Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

MERCER: Slowing down from 75

Bob Mercer

PIERRE -- I did something impossible again a few days ago. I went backward in time.

I drove from Pierre to Sioux Falls, mostly on two-lane highways, taking S.D. 34 across and U.S. 81 south before finally picking up I-90 near Salem.

I drove with the windows down and air conditioning off. On the radio tuned to AM-570, the "Big Friend" aka WNAX, I listened to the Minnesota Twins defeat the Chicago White Sox.

Somewhere east of Salem, just as a Twin delivered a hit, the radio crackled from lightning, as one of spring's last thunderstorms tried to make up its mind.

I like the two-lanes. I drive them when I can. This is almost always when I'm alone on a trip. I don't mind that I get someplace a little later than by taking a four-lane. I just leave a little earlier.

I left Pierre after work on Wednesday evening and spent the night in Sioux Falls, en route to the state Board of Regents meeting in Vermillion. On Thursday morning, I started on I-29 to Vermillion and took a semi-detour to see a place I had never been.

Viborg, you see, will be the honorary capitol of South Dakota for the day of July 22 by governor's proclamation. Driving west into town on the county road, I was greeted several times with an index-finger wave by men driving east. It's a matter of courtesy.

The route next led through Centerville, where unfortunately I didn't have time to stop for a roll and coffee. Next time I must.

After the regents wrapped up Thursday afternoon, I headed back to Pierre. I stayed off the interstates. From Vermillion I went west to Yankton on 50 and then up 81 and back across on 34.

The windows stayed down. It was enjoyable to smell the air change -- fields where hay was freshly cut, livestock operations where manure stung, fields dank where rain pooled -- and to hear in passing songbirds unseen.

Both there and back I saw along the road shoulders many more roosters and many more hens than I had expected. My guess is the hay work pushed the pheasants out.

There was tall grass in ditches along nearly every mile of the countryside. Ditch mowing was under way in a few places.

Generally mowing is prohibited along state highways before July 10 east of the Missouri River, except by special state permit or contract. July 10 is to protect pheasant nests.

Windows down, breeze across the back of my neck, ball game on the radio, motoring along a two-lane -- this was the stuff of my long ago, back when only fancy cars (aka cars I couldn't afford) had air conditioning, and cars generally came with vent windows.

I've driven more slowly in recent years, taking time to look, making time to remember. Seventy-five is fine when you need it. I try more and more to not need it. Along a two-lane, the values are the attraction.

Advertisement