Just like that I am done with my first year of #SAGrad and I have to admit that there are many “Great Faces” and “Great Places” in South Dakota. I’ve met some amazing people, done some exploring and learned to make Vermillion my temporary home. I have a year left of grad school, but it is time for another adventure.
I am dying for my move to Colorado for the summer – everyone keeps telling me that I will fall in love and not return to South Dakota. We’ll see – but I will miss some things while I am gone. There are five “Great Places” in Vermillion that have brought great joy to my life this year and thinking about the fact that I won’t be able to frequent them when I leave actually makes me really really sad. But in just three short months, I will be back for them!
1. The Bean: I have mentioned The Bean on my blog before – and I will probably write about them again – but I wanted to give them a little more attention. I am wildly in love with The Bean. A community coffeehouse is something that Vermillion lacked when I moved here. Lucky for me, a few months later we got one. But besides being the only place I ever go to study, and the place that provides we with high quality craft coffee, The Bean offers a sense of home.
Leslie, the owner of and mind behind The Bean is one of the first people that I met in Vermillion. We met in late July or early August – before the store was open – at the Farmers Market where I purchased a cold brew – and knew in that moment that we were destined to be friends – and chatted about her dream of opening a coffee shop. I also met Shannon (one of Leslie’s amazing employees) that night. We connected over our Michigan roots – Upper Peninsula T-shirts and my GPS coordinate tattoo always start the best conversations – and the fact that we are both Northern Michigan University alumni. These two connections were all I needed to know that I was going to be just fine here. I think I became The Bean’s biggest fan that day and have been supporting them – almost every day – since. The Bean continues to be my go-to spot for meaningful conversations and a good cuppa joe.
When asked “Why a coffee shop?” Leslie will say that she was excited to create a space that offered a warm, comfortable, community feel. She’s done just that. When you walk into The Bean – whether it is Leslie, Ed, Shannon, Martin, or Jessie (owner of the Iron Rooster, which shares space with The Bean) behind the counter – you can expect a smile and the friendliest of greetings. It is this greeting – paired with a hot cup of coffee and a treat – that I look forward to so often. In fact, Leslie and I share this dream of creating a warm, comfortable, friendly space for the community to gather. I have wanted to open my own coffee shop for a long time – but always told myself it would never happen – and since meeting Leslie and falling in love with The Bean, I am even more sure that this is something that I want to do someday. Thanks so much for the love and inspiration y’all! You’ll be seeing me soon!
2. Dakota Brickhouse: In addition to being a coffee snob, I am also a lover of craft beer – yes, this has contributed to people labeling me as hippie, hipster, and granola – and when I moved to Vermillion, we didn’t just lack a coffeehouse, but a brewery or taphouse as well. I am beginning to think that my presence in this small community is what is leading to all of these great businesses popping up in town – just kidding, we have some great minds that saw an untapped market for both coffee and craft beer.
With a rotating tap of craft beer, a fine wine selection, $5 sangria, homemade appetizers that put most bar food selections to shame, and a rocking new patio it is pretty obvious why Dakota Brickhouse has become a favorite of mine.
As a grad student that works for the university, and advises students, I try to avoid the bar scene – If you’re a young professional, you probably understand what I am talking about – but in a small college town it is tough. There are only so many places to go grab a cheap dinner and beer. Thank God the Brickhouse opened! With it’s classy atmosphere, and high quality menu of provisions, it is not an establishment that college students go to get drunk on Saturday nights. If I run into a few of my students there, it isn’t awkward drinking with them because I know that none of us are going to be misbehaving here. We are here for enjoyment, not a great night out. The Brickhouse has filled the absence of IPAs in my life since it’s opening, and it will continue to be my favorite place offering veggie burger and taco slider options. Between the fun and charming staff and my group of friends – also known as the Booth Crew – it’s always a good time at the Brickhouse.
3. That Lambda Chi porch: *Cue Kenny Chesney’s Keg in the Closet*
Most of you reading already know that my Graduate Assistant position is with Sorority and Fraternity Life. Yes, I do live in a fraternity house. No, I am not a “frat boy” – in fact, you will never hear me use the term “frat” as it is incredibly degrading to the young men that I live and work with. Being a live-in adviser is one of the most fun and challenging jobs that you could have – if you think it is awkward seeing your drunk students at the bar, try coming home to a house party…yea, that’s exactly what I mean by challenging…but also what I mean by fun!
The thing that I love most about living at Lambda is the constant interaction with my students. There is always someone around which means my opportunities to learn and grow from my students are endless…as are my opportunities to engage with them in meaningful conversations. Many of the moments that have been most magical and meaningful this year have occurred on the front porch. We have this amazing front porch and a beautiful lawn and we love to spend time out there on nice days. Whether I am drinking coffee in the morning, reading, doing homework, grilling with the guys, or just watching them attempt skateboard tricks off the edge and toss footballs around, the porch has offered me many good times this year. I can’t wait to have another year with the Lambdas, and another year on this front porch.
4. Spirit Mound: One of the only places to hike in Vermillion, Spirit Mound offers my escape to nature, and a view into both Iowa and Nebraska. In addition to the view the fact that Spirit Mound is a stop along the Lewis and Clark trail is so cool to me. It has history. This is more than the only hill in Vermillion but a resting place to our ancestors and a spiritual ground for the Native Americans that once inhabited this land. Honestly, I feel so incredibly spiritually awake when I am hiking Spirit Mound. It is not just the name. I can feel the presence of those around me and I feel connected to the Earth. I have always been fascinated with the Native philosophy on spirituality and practices involving ritual, nature, and giving back to the earth. I connect to that much more so than the modern way of American life. Somehow, Spirit Mound really brings me back to my center and allows me to focus on my surroundings and be aware of everything. I just really like this place, and am so happy that I found it.
5. Clay County Park: I am pretty sure that no one besides me goes to this park on a regular basis. I have been going there at least once a week for the entire year and I have only ever seen other people there twice. I love how I can be so close to town and yet feel so far away, so alone. There is a loop trail at this park that is about 4 miles in total. I love to run 2.5 miles of it in particular. I love this part of the trail because it travels along a cornfield, into the woods, and by the shore of the Missouri River. I see all of this great scenery and natural beauty in just 2.5 short miles. This is one of the only trails in Vermillion, so I am lucky that I have even this short path to run on.
As I pack up and drive away from Vermillion for the summer, and anxiously head to the Southwest, I think about these five places and the greatness that they brought to my year. I’ll see you in just three short months!
Peace out Verm!