Deb: ‘I love South Dakota’

Virtually all of the images I share here, as well as those that Deb and I post to social media, are cell-phone shots. Like most folks we’re suckers for the convenience of having a powerful imaging tool in our pocket everywhere we go. Even though I’m pretty accomplished with an SLR, most of the time I just use my phone.

I switched things up this morning, for only the second time since we’ve been on the road. I pulled out my DSLR, walked slowly along the edge of the reservoir and let the images come to me.

It felt familiar and it felt good. What I tend to do differently with “a real camera” is explore different angles. I mess with exposure and settings, a ritual developed over five decades behind the lens. These days it takes me a while to recapture my rhythm, but when I do it’s very satisfying.

Like riding a bicycle, it is.

I rarely shoot for anyone else anymore. It’s enough that I’m happy with the moments I preserve and the way I preserve them. It’s a gift I give myself.

We set off on another road trip today, traveling west to visit a couple of places on our gotta-see list. As we merged onto the Interstate, we looked to our right and saw an odd scene — a stagecoach being pulled by six horses at full gallop, pursued by three Indians on horseback. (See today’s header image.)

It was another example of “Roadside America” — steel silhouettes, a piece of art created and placed without notice, for no reason other than to entertain and amuse passersby.

Our first stop was a scenic overlook, a place where I’d pulled off the highway in 2004. There are no services at the overlook, not even a structure — it’s simply a parking lot on a bluff, a spot from which to admire grasslands to the north, badlands to the south.

From there we continued to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which is administered by the National Park Service. Deb and I both are children of the Cold War, and nothing says “Red Scare” like nuclear missile silos hidden in plain sight. The visitors center — it’s a federal facility and so it required masks, which were provided — holds a number of thought-provoking and memory-triggering exhibits, covering the mid-1940s to the present day.

In a recreation of a typical 1950s living room, a black-and-white television plays the “Duck and Cover” propaganda film. The gift shop even sells a stuffed “Bert the Turtle.” (I almost bought one but settled for a sticker.)

We found the displays sobering and informative — again, it’s something not everyone will enjoy, but we certainly did.

Our ultimate destination today was a South Dakota icon — Wall Drug Store. I’d been there twice before, first in 1974 and again in 2004, but this was a first for Deb. If I’d ever wondered about her affection for tourist-trap kitsch and Americana, today removed any lingering doubt.

We hit the Wall Drug Café first for a couple of burgers. (I made mine buffalo.) Then we wandered through the store, which really is a collection of stores, shopping and laughing and buying souvenirs.

A highlight of visiting Wall Drug, for me, always has been enjoying a cone-shaped cup of “free ice water” from a fountain in the “Back Yard.” Today I drew a cup, took a sip and almost spit it out — at some point during the last 17 years, someone started chlorinating the hell out of what once was sweet spring water.

Nothing stays the same forever, I guess. Still, we had an ever-lovin’ ball.

On the drive back to the campground Deb was pretty quiet, gazing out the window at a territory that’s grabbed her in ways she didn’t expect. She snapped the occasional picture. She’d slap me on the knee and point at this or that catching her eye.

Then she said it. “I love South Dakota.”

We have much more still to see — Badlands National Park, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, to name three — but for us it’s more than just the scenery. There’s something else that draws us in.

South Dakota is fiercely and unapologetically American. It presents itself, from state line to state line, as independent, a home for those who love Liberty.

We saw the same spirit in northern Arkansas, which gets bonus points for southern hospitality. These are places where we feel welcome, at home.

It’s where we feel just right.

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

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

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