Travelogue: Spring's Arrival Upon A Dubious Milestone

How do you celebrate the arrival of spring? Moreso, how do you "celebrate" a year since this country – and the state I live in – shut down in the face of a pandemic? 

Actually, one is more celebratory than the other. No one celebrates an anniversary of an event that took hundreds of thousands of lives in this country, caused a further deepening of the national ideological divide, and made us step up the cause of taking care of one’s self. 

It was a twelve-month period that magnified the things that were bubbling underneath the surface. It caused us to shun those whom we disagree with. It caused us to decide whether it was appropriate to dine out again. And, yet, the non-essential employees of this country worked away at home, as other found themselves shooed away for loss of business. 

During these past twelve months, we all rode the rollercoaster of politics, healthcare, commerce, and humanity. My rollercoaster almost came to a crashing end. Then, I regained traction and found ways to cultivate this work further towards a larger audience and greater satisfaction.

That ending is what I will celebrate here. This work continues to grow, even as frustrations mount on various fronts. Frustrations that have been countered by opportunities to tell new stories and bring them forward to you! 

Another thing to celebrate is Victory & Reseda’s 10th anniversary. That, alone, is cause to celebrate. 

How would I “celebrate” these milestones? A road trip perhaps?

Unfortunately, time and other contingencies prevented me from executing something on the scale of last year’s Mid-Continent Road Trip to Kansas City, Wichita, and Omaha. However, I wanted to revisit a place that I always been curious about, plus add a day trip to a new destination. 

It was a fluid situation, as I did not know whether these contingencies would come into play. The first step towards accomplishing this road trip was to head to a “staging” location in the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon. A “staging” location is a place to set the tone of the road trip ahead. A place to prepare and recharge before taking the road.  

My staging location was Mankato, south west of The Cities. I found myself downtown at the Hilton Garden Inn, across the street from the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. Unbeknownst to me, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association were about to start their playoffs there. No games were played, and, unfortunately, no fans outside of the teams and their families were allowed inside. I must’ve been lucky to get a room at a good rate, since the playoffs actually started the next day. 

Not all trips start flawlessly. I had issues with the ramp (er, parking garage) attached to the hotel. Getting in was OK. Getting out was a pain. To exit the garage, you have to use the key card from the hotel. A note to those staying at that hotel, make sure you use the key card you used to open up your room. And, your Hilton Digital Key on your phone is not going to help, either. 

I headed the Arteon southbound on US-169 from Mankato towards Interstate 90 to a lovely sunrise. It was mainly flat out, but it covered some miles on that Interstate. As Minnesota became South Dakota, the speed limit jumped to 80 MPH. But only for over 10 miles, before the Sioux Falls city limits slowed things down. 

I took to exploring parts of Sioux Falls I have never been. Mainly south of downtown, which is full of shopping, restaurants, and some lovely old neighborhoods. 

There was one thing that took me by surprise in Sioux Falls. In Minnesota, practically every indoor location would put up a sign to align with the state mandate to wear masks before entering. Not South Dakota. Only a few places did. And, yes, there were some folks who walked around stores either without a mask on or partially covering some part of their face. 

I get it. Some places follow their own protocols, while others will the opposite. I wore my mask regardless. Not because I am used to it by now. It is because of my own common sense. A majority of people I saw around town wore their masks without anyone giving them a dirty look for doing so. 

The rest of the second day was spent getting images for the Arteon at Falls Park and downtown Sioux Falls. 

I made one specific stop to check things out. Located in downtown Sioux Falls, Club David is the only LGBT bar in the state. I got there around 6:00 PM for a pop (you call it soda, sometimes) and to check out the atmosphere. Rather, to find intelligent LGBT life in Sioux Falls. 

Certainly, the Friday crowd was lively. One even said “hello.” I was too nervous to get out of my chair. Just observing everyone else. 

After a night’s sleep at the Towne Place Suites off of Interstate 29, I was up for a new adventure. A new place to go to. It would a day trip south of Sioux Falls towards Sioux City, Iowa where three states converge at once – including Nebraska. 

I have never been to Sioux City. There has been some curiosity about the place. Yet, I keep hearing mixed things about the northwest Iowa city. My curiosity sent me down Interstate 29 to see this city for myself for the first time. 

A few hours down in Sioux City gave me some mixed feelings, as well. The casino culture is hardcore there. I did find some balance with a couple of historic areas around downtown, including the 4th Street area just past the convention center. They also kept the old auditorium next to the new Tyson Events Center. I found myself more attracted to the historic architecture than anything in Sioux City. 

This is also a city that can be spread across three state lines along the Missouri River. You have South Sioux City in Nebraska and North Sioux City in South Dakota. It is probably best to pass them by on future journeys. They do have some parkland to visit in each community, however.

My next stop was the college town of Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota. The first sight of this town was the Dakota Dome, where the Coyotes football program plays inside. From there, I toured around campus to find the National Music Museum closed due to renovations. No problem! I decided to create a photo opportunity with my traveling companion – my conga drum Boomer. A few photos made up for not seeing what was inside that museum. 

Downtown Vermillion may be seem a bit smaller than most college towns. Yet, one cannot deny the town’s vibe as it sits in South Dakota’s southeastern corner not far from the Missouri River and the traces of Lewis and Clark. 

Returning to Sioux Falls for the night at the Hampton Inn yielded some personal downtime. Except, I ended up working while watching the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for some consulting clients. I’m a really fun person, sometimes. 

Sunday morning found the Arteon and I homeward bound. It was an uneventful drive towards The Cities. Uneventful, as the landscape of southern Minnesota. Still, it’s always good to drive in the state of residence.

Understand that this road trip yielded no real agenda. It was simply to get away and find new places I have never been. Both points were accomplished, even though I felt I was risking a lot doing so. The COVID-19 pandemic shut everything a year ago across the USA. 

Some states are doing their best to keep up the progress on controlling the virus and getting the numbers of cases and deaths down. Other states simply felt that they did not need to do as much as they did several months ago. Each state saw a reflection of these approaches to the pandemic in their people. This is just an observation, not an indictment against certain states. 

No matter where you go on your travels, please continue to stay safe and follow your guidelines – which hopefully should reflect using caution and common sense over what everyone else is doing.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle used for travel was provided by Volkswagen of America. All expenses were paid by Victory & Reseda.

All photos by Randy Stern

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