Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back to My Travelling Roots; Mount Rushmore

Since I moved to Colorado, I haven’t explored outside the county or even travelled much to other states except for triathlon races. I have the travel bug and need to set out on the open road.

See, I used to be that girl that would get in her car and drive north with no itinerary. I’d go to the mountains, visit relatives. I travelled with friends, met up with friends, or just alone. I’m going back to my roots and need to see everything.

I look at a map and see that Mount Rushmore is a 7 hour drive from Granby. I need to see it - pronto. My friend Sue is from South Dakota, and her cousin Rory lives in Pierre. I make a few phone calls, and Sue and I light out for Dakota.

I have never stepped foot in South Dakota, however when I was in my 20s I read everything about the Pine Ridge Reservation and Lakotas. I read books about Indian land claims. I read about Crazy Horse.

We leave at 5am on Tuesday morning. What I love about the drive through the southeast corner of Wyoming and into South Dakota is the contrast of grassland against green trees. I love trees. I love looking at trees. I’m so bored of the Grand County trees. I love the sparse landscape and the Ponderosa Pines. I imagine a scene in Dancing With Wolves happening right now. I imagine what it must have felt to be a pioneer seeing the country for the first time.

Road trips are all about the time spent talking about your life, telling stories, talking about your feelings. After four hours I conclude - I don’t like sentences that end with “I think”, “probably”, “Maybe”. Sue says that when people say these words "they are telling you that what they are saying may not be the gospel truth.”

I need absolutes.

We also decide that what happens in South Dakota, stays in South Dakota. However, I’m still blogging about it.

Sue is okay with this.

Sue tells the story about driving in these parts and sliding into a ditch. There was bad weather and she hydroplaned into a ditch, “Some farmers saw the entire thing and came to help me out. Everyone has a good ditch story.”

True. I have one, too. Mine takes place in Rye, New Hampshire. That is a tale for another time, right Nathan?

For some reason, I think of the song, Home on the Range and we belt out a few verses.
We pass through Hot Springs and Sue says she wants to retire, “Where the Mammoth came to die.”

We arrive in Rapid City. “If I drove, we would’ve gotten here faster”, is Sue’s only comment about my driving. I’m okay with it.
(Rapid City Public Art, The President's on every corner)

We settle into our new digs and I get the master suite. There are wild turkeys and deer wandering around the house that borders the National Forest. Daisy (dog) chases them. Rory warns of rattle snakes. Abbey (dog) wanders downhill to the neighbors. I’m trying to be stress-free but the dogs are testing me.

We drive to Deadwood and walk around. We go to Midnight Star, the casino/bar Kevin Costner owns.

We drive to Mount Rushmore and stop at a pull off just before the entrance.  It is my first glimpse of George lit up; it’s really cool to see.

We park in an almost vacant parking lot and walk though the state flags and see Mount Rushmore in the distance lit up; it’s really, really cool. We sit and stare.

Back to Rapid City for dinner at the Fire House Brewery.
Next Day: Badlands National Park.

There is no wind until we get into the park. We are on the edge of the Great Plains and there is not a cloud in the sky and the temperature is 80.
I wasn’t prepared for the depth of feeling at seeing the Badlands. The rocks and formations are amazing, stunning; like nothing I’ve ever seen. White rock, striations, colors and spires. The hills look like a papier-mâché project.

Rory says the Indians came to the Badlands because it was their holy ground. They wintered here and felt it was the center of their universe. He says, “They came to talk to the spirits.”

Sand stone, ancient sea bed, shark bones. The movie Armageddon was filmed here. There are cedar trees. I am stunned by the beauty of it all. I can stare into the vastness forever.

We are back to Rapid City, pack, and head south on the open road.

For 8 hours we laugh, talk, listen to music, tell stories. The perfect road trip.

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