Mount Rushmore National Memorial

After our first foggy visit to Mount Rushmore, we returned with our friends Forrest and Mary while they were in town.  As you approach the memorial from Highway 244 out of Hill City, you enter past a turnout that displays a profile of George Washington.  When we pulled in to the turnout, not a single person was looking up at George, and we quickly discovered what all the excitement was about.  There were Rocky Mountain Goats on both sides of the roadway,   We had these two right in the parking lot.

Mom and baby

Mom and baby

And a more adventurous pair across the roadway into the hillside.  These goats were introduced to the Black Hills in the 1920’s, and have adapted quite well to the area.

DSC_0319 (1)When Gutzon Borglum started carving Mount Rushmore, he originally planned to put Thomas Jefferson on the right  side of Washington.  After the workers started blocking out his face, it was discovered there was not enough good quality rock for carving, so they blew up what they hard started.  As a result, it left a good profile of Washington.

profile of Washington

profile of Washington

As you enter the memorial, you go through the Avenue of Flags, which has 56 flags representing all of the states and territories of the US.  It also makes for a popular photo opportunity.

Dan, Forrest & Mary

Dan, Forrest & Mary

The memorial has a Grand View Terrace, for excellent views of Mount Rushmore.  Beneath the terrace if the Lincoln Borglum (named after the sculptors son), which contains a museum, theatre and bookstore.  The museum has a photograph of what Mount Rushmore looked like prior to the construction.

prior to October 1927

prior to October 1927

After Gutzon Borglum died in 1941, his son Lincoln spent seven months working on the monument, but then Congress declared the monument complete on October 31, 1941  This is how the memorial looks today.  The heads are 40 feet tall.  (since we are working at Crazy Horse Memorial, I do have to note that all four heads of Mount Rushmore will fit on the side of Crazy Horse’s head!)

Mount Rushmore 7/2014

Mount Rushmore 7/2014

There is a walking path that takes you a little closer to the memorial, and down to the sculptors studio.  In the studio, there is a 1/12th scale model of what Borglum had planned for Mount Rushmore.  His plans were never completed.  All of the Presidents were to be carved down to the waist.

1/12th scale model

1/12th scale model

The small museum near the visitors center has many photographs and articles that go into great detail on the history of the memorial.  It also talks about the pointer device that was used to project the dimensions from the 1/12th scale model on to the mountain for carving.  This photograph demonstrates an example of the pointer (Math is important!)

pointer device

pointer device

We took the walking path around the memorial, and were able to get a nice photograph of the grand view terrace, and the amphitheater.  They have a nightly lighting ceremony, which we plan on attending one of these nights. (admission to the memorial is free, but there is an $11.00 annual parking pass).

Grand View terrace & ampitheater

Grand View terrace & amphitheater

Mount Rushmore is a “must see” item if you are in the area.

Quote of the day:  “Well, those figures were there for forty million years.  All I had to do was dynamite 400,000 tons of granite to bring them into view.”  – Gutzon Borglum

Jewel Cave National Park

Last week we had a wonderful time visiting with Forrest and Mary, whom we met in Cedar Key, Florida.  They are from Wisconsin, and are slowly making their way out to the Southwest, for the winter.  We all managed to get many things off our ”bucket list” during their visit.  Hopefully I can start getting caught up on my blogs, as I am very behind due to the lack of reliable internet.

Forrest & Mary in Jewel Cave

Forrest & Mary in Jewel Cave

There are many cave tours available in the Black Hills area, and so far the two best ones (in our opinion) are operated by the National Park Service.  We have previously visited Wind Cave National Park, and went with Forrest and Mary to Jewel Cave National Park.

Jewel Cave, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave was discovered around 1900 by two brothers, Frank and Albert Michaud, and their friend Charles Bush, when they heard some wind blowing into a hole in some rocks.  They discovered a cave full of sparkling calcite crystals, and made a claim to this “jewel mine.”  Soon they realized there were no valuable minerals in the cave, and turned it in to a tourist destination instead.  Since “calcite crystal cave” doesn’t sound too exciting, they named the cave Jewel Cave.  The National Park Service took over the cave in 1908 which has protected the cave.

calcite crystals

calcite crystals

In 1959, Herb and Jan Conn were asked to join a cave expedition, and they spent the next 21 years discovering over 65 miles of additional passageways in the cave.  After they retired in 1981, additional explorers have continued discovering and mapping additional passages.   To date, over 170 miles of passageways have been discovered at Jewel Cave.

They offer four different cave tours, and we opted for the Scenic Tour, which is the most popular of the tours (and free with our VIP pass).  At $12.00, it is an excellent value.  The tour covers about 1/2 mile of the cave, in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  You take an elevator down into the cave, and there are about 700 stairs to climb up/down.  Of all the cave tours we have been on so far (still have several others to blog about), this would be the best tour for anyone who is claustrophobic, as this is a very wide open, cavernous cave.

Photography inside a cave is hard to do, because of the lighting, and lack of depth perception in photographs.  To get an idea of the size of this cave, you can see the stairs in the photo below, showing how far down we will be going.

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave

And then back up again to another area of the cave..

up through a narrow passage

up through a narrow passage

Into a larger room of the cave.

cavernous area

cavernous area

This cave has several interesting formations.  I thought this piece of flowstone looked like a brain.

"cave brain"

“cave brain”

They call this very thin piece a soda straw.

soda straw

soda straw

Curved pieces of calcite on inclined walls and ceilings create these interesting “curtains”.

curtains

curtains

This piece of “bacon” is over 20 feet long.  It is also formed from calcite, but has magnesium in it as well, which provides the coloring.  This was our favorite formation in the cave.  Again, the photograph does not display the enormity and full color of this piece of “bacon”.

mmmm bacon!

mmmm bacon!

Jewel Cave is well worth the visit if you are in the Black Hills.  It is estimated that only 5% of Jewel Cave has been discovered, based on barometric pressure readings of the cave.  Future generations will be able to continue enjoying new discoveries for years to come.  Many visitors inquire about which cave to visit, Jewel Cave, or Wind Cave.  If you have the time, I would recommend both, as they are very different.  If you are short on time, or a bit claustrophobic, then stick with Jewel Cave.  And in our opinion, the National Park Service has done an excellent job in taking care of and preserving both of these caves.

Quote for the day:  “In the United States the best of our national scenery and our most interesting scientific and historic places are retained in public ownership, for the benefit and use of all people.” – Isabelle F. Story

A Bear Traffic Jam

When you live life on the road, and are mobile, you really don’t pay much attention to the calendar. We look at the year in segments….a few months here, a few months there, and then winter in a warm place. So when we headed out on our day off to Bear Country USA, we completely forgot that it was the Fourth of July Holiday weekend. Until we pulled in to the entrance and were stuck in long lines…..!

 

Bear Country, Rapid City

Bear Country, Rapid City

Bear Country USA, a drive-thru wildlife park is about 8 miles South of Rapid City. Open since 1972, the park allows animals to roam free on over 200 acres, while us humans remain caged in our vehicles. The park has elk, wolves, reindeer, big horn sheep, rocky mountain goats, buffalo, and the largest privately owned group of American Black Bear. Each species is sectioned off from the others, in case they don’t ‘play nice’ with each other.

Bear Country is open from May to November, (the bears still hibernate for the winter), and costs $16.00 per adult (maximum charge of $60 per vehicle.  (We received free admission with our VIP pass).

The tour starts with a drive through the Rocky Mountain Elk area, which has many beautiful Elk, including this guy, just lounging right by the side of the road. This is the first time I have seen Elk, and they are quite an impressive animal.

 

A beautiful Elk

A beautiful Elk

We encountered several Arctic Wolves in the next section, including this one licking its chops as it walked past my window. I opted to keep the window closed, so there is a bit of reflection on the photo.

keeping the window up tight!

keeping the window up tight!

When the wolf was at a safe distance, I rolled the window down for a better photo.

Artic Wolf

Arctic Wolf

Although we didn’t see Rudolph, there were quite a few Reindeer, counting down the days until they have to go back to work at the North Pole.

is this Dasher or Dancer?

is this Dasher or Dancer?

They had some very beautiful Big Horn Sheep, including this big guy…

 

Big Horn Sheep

Big Horn Sheep

And this one as well, happy to pose for photos, it seems.

 

hello!

hello!

The Rocky Mountain Goats were busy snoozing.

 

Rocky Mountain Goat

Rocky Mountain Goat

And then we entered the Black Bear area, where you are not permitted to roll down your window (actually you are not supposed to do it in the other areas), and they have a person with a shotgun stationed in a tower in the middle of the bear area, just in case something goes amiss.

free to roam

free to roam

DSC_0790

Mating season is May and June for bears, so we weren’t the only ones who forgot that it was July!

 

hmmmm

hmmmm

Black Bears can vary in color, from black, brown, cinnamon, blonde and white. In the wild, they live 10-15 years, but in captivity, 15-30 years is the norm. These three bears were causing quite a traffic jam in the park.

 

3 little bears

3 little bears

Signs in the bear area indicate you are supposed to continue driving slowly, and the bears will move out of your way. But it is a bit intimidating to have a large bear walking right in front of you!

 

bear crossing!

bear crossing!

After exiting the drive-thru portion of the park, you can park and walk over to see an impressive looking Grizzly Bear. These bears are identified by the hump on their shoulder, which is from the large muscle used to strike with their paws and dig holes. They can run both uphill and downhill at speeds of 35 MPH, so don’t plan on outrunning one of these in the woods!

 

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Babyland has smaller animals, such as the state animal of Wisconsin, the Badger. Although they look cute, especially while sleeping, they can be quite mean. They are excellent diggers (the Badgers also had a nice basketball season, making it to the Final Four….oops, a bit off topic!)

 

The Badgers

The Badgers

The state animal for South Dakota is the Coyote, which adapts itself to both rural and urban settings. We hope to never encounter one of these, as they have a tendency to eat small animals.

 

cute coyote

cute coyote

They had several Red Foxes on display. Makena (our dog) was bred to hunt fox, although she is too afraid of most animals, so I am not sure what she would do if she spotted one of these cute little animals.

 

Mr. Red Fox

Mr. Red Fox

They had a few baby Pronghorns on display. Pronghorns are generally lumped in to the antelope or goat family, but they are neither. They are the sole survivor of an ancient species, and are only found in North America. They are the second fastest land animal, with a top speed of 60 MPH, and can sustain speeds of 30 MPH for several miles. Oddly, they crawl under a fence, instead of jumping over one.

 

Pronghorn

Pronghorn

But the highlight of the Babyland area are the bear cubs. I took several videos of them running around. They are so cute! The cubs were born late January/early February. After three months with their mothers, the park weans them off and away from them, for their own protection. In the wild, only 40% of the cubs make it to one year, as many are harmed by the adult males.

 

playing in the tree

playing in the tree

 

baby black bears

baby black bears

We both enjoyed the park, and would recommend this to anyone visiting the area.

Quote for the day:  “Bears are not companions of men, but children of God, and His charity is broad enough for both…bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters.  A bears days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsing’s like ours and was poured from the same fountain….”  John Muir

Visiting museums in Keystone

Dan and I both enjoy visiting museums, and our VIP pass covers many of them in the area. We opted to spend some time visiting two of them on our day off, Rushmore Borglum Story and The National Presidential Wax Museum, both in Keystone.

Many billboards advertising the Rushmore Borglum Museum state “best museum we saw in the USA”, so we had high hopes for this one. The museum is dedicated to the life of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. Although very informative, it did not live up to its hype. The adult admission is $10.00 (free with VIP pass) which includes a hand-held audio device. You walk around the museum and punch in the code to each display, and there is a brief narrative on the items in the display case (photographs not permitted). At the end of the tour is a 20 minute movie that again goes over his life story. It took us about one hour to visit the museum.  You are not allowed to take photographs of the exhibits.

Rushmore Borglum Story

Rushmore Borglum Story

Prior to Mt Rushmore, Borglum worked on Stone Mountain, in Georgia. He started carving that mountain, but got into a dispute and blasted off the images he had completed.

Borglum was a big fan of President Lincoln, even naming his son Lincoln. He did this statue of Lincoln that is on display in front of the museum.

hanging with Abe

hanging with Abe

 

 

THE NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL WAX MUSEUM

After our visit with the Borglum Story, we headed over to the wax museum, and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of this museum. If you have any interest in the history of our presidents, this is a good museum to check out. Adult admission is $10 (free with VIP pass), which includes a hand-held audio device. You start watching a video that details how the figures are created, then go to each exhibit which has a lengthy description of the president(s) in the display, and what was happening in the country during their term. If you listen to every story, it will take about 90 minutes to get through the museum.

Presidential Wax museum

Presidential Wax museum

 

The museum covers every president, from the first…

George Washington

George Washington

To the present…

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Some of the presidents are grouped together in displays, such as the five presidents who were never elected to the office of President.  The five are grouped into two parts, the four who were elected to the Office of Vice-President (left to right – Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Alan Arthur, John Tyler).

The unelected presidents

The unelected presidents

And then there was Gerald Ford, the only man who not only was not elected as president, but was not elected to the office of vice president either.  Ford became the first person appointed as vice president, under the terms of the 25th Amendment, after Spirow Agnew resigned.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford

You all remember our 9th President, right?

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison

He’s part of the reason for the creation of the 25th Amendment.  William Henry Harrison was the first President to die in office.  He refused to wear an overcoat during the inauguration, and died from complications relating to pneumonia, just 32 days after taking the oath.  I guess when you only make it 32 days, you get a very small display in the museum!

