Elvis Has Entered the Building
Our weekend getaway was a blast!
Saturday morning, bright and early, Tara and I hit the road for the tiny burg of Freeman, South Dakota. It’s considered the heart of the Chislic Circle and the birthplace of South Dakota’s official state nosh.
If you haven’t heard of chislic before (and unless you’re from South Dakota, let’s face it, you haven’t heard of chislic before), I wrote about it in detail here.
And if you’re too lazy to click on the link, here’s the Cliff’s note version of chislic: cubed meat on a stick. Traditionally lamb, but often beef. It’s like an all-meat version of a shish kebab. Purists season it with garlic salt and serve it with Saltine crackers.
Anyhoo. I’m down with the chislic (it’s really good!), which is why we drove 321.3 miles/four-and-a-half hours to get us some. The festival was exactly as I’d imagined: a little hokey, as a small-town celebration in the middle of the plains should be, but a lot of fun. When we saw signs for a free shuttle to the event, I pictured a bus. Instead, we got this.
We also got musical entertainment (not quite a jug band, but close) and vendors hawking everything from t-shirts and beer coozies to pocketknives and kuchen (another South Dakota specialty). And, of course, chislic. Tara opted for beef, but I’m nothing if not adventurous, so I went all in and ordered skewers of both lamb and mutton. (In case you’re wondering…’cause I was…lamb comes from young sheep and is delicate and tender; mutton is sourced from older sheep and is rich, bold, and sometimes gamey.) I liked them both.
It took a solid half-hour to work my way through the line, and when I ordered, the cashier asked for my name.
“Elvis,” I said.
“There’s a name you don’t hear very often,” she replied.
Here’s the thing: I enjoy giving fake names when ordering food. I guess it’s the attention whore in me. Donner is my go-to in fancier establishments (“Donner party, your table is ready” always gets a few curious stares and scattered laughter), but here, I wanted to be The King.
“Are you going to sing us a tune?” a woman in line asked me. I think she might have been eyeing my hips, just waiting for me to shake ’em. I told her she most likely wouldn’t be impressed with my version of “All Shook Up.”
And when my order was ready and they handed me my chislic, you know what I said, right…?
C’mon. There’s only one obvious answer here.
“Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Beer, Fireflies, & Debauchery
After we’d had our fill of skewered meat, we drove into Sioux Falls…to go to the mall.
I know. I was surprised, too.
We have a mall in Rapid City, but apparently, Tara has been hard-pressed to find clothes. She figured, bigger city=bigger selection, and she wasn’t wrong. She shopped and I made 2.5 circuits of the Empire Mall. Which was approximately 2.5 circuits too many for my liking, but hey, Tara finally agreed to go to the Chislic Festival. I felt it was the least I could do.
We drove to Hartford, eight miles down the interstate, next. Checked into our hotel, then made our way to Buffalo Ridge Brewing Company for Debauchery: Phase One. A few beers later, it was onto The Goat Bar & Grill for Phase Two. Phase Three was back at the hotel, where [REDACTED].
After sunset, we walked out into an empty field next to the hotel, where we saw fireflies. Be still my heart! I even managed to catch one in the palm of my hand. I wish I could figure out a way to bring them back home, because their habitat does not extend west beyond the Missouri River.
Sunday morning, after checking out of our hotel, we drove to Dell Rapids to check out Dells of the Sioux, a 1483′ cliff overlooking the Big Sioux River. It is often said that all the good scenery is confined to western South Dakota, but this spot in Dell Rapids is proof that there are a few cool spots in the eastern part of the state.
We talked about how cool it would be to drop our kayaks in the Big Sioux and paddle past those red quartzite cliffs. Hmm…
Our last stop before heading home was Sioux Falls for a delicious brunch at Granite City Brewery. We also stocked up on hard-to-find-in-Rapid-City beer and cider at Williquors Liquor Store. Golly gee, Williquors is a clever name.
Good for Your Metal Health
The highlight of our trip actually happened on the way back. Montrose, just half an hour outside of Sioux Falls, is home to Porter Sculpture Park. I’m an absolute sucker for kitschy roadside attractions and this one did not disappoint. It features a 60′ bull and other sculptures, all made of metal, hand crafted by a fella by the name of Wayne Porter. Wayne’s an amiable chap with a wild imagination and great sense of humor. Also, the type of fella you suspect has an alien abduction story or two up his sleeve.
In any case, we’d been meaning to stop by the park for some time, and were not disappointed. We spent about an hour admiring the artwork before climbing back into the car for another 4.5 hours.
Quite the adventure we had, eh?