a number of would-be tourist traps come and go in the smaller buildings around it. It was a fun stop on our first South Dakota foray back in 2009. Mitchell isn’t far off the interstate and seemed a nice place to stretch our legs for a bit and see what they’d done with the place.

Wall Drug Good Morning America sign!

Some things neber change, such as the same old I-90 signposts on the way to Mitchell.

Buffalo and cow statues!

In 2009 this same cow in front of a Mitchell hotel was facing another direction and didn’t have a buffalo keeping her company.

corn palace 2021!

The front entrance, celebrating 100 years at this unforgettable location.

corn Crazy Horse!

To the left of the entrance, a distant-future image of our old friend Crazy Horse.

Mitchell corn palace 100 Years!

To the right of the entrance, the Corn Palace sported a mural of the Corn Palace sporting murals. Cornception!

Mitchell corn murals!

Along the south wall, new murals capture everyday life in South Dakota.

corn cob colonnade!

Inside highlights include a load-bearing corn colonnade.

corn smashed pennies!

Like the Corn Palace, some smashed penny machines are also known to change up their designs, much to Anne’s delight as a collector of same.

We kept the stop short as a compromise, since we had nearly 300 more miles to drive that day. As we exited the palace, we heard a car alarm blaring not far away. As big-city dwellers who have never known a car alarm to succeed at its job, we chuckled for our first several steps until we realized it was our rental car. My son had chosen to wait in the car for us because he figured he’s seen it in 2009 and that he’d seen all he needed to see for the rest of his life. I had locked the doors behind us out of habitual deterrence. When he opened his door for fresh air, he triggered the alarm that I hadn’t known existed. Until our return he’d had to sit there for long minutes of honking and honking and honking. Instead of funny ears of corn, he got ears full of horn.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

One response

  1. Pingback: Our 2021 Road Trip #12: Corn Again in the Kingdom of Cob — Midlife Crisis Crossover! | Ups Downs Family History

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