We visit Steve’s mom’s hometown – Yankton, SD

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Yankton, South Dakota

We had two weeks to kill before the WIT (Winnebago International Travelers) Club Grand National Rally in Iowa, so we made a slight detour and pointed Betsy toward Yankton, South Dakota.  This stop had several areas of significance for us: (1)Yankton is Steve’s mom’s hometown (2)South Dakota is the 43rd state we’ve visited and (3) Betsy had finally parked in our state of residency!

Yankton, South Dakota

Steve’s parents were from South Dakota.  His dad was from Sioux Falls and his mom from Yankton.  Some of his grandparents and great-grandparents had settled in Yankton, coming from Denmark in the early 1900’s.  Great-grandma Larsen lived to 102 years old, and her daughter, Steve’s grandma McElwain, made it to 99 – passing away in 2008.  Although he hadn’t been here since then, Yankton has grown significantly.  Incredibly, both of their homes still stand:

We were also able to re-connect with Steve’s second cousin Jim, who has lived in Yankton all his life with his wife Lynn and some of their family.  Our dinner at Jim and Lynn’s beautiful log home was spent reminiscing about the family’s past.  We were excited to look through Lynn’s excellent scrapbook full of family photos and stories.  Thank you for your hospitality, Jim and Lynn!

Jim invited us to the annual Tractor Drive Parade that happened during our stay.  He drove his beautifully-restored John Deere tractor, and 200 other folks also went through downtown on their antique tractors from the participating states of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.


That’s Jim on his brand-new-looking John Deere. These folks are serious about their tractors!

We had “front row” seats, and Steve obviously enjoyed the show – as he does anything displaying mechanical things.  The oldest tractor we saw was a McCormick Farmall built in 1946 (and still running).  We had a great time!


This would be a good town for Betsy to get stuck in the mud!

Tractor Ride, Yankton SD

Jim and Lynn dropped by for a visit at our campground, and we shared our stories of life on the road.  They had traveled extensively for years on a motorcycle, so we had lots to talk about.

On another day we drove out to the nearby city of Vermillion, where the University of South Dakota is located.  We walked around the beautiful campus and admired the building architecture.  A couple of tidbits – Tom Brokaw and the famous Noble-prize winning physicist E.O. Lawrence both graduated from this university, and Steve’s grandma once danced with Lawrence Welk when he worked in the Yankton area!

University of South Dakota

Campus grounds of South Dakota

University of South Dakota

Old Main was built in 1883, burned down in 1889, and was ultimately restored in 1997

University of South Dakota

Steve retraces his mom’s and other famous folks’ steps on the campus

Within the university campus is a hidden gem of South Dakota, the National Music Museum. We’d heard this was a wonderful museum, so we had to check it out.  My goodness, it took us half the day to peruse the amazing array of instruments on display in this collection!  This museum is worth a significant drive if you are interested in musical instruments at all.


The museum is renowned for its collection, which includes more than 15,000 American, European, and non-Western instruments from all cultures and historical periods.  They include many of the earliest, best preserved, and historically most important instruments known to exist.  The quality and scope of the NMM has earned it international recognition.  Here is just a sampling of what we enjoyed learning about:

Harpsichord by Andreas Ruckers, Antwerp, 1643

Harpsichord by Andreas Ruckers, Antwerp, 1643

Classic Guitars

Rare guitars made by Stradivari, D’Angelico, Martin, Gibson and Fender

Ceremony Drum from Alaska

Ceremonial drum with a three-pronged Caribou antler as a handle

The self-guided tour included free use of an iPod, which allowed us to hear the sounds made by many of the instruments, as well as to learn more about them.  Awesome tour!

Beede Gallery

The Beede Gallery showcases non-Western music that includes 240 exotic instruments from diverse cultures around the world

Conch Shell Trumpet

Conch Shell Trumpet – Tibet.  Can’t say we’ve seen this before!

All in all it was an amazing museum and really worth a stop!

We really enjoyed our visit with relatives, experiencing the charm of this part of the country, and seeing things we would have missed if we hadn’t detoured here.  A great pause before our trek into Iowa!

Next up:  Back on the road to Iowa!