The Shaping of a Nation....Mt Rushmore

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2008

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Monday, October 20, 2008

Well, I just spent the last hour typing out our travel blog, and have lost it, as I've gone to add photos, so a little peeved off,  here is the edited version...

 We were really looking forward to seeing Mt Rushmore, so headed off early around  7.00am.  Travelled through Wyoming and lost count of the dead deer we see, on the side of the road (as many, as you would see possums on the NZ country roads, first thing in the morning).  Can't believe Venison is so expensive in NZ.

First stop (after checking out a campsite), is the family owned business, Bearland.  It is effectively a zoo, (without as many fences, and certainly no cages), that you can drive around at your own lesuire.  However, we were warned to keep all windows up (we kind of did), as it was mating season, and the males of the species get very protective of their female family.   We saw amongst other things, Elk, Artic Wolves, Mountain Goat/Sheep,  Black Bear etc.  Driving through the bear enclosure, you saw the houses come caves that were 'owned' by each family ... honestly it was like driving through a Winnie-the-Pooh village. Amazing.   

As they don't have gates to separate the different wildlife, they use big cattle stops, (which I think could be electric as well).  Anyway, I'm sure it's normally effective, however, today, one of theWolves decided to be in hunting mode, and somehow got into the Elk enclosure.  Normally, this would have proved a deadly situation for the Elk, but one lone wolf, against an angry elk bull, with huge antlers , it made a very different story today, and a very interesting watch for the kiwis in the RV.  (I don't think the ranger on the bike, who was trying to sort it all out, was too impressed.)  After the drive through, we parked and took a walk through 'Babyland' where we saw beaver, otter, frox and 10 month old baby bears, that just wanted to play fight all day. They were gorgeous, and looked so cuddly.  Really cute.  (FYI, once the babies are weaned from their mums, they're bought into a enclosure for their own protection, as the male bears are known to kill and eat them).

Our next stop was face-to-face with the famous 4 - Wahington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson.   Yes, we've seen these images on TV and films, but let me tell you, it is NOTHING like being there.   The detail on these sculptures is incredible, right down to the shading of the eye, to allow for pupil detail etc.    14 years to complete, not including the dreaming, planning etc.  The sculptor Gertzen Bourgen, travelled for 3 days on horseback , with his 12 year old son, looking for the perfect piece of rock to create his sculpture - the rock must stand the test of time (not erode quickly), and also must be at the right setting for the sun to  show off the faces.   Although, when he found Mt Rushmore it was isolated, he knew, that they would eventually build roads for the people that would want to visit - and they did - they built the roads and the towns, and people visit -  in summer, many thousands every day.

Even for us non-American citizens it was quite a moving experience, as you met these men face-to-face.   The ranger took us on a tour, and 'introduced' us to them, explaining their role in creating the nation that we know as the U.S.A.  - the dreams, the visions, the passion of these men, who idvidually came to power, and indivdually strived to see their dreams for the United States of America a reality, is truly an inspirational, and challenging story.

Onto less emtional and more in-your-face attraction, we stopped off at the Reptile Country where they boast the biggest, the longest and the most venimous snakes.  And let me tell you, a 20ft/30ft snake is not a pretty sight - but is impressive.  Included in your entrance fee, where you get to see big ugly spiders, huge geekos, giant turtles, cockroaches, alligators, crocodiles etc, is a  snake show.  This is in a very small setting, which means you get up close and personal with these creatures, but in a relaxed environment, which allows lots of time for Questions and casual discussion (and in our case, photo opportunity).    Too close for Tara however, who spent the first half of the show outside!  I must admit, snakes aren't the first creatures I would warm too.   Needless to say though,  the Boys loved this park!  For the rest of us, fascinating is probably the word that best describes it.   But a great family owned park, and absolutely worth the stop.

Summary:  fantastic day - informative, motivating, mesmorizng, and ...... you're certainly left with a feeling of being the 'little person' , not just against the great heros and leaders of yesterday, but also the animal kingdom of today.
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