Monday 30 August 2010

Day 3 – Where Are The Buffalo?

Today was the first day on this trip where we’ve really been dazzled by America. The last two days helped ease us into life as tourists, but today we were ready to see some of this country’s amazing national treasures; no more mucking around!! Last night Joe briefly mentioned he’d seen that the weather for tomorrow was going to be rain, I scoffed at this and decided to defy his warning: Time to bring out the summer dress to combat the heat! A rarity in our marriage, Joe actually thought I’d be right and even pulled out his shorts…Oh crap, our first encounter with grey skies, and of all days!

Putting the weather troubles behind us, we arrived at Custer State Park ready for our day in the Black Hills and prepared for its famed buffalo. Paying our entrance fee I noticed a bench in which someone had carved the words ‘Where are the buffalo?’. I chuckled that they were so disappointed in their lack of buffalo sightings that they’d sat long enough to carve such a naïve I was this early in the day!
Things started well wildlife-wise, we came across some friendly donkeys that loved to stand in the road, some cute bambi-like deer and even a wandering turkey…
But we only managed to see a few buffalo off in the distance, they were so far away and we went by so fast we didn’t even get a photo. I have to say, after all the promise of seeing these huge creatures up close, I was ready to do some bench carving of my own.
Giving up on the bison, we followed the trail round to the next stop of the day.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s largest sculpture, or it would be if it ever gets finished. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started the project in 1948 and dedicated the rest of his life to its creation; literally living at the site with his wife, Ruth, and raising 10 kids. After his death in 1982 his family have kept up his beloved project and still work tirelessly to complete it. In fact, Ruth Ziolkowski still lives at the visitors centre that has been built around their original home.
Being there and hearing their story did nothing if not make me feel like an underachiever. It takes a rare passion to stick with such a seemingly crazy plan when all the odds are against you. The whole project is even more impressive when you consider that it’s publicly funded. I can only hope one day it is finished and we’ll get to revisit it.
After being impressed by man, it was time to once again be impressed by nature. We winded around to Needles Highway; a beautiful scenic drive through outstanding rock formations with views to die for - quite literally if you’re not careful! Payment for these impressive sights are the nail biting hairpin turns and overhangs. Joe was driving today, so I tried my best to put my faith in his skills…
It would be impossible to visit South Dakota without seeing its most famous landmark, Mount Rushmore. Having already marvelled at the size of Crazy Horse, the size of Mount Rushmore isn’t quite as impressive, but what is impressive is that it’s actually finished. The four protruding president’s heads could be seen from quite the distance, but up close - with the sun finally making an appearance - you couldn’t help but appreciate the work that went into such a patriotic formation!
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were picked for their dedication to making America a place where everyone is free to pursue their dreams of happiness. You can’t really argue with that, especially when it’s up there in stone!
With the day wearing on we decided to make a quick stop in the town of Keystone, sadly it ended up being a longwinded detour as we headed out in the wrong direction. Getting there we discovered it didn’t have much more to offer than Wall Drug did and there is only so many tacky touristy shops you can work your way through.

Our last stop of the day ended with one Joe tried to talk me out of, stating ‘this will end up being one of the dumbest things we do’. He was probably right, but he’d been driving me nuts talking in ‘funny’ accents for most of the afternoon and therefore I felt it was only fair I drag him to the retro Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. Built in 1936 it is apparently a memorial to ‘perpetuate the facts of history’. Sure, why not…If nothing else, I just love kitsch, so it was totally worth it.
I was still disappointed about the buffalo, but the day was pretty much a success, right down to our Dairy Queen salad dinner. Yeah, that’s right, Dairy Queen does salads. Who knew!

So, until tomorrow...

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