Autumn in South Dakota

There’s nothing I don’t love about being outdoors this time of year, especially camping (or glamping) in the Fall. Our campground this week is nestled in a grove of mature trees, many of them well into their autumn display. They’ve covered the ground with a thick carpet of yellow leaves that crunch underfoot.

We’ve had a string of unseasonably warm days lately, both here and and at our previous stop. The evenings cool off quickly, though, often dropping temps from the 90s in the afternoon into the 40s by the next morning. The chill of these late-September dawns appeals to me.

It’s different up here, out here, regardless of season. Topography has a lot to do with that, and watching the terrain unfold fascinates me. We sit today at 1,300 feet above sea level, down 3,100 feet from our position only a week ago. We’ll descend about 400 more over our next few stops before climbing slightly to our destination in The Ozarks.

We’re well out of the Rockies now, of course, even their foothills, removed from the cliché “mountain air.” The Northern Plains have a crispness all their own, owing not to altitude but latitude, and because wind and weather sweep across the landscape unimpeded.

Last night, it rained. Off and on today, too, and cooler than it’s been. A perfect autumn day.

For those who care (and a whole lot of you do, I’ve learned), here’s the Daily Dipstick Watch. We stopped by the clinic this morning to check with the vet, and she gave us the best possible news about our little guy: “He’s doing great.”

He’s perky and ambulatory, according to her report, and he drank some water early today. They’ll make sure that goes through his system, and then they’ll give him soft food. If it passes, we’ll be able to bring him home. That’ll probably be Saturday, giving us two full days to watch him here before we roll again.

We ran errands today and generally ran around. We returned to the town of Mitchell, home of The World’s Only Corn Palace, to find crews already working furiously on next year’s murals.

Man, it felt good to be back.

We had a long conversation with an older gentleman working behind the counter of a small souvenir store, and he remembered us from our visit in August. Later, on a whim, we stopped by a pawn shop — no particular reason, just something to do.

This had to be the cleanest, tidiest pawn shop I’ve ever seen. The mom-and-pop owners take great pride in presenting a respectable image, especially when it comes to firearms.

They’re passionate about pheasant hunting, too, we discovered. I left with a complimentary bumper sticker. (See today’s header image.)

And speaking of pheasant hunting, we paid a visit to the Cabela’s near our campground. The store was all dolled up for its 2021 “Pheasant Opener,” with South Dakota state wildlife officers on-hand to assist.

Yeah, it’s a big deal out here. Youth season is only three days away.

Our Thursday ended with one more reprise — dinner at the Mexican restaurant that impressed us so much two months ago. We can once again confirm that the planet’s best margarita can be had at, of all places, a small restaurant in eastern South Dakota.

Our waiter recognized us. It sure is nice to be remembered.

As Deb and I drove back to the campground, she made a sharp observation.

“Y’know, I think we just love small towns.”

Mitchell, South Dakota. Harrison, Arkansas. Polson, Montana. Pender, Nebraska. Louisiana, Missouri. Bandera, Texas. These are a few of the places that have drawn us in and, in some cases, have stolen our hearts.

We’re off in search of America. People, it’s out here — we’ve seen it.

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

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath