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.