What a welcome we get as we crossed into the USA, they speak Canadian. Traveling in a country where I can speak the language is great, but I am still learning my Spanish in preparation for Central and South America.
We arrived at the north President Theodore Roosevelt National Park only to discover that the scenic road was not completely open and therefore could only drive 7 miles into the park. We were disappointed but headed off to explore what we could. Arriving at the “road closed” sign we went for a brief walk before retreating to the truck, as there was a freezing wind blowing where we were greeted by 2 other tourists who informed us it had been snowing in the southern part of the national park. Is it ever going to get warm?
After arriving at Medora we went directly to the campsite and it was now time to heat up the camper and get some sleep. I bolted upright as I truly believed the train was about to come through my camper as it blasted its horn at 2am in the morning waking me up from a deep sleep. The train track ran almost alongside the campsite and although trains had been traveling through all night, this one was the first to blast its horn. Don’t they have any rules about waking up the residents of little towns in the USA?
The following morning we had a tour of President Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin. He built it and lived in it when he first arrived to live in North Dakota. It always amazes me at how some people live such interesting lives and leave such wonderful legacies, as he did when he promoted the National Parks in the USA.
After driving through the endless prairie landscape we finally saw the dark shapes of the famous Black Hills of South Dakota. After arriving in the tiny community of Spearfish, we decided this time we would do the scenic route to Deadwood and were not disappointed. The sun shone through the trees some just turning yellow, and in no time we had found a dirt road off the main road and headed for a campsite. In this rustic campsite we were alone in surrounded by rushing streams, forests and large mountains. Now this is what we travel for, the wonder of nature. Tomorrow we head for Mount Rushmore, who was this fellow Rushmore who had the famous carvings of the 4 USA presidents carved out of the mountain named after him?
We arrived at Deadwood a historical frontier town that has created a tourist industry out of gambling . Its lusty history and legendary characters of the past who came in search of adventure and fortune (gold) such as Calamity Jane, “Wild Bill” (Bill Hickok) and “Potato Creek Johnny” (John Perrett) all add to the notoriety of the area.Being a weekday the little town was indeed dead. The summer tourists all long gone home, the casinos and slot machines lying idle. We strolled around the town, imagining the town of the past, when times called for men to have a fast gun and no aversion to bloodshed and women of ill repute were for many men their only source of comfort.
We drove through the Black Hills’ forests, and were surprised to see the devastation caused by the pine beetle. What a destructive little critter this is. However the breath-taking Peter Norbeck route took us past towering rugged granite formations, through several tunnels, around tight hairpin curves, making an ordinary drive into a sight seeing experience.Note: The scenic Peter Norbeck byway has been named one of 10 most outstanding byways in America. We were not disappointed, it was spectacular.
The Crazy Horse sculpture carved into the granite mountain soars into the sky. Designed and started by Korczak Ziolkowski a Boston born Polish sculptor, it is currently mankind’s largest art project. The first blast into the mountain side took place on June 3rd 1948 and the project it is still ongoing today. If Tom thinks I am stubborn then he has never met a man like Korczak.
Korczak was invited to undertake the mammoth project by Chief Standing Bear of the Lakota (Sioux), who was inspired by Mount Rushmore, to create an Indian monument in the Black Hills, “so the white man will know the red man has great heroes also”. And so began the dream of the Crazy Horse Memorial. However just as striking as the memorial are the men behind it. It is an epic story of the short life and death of the Indian Chief Crazy Horse but it is also a story of one’s man determination and hard work to carve out the mountain without federal assistance.
Korczak toiled against all odds, using his fierce determination and artistic skill as a sculptor creating a monument that when finished will be 641’ (195m) wide and 563’ (172m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87’ (27m), by comparison the heads of the 4 USA Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60’ (18m) high.
I wondered what Crazy Horse himself would have said about this massive mountain monument
There are some places that truly do look like the postcard pictures we see of the place. Mt Rushmore looked as spectacular as it does in the pictures, perhaps the photos don’t even do it justice; it is remarkable. Located in the heart of the Black Hills rising above forests and streams is Gutzon Borglum’s historic masterpiece, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a patriotic symbol for the American nation. It is the largest monument in the world, taking 14 years to achieve and costing $1,000,000.
We arrived early in the evening and decided that we would take in the evening show. The outside auditorium was packed despite the chilly wind. We listened to the story of the four Presidents who were chosen to represent the spirit of the nation and democracy.
President Washington the first American president,
President Jefferson principal author of the Declaration of Independence,
President Roosevelt a naturalists and promoted the National Parks of the USA,
President Lincoln who ended slavery.
We huddle amongst the audience who cheered their veterans when they were asked to come forward. The national anthem was sung and the flag was lowered.
In 1930 Ted and Dorothy Hustead began to offer tired and hot travelers “free ice water” and the rest is history. Today their store is world famous with over 15,000 visitors a day in the summer. Behind the Western storefront is a collection of over 20 stores offering everything for sale from guns to aspirins. We wandered around buying nothing and being amazed at the knick knacks for sale, who on earth buys all this stuff? Don’t they know most things will just gather dust over the years? It is such a reminder to us of all we gave away in our downsizing before this trip. All our treasures that eventually had to go and the remarkable thing is, it feels so good to be free of “stuff.” Downsizing is very freeing.
In the mall was a sculpture of a women who resembled exactly, down to the cigar of my grandmother, may her soul rest in peace!
French trappers called the land, “les mauvaises terres a traverser,” “the bad land to cross,” and so the term was the Badlands given to the area by the Lakota Sioux. As we drove to the edge of the prairie grassland, the earth seemed to drop away into a wilderness of buttes and hoodoos stretching for as far as the eye can see. It is desolate and stark and a geologist’s heaven. We hiked the pathways and gazed in wonder at a world carved by wind, rain and sun, creating fascinating elements of nature. We decided to camp in the park and enjoy it until the end of the day.
The cold war maybe over but the fascination with the remnants of the Cold War and the Minuteman missiles remains. We stopped at the Minuteman Missile Visitors centre only to be told the tours were fully booked. These missiles had the power to destroy civilization as we know it and this destructive force acted as a deterrent which kept the peace for three decades.
Growing up in South Africa we were far removed from the Soviet threat or Cuban missile situation. So we watched the film, looked at the information posters, and there was no Red button to push to start the nuclear war, it required in fact a couple of codes and 2 keys. So I learnt some things and today it seems the threat of nuclear war still haunt the world, but I believe that into days world the most destructive weapon has to be land mines, which kills and maims innocent daily, when will they be banned?