Day5: Minuteman Missile site, Corn Palace, Mississippi River
580 miles, 13.8 hours.
The campsite in Wall turned out to be very nice. I had a nice soft patch of grass to sleep on (most places were gravel or scrubby grass and not terribly level). Still, I got up fairly early so I could be at the missile site when they opened at 8.
Cowboys, rounding up bulls for a local rodeo
Cowboys, rounding up bulls for a local rodeo
Cropdusting plane
Cropdusting plane
It appears the SUV was optimistic about merging. Traffic was backed up for miles.
It appears the SUV was optimistic about merging. Traffic was backed up for miles.
The first stop on my missile tour was the Minuteman II launch silo. These were unattended launch facilities- they would be activated from a remote location. I was there before it opened, so I used their brochure and listened to the "cell phone tour". Basically, you called a South Dakota phone number and punched in one of a dozen codes to listen to information at various points of the facility. What a brilliant way to do a tour!
Around 8:15, ranger Kerry Davis showed up. He was an older guy and had actually served in the military, working in the Minuteman II program as a crew commander, instructor, and finally a director (word doc about him). I stayed and listened to him talk for an hour- he was full of very interesting information and stories on the program, such as how the missiles were loaded, the advantage over previous missile programs, why the sites weren't camouflaged, and some of the times that people entered the facility (usually protesters).
Looking down at the (dummy) missile
Looking down at the (dummy) missile
Missile site. Obviously, the glass cover wasn't normally there.
Missile site. Obviously, the glass cover wasn't normally there.
Reinforced antenna allowed for remote launches
Reinforced antenna allowed for remote launches
Production plate on the antenna
Production plate on the antenna
Very heavy-duty attachment points. Used to lift missile upright from horizontal transportation to vertical launching position.
Very heavy-duty attachment points. Used to lift missile upright from horizontal transportation to vertical launching position.
A view of the 80-ton reinforced cover
A view of the 80-ton reinforced cover
Security truck
Security truck
Next, I headed east to the Minuteman II Visitors Center. I watched a 10-minute movie they had produced, then got on my way. While at the visitors' center I heard a ranger answering the phone and telling people that they were booked 45-90 days in advance for guided tours. Wow.
Once on the road, I pointed east on I-90, across the long, boring plains of South Dakota. I stopped in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace (hardly worth the stop), then jumped on the freeway again.
Corn Palace
Corn Palace
Detail on the Corn Palace
Detail on the Corn Palace
Bike and the Corn Palace
Bike and the Corn Palace
This stretch was incredibly long and boring. The prairie lands are striking but monotonous. The heat started to get to me, so I stopped in Sioux Falls for a couple hours to cool off. That was a good decision- I was getting loopy from the heat.
I headed east through the plains again and into Minnesota. Minnesota's welcome sign on I-90 is the smallest I've seen- I don't know why, but thought it was funny.
I know I was running "late", but really wanted to get to a specific campground near La Crosse. I rode about 40 minutes past sunset, which meant I had to set up camp and eat in the dark. That's always more of a production than setting up while it is light, but at least I'm familiar with my camping gear, so it wasn't hard to set up.
Sunset
Sunset
The campground was at Minnesota's Great River Bluffs State Park and sat up on a ridge (bluff) above the Mississippi River. The day was really hot, but by evening it cooled off nicely. I set up camp while wearing my riding gear, which kept me at a nice temperature.
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