Straight to Mount Rushmore

September 15, 2010 - 6:20 am No Comments

After landing in Rapid City and getting a warm feeling inside when we saw our three bags waiting for us, we hopped over to the Hertz counter and picked up our shiny, big, white Toyota Highlander. Stepping out into the rental car parking lot, the air was fresh, with the scent of a distant wildfire. And the view was tremendous. Stef and I were excited to hit the road.

Ready to Go!

The short drive to Mount Rushmore took us through the Black Hills, so named because the dark green Ponderosa pines covering the hills makes them look almost black, especially when a cloud passes over. The landscapes were magnificent. Immediately, I knew that I’d need to resist the urge to stop the car every five minutes to take another landscape shot.

My trusty GPS took us straight to the Mount Rushmore parking lot, where Stef took extra care parking our big Highlander. After a short walk past the visitor center and café, there we were, standing right in front of George, Tom, Teddy, and Abe. After a bumpy start to the trip, it was so nice to finally be seeing something cool.

Mount Rushmore

George & Tom

The Fifth Head

It’s bigger than I thought. And the perspective is weird. The trees below make it look like the whole thing belongs on a model train set. The sculptures are intricately carved, and striations in the rock slice through the presidents’ faces. Stef and I agree that the best thing about the sculpture is Abe Lincoln’s pouty lip.

We walked around a bit, and I took pictures like crazy. Unfortunately, the late afternoon sun is behind the memorial, so I vowed to return the next morning for some proper pictures.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

When it got dark, we were happy to learn that there was a nightly performance and light show at Mount Rushmore, so we stuck around. I staked a good place for my tripod, and the crowd started to gather around us.

Having a tripod and a big camera makes me the go-to guy for “Can you take my picture?” We joked around with most of those people, but one particularly child-molester-looking guy that wandered over creeped Stef out. He had it all: the haircut that stayed unstylish no matter how many times he ran his hand through it, the engineer glasses, the mustache, the tucked in dress shirt, the Members Only jacket, the short pant legs, the awkward pauses, and the mistimed laughs. He made me take five pictures of him.

The “performance” was a park ranger coming out and giving us a melodramatic speech about the four presidents and their upbringing, followed by a short film about Mount Rushmore and its construction. The “light show” was a slowly illuminated spotlight on the presidents.

Mount Rushmore at Night

When it was time to find our campground, my GPS wasn’t so trusty. It led up into the hills on windy, pitch-black roads, and then told us to take a turn on a road that didn’t exist. Don’t trust the Garmin when you’re looking for the Mount Rushmore KOA. After stopping at three grungy motels for prices and availability, we finally bit the bullet and got a room. Probably best, since the beds were probably more comfortable than sleeping in a tent, and we badly needed a good night’s sleep.

It was a bumpy day, and moods flared, but everything worked out. We woke up this morning vowing to be in a better mood and looking forward to the first full day of our adventure.

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