Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mt. Rushmore and Rapid City in the Rain

Wed. Sept, 14th

Mt. Rushmore in the mist
Wednesday night whenever I woke up I heard rain pattering on the camper roof. It’s a soothing sound, but I was hoping it would stop by morning. It didn’t and it was freezing as well, down in the 30s. Nothing like a COLD rain to dampen your spirits. We had a leisurely breakfast waiting to see if the weather would improve. No luck. So we decided to go into Rapid City and check out inside activities. But when I looked for attractions in the Garmin the first thing that came up was Mt. Rushmore. It was so close, only 1.7 miles away, that we decided we’d just take a quick look and then go back on Friday. But when we got there the drizzle had subsided to a mist that didn’t seem too bad so we parked and headed into the visitor center/museum. At the outside viewing area I took some pictures that turned out well. One advantage of a cloud cover is no shadows. The faces were clear.

I’ve seen pictures of Mt. Rushmore, but being there is a different experience. Just the scope of the
vision is impressive – to carve a mountain. Frankly, it would never occur to me to do such a thing. And it’s almost funny to read about its conception, “an idea to draw sightseers.” Well, it certainly has succeeded in doing that. Even in the rain and outside the popular season there were plenty of tourists and us among them.

George Washington in earmuffs
In the museum we watched the movie about its creation. What a project! Much of the “sculpting” was done with dynamite and the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had a crew of about 400 workmen helping. Over $800,000 of the million dollar tab was picked up by the federal government. Isn’t that interesting when you consider its original purpose was to be a tourist trap. LOL! Well, the federal government gets its $11 a car. I imagine it brings in millions every year and the government has recouped its investment many times over. The thing I found most inspiring were the photos and quotes from the workers who became truly caught up in the project.

Larry and I followed the president’s trail that gave a number of interesting views of the individual heads. At one point I snapped George Washington and when I looked at the picture I had inadvertently positioned a pine bow to make him look like he was wearing earmuffs. It made me laugh and reminded me of all those photos you get with things coming out of people’s heads.

About halfway around the trail is the artist’s studio with a model that Borglum was working from. His original design included the presidents’ upper bodies, but that part of the project died with Borglum.

Gutzon Borglum, sculptor
Since we had to go back through Keystone to go to Rapid City, we stopped at Peggy’s for lunch. The sign said “home cooking” and it certainly was. The chicken noodle soup was so good I was sorry I only ordered a cup. We shared a first-rate Reuben sandwich as well. While waiting for a table we struck up a conversation with a gentleman from Australia who loves coming to America. He’s been all over. We also talked to a couple from Wisconsin. Part of the fun of traveling is having these impromptu conversations with interesting people.

Our first stop in Rapid City was the visitors’ center. Right next door was a park which included an exhibit on the Berlin Wall. That was a head scratcher to us until we started reading the markers. Mt. Rushmore seems to have given Rapid City a sort of national identity with an emphasis on patriotism. Americans can do big things, they seem to say, whether it’s creating a nation based on republican principles and rights, building the Panama Canal, carving a mountain, or running an airlift into a besieged foreign city.

There are several blocks downtown with a bronze model of each of the presidents through George W.
Bush. We were intrigued by the “props” in each sculpture. John Kennedy held John-John’s hand. Taft was crouching with a baseball behind his back ready for the pitch. Truman held the newspaper that says “Dewey wins.” George Bush Sr. has his hand on a globe. Reagan is wearing his signature cowboy hat and boots. If it hadn’t been so cold we would have visited all of the presidents. Instead we stopped at Edge of the Prairie, a combination store and museum of Indian culture. The art was incredible including paper sculptures in three dimensions, one showing a buffalo hunt. Very impressive.

We went to the 5:30 Mass at the Cathedral, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, for Our Lady of Sorrows’ feast day. It was another orthodox, reverent Mass. So far the closest we’ve come to a crazy liturgy was a sign for a “polka Mass” on the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin, but we haven’t seen any liturgical dancers dancing the polka or anything else. On the other hand, we’ve been to two Sunday Masses where the congregation was praying the rosary before Mass and this evening virtually the entire congregation stayed after the priest left to make their thanksgiving.

Our day ended with dinner at the Alpine restaurant in Hill City which has one menu item – filet mignon in two sizes for either $8.95 or $10.95 served with a baked potato, lettuce wedge, and Texas toast. Having only one dinner item doesn’t seem to suppress their business; it was booming and we had to wait 40 minutes for a table.

What a great day! And the weatherman is calling for sun tomorrow.

1 comment:

The Local Tourist said...

I am so happy to hear you had an amazing trip to Rapid City. Please come back any time, we have plenty of visitor information at to make your next trip to Rapid City a whole new experience.