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Evening light painted a passing rain cloud above historic Peace Valley Lutheran of northeast Harding County.
Evening light painted a passing rain cloud above historic Peace Valley Lutheran of northeast Harding County.
Dawn at the Badlands from just off the park road near the Door and Window trails.
Dawn at the Badlands from just off the park road near the Door and Window trails.
Early morning light provides one of the best times to take nature photos.
Early morning light provides one of the best times to take nature photos.
Blue Grosbeak on a barbed wire fence along the Bad River Road southwest of Fort Pierre.
Blue Grosbeak on a barbed wire fence along the Bad River Road southwest of Fort Pierre.
Buffalo under a blue sky along the Bad River Road.
Buffalo under a blue sky along the Bad River Road.
A singing dicksissel on a Bad River Road fencepost.
A singing dicksissel on a Bad River Road fencepost.
Blooming globe mallow along a Badlands National Park side road.
Blooming globe mallow along a Badlands National Park side road.
One of the first blooming prickly pear cacti of the spring at Badlands National Park.
One of the first blooming prickly pear cacti of the spring at Badlands National Park.
Storm clouds brew southwest of the Conata Basin road in the Badlands.
Storm clouds brew southwest of the Conata Basin road in the Badlands.
Wild prairie rose in bloom along Alkali Creek near Sturgis.
Wild prairie rose in bloom along Alkali Creek near Sturgis.
Bear Butte with distant storm clouds taken from Highway 79.
Bear Butte with distant storm clouds taken from Highway 79.
A bit further up the road from Bear Butte, a short-eared owl calmly surveyed the prairie.
A bit further up the road from Bear Butte, a short-eared owl calmly surveyed the prairie.
Sunset clouds in the northern sky taken on the border of Harding and Perkins county not far from the tiny community of Ralph.
Sunset clouds in the northern sky taken on the border of Harding and Perkins county not far from the tiny community of Ralph.
Rain over a horse pasture along Leedom Pike road in northwestern Ziebach county.
Rain over a horse pasture along Leedom Pike road in northwestern Ziebach county.
A bit further south, a rainbow appeared over a small herd of cattle grazing near the Moreau River.
A bit further south, a rainbow appeared over a small herd of cattle grazing near the Moreau River.
The rising Milky Way with airglow above the old Lightcap country school in Corson County.
The rising Milky Way with airglow above the old Lightcap country school in Corson County.
On the same evening a surprise outburst of Northern lights graced the horizon.
On the same evening a surprise outburst of Northern lights graced the horizon.
Northern lights above the Korb windmill just outside of Isabel.
Northern lights above the Korb windmill just outside of Isabel.

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.

Comments

12:03 pm - Tue, June 30 2015
Laura said:
Oh, Christian. I can understand not wanting to share the pie, but you could've at least taken a picture!
12:48 pm - Tue, June 30 2015
Christian said:
Laura, you bring up a good question. My mind, however, was very far away from photography at the time. I was focused, laser-like, on the fork and plate in front of me!
06:31 am - Wed, July 1 2015
mark said:
I too like open spaces.

Great photos thanks.
09:02 am - Wed, July 1 2015
Richard Grant said:
Christian: No fair raving about the pie without sharing the recipe. C'mon, ask your folks. Thanks
09:10 am - Wed, July 1 2015
John Andrews said:
If you can send chocolate cigars through the mail, pie should be a cinch.

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