John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

Mount Rushmore from the Grand Terrace

The 6 faces of Mount Rushmore


August 1

Our trip to Mount Rushmore was a short 25 km drive into the Black Hills. The winding road goes through the old gold mining town of Keystone and begins a steep ascent to the base of Rushmore. All along the highway and through Keystone, we passed literally hundreds of Harleys getting psyched for the Black hills Rally. The first sightings of the four faces on the way up make them seem small from the distance but as you approach the parking lot, their immensity is impressive.

Entry to the National Monument is free but parking is $8 per vehicle...no Parks pass here. Recent additions to the Monument include a grand viewing terrace and amphitheatre seating that cater to those who find walking difficult and to accommodate viewing of the evening lighting ceremony. For those who wish a closer look, there is the loop Presidential Trail that takes you right to the rock debris fall right at the base of the faces.

For those who don't remember, the faces are of Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln. Roosevelt was a controversial choice at the time and questions still remain about his significance compared to the others. Gutzon Borglun was the artist and sculptor who designed and supervised the creation on the mountain face. He died in 1941 just prior to completion which was carried on by his son, Lincoln.

Our hike on the Presidential Trail was a nice bit of exercise as it took us up and down a number of stairs in the moderate 25°C temperature. The works themselves are amazing in scope and execution and never fail to impress every visitor. The trail took us by Borglun's studio where background of the construction techniques and some of the tools used are displayed. Workers hung on the faces in small bosun's chairs as they refined the presidents' features...not for the faint of heart or fear of heighters.

We returned to Keystone for some lunch and souvenir shopping. Keystone is another tourist trap town but prices there are surprisingly reasonable. The Main Street was absolutely jammed with Harley bikers and their parked rides lined each side of the street with dazzling chrome and a wide array of polished colours, dominated by traditional black. We followed lunch in the Ruby Palace with a shopping tour where Brenda found replacements for her now worn out Minnetonka thongs (remember - the foot kind not the good kind) she had bought in Palm Springs. They were a brand new pair of the exact same design and I found a nice pair of comfortable Minnetonka men's sandals as well.

We returned to the hotel and did a load of laundry before heading out for dinner. Our desk clerk recommended the nearby Minerva's where our hostess apologized to us for the price gouging currently going on in Rapid City. We had a wonderful meal with our chatty waiter, Chris and he gave us a lot of great travel recommendations as well as one for a good bottle of wine that was, amazingly, $8 cheaper than our first choice!

August 2

Our route away from Rapid City toward Sheridan, Wyoming took us through Deadwood via a short detour from I-90. Deadwood is an old mining town famous as the location where Jack McCall murdered Wild Bill Hickock. Its most recent fame comes from the HBO series made famous for its nasty language and accurate portrayal of frontier life and justice. There were more and more motorcycles through Deadwood and on our route back to I-90 at Sturgis. Sturgis is quite a non-descript little town but it has certainly built a huge reputation for a short 2-week period in the summer.

We encountered high winds on I-90 as we drove from the Black Hills into the rolling grass prairie of Wyoming. Brenda had made us another great picnic lunch from our leftovers from Minerva's and we stopped at a rest area to eat it in a very brisk breeze. We found a motel just off the highway in Sheridan, Wyoming, a dry and brown little town with a western background.

We used this stop to book a golf stay in Whitefish, Montana from August 5 to 10 to be kind of a finale for our trip before we travelled into familiar terrain once more. Brenda phoned Anne-Marie and found she was now scheduled for surgery on her back in September...great news! I spoke with our friend John Hartnett in Spokane to let them know we were heading into their neighbourhood. Sadly, he told me that his wife Pat's mother had died 2 days before after a long illness. Pat was very dedicated to her mother's care in recent years.



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