Hey Rushmore, why the long face

Trip Start Sep 03, 2008
Trip End Oct 01, 2008

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Sunday, September 7, 2008

When we left Denver it was sunny and a little hazy.  We drove North along the edge of the Rockies until we were well into Wyoming.  The terrain was not what I had expected.  We were around 5000 ft elevation all day, but we were not in the mountains.  What really amazes me on this trip is how the geography and the geology changes.  North of Denver is flat prairie grassland, then it changes to fertile farmland, then areas that look like the old cowboy movies with mesas, gulches, and sagebrush. Then there will be trees, then none.  It is really amazing!  We were surprised to find crossing gates across the interstate in Wyoming in a couple of places.  Their purpose is to close the road when weather makes it impassible in the winter.  Wyoming must spend millions on snow fences along the interstate.  There are miles of 10' high snow fences the length of the state.  This must be where we see  the film on TV of helicopters dropping food to stranded cattle during blizzards.

This trip is amazing, and it's not the cities, it's the countryside.  Chain restaurants have made all cities seem alike.  Ask about a steakhouse in Denver or Rapid City and you'll get directed to Outback.  It seem like the local color is fading.  The scenery; however' is ever-changing.  What a country.  After making a rest stop in Chugwater Wyoming (pop 120) we headed toward South Dakota, and Mt. Rushmore.  Mt Rushmore was not in the "points of interest" in the navigation system in the car, so we fired up Microsoft "Streets and trips" on the little laptop.  Sandy learned how to operate the program as we drove, but it got us there.  on the way we saw the signs for Crazy Horse, so we stopped there.  One of the Rushmore sculptors was commissioned by some Indian chiefs (in the 30's) to carve a statue of General Custer's friend Crazy Horse in the black hills granite.  It is roughed out, and the face is finished, and the descendants of the original sculptor are still blasting and carving.
The black hills area is a very interesting and strikingly beautiful geologic phenomenon.  It is a circle of mountains in the middle of the plains, and they are, evidently, the center of ancient volcanos with everything but the central granite cores eroded away.  That is why the Rushmore and Crazy Horse carvings are possible.  Mount Rushmore is really beautiful, and the facilities surrounding it are very well done.  The museums, theaters, and observation areas are first class.  They have pictures and artifacts showing how the carving was done and how the 1/10 scale models were measured and the measurements transferred to the mountain.  It was a little surprising; however, that the heads, large though they might be, are not quite as large as I had imagined.  

I must admit, I looked to see if Cary Grant was still clinging to the faces, but he was not.

Tomorrow it's back across Wyoming, this time East to West, to the town of Cody.
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