“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves”
State 14: South Dakota - August 30, 2017
We woke up at a Walmart in Spearfish, SD excited about today’s events. Today we would drive to Keystone, SD to visit the National Park depicted on the reverse of the South Dakota quarter: Mount Rushmore National Monument. Mount Rushmore is an iconic symbol of the United States, and I don’t think there is an American alive who hasn’t seen a picture of the monument. Today would be our opportunity to see Mount Rushmore in person, and we could not wait!
Mount Rushmore is a sculpture carved into the Black Hills in Keystone, SD. The idea of Mount Rushmore originated by a South Dakota historian named Dooane Robinson as a means to attract tourism to the Black Hills region. With over 2 million visitors annually, Mount Rushmore is the top tourist attraction in South Dakota! I think it is safe to say Robinson's idea was a success. A sculptor named Gutzon Borglum was tasked with taking Robinson’s idea, and transforming the granite face of the Black Hills into the monument our country cherishes today. From 1927-1941, Borglum created the sculpture’s design and oversaw site operations. Each of the four heads are over 60 feet in height, and their likeness to each of the presidents was remarkable. We found it interesting that not a chisel, but dynamite was used to construct 90% of the monument. Regretfully, Borglum passed away before the monument was complete, and his son Lincoln Borglum, also a sculpture, completed the monument as we see it today. Originally, each president was to be depicted from the waist up, but lack of funding, impending WW2, and Gutzon Borglum's death ended construction in October of 1941.
Mount Rushmore tells the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country through the depiction of 4 significant former presidents: The 1st President, George Washington is commemorated for winning our independence. The 3rd President, Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase. The 16th President, Abraham Lincoln is honored for preserving the union, and abolishing slavery. The 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt is memorialized for establishing the national park system, constructing the Panama Canal, and laying the groundwork for America to be a 20th century superpower.
After parking Rosie, we made our way into the park to view the monument via the grand balcony. We stood there for an hour mesmerized by the magnitude of Borglum’s work, and reflecting upon contributions these 4 great Americans made to our country. Please see the pictures below.
Next we proceeded to walk the Presidents Trail, which is a half mile hiking trail taking you as close to the monument as you legally can get. The pictures of each of the busts came out awesome, but my personal favorite is the one of Washington’s bust from between two huge boulders. Please see the pictures below.
Upon exiting the Presidential Trail, we were suddenly ambushed by an aggressive mountain goat with very sharp horns who was blocking the exit to the trail. All around us, children were screaming, women were crying, men were climbing up trees, and there was not a park ranger in sight. It was clearly every man for themselves! Eventually, the goat worked up an appetite from chasing all of us around, and started to eat the leaves from a bush. While distracted with his dinner, we snuck by the ferocious goat, and all exited the trail uninjured. Please see the pictures below, keep in mind that he was meaner than he looks.
We returned to the Grand Balcony, and proceeded to Mount Rushmore’s Cafeteria to indulge in the Cross Country Couple's “Famous Food” for the state of South Dakota “Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream". I always wondered what 200-year-old ice cream tasted like, and today was the day I would finally find out! Just kidding! Apparently, in addition to authoring the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson also wrote the first American ice-cream recipe. The cafeteria was selling ice cream made from Jefferson’s recipe, and Nate and I shared 2 scoops in a cup for $6.00. It was the most unique ice cream I had ever tasted. It was smooth, creamy, and not overtly sweet. If I had to describe the flavor, it would be vanilla with an underlying tone of butterscotch. Although I am not a fan of the flavor of butterscotch, I found it enhanced the overall frozen custard experience in this particular instance. Below is Jefferson’s actual recipe for the ice cream. Apparently, his original hand written ice cream recipe is stored in the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
Thomas Jefferson's Ice Cream
2 bottles of good cream 6 yolks of eggs 1/2 lb. sugar
Stick of vanilla
Mix the yolks & sugar Put the cream on the fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of vanilla. When near boiling, take it off & it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar. Stir it well. Put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it's sticking to the casserole. When near boiling, take it off and strain it thro a towel. Put it in the sabotiere Then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served.
Put into the ice a handful of salt. Put salt on the coverlid of the sabotiere & cover the whole with ice. Leave it still half a quarter of an hour. Then turn the Sabotiere in the ice 10 minutes Open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere. Shut it & replace it in the ice Open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides When well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula. Put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee. Then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. Leave it there to the moment of serving it. To withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.
