Ever since seeing Hitchcock’s North by Northwest as a little girl, I have longed to go to Mt. Rushmore. Why it took nearly 40 years to get there, I haven’t a clue. But, now having seen it, I can be satisfied I did, and enjoy the rest of our stay in South Dakota. ('Nough said about that mountain.)
In nearby Keystone and even further north on Mt Rushmore Road, one really gets the feeling that while the mountain was being carved, everyone in the area racked their brains, trying to come up with some money making enterprise to capture the tourist dollars sure to be coming in. There’s really no choice but to surrender to the kitch, sigh at the signs full of superlatives (World’s largest catfish! World’s largest tin family! 51-foot Teddy Roosevelt!) and succumb to whatever calls you. For Tim and me, it was the President’s Alpine Slide, in which we took a chair lift to the top of a large hill and slid down 2000 ft to the bottom. If you don’t like speed, you can make the slide go as slow as you like. What you are absolutely, positively not allowed to do, however (and the plethora of signs along the way give ample, suitably dire warnings) is race each other down on the parallel tracks.
In Keystone, we had lunch on the veranda of a restaurant next door to the “cowboy comedy blah blah” show, as the rough-looking cowboy barker with a whip called it. He did his best to entice passersby, while occasionally accosting children with, “I’m your new babysitter, kid.”
I admit I was skeptical, but am so glad we didn’t skip the Crazy Horse Memorial, about an hour north of Custer. It’s less about what will eventually be the largest sculpture in the world and more about one man’s single-minded determination and willingness to sacrifice his life for, what even he acknowledges, is a small step toward righting a wrong.
I was not terribly impressed with the Badlands. I guess I’m not much for treeless, grassless, waterless views. Hopefully, you’ll understand, then, when I say that what I liked much more, was our visit to Walls Drug Store. If you can’t find it from anywhere within a fifty mile radius of the Badlands Park, you shouldn’t be driving, as obviously, you haven’t been paying attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if the local constabulary used ability to navigate to Walls as a sobriety check instead of a breathalyzer, as there are more signs pointing the way than there are barren vistas in Badlands Park. Tim and I thought we’d just stop in for a quick bite of their famous buffalo burgers, but ended up spending a few hours. It’s pure Americana at its glorious, corny best.
And, speaking of corny, many people make the pilgrimage to Mitchell, SD (a couple of hours east of Rapid) to see the Corn Palace. Can anyone tell me why? It’s an auditorium not so much made of corn, but rather decorated with it – bushels and bushels and bushels of it, with the occasional oats and prairie grass thrown in to break up (although one could argue, help cause further) monotony. The theme changes every September during Corn Palace Week, (complete with polka festival) and we were assured, “if you come back, you’ll never see the same mural again!” I can promise you, that won’t be an issue for us.
Really, if anyone can explain that whole Corn Palace thing to me, I’d appreciate it.