Mt. Rushmore

Friday, May 10th

Gaining an hour is always nice; we scooped one up yesterday along I-90 as we crossed the Missouri River. Today this hour was redeemed for a roll-over-and-go back-to sleep event. A little narcotic gift. And very welcomed after yesterday’s scamper across South Dakota. But because I can never live in the moment, I’m vaguely aware that I’m going to have to give this time back at some point. At some layover in Detroit or wake-up in Connecticut, I’ll be asked to cough it up. And I will, like a two week old fur ball. Oh well.

We really took our time this morning. Even with the extra hour in front of us we managed not to get out of our hotel until checkout around 11:00. We did all the normal morning stuff, just much slower and without any sense of urgency at all. Time to dial back the pace for a couple of days.

We began the day with a stop at Mt. Rushmore. “The faces that launched a thousand RVs”, as our guidebook quips. Because…you have to go there. Because…they said so. It’s like getting your measles vaccine. One and done. Lots of people have told me that Mt. Rushmore was anticlimactic for them. So I tuned my attitude accordingly in full anticipation that I was about to be less than awed.

As it turns out, the place is pretty freakin’ cool. The scale and boldness of the engineering alone are enough to make a visit there worth while. In fact, Mt. Rushmore was special to me before I ever saw it because my mother actually remembers camping nearby as a girl and being awakened by dynamite blasts during it’s construction. I like that story. And I was glad it wasn’t the disappointment other people advertised.

But, somehow, I found a way to hate the place anyway. Glass half empty, remember? Here’s the problem. I understand the human instinct to leave a lasting legacy. It’s both a reflection of our astonishing hubris and a crystal clear acknowledgement of how fragile and temporary we truly are, both individually and as a species. So I can almost forgive graffiti blasted out of prehistoric granite. I get it. What’s really hard to swallow is how completely tone deaf this particular manifestation of “self” is. A nation colonizes a continent by purging it of its aboriginal inhabitants. Then that same nation carves preposterously gigantic likenesses of its own leaders on the same land which was sacred to the natives whose culture it exterminated. Really? That’s just…awful. Like dancing in the end zone or something – not cool.

I did not share this insight with anyone at Mt. Rushmore, obviously. Only with my son in the car. So after that little tantrum, we headed South through Custer, SD and Wind Cave National Park where we saw buffalo roaming, if that’s not too cliche. Having eaten some for breakfast (with eggs and sourdough toast), I felt a little queer taking their pictures for some reason. Cake and eat it too came to mind.

We hit the Nebraska border in late afternoon at the middle of the panhandle and then drove through mile after mile of beautiful, rolling grassland. And also, briefly, through what looked like Cape Cod dunes. That was weird. We made a spectacular detour to visit Courthouse and Jail Rocks, major guiding landmarks on the Oregon Trail. You can see them from miles away and the closer you get the more impressive they look. We spent an hour or so climbing around / over both of them. Amazing views but a little hairy navigating in places. I managed to lose a pair of three dollar Ocean State Job Lot reading glasses, probably while hunched over and whimpering my way along a steep, narrow section. Bill got nearly to the top of Jail Rock and we got some great pictures.

Then on to the town of Sydney, NE for our overnight. Tomorrow – Wyoming and Colorado I think.

Random information: today we saw mule deer, meadowlarks, pheasant, turkeys, rabbits, buffalo, white tailed deer, goats and a grouse, flushed off a dirt road. Still haven’t cleaned out the car. And we need to do some laundry. Weather was perfect.

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9 thoughts on “Mt. Rushmore

  1. So I still wanna see a picture o’ da caah !
    …and I like Peter’s suggestion about the donuts.
    I stay up until you post, you know…

  2. When Mom and her family were in Mt Rushmore ~1935 (trip Glenn mentions above – same Mom), Grandpa made friends with one of the foremen who took the family right up into the sculpture after hours. “I stood in Lincoln’s eye” Mom remembers. Truly a remarkable place. Saw it at sunset. You are right, though, about desecration of the sacred Black Hills. I went through said Black Hills in the pitch dark after Mt Rushmore (extremely black hills, sure enough), looking in vain for a motel. Finally stopped in Lusk, Wyoming – a great little town that looked straight out of a Western. Hope it still does. Custom western hat maker on the main drag too. This was in about 1992 or so.

  3. maybe you should be a writer instead of an insurance executive when you grow up.
    Love this.
    Don’t forget to shave.
    xox your other half

  4. Your point about the end zone dancing is right on. Take your land and then deface it too.
    And can I just say, Teddy Roosevelt? Not really in the same league as the other guys up there…kind of like having the Mt Rushmore of the NY Yankees with Ruth, Gerhig, Mantle and…. A-Rod.
    One of the great things about this trip is it’s making me relive my trip as a 16-year old across the country and bringing back fond memories. It’s also forcing me to refresh my memory about geography. South Dakota to Nebraska? For a moment, I thought you were heading in the wrong direction…

  5. Now that I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, you need to write more to fill up my empty hours. And use bigger words so I have to look them up. And odd similies so that I can ponder them for a while before fully grasping their rich and complex meaning. Interesting that you chose the Lawrenceville motif in wordpress (black boarder, red text, l’ville font) for your blog. Having some subliminal Mr. Weeden flashback?

  6. These comments from your nearest and dearest are ALMOST as good as your blog. Well, not really but just as entertaining. This is a special thing you are doing and sharing, GlennD, on so many levels. Thank you. Love you and all of yours, even Henning!

    P.S. agree with Bob…we need to see da car (insert appropriate Philly accent)

  7. Fun to traveling with you. Jamie and I loved the black hills, eastern wyoming ( but northern route). You will go through Colorado Springs – you should give Cate a shout. She graduates next week – you will hit Colorado College at peak party time.

  8. Have to go to Devil’s Tower Wyoming . Sacred Indian spot without the desecration of mt Rushmore . Keep an eye out for the prong horn antelope

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