A Day of Contrasts
Stark silence in the Badlands this morning. Deafening rumble in Sturgis, as half a million bikers descend on the area. Pre-rowdy crowds in the historic western town of Deadwood. Silence and tears during the moving patriotic program at the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
It was a cool, beautiful morning with temps in the low 70s, perfect for the morning walks we planned in the Badlands. One of the great things about this park is they have created wonderful accessible trails for anyone in a wheelchair.
After a scenic drive through the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands (sans buffalo) across the Cheyenne River, we went through Rapid City and hit Sturgis. Amazing. Intimidating. Loud. So happy to see a slice of this annual (76th) rite of passage for the Harley crowd; so glad to move on.
We sidled up to the bar at Deadwood’s recreated Saloon Number 10 for a coke and sandwich. With sawdust on the floors and some costumed re-creators, it was a fun break. Wild Bill Hickok died here after being shot in the back of the head during a poker game, dropping his cards to the ground, creating what every poker player knows as the “deadman’s hand,” black aces and eights.
We left Deadwood to the bikers and took the scenic route through the Black Hills to our final destination for the night, Keystone. These hills do look black from a distance, due to their lush forest, and were aptly named by the local Lakota Sioux.
Keystone is the gateway town to Mount Rushmore, a good central spot for our activities. After drinks in the Red Garter Saloon and a dinner of locally caught trout at the adjacent Ruby’s, we headed the Mount Rushmore.
The evening program and lighting ceremony is not to be missed. Most people stop by this National Park and grab a quick photo-op, but this program was not to be missed.
Waiting for the program to begin, I listen to the elementary age kids behind me telling their parents history facts they had learned in school, and then speaking in a native tongue I couldn’t identify. Just one representative slice of what our country is all about.
Patriotic, visual and extremely moving, park ranger and former Marine Sergeant, Brian Jones did a masterful job as host. His well-spoken introduction set the stage for a wonderful video by Discovery Channel, and the dramatic night lighting of the memorial. He invited veterans to the stage for the taking down of the flag and flag folding ceremony, and then had each one introduced. The crowd of thousands, including many small children, was silent and attentive, people cried, everyone sang the national anthem.
It gave me great hope, with citizens like this, our country will continue to thrive, in spite of our politicians.