Monday, June 30, 2008


Photo below: Crossing the Missouri River in South Dakota.

Halfway across South Dakota, the Missouri river marks the change in time zone from Mountain Time to Central Time. For the past week, in Sturgis, South Dakota, we have been on Mountain Daylight Time. By 4:50 am MDT, the sky was sufficiently light that Luna felt it was time for us all to arise. We disagreed, but she persisted for as long as it took to change our minds.

Tonight we are camped less than 10 miles to the east of the Missouri River, at West Whitmore Recreation Area (read our review and view photos here) on Central Time. At 9:15 pm, the sun is just setting, so it will be 10 pm before night falls. In the morning, daylight should arrive an hour (or more) later… maybe there will be no insistent kitty demands until 6 am??

Once you leave far western South Dakota - the Black Hills area - behind, you are a schooner traversing an undulating prairie of tall green grass. On the highway we traveled, settlements were widely spaced and we saw neither people nor vehicles in abundance.

At one point, we came upon several miles of road construction. When we stopped at the flagman, there was one other vehicle stopped, a motorcycle. Ten minutes later, when the pilot car arrived to guide us through the construction, our group had grown to a whopping FOUR vehicles!

Traveling the construction zone, we were surprised to see that the yellow road dividers are installed by hand. Two guys, each with a 5 gallon bucket of adhesive backed dividers, walk the center line. At the specified interval, they peel the backing strip off of the adhesive, toss it onto the road to be blown into the prairie grass, and stick the divider onto the freshly flattened asphalt. Is an anti-littering sensibility something that develops only when population per square mile rises to a number above, say, 5??

Due to the time change, we arrived at our campsite at 5 pm. At 6 pm, when we headed off for a walk, the sun was beginning to lower and light the tall, waving prairie grasses between the campground and the river. Our trail was simply mown out of the grass, a swath 4 feet wide. Pheasants shot up from time to time, and a few hawks circled.

I thought, not for the first time today, that South Dakota must have looked like heaven to pioneer farmers heading west, unaware of the blizzards that would plague them in winter. In summer - or at least this summer - it is lush, lush, lush. Tall green grasses, ponds and standing water, so rare in the west, are abundant and blue. I was ready to become a farmer myself.

Our overnight stop was on the shore of Lake Oahe, a large lake made by damming the Missouri River. We were one of very few campers that didn't have a fishing boat - this is obviously a fisherperson's paradise, with a boat launch ramp and a large, professional-grade stainless steel fish cleaning station.

Still, something about Breakfast at the Bait Shop... well, I guess I'm just not that hungry!

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