When I hear the word dune, I think of the desert, but these along the Florida beach are a different variety. Unlike the shifting sands of the Sahara, these are covered with plants and are meant to hold their shape in a storm. They are what keeps us from being washed away completely.
If you look carefully through the top of the dune, you'll see orange tape marking a sea turtle nest. Scores of volunteers comb the beach for nests, erect barriers, and take careful notes over the incubation period. Once hatched, they'll dash for the water so as not to be eaten by birds. Only a few survive to adulthood; it's a rough start to what will hopefully become a long life in the sea.
Nothing is permanent, yet everything is trying to hold on. The dunes and turtles are both pitted against the forces of nature. Perhaps the tension in the environment is what produces the beauty on earth. It seems that elemental pressures are a creative force. Without them, we'd all be washed away and overrun with too many sea turtles. On second thought, you can never have too many sea turtles.
A few years ago I took an all-night drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. The only rule was that I had to be back at the San Jose airport by eight in the morning. So I gassed up the rental, picked up a couple of Red Bulls, and started driving.
By day, it's one of the most scenic highways. By night, it feels like another world. Once you get below Carmel, there is no light pollution, and the stars are big and bright. As it happened, the moon illuminated the road, and my eyes got used to it, was more comfortable than daytime driving. I would stop at pullouts overlooking the coast and take long exposure images like this one at ten seconds.
Also, the lighthouses are fun to look at as they cast their rotating beams in the fog and low clouds. The one in the distance is Point Sur Lightstation. I made it down to San Simeon and turned the car around. It was a long drive back, but the sense of adventure (and Red Bull) kept me going. I made it back in time to grab my bags from the hotel and catch my flight home. And lucky for me, it was the pilot's turn to drive, so I slept all the way back to Florida.
This summer we drove back and forth across South Dakota. It was part of a road trip to see the land up close. I've crossed South Dakota a hundred times by air, but there isn't much to see from up there.
Except for a few small cities and towns, the landscape is wide open. For an urbanite like me, it was nice to drive for long hours without stopping because I could start to grasp the sense of scale. The entire state is a wide-open expanse.
Since most people drive through South Dakota, they have some amazing rest stops. Many had grocery store cafes where you could find every snack imaginable. My favorite was the robot frappuccino makers. Some stops have advertising signs for a hundred miles or more. I took this photo at one known as 1880's Old Town and Diner, where you could fill up, grab a bite, and see a pioneer town while you're at it.