28.09.2013 - 28.09.2013
Departure day. And after a quiet breakfast and final packing of our things we all hugged and said goodbye. The newlywed couple from Great Britain took their rental car and drove towards Yellowstone, the three German men left almost without anyone noticing and the fabulous lady (also from Great Britain) had left the ranch only a few days earlier. My friend and I got into the minivan for transfer to Rapid City. We were suppose to have left the ranch by 9am but got delayed.
We had reserved a guided tour to Mount Rushmore and had a pick-up at Rapid City Regional Airport at noon. But we managed to get at the airport only 5 minutes late. We said goodbye to Doerte and Sonja who had drove us and got into the van with our guide Russ. Another Frenchman was also joining us on the tour. The tour began with a drive through Rapid City itself. Rapid City is the second biggest town in South Dakota, but honestly the town didn’t feel that big. Along the main street statues are lined representing all American Presidents and in one of the city parks we passed a piece of the Berlin Wall. Russ told us most cities in America are built in square patterns along the railroad that runs through (or has been) the city, as in Rapid City. The streets in Rapid City were surprisingly strict arranged in a clear square pattern so you couldn’t miss it. From here you can see the Black Hills far away on the horizon. The Black Hills really looks black in a distance because of the pine trees (Ponderosa Pine Trees) that grows on the mountain. The pine trees needles are long and flat which makes them absorb the sunlight and gives the impression of a black colored mountain.
After a lot of narrow turning roads we arrived at Mount Rushmore. Even though it was soon October a lot of tourists were here. I can only imagine how crowded it can be during the high season with thousands of tourists. We stopped for lunch in the restaurant at Borglum Court. Then we started walking along Presidential Trail, a small trail leading up to the famous Mount Rushmore.
Facts about Mount Rushmore…
Mount Rushmore National Memorial was created as the memory of the first 150 years of America’s history by a 5 km2 large area in Keystone, South Dakota. Mt Rushmore is most known for its 18 meter high granite monuments representing the American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The monument was created by the Danish-American sculptors Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum together with 400 co-workers. The project started in 1927 on President Calvin Coolidge initiative and was finished in 1941 one year earlier than planned due to poor financing since America was preparing for entering the Second World War. The granite from which the monuments are created of is very hard and the erosion is estimated to be 2,5 cm in 10000 years. In other words, it will take another 2,7 million years before the sculptures has lost their facial shapes. When the faces were “sculptured”, 90% of the redundant granite was removed with dynamite while the rest 10% were drilled or hammered away by hand! Now that’s what you can call accurate work with dynamite!
The first idea was to create the monument in the Black Hills, but that idea was rejected by Gutzon Borglum because of the poor granite quality and strong protests from environmentalists and Native Americans. So they settled with Mount Rushmore which also had the advantage of pointing towards southeast for maximum sun exposure. Doane Robinson, who originally came up with the whole idea of this monument, initially wanted to image western heroes like Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody, but she was voted down by Borglum who decided it needed a more national focus. The work started in October 1927 and was thought to image the president’s from their head down to their waist. Due to embolism Gutzon Borglum deceased in March 1941 and when his son took over the project, it had to end the very same year in October due to cut budget. In a canyon behind the sculptured faces is a chamber 21 meters into the mountain with a vault containing 16 porcelain panels. The panels contain the texts of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, all memoirs of the four presidents and Borglum's own memoir along with America’s history.
During a 10-year period of time a visitor center was built with equipment for visitors, pathways and museums. On a yearly basis mountaineers monitors and covers cracks to preserve the monument. Due to limited budget the faces can’t be washed regularly to prevent lichen. Mt Rushmore is a controversial subject among Native Americans since the United States took the area from the Lakota Tribe after the Sioux War in 1876. Eight years earlier the area had been given to the Lakota Tribe for eternity. In 1971 members of the American Indian Movement occupied the monument and named it Mount Crazy Horse. They planned to erect a prayer column as a symbolic veil over the monumental faces and were suppose to stay up until the area was returned to its rightful owner. But the monument is provoking controversies. Some say the monument is about superior racism since the four presidents (that Borglum chose) were all active during that period of time when the Americans invaded the land of the Native Americans. And as a member of Ku Klux Klan, Gutzon Borglum himself contributes to controversies.
So after an hour, after photographing the faces in every angle and a visit in the souvenir shop, we were ready leaving the monument. When we were almost done and were heading towards the van my friend spotted a Mountain Goat up on a stone in the woods. Unfortunately it was pretty far away so it was hard to get great photos. But now I’ve seen one IRL!
Needle Eye and chipmunks
We gathered in the van and Russ drove us around to many different places in the area, Needle Eye among other things that you probably wouldn’t have found as a regular tourist. At one of the places that we stopped at had chipmunks running around. You know those cute little ones as Chip and Dale are. They were soooo cute It was very difficult to get good pictures of the little ones. They were so fast. Even if you got the camera to focus on one chipmunk it had already moved away before you had time to push the button to take the photo. Later we stopped by a lake where a famous movie had been recorded (don’t remember the title though). And today when we got here an on-going wedding were on the beach. We joked around and said we should crash the wedding. Before returning to Rapid City Russ drove us to the Crazy Horse Memorial. We had not reserved that tour to Crazy Horse but he stopped quickly nearby so we could take photos.
Cathedral Spires and Crazy Horse Memorial
During the drive back to Rapid City we got so tired. The tour we booked was only for 5 hours but after extra stops here and there we had been out for 6 ½ hours. Back in Rapid City we checked in at Ramada Inn by 6.30pm. The first thing that hit you when you came through the door into the hotel reception was chlorine! It smelled like swimming pools. And there was a large swimming pool next to the reception right in the middle of the hotel. The kids were swimming and playing around in the pool while the parents watched over them. It felt so weird standing there with baggage checking in, fully dressed while the kids and adults sat in their bathing suites just a few meters away. The hotel staff recommended the restaurant Alfredo’s for dinner since we got 10% off while staying at Ramada Inn. Great! We found the restaurant but the place wasn’t that spectacular, only OK. The food was mediocre, the waitresses service sucked and the girl at the register had huge problems with our 10% discount. She had a card to swipe in the register but it didn’t work. After a few minutes when the queue had gone long we gave up the discount – as long as we could get out of there! But when she swiped my credit card it didn’t work instead. So I couldn’t pay for my food. WTF! And I didn’t have any cash at the time. So my fellow traveler was kind enough to lend me some cash so we could just leave the place. OMG such fuss! When back at the hotel we reserved a cab to Rapid City Regional Airport tomorrow morning at 6.45am to catch our flight to New York!