Each night during the summer months, the National Park Service holds a ceremony at the outdoor amphitheater beneath the monument to illuminate Mount Rushmore at dusk. The seats were packed, and a sense of patriotism was running high. You could literally sense the love for our country in the air from all who were present. A park ranger proceeded to give a patriotic speech about Lincoln, and showed a movie about the construction and symbolism of the monument.
After the movie, veterans from all branches were invited down to the stage. Since I am a veteran of the US Navy, I proceeded down to join my fellow servicemen. Next, the park ranger requested any family members whom lost a loved one in battle to also come down to the stage. As they made their way down, I don’t think there was dry eye in the house! When the branch of the military in which we served was announced, we were invited by the ranger to step forward and were greeted with a raging applause from those in the stands. Eight of the veterans present were chosen to take the flag down for the night. I normally don’t share with others about my military service, and it is something I prefer to keep to myself. However, it was a very special moment to be surrounded by my fellow servicemen at one of our countries most iconic monuments.
After the flag was lowered, and the veterans were acknowledged, Mount Rushmore was illuminated for the night. My visit to Mount Rushmore was definitely one of the most memorable moments of my cross country trip, and every American should visit the monument at least once in their lives!
While I love America, I do not like what America is becoming. As a veteran and as an American, I feel the need to speak up! I once signed my name on the dotted line, rose my right hand and swore to give my life if necessary to defend my country from all enemies both foreign and domestic. Our country is slowly being destroyed from within, and our guaranteed liberties are slowly being eroded away. Feel free to pick your favorite example from the following list: violence, immigration, racism, wage inequality, unhealthy lifestyles choices, consumerism, the breakdown of the family unit, unaffordable health care, astronomical cost of college, capitalism unchecked, Federal Reserve devaluing the dollar 98%, technology instead of personal relationships, wars we have no business being a part of, and a national debt that my great great grandchildren will be lucky to pay off. The problems America is facing has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans. It is irrelevant who gets into office because our countries issues are a result of a wider systemic problem. At the center lies special interest lobbyists and legislators who write the laws to benefit themselves, instead of what is in the best interest of the American people. The problems we currently face is because Americans have not heeded the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Americans are too entwined in their individual lives. We worry about paying the bills, picking up the kids, making money, and “Honey, what’s for dinner”. We the people need to pop our tiny bubbles, which has become the center of our existence. We the people need to become knowledgeable on what our lawmakers are doing, and hold them accountable for their actions with a ballot, and with an arrest warrant as needed. Most of all, we the people need to stop pleading ignorance to what is occurring right in front of our faces, form an opinion, and let our collective voices be heard. Although I love my country, I am sad to say I believe that America's best days are behind us; I do hope I am wrong.
Seventeen miles away from Mount Rushmore in Keystone, SD is a monument in progress carved into the Black Hills depicting the famous Native American, Crazy Horse. Work on the monument began in 1948, and is expected to be completed in 2110. Upon completion, it will be the largest man made sculpture in the entire world! While it may appear impressive, and noble to honor a worthy Native American, we opted not to visit the Crazy Horse Monument due to its controversy. The Black Hills of South Dakota are considered sacred by the Lakota and Sioux Native Americans, and they are extremely opposed to the Crazy Horse Monument. Lakota activist, Russell Means summed up the tribes sediment when he said, "Imagine going to Israel, and carving up the Mountain of Zion. The Crazy Horse Monument is an insult to our entire being”. In addition, when Crazy Horse was alive, he never allowed photographs, and wish to be buried in an unmarked grave. Even bloodline descendants of Crazy Horse have publicly spoken out against the monuments construction. Furthermore, each night during the summer, the monument puts on a laser light show, and plays the song “Proud to be an American”. If people read history books to learn about Crazy Horse, he would not be saying “I’m proud to be an American” if alive today. We agree with the Native Americans that the Crazy Horse Monument is blatant insult to the Sioux, the Lakota and to the legacy of a great man named Crazy Horse. We strongly encourage others NOT to visit the Crazy Horse Monument, because while on the surface it appears to be a tribute to him and other Native Americans, it is quite the insult.
After leaving Mount Rushmore, we drove to a Walmart in Rapid City, SD where we had a restful night sleep.