Day Four ~ 370 Miles

Alliance Travel Blog

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South Dakota sky with Crazy Horse Memorial WAY in the distance

This was our fourth day on the road but our first day of actual sight seeing.  We were excited about seeing the Black Hills of South Dakota and all the interesting landmarks that we have been reading about for over a year.   We were again blessed with a bright blue sky and cool temperatures.  Our leather pants and jackets felt really good in the chilly morning air.

After breakfast we pulled out onto Highway 385 North, which would take us right into the heart of the South Dakota Black Hills.  There were many other motorcycles on the road with us this morning, but we were happy to share the road.  This is one of the most popular destinations for bikers and it was easy to see why.  There is something for everyone.

Me posing behind our Goldwing with profile of Crazy Horse WAY in the distance.

We stayed on Highway 385 all the way to Custer.   Nothing else compares to riding a motorcycle.   It's really hard to explain to someone that has never done it.   Two-lane roads with easy curves; leaning left then leaning right.   The morning sun beating down on backs covered with black leather.  The warmth penetrates to our bones, making us forget the chill in the air.  The smell of freshly cut hay mingling with cow manure.  Well, let's be honest here.   Every turn producing a new fragrance; some pleasant and some not so pleasant.  But that's part of the experience.

Custer, South Dakota looked like a nice spot to stop for lunch.

Replica of the Crazy Horse Monument
  A small town with lots of history and a good variety of shops and restaurants.  Our first stop after lunch was the Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial.   In 1947, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was invited by the Lakota Chief, Henry Standing Bear, to carve a replica of the great Lakota Chief, Crazy Horse, into the Black Hills of South Dakota.   This memorial serves as a reminder to the white man that the red man has great heroes, too.

Korczak knew at the outset of this project that it was much larger than any one person's lifetime.  He and his wife, Ruth, prepared three books of detailed plans to be used with his scale models to continue the project after their deaths.  The first blast into the mountain was on June 3, 1948, when Korczak was almost 40 years old and had only $174 left to his name.

George Washington's face visible from behind the granite cliff.
  The project is funded entirely by donations and not the taxpayer.

The head of Crazy Horse is nine stories high and work is now underway to block out the 22-story-high horse's head.  The mountain carving will be a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse ~ to his people. With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked of him by a white man, "Where are your lands now?"   He replied, "My lands are where my dead lie buried."  

This project is simply bigger than life itself and very well may never be completed.  But I am glad to have had the opportunity to see it and to know that one man, along with his wife, battled financial hardship, racial prejudice, injuries and advancing age in order to try and fulfill the Lakota chiefs' request.

Avenue of Flags ~ Mount Rushmore

After Crazy Horse, it was a short ride over to Mount Rushmore.   Of course, everyone has heard of the famous shrine in the Black Hills, and now we were going to actually see it up close and personal.  George Washington was the first to greet us, peeking out from his hiding spot behind the granite mountain.   There was a wide pull-out beside the narrow road where we could park and see our nation's first president.

As a little girl, I remember visiting Stone Mountain in Georgia and seeing the giant Confederate Memorial carving on the face of the smooth mountain.  I had no way of knowing then that as an adult, I would be visting another memorial created by the same sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, in a far-away place called Rapid City, South Dakota.

Mount Rushmore

President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the memorial in 1927, commencing 14 years of work.  Sadly, only 6 1/2 years were spent on actual carving due to the Great Depression and the financial state of the country.  Irregardless, the Washington head was formally dedicated in 1930.  Jefferson followed in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939.  Borglum died in 1941; his son, Lincoln, supervised the completion of the heads.  Carving stopped in October, 1941, on the eve of our entry into World War II.

Gutzon Borglum regarded his masterpiece as far more than a tourist attraction.  He was no doubt reassured when the phrase "Shrine of Democracy" was coined at the 1930 dedication of the Washington head.

Me and Jerry with the four presidents in the background.
   Today in 2002, seventy-five years after Calvin Coolidge's dedication ceremony, the memorial can be viewed 24-hours a day, year-round.  There is an information center, a visitor center, a bookstore and a concession building with food service and gift shop.  I wonder if this would please Mr. Borglum.  Or did he envision his monument to America more of a "spiritual" place; a quiet spot for thoughtful meditation.   I suppose that we'll never know the answer. 

With Mount Rushmore firmly impressed onto our minds, we were once again riding through the Black Hills.  Sturgis, South Dakota, holds a world-famous motorcycle rally every year, and we would be amiss if we didn't take the short detour to see exactly what we have been missing all these years.

Back of Randy's head with Mount Rushmore in the distance.
  We found out.  Absolutely nothing!!  This town is rather small and nondescript and I would imagine that without it's annual bike rally, it would quickly join the ranks of unknowns.  Jerry and I decided long ago that we aren't old enough for all the naked bodies and free-flowing alcohol associated with the Sturgis Rally.  So we rode through town from one end to the other, turned around, and left just as quickly as we arrived.  Bye-bye Sturgis.

It was getting late by now, so we thought we would get a room in the town of Deadwood.  WRONG!  This little casino-laden community had every hotel/motel room booked for the night.  It was Saturday and people were everywhere; walking down the sidewalks, riding their motorcycles, dodging traffic in the streets.

Sturgis, South Dakota
  We did stop at several hotels, only to be told, "Sorry, no vacancy."  So we went to Plan "B" which really doesn't exist, but we have learned just to go with the flow.  We figured we would just turn around and go back to Interstate 90, which should take us somewhere.  All we wanted was dinner and a comfortable bed. 

The sun was quickly sinking out of sight and the temperature was dropping, too.  This would be about the time we took a wrong turn.  But did it ever turn out great.  SPEARFISH CANYON.  Wow.  Just beautiful.  If you're a fan of the movie, "Dancing with Wolves" you would recognize this setting from the last scene in the movie.   Kevin Costner is riding away with his new wife and his Indian friend is sitting on his horse right on the edge of a high cliff with his arm raised in farewell.  SPEARFISH CANYON.  It is truly a magical place.  We were fortunate enough to be riding through the canyon at sunset.  The canyon walls were ablaze with golden light from the setting sun.  At times the sheer rock walls rose hundreds of feet above our heads.   The road twisted to the right and then to the left, following a stream as it rushed to its destination.  Dozens of deer were standing in the green fields beside the creek, making us slow down to a crawl in order to avoid any unwanted collision.   This was the perfect ending to a perfect day.  God had blessed us with an exhibition of His artistic abilities.  I knew that I would never return to this spot, so every turn in the road was entered into my memory.  My camera was packed away in the saddlebag, but I knew this special place would be with me the rest of my life.

sylviandavid says:
Sounds like a great ride.... we last visited the area in 1993... the Crazy Horse Monument looks pretty good ... Happy travels. Sylvia
Posted on: Oct 21, 2007
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South Dakota sky with Crazy Horse …
South Dakota sky with Crazy Horse…
Me posing behind our Goldwing with…
Me posing behind our Goldwing wit…
Replica of the Crazy Horse Monument
Replica of the Crazy Horse Monument
George Washingtons face visible f…
George Washington's face visible …
Avenue of Flags ~ Mount Rushmore
Avenue of Flags ~ Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Me and Jerry with the four preside…
Me and Jerry with the four presid…
Back of Randys head with Mount Ru…
Back of Randy's head with Mount R…
Sturgis, South Dakota
Sturgis, South Dakota
photo by: kingelvis14