The drive to Rapid City was uneventful, thank Goodness. The vast nothingness that is southern South Dakota is an anxiety-ridden nightmare for someone whose biggest fear is breaking down on the side of the road.
In Nebraska there were some small towns and each one had a clean gas station. You were s***t out of luck (so to speak) if you had to pee while driving on Hwy 18 in SD. There aren’t even any trees. This is cattle/prairie country—wide open spaces and rolling hills with no people to be seen. If we had broken down, no one would have found us for days!
I knew we were in for a long drive when I saw a billboard in NE for McDonald’s that said “Last Big Mac for 112 miles.” I think my heart skipped a beat, and I don’t even like Big Macs.
But, obviously, we made it fine. We had gorgeous weather the whole trip. And it was worth taking those back roads because we went up through the Badlands, and it was beautiful.
That first night we went to the Firehouse Brewery, where Al and the guys used to go when he’d come here TDY (temporary duty). And now I know why they would because it was awesome. The beer was fantastic and the food was delicious.
The next day, the sight-seeing began. After driving through what became our favorite coffee shop (Gizzi’s), we headed to Mount Rushmore. It was a cool day with blue skies and hardly any traffic on smooth, winding roads. I love going on vacation in late September because the tourist areas aren’t as crowded, just some retirees. Actually, we were the youngest people every where we went. It was wonderful.
So, Mt. Rushmore. Just like other amazing sights, you’re never ready for seeing it from the road. We were toddling down the road when I looked up and there was George Washington!
I was very excited to see this, and I wasn’t disappointed, which brings me to an important point to make. Many times I hear from people that they were disappointed in Mt. Rushmore and that it wasn’t that big a deal. To those people I ask, “What the hell have you seen that you are not impressed by this?” It’s A-MAZ-ING. It’s beautiful and moving, and I actually felt that proudly patriotic part of my heart that has been beaten down by an oppressive Republican administration. OK, so I got a little off track there, but the point is, it really is amazing to see.
Those four faces, their eyes gazing out at the future of their country just gave me goose bumps.
And to think that they created this in the early 30s, before computers and lasers, with only jack hammers and chisels. I got the audio tour because I’m a geek and I wanted to hear the stories. I am, however, a lazy geek, so I love the audio tour so that I don’t have read the hundreds of plaques.
A tip for you: if you decide to walk the decked-trail that goes around the base of the mountain to see it from different views—and you should—start to your left (while looking at the presidents) at the sign that says “Presidential Way, Generator, and Artist’s Studio.” It’s easier in that direction because you’ll be going down a total of 220 steps instead of up. You’ll still have some steps to get back up, but it’s only 20 or 30.
Me on the boardwalk around the base of the mountain.
The sculptor's studio
BTW, there is no free parking at Mt. Rushmore any more. It cost $8 per car, but that pass is good for the year, so you can go back.
There is so much more to see, so we headed back to the car, had a quick snack, and headed on to Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse is an incredible monument that I don’t expect to be completed in my lifetime, but I don’t think that’s the point any more. Conceived, designed and created by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, the project is continued by his wife and 7 of his 10 kids. They are using Ziolkowski’s three books of detailed plans and accept no government funding. As a matter of fact, Ziolkowski twice turned down $10 million in federal funding.
When finished, it will be 563 feet high, 641 feet long, carved three-dimensionally (in the round). To give you a better idea, all four heads of Mt. Rushmore will fit in Crazy Horse’s head.
Here are some pictures of the model with the actual work behind it.
The first blast was June 3, 1948 and the face was completed on June 3, 1998. Now they are working on the horse’s head.
We drove around a little more and enjoyed the scenery, then had the best dinner of the trip. We went to the Fireside Inn, a pretty and homey restaurant with large windows to look out at the deer grazing at dusk. Al and the guys used to come to this restaurant every Wednesday for the special on prime rib. I went with every intention of sharing a big ol' slab of medium rare prime rib with him, but then I saw salmon wellington on the menu and I couldn't resist.
So, Al had to order the smaller prime rib for himself.
The last thing we saw that night, was a beautiful fool moon.
I'll finish up the trip next time. Have a great weekend, everyone.