Of the five original drafters of the Declaration of Independence, two became Presidents: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

drafting the Declaration of Independence

drafting the Declaration of Independence 

Grover Cleveland became the first President to marry during his term in office.

Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland

William Howard Taft is the only man who was both the President (#27) and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (#10).

President & Supreme Court Chief Justice

President & Supreme Court Chief Justice

They had a display on President Kennedy

Kennedy & John Jr

Kennedy & John Jr

Along with a recreation of the scene on Air Force One where Lyndon B Johnson was sworn in as President, with Mrs. Kennedy, still in her blood soaked clothes, looking on. And did you know that Johnson was the only man to be elected as a Congressman, Senator, Vice-President and President?

Lyndon B Johnson

Lyndon B Johnson

We were impressed by the quality of the wax figurines, with one exception.  This display of Ronald Reagan with Mikhail Gorbachev.  Reagan is just staring up and over his head.   It seemed like he was going to be in another type of setting, and they just plunked him in this chair.

President Reagan

President Reagan

They also had a nice tribute to the first responders involved in the 9/11 tragedy.

9/11 tribute

9/11 tribute

After soaking up all this history, we worked up quite an appetite, so we headed out to the Circle B Chuckwagon and Cowboy Music Show, in Hill City. As part of our VIP pass, we received 50% off the dinner/show, which normally costs $26.00 – $30.00 depending on your choice of entrée. Although the food was good (we had the combo platter of beef, BBQ chicken and buffalo), we were glad it was half price! Unless you have children, I would not recommend getting there when the place opens at 4:00pm, as there is really nothing to do. They have a lot of activities for the kids, and there is a “shoot-out” at 5:20, with dinner starting at 5:30pm. The Cowboy Music Show starts a little after 6, and ends by 7:00pm. The musicians did put on a nice 45 minute show with some cowboy music and a few family style jokes.

The Chuckwagon show

The Chuckwagon show

Quote for the day:  “No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” – John Adams

 

 

 

 

Changing hours – more play time

We are still plugging along with work in the gift shop at Crazy Horse Memorial. We were able to switch over to four ten-hour days, which will allow us more free time to play tourist, as well as keep up with laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning. For now, we will have off Wednesday thru Friday. With our new schedule, we will be able to do some things with Phil and Rudee on Wednesdays.

With our new day off, we went out to dinner and a play with Phil and Rudee. The Black Hills Playhouse, located in Custer State Park, is currently in its 69th season providing plays and events in the park.

Black Hills Playhouse

Black Hills Playhouse

Dan, Rudee and Phil

Dan, Rudee and Phil

This season offers four plays that run for about 2 weeks each. With our VIP pass, we are able to see the dress rehearsal performance that occurs the evening before opening night.(tickets are normally $32.00 for adults)  These are always on a Wednesday, so we will be able to see 3 out of the remaining 4 plays. We enjoyed the musical adaption of a 1911 children’s book, The Secret Garden. We were pleasantly surprised by the professional quality of the production, and look forward to the remaining two plays this season. If you are in the area, this would be a ‘must do’ item.

Of course, after our first week on the new schedule, they changed it up on us, and we ended up with a Sunday off. This allowed us to spend some time with Steve and Joan, learning some new card games, as well as joining in with a group of co-workers that go out for pizza on Sunday night in Custer.

Then our schedule changed back, and this past Wednesday we headed out to Hot Springs where Phil and Dan used their VIP pass on half-price golf at Southern Hills Golf Course, a very scenic and challenging course. Rudee and I opted for the more relaxing day at Evans Plunge, which is a natural spring of mineral water. The spring is now fully enclosed, and they have added two water slides, a ‘kiddie area’, rope swings, and a lap pool area. The spring is only 5 feet deep at the deepest portion, and the water is crystal clear, with a pebble rock bottom. This was another complimentary item on the VIP pass.

In the evening, we had reservations at Grand Magic in Custer, which was a fun, family-friendly magic show. (also free for us!  Can you tell we like to do all the free items?!)

We also had some visitors this past few weeks.  Pat and Diane, Amazon co-workers, stopped in at our park on their journey West for a few days.  They found us on RVillage.  Although we had to work, we did were able to spend a few hours catching up, and look forward to seeing them again this fall in Kentucky.

Gary and Pam, a couple that we met last June at a Heartland Owners Group rally, surprised us at work on a Saturday.  They have been following our blog, and were coming through the area and stopped in.  It was also fun catching up with them, and we will certainly see them down the road sometime, somewhere!

Quote for the day:  “The world is round so that friendship may encircle it.” – Pierre Tielhard de Chardin