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On the Open Road
Jun 29, 2015
On a return flight into Sioux Falls a few years ago, I overheard an interesting conversation. As we taxied in, an out-of-stater asked a local sitting near him if he was home or would he have to drive further. Upon hearing there was still a 2 ½-hour drive, he marveled at how folks from this region think nothing of getting in the car and driving what would be considered nearly insurmountable distances in other places. It was an interesting glimpse into what travelers from more urban areas sometimes think of our state — a wide-open space to simply drive through as fast as possible. I silently conceded his point about not being afraid of a little driving, but it was clear that this traveler didn’t understand the joy of South Dakota’s open road.
This June I embarked upon an epic road trip of more than 1,100 miles from one corner of the state to the other searching for country churches and running a few important errands. One of those errands was to stop and see my folks in Isabel and consume a slice (or two) of the first rhubarb cream pie of the season. Speaking of epic, that pie deserves a column of its own. It is pure joy for the taste buds. But I digress.
Early June is the best time for a road trip in our great state. The grass is green. The sky is blue and often accented with a dramatic storm cloud or two. The long evening light is golden and pure. When the stars appear on clear nights, the Milky Way makes a dramatic appearance in the southeast sky. Unfortunately the gnats and mosquitoes also love this time of year, but they are easily handled by generous (and sometimes multiple) applications of repellent. A few windshield cleanings will probably be needed as well, but that’s a small price to pay to get out and see the state at its best.
Photography has taught me a few things about the open road. First, don’t hurry. You can’t see the beauty of a cactus in bloom if you are cruising over 65 miles per hour. Second, if there is a back road or an alternate route, it’s probably worth taking. Third, don’t be afraid of gravel or names like “The Bad River Road.” It’s one of the best drives in the state, and it is all gravel. I try to always keep a camera “in the ready” while cruising down back roads. You never know when you’ll crest a hill and see amazing light play across the prairie or a bird of prey watching you from a roadside fence.
As I struggle to bring this to a fitting conclusion, I again realize I’m not a skilled enough wordsmith to truly explain my love affair with road tripping. The photos tell the story of my trip better than I ever could. That may sound like a cop out, but you know what? I’ve got the sudden urge to grab my camera and hit the road to somewhere. So I’m out of here. See you somewhere out on the open road!
Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.