Day 16: The Descent Begins

Today, we broke camp from our lovely Custer, SD, park, which we enjoyed for the last 2 nights (including the thunder storm) and headed north, out of the Black Hills. We stopped, of course, at Mount Rushmore--couldn't miss it, even though it is nowhere near as spectacular as Crazy Horse. (Mt. Rushmore would fit inside a portion of Crazy Horse's head, just to give you a sense of scale.)

The place (i.e., the visitor center) has changed a LOT since I was last here 33 (!) years ago on a junior high band trip. The mountain is the same, of course, providing the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of 4 great American presidents: Washington for his leadership as a general in the war for independence and as our 1st president, Jefferson for writing the Declaration of Independence and for expanding the country via the Louisiana Purchase, Teddy Roosevelt for his leadership in conservation (establishing the first national parks, of which we are visiting many), and Abe Lincoln for his leadership through the Civil War. Worth reflecting on these men's legacies as we enter another presidential election year. We haven't had a leader in a while who would be worthy of carving into granite, have we? (Maybe that'll get folks to post a comment or two ;-)

The rest of the day has been, shall we say, disappointing. We thought we'd enjoy Deadwood and Lead--gold rush towns--but Deadwood is too touristy for words. Actually, Mt. Rushmore was the precursor. We started seeing "gentlemen" in knee-high black socks and shorts there. It only accelerated in Deadwood. In Lead, there just was no there there, as Gertrude Stein famously said (of Oakland, CA). So, we thought we'd take a scenic route up to Spearfish, SD, but the check engine light (and an alarming loss of engine power) had us worried. We took the safer route to Spearfish, found the only shady spot in town by a park, and waited till we could talk to our rental guy. Once again, he was no help. "Don't worry" he said of this, as he said of the flat tire last week. But this time, we aren't going to worry too much. It's a VW v6 engine, just like my former 10-year old Passat, and I know that I put too low of octane gas in 'er. We just have to up the octane.

We aren't sure what we'll be doing the next 2-3 days. Not much we can do around here with the dog, unfortunately. Can't go hiking on national park trails with him (maybe we can find a state park where we can all go), not a lot of tourist attractions (golly, but there were tons where we just were; didn't fully appreciate that!), and no motels with rooms available to even hole up in and watch TV. I can't even remember the last time we watched TV--think it was during the Coeur d'Alene heat wave 10+ days ago. Wow.

Temps are getting hotter now that we've come down out of the gorgeous Black Hills. (I'd recommend a SW South Dakota trip to anyone. Just beautiful.) And it turns out that there are big weekend events all over the region. We didn't anticipate needing reservations, and our friend's house is full. Keep your fingers crossed that we can find a cool spot to land before we start heading over to MN Sunday afternoon. We just have to be in Williston on Sunday morning to see our friend preach before her congregation!

We have decided that--since we won't be in a hurry to leave in the AM--we will figure things out in the morning. Lisa is swimming in the campground pool and showering tonight whilst I write this. I'll shower in AM if the crowd isn't too big! But shower here we must. There may not be another one for a while! Amazing what things can be considered challenging....

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