Living under South Dakota skies

It’s Sunday, what was to have been our last day camped in this spot. Last night, though, Deb and I got to talking about our plans for Monday and Tuesday — leave here tomorrow, drive 140 miles west to a Harvest Hosts participant, boondock there one night, then drive just 30 miles farther to a commercial campground for a (relatively) extended stay.

Tuesday’s drive also had us crossing into Mountain Time, gaining an hour. What might be a 45-minute trip would put us at our destination 15 minutes before we left. Follow me?

We considered a number of things — weather, mileage, another set-up/tear-down ritual and the prospect of off-gridding in a dusty lot tomorrow night. Besides, we’re truly enjoying this modest park south of Mitchell.

Deb called the campground office first thing this morning and put in our request for one more night. It wasn’t long before the park’s owner wheeled up in his golf cart to tell us that yes, they’d be glad to accommodate us.

The price for another day here with shade and full hookups? Including tax, with our discount, we’ll pay just $33.49. That’s a genuine bargain.

So Tuesday morning we’ll drive 170 miles (right in our wheelhouse), cross the Missouri River (again) and set our clocks back an hour. There’s more construction along our route, but the forecast is for clear South Dakota skies and diminishing winds. We’re looking forward to a good travel day.

The landscape of the northern Great Plains is dominated by grasses and scrub, not trees. If you want shade or shelter out here, chances are you’ll have to make your own. One reason that we love this campground is that it’s entirely within a fairly dense grove of mature trees, which both gives welcome shade and filters the ever-present wind into an easy breeze.

It’s a true oasis. The temperature at the center of this stand of trees could be 15 or so degrees cooler than it is on the nearby prairie.

Beyond the setting, the campground itself is tidy and clean without being fancy. There’s a swimming pool, a playground and horseshoe pits. The sites and roads are hard-packed dirt. Hookups are solid and well-maintained. We had no trouble leveling Ernie.

The owner has dropped by our spot a couple of times now, and we’ve had a chance to chat a bit. He’s a plain-spoken Heartlander about my age, clearly a working man. Not only does he have this 51-site campground to tend, he also owns a farm with 150 head of Angus beef cattle (downsized from 300 head a couple of years ago) and holds a full-time job with the local school district.

He patrols the park nonstop in that old golf cart, accompanied by his deaf pit bull, guiding arriving guests to their sites and fixing what needs fixed. He’s at it every day ’til almost midnight.

How do I know all this? Because I’m interested in the people we meet out here on the road. I notice things. I ask questions. I listen. I remember.

And I write it down.

We meet people like this the same way we find the real America — we go looking.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath