(To the right: part of a herd of buffalo in Custer State Park, wading through a "picnic area, day use only" spot) Although our ‘mission’ on the trip was the reunion, we also enjoyed being tourists. I’ve already mentioned visiting Ft. Bridger, Ft. Laramie and several ‘Oregon Trail’ sites.
But our favorite spots all turned out to be in South Dakota – the Black Hills (including Custer State Park), surrealistic Mount Rushmore, lively Deadwood and the [truly bad] Badlands. But among these spots, ‘best in show’ was Rushmore, a visual phenomenon that must be seen in person to really be appreciated.
(To the left: the Badlands under an ominous South Dakota sky) As we approached the Black Hills and the hill town of Custer – gateway to Rushmore -- the summer skies looked ominous. A fierce wind howled through the main street of Custer as we looked for a place to stay for the evening, the temperature in the low 50’s -- a situation very unusual, we learned, for South Dakota in August when it’s normally about 90 with humidity in the same range.
(Above: Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt & Lincoln) Since it was only around 4pm, we decided there was plenty of light left for us to make the trek to Rushmore. On the 16-mile trip, a black sky loosed torrents of rain and wind gusts rocked our white Ford Explorer (known affectionately as ‘Whitey Ford’); we nearly turned around.
Then suddenly we were among the blessed. As we turned into the parking lot, the sky cleared to reveal a brilliant sun, the wind died and we had the awesome experience of being among those from all over the US and, indeed, the world, who make the pilgrimage to worship at what is both a shrine to democracy and a unparalleled work of art.