Custer State Park is spectacular. More about that in a moment.
We thought it would be super cool to see Mount Rushmore. No. We actually didn't think that. We thought it might make things bearably interesting if we visited at night and saw the lighting. I don't know where the idea that fireworks would be involved originated, but this was communicated to our dog-tired, hiked-all-day children, and they were on board.
After dinner, we set off on treacherously twisty mountain roads towards Mount Rushmore. And we were in a hurry, because we were running late. Usually roads with scenic overlooks are roads I avoid. This route was full of them. And bison, free-ranging, grass-feeding massive behemoth bison, right along the roadside. No guardrails anywhere. We wound past unnerving signs that read "low flying plains", "vehicle restricted", and a yellow sign with a cow icon (maybe the bison icon was unavailable). There was at one point a turtle crossing sign. Maybe they're really big here. The British GPS girl directing us kept laughing maniacally.
*update* The road we were on is called Iron Mountain Road and it's here: http://www.dangerousroads.org/north-america/usa/3997-iron-mountain-road.html
So we get there. Thanks for your cliff-protection Hail Marys from last post; they did the trick. Jane is asleep and Henry is crying and half asleep. Henry is scrappy and always goes down swinging. No one has proper northern people night time clothing. Lilly is wearing five sweaters. Henry has on a thin pullover, and it's wet somehow. (When you have five kids, and their clothes are wet, you ignore this.) It's like, 900 miles from the parking garage and we walk carrying sleeping Jane and wailing wet Henry. Jacob had insisted on wearing some Teva-type open sandals. They're also kind of broken and I guess all his socks were dirty. Top level parenting here. We walk under a well lit, Epcot-esque flag display. Emerging with anticipation from the flag tunnel, we come upon the lighting ceremony.
The lighting ceremony proceeds in this way. A loud recording of America, The Beautiful plays. A ranger on a stage calls all the veterans and servicemen to join her. They make their way to the stage. It's kind of dark. These are old men. This takes about twelve hours. When we are all settled, the ranger asks EACH person standing on the stage with her to state their name, their branch of service, and where they're from. This takes about fourteen hours or so. The she announces that we will now light Mount Tushmore. (I see that typo. Im'onna leave that like that. And refer to it in this way.) The light comes on. It was as exciting as someone turning on a light. The flag was ceremoniously retired, which really is always moving, and that was it. Ranger was like, "That's all y'all. Go back to your freezing cars now."
So back through the wild mountain passes to beautiful Custer. Lest you think I am a snot who can't appreciate anything, Not even the great Tushmore, I should tell you that we giggled the whole way home at the Griswaldian ridiculousness of it all. The whole of it is utterly ridiculous - the very idea of carving presidential visages in the side of a steep cliff in the middle of a steep nowhere. And people from all over - mostly not America - drive the nowhere mountain roads to see it. And pay $11 to park. Oh, and it was so much smaller than we had imagined it would be.
Entirely hilarious. The joke is on me, Tushmore. Well played.
Pretty sure that not an hour later, Henry has caught a yucky cold. Wet shirt to blame. And bad parents.
Tomorrow I will tell you all about Custer State Park, which you should visit. And we will explore it more thoroughly. Back now to the waterless camper, which had a bit of a parking challenge today and is scratched and wounded and has ponderosa pine bark pressed in where a light once was. I'll catch you up on the badass Badlands (I had to) in Part II, In Which We Do Cool Educational Stuff and Encounter Troublesome Pine Trees.