We left Saskatoon on a Tuesday and headed south to North Dakota. Around 5:30, we arrived in Williston, in the northwest section of the state. We decided to stay there for the night. After going to about 5 different hotels and learning there was a large oil field project nearby, we realized that we would have to continue driving to find a place to stay. The drive in the dark was interesting. As the cars approached us, the headlights reflection would shine upward. It reminded me of spotlights used in Hollywood for grand openings of a movie. However, these lights shown straight upward only. Also, there were little sparkles in our headlights. Not really snow but it looked like crystals. We later learned that when it is cold and much humidity in the air, the headlights will gleam upward. The “sparkles” in our headlights must have been from the moisture in the air. At any rate, it was pretty!
Two hours later, we arrived in Belfield and found a room at the Trapper’s Inn. Thank goodness….it was tough driving at night. The motel was a large complex with several rooms, a good-size restaurant, bar and gift shop. The decor very rustic with lots of animals mounted on the wall, old hunting and trapping gear. David enjoyed it!
The next day, we had sunny skies for traveling as we continued south on Rt 85. We enjoyed the scenery of rolling hilly, pasture land accented with snow covered mesas on the horizon. The ranches in this area were large! We saw so many partridge along the roadside, as well as herds of deer and antelope. I believe I saw a bald eagle in a lone tree watching life go by.
Our destination for this day was Rapid City, South Dakota. As we got closer to Rapid City, the terrain became hillier and there was more contrast with the fir trees and prairie grass poking through the snow. We made a detour to Sturgis and drove through the town for a quick look where the large motorcycle rally is held annually in the summer. This time of year, it is a very quiet town of 6,500 however, during the rally, it host up to 500,000 people. Most of the businesses on Main street were bars or tattoo parlors.
By late afternoon, we made our way over to visit Mt Rushmore National Memorial. We decided that this was a great time of year to make this trip. Except for 3 or 4 other people, we had the whole place to ourselves. The weather was lovely for this time of year and the monument area was so quiet and peaceful. It was designed and built by sculptor Gutzon Borglum who gave the reason for his design as: “The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.” It took Borglum and 400 sculptors from October, 1927 until October, 1941to complete these massive 60 ft carvings that represented 150 years of American history. It is an impressive sight and we are so grateful that we got to experience it.
About 8 miles from Mt Rushmore is another amazing memorial for the American Indian. The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, worked on the Mt Rushmore monument with Borglum. In 1939, Ziolkowski, received a letter from Chief Henry Standing Bear that said he wanted the white man to know that the red man had great heroes, too. In 1948, Korczak began the construction. For the first several years, he worked alone on it. We saw a 20 minute video about the history of the sculpture and Korczak talked about living in a tent for the first 9 months. Then, he built a small cabin. His only tool was an old jackhammer. Eventually, he was able to purchase an old generator that worked very sporadically. Korczak said that on several occasions, he would crank the generator to get it going. Then, he would climb the 700 stairs to his work area. Just as he reached the top, he would hear the generator sputter and then stop. He, then, had to climb down the stairs, crank it again and climb back up. He said that some days, this would happen up to nine times and that climbing the stairs several times got very old, very fast! I can only imagine.
In 1950, Korczak married a young artist, Ruth Ross, who was also a volunteer on the project. They had 10 children, who all contributed to the building of the monument while growing up. He died in 1982 and today, Ruth and seven of their 10 children continue the project. In 1998 the completed face of Crazy Horse was dedicated. Over the years, Korczak has refused any federal funding for this project because he feared that with federal involvement, his dreams of a broader educational and cultural goal would be left behind. The monument has been primarily funded with entrance fees to the site, fund-raising events and cooperate donations. There is no set completion date. When completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world with dimensions of 641 ft wide by 563 ft high.
If you are ever planning a trip to the Rapid City area, I would highly recommend that you take a day to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. We certainly didn’t have near enough time to go through the amazing museum that is on the site. David and I both agree that we enjoyed Crazy Horse more than Mt Rushmore. It is well worth taking the time to visit.
The next day, we visited downtown Rapid City. David went to a sporting good store that he had heard about on one a web page. I wandered through the shops of downtown. It is a cute area full of thriving businesses. A couple of things that caught our eye were the various life-size bronze statues of the presidents on each street corner. Plus, I came upon “Art Alley” an alley for artist to show their creativity. Some of it was very good and colorful. Sadly, though, some of it was painted over by gang graffiti. It was definitely a colorful spot though. After spending the morning downtown, we started our journey east to visit my brother in Madison, WI.
Heading east on I-90, we saw several signs for Wall Drug Store which was established in 1931. The signs reminded us of the many signs one sees for South of the Border, traveling down I-95. These signs started shortly outside of Rapid City and were about every mile or so. “Free ice water at Wall Drug Store”, “Enjoy a good old fashion milk shake at Wall Drug Store”, “Coffee 5 cents at Wall Drug Store” and on and on. After seeing all those signs, one just has to stop. Again, it was a great time to visit as there were almost no one else there, except for the locals and employees! There is a small drug store on the premises, but several other stores have been built up around it….a bookstore, souvenir shop, art gallery, clothing store, restaurant, soda fountain. and so much more. We did share a homemade, chocolate-covered cake donut on the recommendation of one of the employees. Oh my gosh, was it ever delicious…
From Wall Drug Store, we headed south on Rt 240 through the Badlands National Park. It was such a beautiful area with the snow covering the rugged terrain caused by years of erosion. I took several pictures trying to capture the beauty of the rock formations against the blue sky.
As David said, we “played” too much on this day and had to really push to make it to Sioux Falls, SD that night. We finally got there about 9:00 PM. The reason for the push through is we had told my brother that we would be in Madison by Friday afternoon to take care of their two dogs. They had made plans to leave Friday morning to head to Minnesota to get the newest edition to their family….a chocolate lab puppy….much more to come about him! So, to save them from having to travel with their two other dogs – an elderly yellow lab and a young French bulldog, we told them we would make it to their home by Friday afternoon. Thanks to David’s great ability to estimate arrival times, we made it to Madison at 3:00. The dogs were so excited to see us…especially Biscuit, the yellow lab who is now 12 years old.