WORTHINGTON, MI to BADLANDS, SD

South Dakota has the most billboards of any state. They were very distracting. Great! Something to read! It's been nearly forty years since I've driven cross-country. The billboards reflect the changing times, perhaps none more so than Wall Drug. As a child travelling west with my parents (over fifty years ago) I was abosolutely fascinated by the Wall Drug signposts. They were scattered on roads throughout the west, hundreds of miles from Wall's. The signs were small, cute, and cleverly corny, with sparse (if any) graphics. Each sign would promise some great prospect. I remember being very disappointed when we arrived at the destination as Wall's was the ultimate tourist trap. I'm sure it still is and I won't be going there. However, there billboards are a twenty-first century version of the same concept. They are bigger. they gave gauge illustrations. And they advertise how Wall's was once featured in People Magazine, or how you must visit the T-Rex park. There were too many such billboards to review here. I was particularly amused by the "twenty-four hour toe service." My toes, I thought, could definitely use some service! Probably I should also tell you about the sign that asked whether I was "corn-sidering coming" to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. 

I left the interstate at Chamberlain to get a close up view of the Missouri River and to pay a brief visit to the Atka Lokata Cultural Center. I didn't stay too long because I wanted to maximize my time in the Badlands.

 

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Let's skip the rest and get straight to the Badlands. I took a twenty-five mile bicycle ride along the main loop road. The combination of eroded land forms, geological layers, and contemporary prairie is staggeringly beautiful. Every corner yields a dynamic new perspective, and to experience it all on a bicycle was utterly joyous. I'll just let the photos do most of the talking.

I ran into a couple of long-haired, tattoo covered, sixty something dudes, who recently retired, and packed their small motorcycles onto a funky looking RV, headed toward Alaska. They came from Cape Cod. They were extolling the virtues of their trip. We had a great conversation. There are so many different versions of hitting the road. For me, it's a bicycle and a guitar in a Prius.

I took most of these photos while walking around at sunset, not while on my bicycle.  The juniper grove is on an oasis near Cedar Pass, the most moist section of the park. April and May is the time of maximum rainfall so the landscape is probably at its greenest.

 

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Mitch Thomashow

Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence. Currently he is engaged in teaching, writing, and executive consulting, cultivating opportunities and exchanges that transform how people engage with sustainability and ecological learning. In August, 2011 Thomashow became Director of the Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program. This new program is designed to assist the executive leadership of colleges and universities in promoting a comprehensive sustainability agenda on their campuses. Fellows provide executive consulting on climate action planning, long-range financial planning, organizational leadership, curricular implementation, and community investment. From 2006-2011, Thomashow was the president of Unity College in Maine. With his management team, he integrated concepts of ecology, sustainability, natural history, wellness, participatory governance, and community service into all aspects of college and community life. This included construction of The Unity House, the first LEED Platinum President’s Residence in North America, and the TeraHaus, a passive house student residence, as well as comprehensive campus energy planning, an integrated approach to growing food on campus, and a new academic master plan. Previously from 1976-2006, Thomashow was the Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Antioch University New England. He founded an interdisciplinary environmental studies doctoral program and worked collaboratively to grow and nourish a suite of engaging Masters programs, geared to working adults. Thomashow is the founder of Whole Terrain, an environmental literary publication, originating at Antioch University New England, and “Hawk and Handsaw,” a journal of creative sustainability, published at Unity College. He serves on the boards of Orion Magazine and The Coalition on Environmental and Jewish Life (COEJL). Thomashow is a founding organizer of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD), a national organization that supports interdisciplinary environmental studies in higher education. He provides ongoing consultation to the Sustainable Endowments Institute and their new Billion Dollar Green Challenge program. His two books have significantly influenced environmental studies education. Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist (The MIT Press, 1995) offers an approach to teaching environmental education based on reflective practice—a guide to teachers, educators and concerned citizens that incorporates issues of citizenship, ecological identity, and civic responsibility within the framework of environmental studies. Bringing the Biosphere Home, (The MIT Press, 2001) is a guide for learning how to perceive global environmental change. It shows readers that through a blend of local natural history observations, global change science, the use of imagination and memory, and philosophical contemplation, you can learn how to broaden your spatial and temporal view so that it encompasses the entire biosphere. His essay (2010), “The Gaian Generation: A New Approach to Environmental Learning” provides provocative new concepts for teaching about global environmental change. Another essay (2012) “Where You At 2.0” reasserts the relevance of bioregionalism for digital age learners. A recent essay (2013),“Sustainability as Turnaround” is a case study of his work as president at Unity College. with mandolin.png His new book, The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus (The MIT Press) provides a framework for advancing sustainable living and teaching in a variety of campus environments. It will be available in January, 2014. Thomashow is currently working on two writing, networking, and teaching projects. Improvisational Excellence suggests that improvisation emulates the patterns and processes of the biosphere. It’s a series of essays linking play, music, and observing nature to the paths of everyday living. It is the philosophical basis for Thomashow’s workshops on global environmental change, music and nature, and ecological perception. Wilson’s Library is a series of prose poems depicting extraordinary moments during the history of life on earth. Thomashow lives in the hill country of southwest New Hampshire in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. He loves to explore the fields, forests, wetlands, hills, and lakes of Northern New England where you can often find him on his bicycle. His recreational interests include basketball, baseball, board games, jazz piano, electronic keyboards, musical composition and recording, guitars, hiking, and lake swimming.