Across to Mt. Rushmore

Trip Start Apr 15, 2009
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Trip End Nov 2009


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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We left Minnesota early Tuesday for the long drive across South Dakota to near Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore. Due to park restrictions, we stayed at Hart's Ranch, a Coast to Coast Resort for one night, then moved over the next day to Rushmore Shadows. Actually, Hart's Ranch is the nicer park, but Rushmore Shadows is nice, too. Unfortunately, both are quite a bit outside Rapid City, so it's about a 12+ mile drive to a supermarket or a little farther to WalMart.

The first evening at Rushmore Shadows, we had a nice surprise when about 15-18 White Tail deer trotted across the grass, right in front of our RV. It happened rather quickly and we were so involved with watching, that I didn't get a photo. I kept hoping to see them again, but unfortunately didn't. 

It's several miles to the Mt. Rushmore and/or Crazy Horse Monuments, so as we started to make plans, we heard about a recommended full-day bus tour of the area, so we signed up and did the tour on Friday.   After checking in and a pancake breakfast, we got on the bus with our driver/guide Dan. He was pretty knowledgeable and a good driver, which later became very important.

First stop was at the Mt. Rushmore National Park. If you ever saw the Hitchcock movie 'North by Northwest' it made seeing it in person even more unique. We had both been to the Monument before, many years ago, before all the Museum and Exhibits that they have now, which really enhance the experience.
After that, we were driven on the very scenic, narrow and winding Iron Mountain Highway (that originally was built in the Model-T days) over the mountains, through the old fashioned 1860s style town of Custer (yep, Gen. George Armstrong Custer left his mark throughout the area, even though he wasn't here that long).
Along the way, we saw lots of different wildlife like both White Tail and Mule deer, Prong Horn Antelope, wild turkeys, Big Horn Sheep and American Bison. 







  
Some of the Bison were right next to, or very close to our bus, however, the larger herds were farther away.


We also had a fun stop to feed the wild, but very tame, burros. Dan gave us leftover pancakes to feed to the burros, which was fun....especially, when I was trying to feed them with my left hand while trying to take photos with my right.


Then, after a lunch stop at the Lodge in Custer State Park, we continued over the Needles Highway, another scenic, impresive, narrow highway originally built by the same man back in the 1920-30s. We also stopped at Sylvan Lake, which was beautiful. You might recognize it also from the National Treasure movie  

Along the way, we went under and over several 'pig tail' (wood beam construction) bridges and through several tunnels that the bus just barely squeezed through...one of them only had 4'' clearance on each side and the one near "The Eye of the Needle" only had 2" clearance on each side!!!



We finally got to the Crazy Horse Monument. Even though it's a work in progress and doesn't look like they've completed much, the movie showing the work that started back in the late 1940s puts things in a better perception. It's amazing to see how the sculpture artist, Korczak Ziolkowski, conceived and originally worked with mostly hand tools and dynamite.  Korczak (until his death at age 76 in 1982), his wife Ruth (18 yrs. younger) and 7 of their 10 children have worked on the mountain and/or in the tourist area ever since.

The tourist area is very impressive and huge!  The twin movie theaters show the 'Dynamite and Dreams' film every 20 minutes. There's a large museum of donated artifacts from a multitude of American Indian Tribes, including things used by historical people like Pocahontas and various Indian Chiefs, a full-size tipi (teepee), several Indian artists making, displaying and selling their crafts, and lots more. Then there's the Gift Shop with tons of stuff. Beyond that, outside, there's a restaurant, a snack shop, their original log cabin that Korczak built himself, and the scale model of what the finished monument will look like.

 

There's also the Native American Cultural Center and a lot more fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, we only had about 90 minutes to explore...I think I could have spent a week just looking at all the museum exhibits.

I was very impressed....even more so because it has all been done with funds donated and/or by the entrance fees, etc. no government money of any kind. They adamantly want to keep it independent, although, the work could probably progress faster with more funding. Also, at night during the summer months, they put on a spectacular laser light show, which, of course, we couldn't stay to see.

I highly recommend that you should Google them online and check out their website.

So, our visit here has been a good one. We've had several short bursts of rain almost every day, the days have been pleasant in the high 70s, with chilly nights great for sleeping.

There's another tourist attraction at the entrance to our RV park called Old McDonald's Farm...I think it's more of a petting zoo type thing...we didn't actually go inside, but they have a plank and rope suspended bridge (about 20'-25' off the ground and 30+' long) that often has billy goats walking across it (they occasionally put some food up there to entice them, but by now the goats are so used to it, they don't need the enticement). 
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Where I stayed
Hart's Ranch and Rushmore Shadows RV Resorts

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