How many Presidents does it take to ... ?!?!?

Trip Start Jun 29, 2010
Trip End Apr 07, 2012

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Night Drive in the coffin

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Saturday, July 24, 2010

We woke up aching and stiff but at least we had not been in the coffin the night before and had finally had a solid sleep! Finally back on track ... or so we thought.    

It was so hot in the morning we could really do with jumping into a lake, river ... even a puddle, but unfortunately there was a severe lack of water.  The plan for the day was Mount Rushmore – so into the bus for the 60 mile journey via Buffalo Gap National Grassland (sadly no Buffalo were spotted).  On the drive up to the monument there were a huge amount of tourist spots, shops, restaurants, gift stores, pretty much everything that you would expect from a very well known place, however, it is about another 1 mile up the road which has left the actual monument in relative peace bar the on-site shops with information and food. 

Chris was poorly in the morning and his first impressions of Mount Rushmore were the toilets which he threw up in on arrival from a bug which seemed to clear after some sleep on the bus afterwards.

The actual monument itself was not so much disappointing as much smaller than we had expected and it takes a while to appreciate the clarity of some of the faces and the methods that were employed over a long period of time to achieve the way it looks.  There is a great viewing area, a walk that takes you right underneath the mount and an amphitheatre which is host to major events.

Some interesting facts to wet your appetite ...

-  Gutzon Borglum was the artist/sculptor responsible for the monument – he wanted to display 4 
leaders who brought the country from colonial times into the 20th century.   

-  The 4 Presidents are;

-  George Washing ton (served 1789 – 1797) – the most prominent position as he was the 
commander of the Revolutionary army and the first U.S President.

-  Thomas Jefferson (served 1801 – 1809) – author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd President and advocate of westward expansion.

-  Theodore Roosevelt (served 1901 – 1909) – Borglum's  personal hero.  The 26th President who 
promoted the construction of the Panama Canal and ignited progressive causes such as  
conservation and business reform.

-  Abraham Lincoln (served 1861 – 1865) – the 16th President whose leadership restored the Union and ended slavery on U.S soil. 

-  The monument was started in 1927, took 6 years to complete the carving and cost nearly $1 
million.  The motivation behind the monument was to be a tourist attraction – clearly this was great forward thinking as there were hundreds of people there during our visit.  

-  Borglum based the models on life masks, paintings, photographs, descriptions and his own interpretations.  Plaster copies of the models were always displayed on the mountain as a guide for the workmen.

-  To transfer the models to the mountain, Borglum created a 'pointing’ machine.  The models were sized at a ratio of 1:12 – one inch on the model would equal 1 foot on the mountain     

-  The only shaping techniques available to the carvers was the removal of the stone – no material 
could be added.  Due to the hardness of the rock, blasting was introduced as it was the only 
practical way to remove the huge portions of the face to reach the solid granite for carving.  Skilled blasters were employed to dynamite to within a few inches of the desired measurement. 

-  After blasting, features were shaped by workers suspended by cables in swing seats called Bosun chairs.  They first used pneumatic drills to honeycomb the granite then excess granite was 
removed by chisels.  There was also a blacksmith on site that would sharpen hundreds of drill bits every day.    

-  Up close, the pupils of the eyes are shallow recessions with projecting shafts of granite – this gives a sparkle to the eye and brings the Presidents to life.  

-  The carving of George Washington’s head is as big as a 6-story building – if his body was carved from head to toe it would be 465 feet. 

-  Dimensions of his head; Forehead to Chin – 60 ft

                                                   Width of Eye – 11 ft

                                                   Length of Nose – 20 ft

                                                   Width of Mouth – 18 ft

After a quick stop in the souvenir shop we travelled to Custer State Park where we sunbathed for a little while, swam in the lake (Annabelle shaved her legs in a bowl of lake water) and ate dinner whilst watching the sun go down. 

The night was yet another night drive in the coffin and it left us looking forward to some of the camp nights that we knew were coming up.
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