Events of Friday, May 15th, blogged Saturday July 22nd
Annie and I awoke to an astonishing site! The gargantuan Tower that was clearly visible from our campsite just the night before . . .
What diabolical sorcery, what wicked intent, what fresh hell could this be?!
Oh, it was just the fog.
The mystery solved and the damp chill oppressively pervading the campsite, we quickly determined that the best course of action was to snuggle back into our sleeping bag and have a lazy morning. (We excel at those.)
Eventually we rallied and made our way back to the Tower proper so that I could peruse the gift shop which had been closed the previous evening. It was rainy and foggy and a busload of Japanese tourists had just flooded the parking lot and I knew the serenity I had encountered there only hours before would have vanished.Timing, they say, really is everything.
On the way out of the monument site we stopped to visit this super cool World Peace Sculpture entitled Wind Circle. When viewed from the appropriate angle a circle of smoke, as though blown from a peace pipe, rises into the air to encircle the Tower within its protection. The artwork was created by internationally renowned Japanese sculptor Junkyu Muto who has also placed works of art at several culturally significant areas of the world, including the Vatican and the Bodhi Tree in India. As an additional gesture of coming together, the pieces of granite at the base were brought in from the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial.
Turning 180 degrees from my view of the Wind Circle I came face to furry face with yet another prairie dog town. The fog and drizzle made the cuties even more difficult to photograph than before, but they sure did have a lot to say.
At last the time had come to saddle up and make our way Eastward Ho with the sky pressed down close upon us. Patches of fog drifted in and out. Pockets of rain passed around us. The day was gray and bleak.
But there was beauty in the bleak. The Black Hills scenery looked like a rumpled green quilt stretched out before us.
And Wyoming has interesting things scattered along its medians . . . like airplanes launching into the sky . . .
And random teepees . . .
And finally…. SOUTH DAKOTA WE ARE IN YOU!
You can see behind the sign that the Black Hills really do look black.
My first stop in South Dakota was an odd little art gallery that I had stumbled upon while researching my trip online.
The Termesphere Gallery hosts the wok of American artist Dick Termes who paints incredibly detailed visions on spheres using a unique six-point perspective he created. Their style was inspired by his desire to paint the total picture. Termespheres are typically hung by small chains and rotated with electric ceiling motors so that as they turn, the complete world is revealed. Although the image is painted on the outside of the convex sphere, the vantage point continuously changes. The rotation may also appear to reverse direction, giving the sensation that the viewer is inside the painting viewing the concave surface of the inside of the rotating sphere. They were amazing, and I even got to meet the artist!
Unfortunately they were all well out of my price range, so we continued easing on down the road. It was getting to be well past lunchtime when I heeded the irresistible siren song of Cowboy Bagels! What could be better?
Only Cowboy Bagels was OUT OF BAGELS!!! Granted they did have a few Chocolate Chip or some similar monstrosity left, but real cowboys don’t eat Chocolate Chip bagels! You cowboy up with an Everything or an Onion, but NOT a Chocolate Chip, or even worse, Cinnamon! Even the Day Old bin was a bust. It was a bitter pill to swallow and I left there hungry and disgruntled and even more concerned about the fog that seemed to grow more ominous the closer we got to our destination . . .
And what was our destination you ask? Anything fog unfriendly by any chance??
ONLY MOUNT FREAKING RUSHMORE!!! No, nothing at all there that might require a strong sight line to truly appreciate. Nothing at all! And it’s not like it was ELEVEN DOLLARS to get in and my handy dandy National Park All Access pass was worth bupkiss becauase they called it a parking fee rather than an entrance fee. (Oh wait, actually it was exactly like that!) But I’m sure it will all be worth it to bask in the majestic glory of the giant faces looming over me right? Right?
WTF is this Mount Rushmore? I’ve been robbed! (On the upside, I got a great vantage point and no lines in the gift shop.) The fog was so dense, I kid you not, when I first got there I took selfies of myself FACING THE WRONG WAY! I went in the Visitors Center and said: “It’s to the left correct?” No, no, it’s to the right. It was cold and clammy and I was basically alone on a concrete plaza staring at nothing. Not only that, I couldn’t even bring Annie out to share in the joy as there was a NO DOGS sign about every three feet. Never mind the fact that there was absolutely nothing a dog could harm there.
My spirits as dampened as my coat, I headed back down to the surrounding town of Keystone to have a look around.
There was a mixture of stores selling authentic Native American handicrafts alongside cheesy souvenir shops. It took all my fortitude to pass up the $53 plastic horse enrobed in what, judging by the placard, I could only assume was a “Trail of Snow Glitter Tears”.
The rain fell harder, so it seemed prudent to set about finding a place to stay for the night. Luckily, my targeted destination was only about 45 minutes away, which meant that, weather permitting, I could take another stab at the Disappearing Presidents tomorrow. We set our course for Custer State Park, traveling down the twisty turny super scenic Iron Mountain Road.
Which even took us through some tight squeezes blasted out of the mountains . . .
We pulled into the park late in the day, dejected and discouraged and not looking forward to making camp in the pouring rain. But all was not lost. By pure happenstance we had arrived on a Fee Free Weekend so didn’t have to pay a cent to enter! The one slightly weird thing was that there was absolutely no way to secure a camping spot in person. The ONLY way to do so was by phoning someone in a call center off property who would then tell me what sites were available when I could clearly see for myself as I was parked right next to them. We found a decent spot next to a (now raging torrent) stream, made quick work of heating up dinner, and then burrowed deep into our bed to listen to the rain on the roof.