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Foothills to Floods Jun 30

Two of the past three posts are set in the hills of West Virginia. Let’s drive out to South Dakota where the biggest hill is an ant hill. I used to live in this part of the country, and the picture below looks kind of familiar. I used to go for motorcycle rides along the river, picking up a lot of relaxation and at least one really nasty sunburn. That was before I had the sense to wear long pants on a motorcycle.

I think that's the town of Scotland in the upper left corner of this photo, taken by NASA's Earth Observatory.

The river is almost 20 feet above its normal banks. Look closely and you can see the meandering traces of the river’s normal channel, especially toward the right side of the picture. This is the James River, called the Jim River by the locals. The flooding looks rather well managed, doesn’t it? In exchange for the occasional scrubbing behind the ears, the farmers with fields in the flood plain get a nice fresh coating of topsoil for their crops. No expensive and undependable levees.

You might expect a place like rural South Dakota to be boring, but if you travel along the river, the scenery is pretty nice. Look across the farmland and you get a feel for how big our country is, and towns like Scotland are a mild-mannered break from the mild-mannered river, even at flood stage. ¬†Activities are, shall we say, less commercialized than you’ll find in a more heavily populated vacation spot. If you hop in your car right now, you might make it out there in time for the 4-H Horse Show on July 1. Well, maybe not. Next year, though. The population is 891, so everyone will be there, and they’ll all want to meet you, find out who these new people are.

You can stay an the Hometown Inn on Main Street, or use the campground a few feet away on the edge of town. Or sleep on the riverbank next to your bike.

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