Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mount Rushmore, Keystone SD

The one national memorial that I have wanted to visit since I was a child is Mount Rushmore. I got to do just that this week. We drove into Keystone and then out to the monument. It’s a pretty impressive sight as you’re approaching on the highway.

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The entire park is impressive. The park is free to visit but you do have to buy an annual parking pass for $11. Ours expires next May.

Once parked, we took the stairs to the Information Center/Gift Shop area where we were met with hundreds of other people here to see the same thing. And we avoided the weekend because we thought IT would be busy! :)

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As we continued on, the bust of Gutzon Borglum was on display. Borglum was the sculptor who designed and sculpted Mt. Rushmore. He was 58 years old when he first started the design in 1925. The sculpting began in 1927 and Borglum died in 1941 shortly before the work was finished. His son, Lincoln, completed the monument for his father.

Borglum chose these specific presidents because they commemorate the founding, growth, preservation and development of the United States. They symbolize the principles of liberty and freedom on which this nation was founded.

George Washington signifies the struggle for independence and the birth of the Republic; Thomas Jefferson represents the territorial expansion of the country; Abraham Lincoln stand for the permanent union of the States and equality for all citizens and Theodore Roosevelt exemplifies the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs and the industrial growth of the nation.  Source: National Park Service

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Next, we came to the Avenue of Flags. The 56 flags on display here represent the states, districts, commonwealths and territories of the United States.

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The pillars were engraved with each state name and when they were admitted into the Union.

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Once we reached the Grand View Terrace viewing area, we could look down to see the amphitheater at the base of the mountain

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or up, to get our first close-up look of the monument.

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Each face is 60 feet tall. Each eye is 11 feet wide.

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Washington’s nose is 21 feet long. All other noses are 20 feet long. Washington’s mouth is 18 feet wide.

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We took in a short film on the making of Mt. Rushmore in the museum area. It took over 400 men and women 14 years to complete this work. Most of the workers were local miners, lumbermen and ranchers. The hours were long and the pay was low. The total cost of the project was $989,992.32. Can you imagine what that would be in today’s dollars?! The main sculpting tool was dynamite and the drill was a jackhammer. Hard work indeed!

We walked part of the Presidential Trail.

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There, while walking down into a cave, I got this shot of Washington through a narrow crevice in the ceiling. I thought that was kind of cool :)  It would have been cooler if it hadn’t been so bright out there. George looks a bit washed out  but I still liked the shot :)

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All in all, I am so glad I finally got to see Mount Rushmore. It gave me quite of sense of patriotism standing there looking at this masterpiece. I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

We cut through Custer State Park again on the way home and stopped to say “hi” to this guy :)

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Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Day Trip to Sturgis and Deadwood, SD

No trip to the Black Hills region of South Dakota would be complete without a quick trip to Sturgis. Sturgis. Kind of conjures up visions of a huge motorcycle rally, doesn’t it? Yup. That is precisely why we didn’t want to visit this area in August. Not that I have anything against motorcycle rallies or any other kind of rally. I just didn’t feel like getting lost in the middle of thousands upon thousands of rally attendees. I prefer low tourist season when it comes to sightseeing. The Sturgis Rally is definitely NOT low tourist season :)  RV park rates are also 2-3 times higher during Rally time. I’m cheap that way. If I’m going to spend serious money on an RV site, it needs to be right on the ocean with a beautiful beach right outside my door :)

We had been told that there really wasn’t much in Sturgis the other 11 ½ months of the year but we wanted to see for ourselves. I’m glad we did. We parked the Jeep on the street and walked the town, much of which are tourist shops advertising Sturgis Motorcycle Rally T-shirts. One even advertised “ Overpriced Souvenirs and T-shirts”! I should have taken a picture :) Rick was eventually lured in by a promise of a genuine Sturgis Rally T for $6.00. They suckered him right in and he left with a genuine Sturgis Rally T :) It may be last years model, but who cares? He was a happy man :)

Once our town tour was completed, we did the only other thing we could find to do in Sturgis. We went to the Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. Admission was $5 apiece and it was very much worth it. There were dozens of  motorcycles on display.

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While I wandered around taking photos, Rick went to every exhibit, read all the background info and fully enjoyed his visit.

Here is a 1938 Indian Chief. It was in excellent condition.

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This 1949 Sundance was built by a Texas man who invented a drill bit for drilling oil.  He used some of the money he made to build his dream machine. In the 1950’s this was one of the most expensive motorcycles in the world.

Is it just me or does this look like something Elvis would have ridden in one of his movies? With an outfit to match :)

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Pandemonium, a 70’s chopper, was featured in Easy Rider Magazine. It reminds me of the bike Peter Fonda rode in the movie Easy Rider.

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Eventually, we left the museum and headed to Deadwood.

Deadwood is a pretty cool little town with an interesting history. Once again, it’s geared to entertaining tourists but that didn’t keep us from walking the streets and taking in the local flavor. There are many, many casino’s in Deadwood. We looked but we did not touch :)

Touristy as it was, I really liked the Mount Moriah Cemetery known as Deadwood’s Boot Hill.

