Crazy Horses and Walls

Trip Start Jul 03, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2009

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Monday, July 13, 2009

We're on the road and out of Alliance, Nebraska early, travelling a short jog to the attraction that brought here in the first place: small-town Midwestern meth labs.

Just kidding. We’re off to Carhenge, a replica of the UK’s Stonehenge made of old cars. What to say about a place like this, except it is a perfect example of why we got on the road in the first place. Out of town, we’re in the open country of western Nebraska, which I think is beautiful. It’s not the vast flat corn fields I’d thought, but rather a gently rolling landscape, carpeted in green wavy prairie grass and occasional rock outcropping. From higher hills, we could see the creases in the land like puckering lips. It’s not dramatic like Colorado or any of the southwest, but rather a more subtle, muted, quiet grandeur: open land and big sky.

North of the prairie, we encounter the forested black granite hills of South Dakota and the Crazy Horse monument, which Maribeth and I both thought was more interesting and had better crowds than Mount Rushmore. The pictures we’ve posted don’t really do this monument justice, but the scale is pretty imposing. The head of Crazy Horse alone could fit all of the Mount Rushmore heads. (Maribeth did a little casting on the side when she found a Native American flute player!)

Mount Rushmore, by comparison, was less impressive. Gone is the sophisticated dining of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, replaced by a massive dining room that smelled of college dorm food and sweaty people. Many of the families seemed inspired by Sarah Palin, as we heard the following children’s names yelled out: Track, Ryder, and Truck (all different families).  All in all, the thought was: I’m glad I’ve seen this, but I don’t think I ever need to come back.

From Rushmore, we hit up another quintessentially American location: Wall Drug, America’s largest drugstore. This building includes thousands of square feet of retail, a number of restaurants, a dinosaur park, a jeweler, an outdoor statuary, a chapel, a doughnut shop, a Western Art collection, and a small self-referential museum. The most amazing feature of this place is the sheer volume of crap and otherwise totally useless items stuffed into the space. Overall, a worthwhile one-time trip.

Back to Rapid City for the night, dodging a massive thunderstorm that appeared in front of us. It’s really hard to describe the sense of menace these storms create: Open plains, not a tree in sight, and taking up the entire skyline a huge dark blue welt, anvil-shaped clouds, and lots of cloud to ground lighting. (Turns out there were tornadoes just south of us.)

We had a solid Italian dinner in Rapid City’s downtown (4 by 4 blocks but clean, walkable, and quaint) before bedding down for the night. 
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