Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse (and more...)

We decided to drive to Sturgis, SD on Friday because there was a farmer's market on Main Street on Fridays and I thought it would be a good way to see Sturgis. Well, there were only 3 booths and none of them were selling vegetables! But since we were there, we decided to walk around and see Main Street. Sturgis is the site of an annual motorcycle rally held in August and this year they celebrate their 70th rally. It began in 1938 and has been held every year except for 2 years during the WWII gas rationing. We saw a few pictures of the rally and I think it's even more crowded than Bike Week in Daytona!

On the way to Sturgis, we took a nice scenic route that ran through Deadwood, SD, which is a National Historic Landmark. Wild Bill Hickock was shot and buried here. Deadwood also had the first telephone exchange in the state of South Dakota. We discovered as we walked down Main Street that the entire town consists largely of casinos and saloons! Of course I had to try my hand at the slots, and had I left when I was finished with the 1 cent slots, I would've been ahead by $1.20... but alas, I had to try the $1.00 slots and left with $5 less than what I came in with!

So that was our first day in Rapid City... on to day 2!

On Saturday, we headed to Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse... how fascinating they were! Our first stop was Mt. Rushmore and while we were there, we met Nick Clifford, the last living Mt. Rushmore worker. He worked on the statues in 1938, 1939, and 1940 and he's a wealth of information! He's 89 now and we had a lovely chat with him, and also bought his book of questions and answers about Mt. Rushmore. The memorial was created by Gutzon Borglum and consists of the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Borglum picked this particular location because of the fine grain granite rock that was good for carving and he needed enough of it so that the sculpture would face the morning sunrise. The original idea came from Doane Robinson, the South Dakota State Historian in the early 1900s. He wanted something that would entice people to visit South Dakota... this was obviously a good idea! In his book, Mr. Clifford says that these four presidents were selected for the sculpture for the following reasons: "George Washington was our first president and the Father of our contry. Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of our country with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. He also drafted the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln is credited with holding the nation together during the Civil War and he was called the Great Emancipator. Theodore Roosevelt support the completion of the Panama Canal, which would have an effect on world trade. He also set aside some of the National Parks."

One last interesting tidbit before I move on to Crazyhorse: after Mr. Borglum died in 1941 from an embolism, his son continued his work, but funding ran out before the sculpture could be completed. The original plan for the sculpture was to be of the presidents from head to waist, but that was not to be.

After we left Mt. Rushmore, we headed to Crazyhorse, which was the Indian's answer to Mt. Rushmore. Native American leaders wanted to create a statue to let the white man know that the red man has great heroes too. They chose Crazyhorse because of his values and great spirit. He died young and tragically when he was stabbed in the back under the false pretense of a truce. His statue, when completed, will have him pointing forward in answer to the white man's question 'Where are your lands now?'... his answer is 'My lands are where my dead lie buried'. The sculpture was created and worked on by Korczak Ziolkowski, who was commissioned by the Native American leaders. He won first place at the World's Fair for his sculptures and he was well know in West Hartford, CT. After his death in 1982, his wife and children have continued his work and will not stop until the entire sculpture is complete. The funding for this comes solely from private contributions and admission fees.
When we left Crazyhorse, we took the scenic route around Custer State Park. The route winds through forest and field, and we saw several deer and one buffalo. The road itself is very curvy and especially so as we headed back up towards Mt. Rushmore. There were several hairpin turns where we had to slow to 15mph, and there were 4 or 5 single lane tunnels. It was definitely worth the ride... especially as we passed through the tunnels to see Mt. Rushmore in the distance!

This area was the last 'must see' on our 8 month journey. Now we head home, stopping in Indiana to visit my brother and my nieces and grand-niece!

We left Rapid City today and are spending tonight in Mitchell, SD. It turns out that Mitchell has a national landmark... the Corn Palace! It's only 2 miles from the rv park, so we unhooked the car and headed over for a look. The Corn Palace was built in 1892 and serves as a multi-purpose center for the town of Mitchell. Every summer the structure is re-decorated with murals made from corn, grains and native grasses that follow a different theme every year. Inside and out, the walls are covered with bright, intricate murals and is really something to behold!

Oh, yeah... on the way to Mitchell, we stopped in Wall, SD to see Wall Drug... the billboards advertizing it reminded us of South of the Border in South Carolina, so we took the bait and detoured down Main Street, Wall, SD! Well, this drugstore is huge, and much more than a drugstore. It began in 1931 when Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the only drugstore in town and barely made it through the lean years. It has since grown into one of America's roadside attractions!

Tomorrow we head for Minnesota, only 170 miles... but we have to stop and stay so we can add a state to our map! We'll see what sights we can see there!


Anonymous said...

Wow, looks like you saw a lot while you were in South Dakota! Thanks for the post and pictures - come back again soon!

Katlyn Richter
Office of Tourism

Rena and Ed said...

We thoroughly enjoyed our stops in SD... definitely a state worth visiting!