Thursday, September 08, 2005

geographical wonders of sodak: confessions of a map dork

My brothers (Bingo and Beaker) and I have a hobby of keeping track of where we have been--though Bingo and I are more intentional about it. Open up one of our special atlases and take note of highlighted highways of a beloved road trip. After years of studying the atlas, I just knew that when the opportunity arose, I had to get to Lake Winnepegosis. You may have taken note in a previous post that I sometimes keep track of the job market in Flin Flon--and I may still get there--but for the time frame I had, Lake Winnepegosis was a reasonable goal. 1300 miles in 36 hours is really no big deal...

On my first trip to South Dakota, I was not impressed. My friend Kevin and I loaded up a beat up Honda Accord that he refused to address maintenance issues. The jalopy made funny sounds. We stuffed this vehicle to the gills, so much so that even the slightest of bumps would cause the tires to scrape the wheel wells. Kevin was unfazed--I went along with it for the sake of adventure. From Olympia, Washington, we headed to Lawrence, Kansas. Maybe I refused to be impressed because by the time we arrived in South Dakota, we were ripe from lack of showers after 3 days. We certainly weren't going to spend money on a hotel. After a brief stop in Rapid City, we trudged along Interstate 90. South Dakota is more of a chore at 55 miles an hour, though that Honda couldn't even really go that speed, unless going downhill. Central South Dakota is an acquired taste: miles and miles of ranch land with no visual break at all, minus the Mighty Mo. Wyoming and Montana hold much of the same terrain, but there are other visuals to change the scenery.

I had almost given up on South Dakota geographically. I found Mount Rushmore overrated--and still 5 hours away from my recent home in Sioux Falls. Hardly in my backyard. Eastern South Dakota is essentially farmland, interstate, with a few small rivers and prairie lakes. In this land of Lewis and Clark, it takes an explorer's eye and a willingness to take the blue highways at a different pace to find geographical joy. A few recent trips have plugged me into this.

Big Bend Dam is a fisherfolk's nook a bit south of the State Capital in Pierre (pronounced "Peer"--don't mess that up--just like you don't say "Ore-eh-gone" to a Pacific Northwesterner). Dams themselves are not beautiful, I am just interested by the attempt to tame something that God created. A juxaposition of perceived power, power and beauty.

Howes, South Dakota. I can say that I will probably never go there again. This blip on the map at the junction of State Highways 73 and 34 is the kind of junction that is special in South Dakota--you have to want to go there to get there. I caused my mother pause on a recent trip to the Black Hills when preparing to drive through Howes, I stocked up on water--just in case. There are very few stops on the road from Sturgis to Pierre. It takes a love of geography and blue highways to take that trip. What is the difference from one rolling hill of ranchland to another? I enjoy being an afficianado of God's craft. One rolling hill is different from another. From the prairies I have become a student of the gallery with God's palet/brush/easel/potter's wheel/clay/glaze/kiln.

Aspiring to this next South Dakota stop: Ladner, South Dakota.

If you are a map dork, or even if you love geography, I have two recommendations:

1. See the film "Motorcycle Diaries"
2. If you like trivia about world capitals, take this geography quiz

My grandfather's golf nemesis, Ty Webb, had many problems with geography...might even be the anti-map dork. At Bushwood Country Club, Webb would often ask..."this isn't this Russia?"

Map dorks unite!

Rev. Elihu

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