After a series of odd diversions (sheriffs blocking off a country two lane black top in the middle of nowhere???) I finally found my way to the town of Wahoo and began looking for a place to break my fast. As I trolled the old downtown area, I spotted it - PERFECT! - the Wigwam Cafe (opened 1930). After causing quite the stir with my pink hair when I walked in, I sat down and looked the menu over and there seemed to be a house speciality, which the waitress eagerly confirmed and I subsequently ordered - a hot beef sandwich. As soon as they brought it out, I got a huge hit of Midwestern off the tendrils rising from the steaming brown gravy. How many white starches can you pack into a single meal? It was absolutely delicious: a roast beef sandwich on thick white bread, split apart on the platter to accomodate a huge mound of homemade mashed potatoes in the middle, all of it covered, no SMOTHERED in brown gravy. I could only eat half of it since I didn't have any steers to get in or anything.
I wandered around town for a bit after lunch, just drinking in the wonder of a place named Wahoo. It didn't take long, though, and I was back on the road after a quick stop at the Wahoo Bakery. Too bad I didn't need to wash any clothes!
Not long after I headed out from Wahoo I passed this sign:
As soon as it registered in my brain, I turned the car around and immediately pointed it down the dirt road that led to Colon, Nebraska. I mean, how could you NOT stop for a beer at a place called the Star Dust Lounge in Colon, NE?
There are really only about 8 buildings to speak of in downtown Colon. The Star Dust was of course by far the busiest place with at least 6 or 8 people milling about (including me). The bartendress is a little short gal named Patty (I believe - her name was volunteered at a time of distraction and unfortunately I didn't record it). She had a sparkle in her eye and a glittering stud in the side of her nose and she did a wonderful job of making me feel right at home. I asked her how the town of Colon got it's name, and she shrugged and said, "Some people say it's because this place is the Nnnnn (dipping her head foward as she used the substitute expletive) of Nebrasksa!" It made me laugh. After I got down to the lukewarm part of my Corona (so international, Colon's beer selection!) I made ready to leave, and as the two of us were chatting, Patty's her eyes flicked behind me at the sound of the door opening. "Take a look behind you," she whispered out of the corner of her mouth, "that's John, the town character." Well as you can imagine, that was music to my ears, and it wasn't more than five minutes before I'd introduced myself and was being led on a vigorous tour of John's amazing shop across the street from the Star Dust.
John Murrin was born and raised in Colon and is a fountain of knowledge about the area as well as being an immensely entertaining story teller. He drew frequently on a large cigar as he showed me around his maze of buildings, each filled with 50s era autos, tools and all manner of fascinating bits of flotsam and jetsam. One item I particularly liked, well it was actually the story I particularly liked, was a massive old hand forged iron chain that was draped gracefully along one wall of the main garage. John explained that when he was a boy, outside the window of his room at night he could hear the sound of the cows that were chained up for the night moving about, filling the night with the tinkling of a cow driven chain chime. He had hung the chain in his shop to remind him of those dark sonorous nights of his youth. He showed me where the cows had been so persistent that they had worn many of the 1/2" thick links to delicate and sculptural shapes. I found myself easily able to summon up vivid pictures from this and other stories John told me, including one of a recent murder. He was a masterful story teller and I really enjoyed my visit.
As I eased the Cruiser back out onto the blacktop and north toward Mitchell, SD, I got an eyeful of corn in preparation for arriving at the palace. That, and various roadside embellishments like this giant fishing rig. Now I've seen fishing lure mailboxes before, but you've got to appreciate this fellow's dedication to the concept! I can just see him in his coveralls in the garage on a snowy evening, busy at work making a giant fishing reel. Tee hee!
I arrived in Mitchell at what I like to call the golden hour - just as the sun is slanting outrageously as it begins its race to the horizon. It gave the corn an even lovlier hue that usual! I walked around the palace, enjoying the scenes of this year's theme: Everyday Heroes (every year the theme changes and the building is covered with corny goodness anew). Laugh at the ubiquity of the theme if you will, but I can at least say it was the very first (and probably last) time I've ever seen a 20 foot high mural of a school crossing guard rendered entirely in ears of corn. Now that's something to see in and of itself.
After leaving the Corn Palace, I decided to stay the night in Mitchell and gave some thought to staying at the Corn Palace Motel, but alas there was no room at the inn. I contented myself instead with a delicious Ribeye at Louie's steak house next door and had a nice quiet meal until 8 bikers on their way to Sturgis sat at the table next to me and held a loud conversation aimed at naughty eight year olds. I like to think I'm pretty impervious, but even I could only take so much of it and had to finally leave with a smirk on my lips and a shake of my head. How many times can you substitute the word "anus" for "Angus" when ordering steak from the waitress before the funny runs out? That number was definitely exceeded. Little did I know that I would soon be wandering around the epicenter of bikers. But that story is for another time.