Saturday, September 1, 2012

Road to Rushmore

First glimpse of Mount Rushmore. Photo by Judy Wells.
"There they are!" we both shouted simultaneously.

Chills and adrenaline vied for notie but all we could see was the first glimpse of the four presidents atop Mt. Rushmore.

Back when the Good Girls were making plans to attend the Travel Media Showcase in Sioux Falls, we decided an extended trip was necessary. Seeing Mount Rushmore in person ranked high on both of our bucket lists.

The images of four Presidential faces carved in stone are among the most famous in the world. But, the icon stands in the Black Hills, sacred North American Indian lands, which are pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  

After we left Sioux Falls we traveled west to see the awe-inspiring Badlands. Next, we toured Custer State Park, which lies to the south of Mt. Rushmore. Park Rangers encouraged us to drive north on the Iron Mountain Highway for the best approach to the site. Little did we know the 14 miles would turn into one of the most thrilling road trips.

Honk before you enter the one-lane tunnels. Photo by Debi Lander.
Unlike its heavy, rigid sounding name, the Iron Mountain Highway snakes around itself with a series of bridges, known as pigtail bridges, and through tunnels barely wide enough for one car, The term pigtail should not be confused with the hairstyle—think of a tightly twisted pig’s tail or a 720 degree spiral.  The road’s construction ranks as a marvel of engineering and has been termed the by-way that couldn’t be built.

Now it was our turn. Photo by Debi Lander.
Since we don’t like to miss a single view, Judy and I make a point of pulling over at each scenic overlook. Therefore, we naturally stopped at the first turn-off. Our car, nicknamed Brown Bison, was the only vehicle in the lot and the view seemed like flat, ordinary prairie land. But then….way off in the distance we spied a tiny white outcropping on a mountain. It included four heads!  Woo-hoo, our first glimpse of Mt. Rushmore in person. 
Peekaboo views were as exciting as seeing the faces close up. Photo by Debi Lander.

I leap out of the car like I had ants in my pants.  I was truly eyeing Mt. Rushmore, a place I thought I’d never see. 

The road continued to flirt with us like a teen-age girl, offering a peek here and there. The views only get better and better as we proceeded.  We paused at one stop catching site of George Washington through an opening in the trees.  After squeezing the car through a one-lane tunnel, we were provided with a dramatic portal. At the summit, the overlook offered a tempting but still distant vista of the National Park. 

Enter the avenue along with hundreds of others from around the world. Photo by Judy Wells.
Eventually we arrived at Mt. Rushmore, parked, and strolled down the Avenue of the Americas lined with each of 50 state flags. We stared up at the immense sculpture. And pinched ourselves. 

When an icon looks like this, nowhere becomes somewhere. Photo by Debi Lander.

Take our word on this:  Mt. Rushmore is one of those places you have to see up close and in person.  The experience within the park will not disappoint.  

You'll wish you could get closer. Photo by Debi Lander.
Thank you, T. J. Photo by Debi Lander.
Judy talking now: Ice cream is celebrated as one of Thomas Jefferson's many contributions to our culture; naturally, we had to try some.

You've got to love the name. Photo by Judy Wells.
Also to be tried, Moose Drool Ale; we decided the name is the best part. However, we're becoming addicted to bison burgers.

Mt. Rushmore worker Nick Clifford and his wife, Carolyn.
A treat for me  was meeting Don "Nick" Clifford who actually worked on the monument under sculptor Gutzum Borglund. Nick was in the gift shop autographing his book which, as soon as I finish this post, I will read more of, remembering again the gasp that followed that first glimpse. 

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