Monday, September 3, 2012


August 22nd,  Wednesday

We left Tuolomne Meadows Campground through many deep puddles from the hard rain we had last night. The day was clearing and we moved on through the Tioga Pass. We had heard from other campers that this Pass would be one we would never forget as the road would be steep and windy.  It was steep and windy but not half as bad as some we had been on this summer so we were fine with the trip down to Lake Tahoe. Along the way we saw some really pretty mountain and canyon scenery as well as a helicopter delivering supplies to workman in the hills.

Lake in Tioga Pass

Helicopter with load below hanging from cable

Helicopter in valley

We arrived in Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe around noontime. Tim unhooked the car and we headed18 miles back over the  mountain to Carson City to have the Honda Fit serviced and do grocery shopping. The laundry was done once we returned to the RV site. Not an exciting day, but a functional one.

August 23rd, Thursday

South Lake Tahoe was only a short drive, so we decided to tour the area this morning before we started out. It really is  a nice little town with some casinos and nice little  shops nestled along the lake shore. A gondola leaves from the town to the top of the mountain similar to the chair lift that we rode in Park City, Utah.
Lake Tahoe

We stopped back in Carson City for the RV to be serviced before we started our trip back across the country to the East Coast. The only appointment we could get was at 1pm which was a little late for our usual early departure, but it only took an hour before we were able to move on. Our stop tonight was a Walmart shopping center in Elko, Utah. Not our favorite place to rest, but it was convenient and we were not alone. There were probably 5 or 6 other RVs all around us. There were  no campgrounds in the near vicinity and as they say, "any port in a storm."

August 24th and August 25th, Friday and Saturday

We did nothing but travel these two day and I mean all day! We drove through Utah's dry almost desert like terrain into Wyoming with its grasslands, cattle and empty spaces.  We stayed at KOAs which were close to the highways and just stops along the way, but they did have pools which were very refreshing in the 98 to 104 degree heat and electricity for our air conditioning... very nice.

August 26th and 27th, Sunday and Monday

Our goal was to reach the Rapid City, South Dakota area on Sunday so that we could spend Monday exploring the Black Hills and the Mount Rushmore area. We learned that the Black Hills were not named for its geographical makeup, but for an Indian named Black Elk who was a Lakota holy man. The elevations here are from 4050 to 7, 242 feet and include some of the highest elevations in the Rocky Mountains. The mountain range varies from rolling hills to rugged granite formations.

The ancestral inhabitants of South Dakota were nomadic tribes that migrated with herds of bison and roamed the grasslands of the Great Plains. Among these tribes were the Arikara (or Ree) followed by the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Crow. The Sioux (or Lakota) migrated here from Minnesota circa 1700 and chased the other tribes further north. They then used the land they took over to exist with their bison herds. This area is now known as South Dakota.

The Sioux were very powerful in the 18th century and had 3 major tribes, the Yankton, the Santee and the Teton. They had no written language, but their storytellers kept their history and heritage alive. They recorded their stores on drawings on animal hides and called "winter counts."  Each drawing was done in a spiral fashion and represented one year so that a single hide could represent up to a half century of their history.

In 1803, the Louisianna Purchase which encompassed 828,000 square miles, was completed. President Thomas Jefferson paid Napoleon of France 3 cents an acre for the land. This purchase included most of what is now known as South Dakota.

The history of this region is too rich to be fully listed here but included the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Homestead Act of 1862, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the Sioux, the Gold Rush in 1874, and many battles with the indians-Wounded Knee, death of Sitting Bull and Custer's Last Stand.

We arrived on the 26th in the late afternoon and spent the next day doing as we had planned touring the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. Our KOA manager advised us to take Route 16 to Mount Rushmore so we could drive through Hill City, known as "The Heart of the Black Hills," and see the Crazy Horse Monument on the way. Friends of mine had lived in Hill City and I had visited them there 35 years ago. My how it has changed! I think I found the gas station that they owned from which they sold feed and grain. It used to be  a two pump station and it was never very busy. Now it is a convenience store with 4 pumps and is very busy. The population at that time was 500. Today, they claim to be an art and culture center for the area and the population has blossomed all the way to 948 as of the 2010 Census. While the population hasn't changed all that much, but the addition of all the touristy shops and activities was quite a change. In 1990, the most complete skeleton of a tyrannasaurus rex was found here and after many arguments between the federal government, the local institutes and the land owner, it was sold for over 8 million dollars by the court determined legal owner, the landowner, to a museum that I believe was located in Chicago. The area really is very scenic with lots to do with its hiking trails, lakes and proximity to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Monument.

Our next stop was the Crazy Horse monument.  This also has a fascinating history.  Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear contacted the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, and asked him to sculpt Crazy Horse on this mountain. He chose Korczak because his "Study of an Immortal" won first prize by popular vote at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Korczak was also one of the many workers on Mount Rushmore.  Chief Henry told Korczak, " My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes , also."  And so it came to pass that Korczak arrived in the Black Hills and started work on the mountain in 1948. He had $174 left to his name and battled financial hardship throughout his work on the mountain.  Twice he turned down federal funds as he believed in free enterprise. The sculpting is still going on to this day and they rely on donations and sales in their shops for funds. When completed (many years from now), it will be the world's largest mountain carving and at its 563 feet high and 641 feet long it will dwarf, the Washington Memorial, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. Korczak has since died, but 7 of 10 children lead the charge on completing this monument.
Crazy Horse in progress

Model of Crazy Horse to be conpleted on the mountain

We drove through Custer State Park where there are still herds of bison on the roadside, through tunnels in the rock with one lane passages, and around 360 degree curves to arrive at Mount Rushmore in the afternoon.

Bison on the roadside
Tunnel through rock
360 degree road- car will round this curve and drive over bridge in background

This too has changed greatly since I was there 35 years ago.. my I do sound old!  They have renovated the parking area and the Visitor Center and havebuilt an amphitheater to accomodate 5000 people for their nightly light show.

The brochures tell us that the original idea of carving a memorial in the mountain was the idea of Doane Robinson in 1923. He thought that it should be of Western figures such as Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark or Sioux warriors marching along South Dakota's skyline. But when Gutzon Borglum became involved in 1924 in the project, he thought that the carving should be of four presidential figures to create an "eternal  reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and devolopment of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty."  He chose Mount Harney and sought approval and funding. Finally, in 1927, President Coolidge dedicated the site. After Borglum's death, the project was finished in October 1941 by Borglum's son, Lincoln.

The Presidents chosen for this honor are:
 George Washington "the father of our country" and is remembered "for helping the nation achieve its independence from England for ensuring that Americans have a representative  from of government."

Theodore Roosevelt for "his vision of America's role in the world community.....for realizing Columbus' dream of completing the Panama Canal....for connecting the Atlantic and Pacific.. and for his energy and charisma... the epitome of the American Spirit."

Thomas Jefferson for "drafting the Declaration of the nation a plan for sovereignty and freedom...for his unprecedented purchase of the vast Louisiana Terriory ... for his reputation as a visionary and philospher."

Abraham Lincoln for "self educating himself in law.. for overseeing one of the most pivotal periods in American history, the Civil War. Through steadfast devotion to the nation he successfully preserved the Union."

It is an inspiring monument to the American spirit and devotion to freedom... that has not changed in 35 years!
Mount Rushmore

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