For the next few days life became surprisingly routine. For someone who either works from home or travels with a suitcase, the idea of commuting to an office every day is anathema. But for a week it was a change for me, and while I took the same route up to EROS in the mornings, I tried to vary my route home and orientate myself around Sioux Falls a bit more.
It is not a massive city by American standards, the city itself has a population of about 150,000 but given the rural nature of South Dakota, the metropolitan area is about 1/3 of the entire population of the state. And like all American cities, especially those set in the wide open spaces of the Great Plains, it sprawls. The original settlement grew up around the falls, and the railroad had a large depot on the east bank from which several lines converged. Warehouses and Main Street grew up on more on the west bank, but at the start of the 20th century the town was laid out in a typical grid iron section, thrown out only by the various rivers and railroads that curved unplanned.
Higher class suburbs were perched up on the bluffs above the Sioux River, and the grand Cathedral towers over the falls. Although only 90 years old it looks like it has commanded the city since Medieval times. Only the crispness and lack of wear of the masonry belies its 20th Century roots. Many other grand houses cluster around the cathedral in tree lined streets, but those lovely avenues, mature and settled stretch many streets west of the small downtown area. The downtown too has been through a regeneration and a couple of streets are now form the hub of nightlife in the city – at least for the young and/or groovy. For the more suburban or small town amongst the population, the big boulevards and the junctions around the interstates provide all they need; those chain restaurants and fast food joints which I have little time for. I was advised that there was the best place for me to eat near the hotel was a shopping mall, the Empire. I did spend an evening or two wandering round and yes the food was cheap but the place was soulless. The only one of the chains that offered me something a bit more special was the Olive Garden. I got strange stares from the drivers who passed by as I walked to this restaurant; it was only about half a mile, just across the Sioux River where it started bending round towards the Falls and the downtown area. Although the nights were freezing, I would pause on the bridge looking at the icy water barely discernible in the blackness, and think of its journey. It came from the north into Sioux Falls, does a huge S bend which means in the downtown area it is heading north once more, then becomes the state boundary between South Dakota and Iowa down to Sioux City, where it joins with the Missouri and on to merge with the Mississippi just north of St Louis. I’d seen the Mississippi when I had travelled to Mardi Gras, first crossing the massive iron bridge at Baton Rouge and then on the waterfront of New Orleans. From there the waters head a further 100 miles in a “Crow’s Foot” Delta, so called because of the shape of all the tiny channels spreading like the toes of a bird into the Gulf of Mexico. Looking down from the bridge I could not help to marvel at where all those little molecules of water had ahead of them.
Then I was startled by a Harley Davison, felt how cold it was and hurried back to my centrally heated suite.