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South Dakota – Day 5

Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse


Time: 9:30 AM

I woke early, made myself an excellent breakfast and prepared for the day. Another great day with the top down. We, you and I as taxpayers, have really invested some serious tax dollars in the Shrine of Democracy. The complex for the Rushmore Monument is nothing like most national parks I’ve been to. Beautiful marble and granite columns, walkways, a huge amphitheater and plenty of corporate funding projects to boot.

The trail to the monument takes you right underneath so you can quite literally look up the nose of any of the presidents. I think Teddie was the most intriguing to me right now. He was the outdoorsman and was really the founding father of the national park system.

From Rushmore, I diverted from plan and followed Route 16A. What a find. A road choked with corkscrew turns, tunnels and unique spots where the road splits into one lane sections and turnouts with long distance views of Rushmore.

I split onto a national forest road 783 and cut through to the Needles HWY. At first I was disappointed in it. The timber cuts made the view more like a messy child’s work of art. However, it eventually closed in around and I was driving among the granite needles. One of the tunnels was barely more than a crack in the mountain.

I learned the most on this trip from Crazy Horse and I took a few inspiring quotes with me. “Storytelling in stone” and I paraphrase…”Let me create something that can only be destroyed by wind and rain”. I am close but not exact.

I was surprised to learn that Crazy Horse has been under construction since the 1940’s. The sculptor spent the first five years doing the work on his own. He died in the 80’s and now his family continues the project. They adamantly reject any offers of federal support. It means there is no way to tell when it will be complete but it seems somehow right to me. If they took money from the government, then it would be a grotesque hypocrisy.

Tonight, I will return to Rushmore for the evening lighting. It’s my final night and thankfully the skies are clear. Tomorrow I am off to IL to see Addie and Mandy … by way of the Badlands.

South Dakota – Day 4

I am in Hill City for breakfast. Today, I head to Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Sturgis and will take a scenic route. I will head west from here to CR 318 that should take me through old mining towns like Castleton and Mystic.


Time: 9:00 AM
Mileage: 13695

This proved to be the best road of the trip so far. Some gravel and four wheel travel and most of it followed the Mickelson Trail, a 110 mile rails to trails trailway. I started making a list of the top places I have visited and would like to live that aren’t in Texas.

The requirements for a place to make the list:

  1. Cool winding roads
  2. Small population
  3. River, creek or lake access
  4. Mountain Scenery

Here’s a short list in no particular order:

  • Cordelene, ID
  • Moscow, ID
  • anywhere between Hill City, SD & Spearfish, SD (preferably with a view of the Mickelson Trail)
  • North of Sundance, WY
  • Medicine Park, OK
  • Flat Head Lake MT
  • Near Jackson Hole, WY
  • Polebridge, MT
  • And a more than few towns in NM

This is the list so far. I hope to add to it as I travel more extensively.

The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway was also a treat. Spearfish is a good size town. I probably should have gone on up to Belle Forche but I decided to skip it and head straight to Devil’s Tower.

Devil’s Tower

Time:1:07 MT
Mileage: 14,341

What an extraordinary natural wonder. It towers up from what seems like nothing. It’s grown up to become this strong, geological wonder standing alone. It makes perfect sense that it is and has been for centuries a spiritual mecca for native people. I was especially drawn to the Lakota story for how it came to be and in fact, I have always loved indian legends and folklore. One of my poems, The Moon and Me, was written after I heard a woman tell the story of the origin of the phases of the moon.

The weather is finally cooperating. I took the top down while in the devil’s tower park and keep it down for the ride home. Deadwood and Sturgis were in my path home but neither was especially captivating. I stopped and had a beer in Sturgis because it seemed wrong not to. Then I moved on to Deadwood, found Mt Moriah Cemetary (which wasn’t easy). I visited the graves of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. It sits on a hill (understatement) above Deadwood that would have even the most dedicated marathoner crying like a baby. Most of the graves are on steep slopes. Once you are up there though, you can see the entire town and valley below.

South Dakota – Day 3


Time: All Day
Mileage No Change

The weather and my road weariness dictated this day. I slept late, relaxed in the cabin and eventually ventured out to the restaurant for lunch. The wind was blustery most of the day. The rain didn’t subside until early evening.

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