FaceTime at Rushmore

No visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota would be complete without a stop at the granddaddy of outdoor sculptures, Mount Rushmore. The great thing about Mount Rushmore is that it is such an “in-your-face” monument. There is no way to avoid its presence as it is approached.

I always feel like, somebody’s watching me.

Technically, it is a National Memorial, as opposed to a monument or park, whatever difference that is. We took Iron Mountain Road up from Custer State Park into the Memorial. The road was designed to showcase the beauty of the Hills and highlight the Memorial with vistas framed through single lane tunnels. Sheri took the wheel of Boss and navigated the iconic drive earning her Big Truck merit badge to go alongside her previously earned Wood Splitting badge.

Best time wins!

Mount Rushmore was designed by Gutzon Borglum – now there is an American name if we ever heard one. The actual sculpting was done by hundreds of death defying dudes with hammer drills and dynamite. Most of the visitor center is dedicated to explaining how sculpting into granite off the side side of mountain works. After the informative movie, we had no better understanding but were very familiar with images of mountain tops exploding. That is the point, really. It is a spectacular feat and the overall feeling of the four life-like faces staring out at you is powerful.

Feeling the visual impact.

But, let’s get real. It is 2023. It is a giant memorial of four white guys blasted into the mountaintops of the ancestral Holy Lands of the people from whom the land was taken. The history of Mount Rushmore is rife with irony and controversy. The idea of faces carved into a mountain began with the KKK proposing Confederate Generals in Georgia’s Stone Mountain. That never materialized, but its demise did free up Gutzon to work on something even bigger.

Iron Mountain Rd in is more than half the fun of the visit.

It is unquestionably a magnificent work of art but what makes it really interesting is the statement that it makes. Many people feel that Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln are obvious choices but hem and haw over Teddy Roosevelt. In 1927 when the Memorial was begun, American optimism was at a peak and TR best represented that appeal. He was also a Mister National Park, which is pretty great. One hundred years later, perhaps we could use a little more TR optimism. Would those four faces be the same choices today?

It’s a face off.

Actually, the decision to feature four U.S. presidents was more political than anything else. The original idea proposed by Robinson, the originator of the concept (borrowed from Stone Mountain) was to feature heroes of the Great American desert like Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, Wild Bill Cody and Crazy Horse. It is sardonic how modern that original idea appears today in contrast to the final outcome. Perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere along the lines that politics trumps all in the end. Who can argue with the Big 3 plus 1? But, did those four need another monument to cement their place in history? That is what makes the visit to Rushmore so powerful, it is a story of what if.

Charging, brown bag lunch, homework and a beer to make it worthwhile.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are on the hunt for scotch ale. Dark malty goodness in a glass is hard to find in hot weather climates. You can’t get our fave Einstock Wee Heavy at home, but you can get Kettlehouse Cold Smoke and Jeremiah Johnson Mountain Man out of Montana and Lost Cabin Lord Grizzly outta Rapid City, South Dakota. Instead of souvenirs, we are collecting 6 packs of scotch ale for the long hard Florida winter ahead.

Kids, you should not play in the road!
FaceTime at Rushmore