Mount Rushmore is one of the most popular tourist sites in South Dakota (there are not many) and is also famous for being featured in one of my favourite Hitchcock films “North by North West” (1959).
It is impressive and very popular with Americans and the National Parks Service have managed to keep its iconic image reasonably well. The immediate area around Mount Rushmore however (the town of Keystone in particular) is horrible – please feel free to substitute “horrible” with any stronger word you know which covers terrible tourist tat, pseudo Americana, ugly architecture, every fast food low quality restaurant you can think of and much more. We went through it once and could not face going back there to take pictures to show how horrible it is.
Our first two images were from the road some miles away
Run by the National Parks Service, whilst it is free to go into, there is a charge of $11 for parking (and there is no public transport which goes to the park) so unless you walk in, you have to pay. Never-the-less the parking facilities are good, something we have come to appreciate when we are driving a vehicle 25ft long.
Thousands of visitors pass between the state flags of America
before arriving at a balcony facing the four presidents
including these two visitors.
To give it some scale, each eye is 11 ft across, the faces are 60 ft tall, the noses 20 ft long. In the “Sculptor’s Workshop”
there is a 1/12th size model of what it was originally going to look like (note the clothing on Washington and the hands etc). A Ranger explains to us how the model was used to ensure that the sculptures on the mountainside were completed to scale using a pointer system first used by the Egyptians
and also how the sculptor Gutzon Borglum suspended copies of each of the President’s faces in front of the faces on the mountainside so that the workman could remind themselves what the finished face was supposed to look like.
We also learned a pub quiz trivia fact
that President Jefferson was not just the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, he also wrote down the first recipe for Ice Cream in the United States. His ice cream is sold at Mount Rushmore!
The Cafe at Mount Rushmore featured in one of the closing
scenes in North by North West so we had to
go there and have a drink and a little something. If you know the film you will recognise the fireplace and the windows through which the presidents can be seen..
Having stayed a number of nights in proper camp sites, it is off to Custer State Park and a night out at a wild forest campsite even though the storms clouds are gathering
and our walk around Sylvan Lake in the park which is noted for its beauty, starts out dry
but we soon we get absolutely soaked.
The following morning as we leave early to start a 1000 mile drive eastwards, the scene is very different,
and the Custer State Park Bison are more keen on licking salt up from the side of the road than keeping an eye out for traffic.
Most of the I90 going towards Chicago is straight with two lanes in each direction
and is boring drive. The land is flat and the fields are the largest we have ever seen but we have to travel this route in order to visit old haunts in Chicago.
However we do have Times Crosswords and a recording of Great Expectations to keep us occupied.