Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Custer State Park

Our first stop after escaping our EconoLodge on Thursday morning was Mount Rushmore National Monument. We were warned that the emotions it engendered might cause us to shed a few patriotic tears. To be forewarned is to be forearmed and we drove up to the monument. One first sees the monument from the road and it is pretty striking. One is winding up the mountainside, navigating hairpin turns, admiring the mountain scenery, and suddenly, there are these faces carved out of a mountainside. The visitor center was constructed relatively recently. There is a multi-story parking garage so there was no problem finding a place to park. In a cute twist, entrance to the park is free, but it costs $10/car to park. We walked up the Avenue of the Flags (the flags of all fifty states) to the Grand Terrace to view the monument. We searched our deepest feelings. No evidence of patriotic tears in evidence. After taking about five pictures, I had run out of picture ideas. I took another half dozen just because it was there. We then took the trail that leadsd closer to the monument. This improved the picture taking opportunities by adding trees to frame the monument with. Interestingly, Washington gets all the best camera angles. Lincoln gets a few good shots. From many viewpoints, you can’t see Jefferson or Roosevelt at all. So, yes, it is a magnificent sculptural feat, but once you see it, you can cross it off your bucket list and move on.

Which we did. Kris remarked that she was not aware that there was a contest going on in carving large sculptures of people out of mountainsides. But our visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial showed us that there was. The Crazy Horse Monument is very much still under construction, but that is partly because it is so much larger. The Mount Rushmore monument would fit entirely into the face of Crazy Horse, which is the only part of him that is recognizably completed. When the monument is finished Crazy Horse will be sitting on an enormous horse, pointing off into the distance. This illustrates his quote that “My land is where my ancestors are buried.” The monument has quite a large visitors center with displays from all of the major North American Indian tribes. For my Seattle readers, you will be pleased to know that Chief Seattle gets some notice, and Chief Joseph even more. However, once again, the photo opps are fairly limited and we made our getaway.

Our final tourist site for the day was Custer State Park. The highlight is to drive their wilderness loop road. On the road we stopped to get close up looks of two herds of bison. Truly magnificent creatures. The bison can weigh up to a ton and can reach a top speed of 37 mph. Considering that getting run down by one would be like being run over by a Volkswagen, it is recommended that you stay at least 25 yards away from any one of them. Needless to say, that rule went right out the window when the bison conveniently crossed the road for the benefit of us photographers. Also conveniently posing for the camera were pronghorns. Elk, also reputed to be denizens of the park, kept themselves hidden. I was surprised to learn that at the end of September each year, cowboys round up all the bison in the park. They are tagged, sorted, vaccinated, counted, and, if the number of bison in the park is determined to be larger than the park grassland can support the following year, the excess bison are sold. The roundup is open to the public and apparently has become quite a tourist attraction itself.

We ended the day yesterday in the Rodeway Inn in Hot Springs, SD. A measure of the way prices are inflated for the Sturgis Bike Rally is that we had to spend $135 for the first night, but only $53 for tonight for the very same room and level of service. But today (Friday) was all about R&R for us. Kris did our laundry, I washed and vacuumed the van. We reorganized the contents of the van. We had Dairy Queen for lunch and read about what to do in Yellowstone National Park. Then we “took the waters” at a spa and had a salmon dinner at a local sports bar. Now we are relaxing with the Olympics opening ceremonies on the TV.

Tomorrow see us stop at Mammoth National Park before traveling probably to Cody, WY.

Tim

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