Today, May 3rd, is the one-year anniversary of our departure from New York on our great adventure! It is hard to believe it was one year ago today that we set out with the trip before us, but it is still amazing to us to think back on everything we saw and did…
Speaking of what we saw and did…let’s pick up from where we last left off…
On Thursday, September 1st we headed east, out of Wyoming, into South Dakota, and towards Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.
We first drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial. The memorial was started in 1948 when a Lakota elder commissioned scupltor Korczak Ziółkowski to build a tribute to Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior. Korczak spent the remainder of his life working on the sculpture and although he is now deceased, his family (he and his wife had ten children) has continued his work to this day through private funding. However, despite it now being over 50 years since it was started, the scuplture is far from completion (look up pictures online of what the final product should be and then compare those to what is finished today). Nonetheless, the design is massive — like whole mountain massive. To give you a comparison, the heads of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high, whereas the head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet high.
After visiting Crazy Horse and the accompanying museum, we drove the short distance to Mount Rushmore. Coincidentally, Korczak worked at Mount Rushmore before being “let go” because of creative differences with Mount Rushmore’s lead sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. Construction began in 1927 and ended in 1941. The initial plan called for each President to be depicted from head to waist, but lack of funding forced the project to end in 1941.
The most interesting part of Mount Rushmore for Mike was the Hall of Records, a “secret” chamber behind Mount Rushmore that Borglum designed to house objects significant to American history, including documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The chamber was never completed due to the lack of funds (there were rumors that Congress found out about the room and shut down Borglum’s attempts to continue building the room) — only the entry way was completed. However, in 1998, Borglum’s family, with help from the National Park Service, installed a titanium vault in the granite floor of the entrance to the chamber. The vault contains 16 porcelain panels inscribed with the words of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, a history of how and why Mount Rushmore was carved, a history of the four U.S. Presidents with quotes from each, a biography on Gutzon Borglum, and a history of the United States. The capsule was sealed with granite. Did anyone else know about this?!? Blew Mike’s mind! It’s like National Treasure!
After Mount Rushmore, we continued east through South Dakota. While driving, we saw signs everywhere for Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. As the story goes, the Husteads opened a small pharmacy in Wall, SD in 1931, but weren’t getting the sales they had hoped for in the small town. Mrs. Hustead had the idea of advertising free ice water to tourists at the newly opened Mount Rushmore and business has boomed ever since! Their billboards all around the area tell you how many miles from Wall Drug you are…signs which have been erected all around the world by faithful visitors! Today, Wall Drug is a massive, cowboy-themed complex in Wall, SD and they still give out free ice water!
From Wall, SD, we drove through Badlands National Park at sunset. Due to time constraints, we didn’t get to explore as much as we had hoped, so we’re definitely planning on returning because this park is b-e-a-utiful! Gorgeous rolling hills and multi-colored gradients everywhere! We took Badlands Loop Road, which dips just off Route 90 and back onto 90 at the end. We even drove past a Minuteman Silo that’s open to the public now (it was closed when we drove past, but we’re also going to visit this when we come back).
From the Badlands, we drove (well, Mike drove) east much of the night (in a severe thunderstorm) to a town called Mitchell, SD where we stayed in a Walmart parking lot. The next morning, we continued to drive to Madison, Wisconsin and arrived late Friday afternoon. We heard Madison was a great little city and boy were they right! The city holds a farmers’ market every Saturday (year-round) that is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country (“all items are produced locally by the vendor behind the table”). Unfortunately, it was still raining on that Saturday, but we were able to enjoy the sights and sounds (and smells!) of the market. We then enjoyed some pizza from a town favorite (Ian’s Pizza on State) and then a beer at a local brewery in town. Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so there were lots of college students everywhere who were just settling back into school!
From Madison we drove to Chicago where we’ll pick up our next post!