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The discovery of gold in the Black Hills brought thousands of hardworking people to the area and some “colorful” ones too. Many were buried here in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

A couple of the more notable people buried here are Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

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and Calamity Jane, buried right next to him.

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Calamity Jane is dubbed as “Deadwood’s Original Party Girl”. She was a sharp shooting, booze loving prostitute that was run out of town numerous time…or so the story goes :) She died of a variety of ailments, one of which was acute alcoholism. Her dying wish to be buried next to Wild Bill was granted.

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It’s rather interesting to see some of the “causes of death” as listed in the death record :)

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I’m particularly curious about the 14 hard boiled eggs!

After a bite to eat at Deadwood Dick’s, acceptable but not spectacular, we headed back home.

As luck would have it, we actually saw more wildlife on the way!

Big horn sheep on the side of the road.

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That was it for our day. We arrived home safe, sound and pooped out! Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Needles Highway, Custer State Park, SD

Since Rick and I have been traveling full time in our motorhome, Lucy, we have been to many states and seen many beautiful places. We are licensed in the state of South Dakota but have not spent any time here until this week. It’s a gorgeous place, especially this area of the Black Hills. The people are friendly and there is much to see and do here. Imagine my surprise when we see that we are almost the only South Dakota residents in this entire RV park! There are RV’s from as far away as Alaska, but it’s rare to find one from South Dakota. I guess it’s true that most people never get around to exploring things in their own back yard. If you haven’t, as yet, explored this area, put it on your bucket list. You will be happy you did.

In my last post, I mentioned stopping in Custer, SD for a short walk around town before continuing on to see Crazy Horse. Sherry of In the Direction of our Dreams fame, commented about how much she had liked the painted Buffalo that are on display on street corners in Custer when she and David traveled through here a year ago. I had forgotten to post those pictures. I had added them to my Facebook page but missed putting them on the blog. So Sherry, here’s a couple of my favorites, just for you :)

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They are pretty cool, aren’t they? There is a similar display in Raleigh, NC with artistically done wolves. Also pretty neat.

The next excursion on our list was the famous Needles Highway. What a beautiful drive!

Deemed “impossible” to construct by its critics, the Needles highway—a National Scenic Byway—was completed in 1922 and includes 14 miles of sharp turns, low tunnels, and impressive granite spires. The road lies within the 73,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City.

The beginning of our drive

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Beautiful rock formations that pale to the formations further up

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The first of our tunnels and the largest.

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Beautiful Sylvan Lake

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Entrance to another tunnel

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View from the top

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Beautiful rock formations right on the road as we start down

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Lots of hairpin curves and switchbacks

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with beautiful spires to guide your way.

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The road is narrow but paved. Seldom is there any center line markings. There are some steep drop offs and it is not a road to drive if you’re in any kind of hurry. It is also not the road to drive  if narrow, winding, drop off roads scare you. Seriously. Take a bus tour. The scariest part of this drive was meeting scared people. Scared people drive right down the middle of the road…because they are too afraid not to. That leaves those of us meeting them very little road. There are bus tours running every day. This is a scenic drive not to be missed but why not leave the driving to them? OK. ‘Nuff said. That was my mini rant of the day :)

Next up: Sturgis and Deadwood. See you then and thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where the Buffalo Roam…Which is Anywhere They Want :)

As I was bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t seen much wildlife since being in the West, that certainly changed yesterday. At least we’ve now seen plenty of Buffalo!

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Buffalo. All over. Next to the road. In the road. In the ditches. Out in the fields. You name it, they roamed it.

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No, I don’t mean on the main roads in South Dakota. I mean on the 18 mile Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park! An awesome sight to behold…as long as you’re in the car and stay there. Signs are posted all over that “Buffalo are dangerous” but there was always someone out of their car trying to get a better picture. I felt much safer shooting from my window :)

Although we were told at the very beautiful visitors center to Custer State Park (the 2nd largest state park in the nation)

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that we could expect to also see elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope and white-tail and mule deer, we were only lucky enough to see the buffalo and a couple of pronghorn antelope off in the distance.

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EXCEPT for some very friendly burros :) They were pretty cute and used to interacting with the tourists.

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They would walk right up to your car window, if you stopped, looking for a treat. There were many people feeding them. I’m surprised they weren’t chubbier :) There weren’t as many of them as the buffalo, but there were many.

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We purchased an annual park pass so we can return as many times as we want while we’re here. We only touched on one part of the park this time. Maybe next time we’ll see something else :) We did detour off the Loop at Mt Coolidge Lookout and climbed to the top for some awesome views.

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From the Wildlife Loop, we drove into Custer, SD stopping on the way to scout out nice little lakes to go kayaking :)

Stockade Lake

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Bismarck Lake

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Or, Sylvan Lake which we found later in the day…

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I think I could be happy at any of the 3 :)

We didn’t spend much time in Custer (the town). It was very touristy and we were content to just walk the main street to see what was there and then continue on. We ended up at the Crazy Horse Monument, a work in progress. Click on the link if you’d like to know more about this memorial.

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Our day wasn’t yet finished, but I’ll save the rest for next time :)  Thanks for stopping by. Turtle