Sunday, September 20/09

Today started out as a gorgeous day with the high temperature of around 24C (75F).

We headed out to see Mt. Rushmore and what an impressive site it is! I was here when I was 13 and of course the figures remain the same but the rest of the site certainly has changed. At that time I seem to recall that you just pulled off the road and there were some posts and wire you stood behind to see the monument (is that what you remember Art?). Now there is a huge parking area and it cost $10 to get in but that ticket is good until December (actually for a year from January to December). When you enter the site you go down the Avenue of Flags which is a walkway with all the state flags along it and then you come to the amphitheater which seats 2500 people and faces straight at Mt. Rushmore. Every evening they have a lighting event & ceremony so hopefully we will be able to catch that while we’re here.

Mt. Rushmore

(These are for Scott!)

There is a Presidential Trail that goes around the amphitheater from the Grand View Terrace to the base of the mountain and then either back to the terrace of the parking lot, and affords different views of Mt. Rushmore. We took the 11:00 Presidential Trail tour by one of the park rangers and it was very interesting, he stopped at different locations along the trail and told about each of the president’s lives and gave a demonstration of how long their noses etc. were.

At the end of the trail is the carver’s studio (Gutzman Borglum was the carver) and it is the same today as it was in the 30’s when Mt. Rushmore was being built. There is a huge window at one end, which looks directly up at Mt. Rushmore, and beside the window is a model of the 4 presidents, and this model was how he wanted them to appear on the mountain. In the studio there was a presentation by another park ranger on the men who worked on the carvings and the tools they used.

In the beginning the workers had to climb 759 steps to the top each day, then the same down at the end of the day; eventually they installed a tram to take the men and equipment up and down. The workers were suspended in bosom’s chairs off the face of the mountain to work and they used their feet to hold the pneumatic drills in place while drilling – amazingly there were no casualties during the construction. Basically, they drilled holes to place the dynamite in and all the blasting was done at 12 noon while the workers were having lunch and at 4 p.m. when they were through work, 90% of the sculpture was done by dynamite blasting.

Work was started in 1927 and stopped in 1941 with the death of Gutzman Borglum and his son was instrumental in getting legislation passed that no further work will ever be done on Mt. Rushmore. Altogether it took 6-1/2 years to do the carvings - work was done intermittently as money allowed.

A few points of interest:
- each face is 60’ tall
- each eye is 11’ wide
- Washington’s nose is 21’ feet long, all other noses are 20’ long
- Washington’s mouth is 18’ wide
- the carving of Mt. Rushmore involved removing large amounts of rock by drilling and blasting – Washington’s chin is 30’ behind the original mountain surface and parts of the Lincoln & Jefferson heads are 50’ behind the original surface, Roosevelt’s head finally took 75’ behind the original surface
- most of the sculpting was done using dynamite and the final surfaces were rendered as smooth as a sidewalk by a “bumping” process
- there is a small cave behind Washington which contains a titanium vault at the base of the entrance and preserves the history of America.

We also learned that the Black Hills got their name from the Indians because the Ponderosa Pines, that cover the hills, make them look black, and, if you smell a Ponderosa Pine it smells like vanilla, carmel or chocolate - I thought it smelled like carmel.

The Black Hills

Rock Formations

And A View of George Washington from a Lookout

After we left there we went into Keystone for lunch and our intent was to take one of the scenic drives after that but when we got going there was a really weird noise in the rear end of the truck so we just had lunch in Keystone then headed home. We stopped at Hill City to pick up a few groceries and just as we arrived back the rain started, the wind came up and the temperature dropped like a stone. Great!!!

I decided it would be a good time to do laundry so got that job done and by then it was time to think about dinner. John wanted to barbecue so he got absolutely soaked while doing the steaks, then just as he came in with dinner the rain stopped – figures!

Tomorrow we will be calling the Dodge dealer in Rapid City and try to get the truck in to see what the problem is so there probably won’t be much sightseeing done – we just hope it isn’t anything major wrong with the truck.

And so ends another great gift of a day and we look forward to tomorrow’s adventures.

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