Seven-hundred sixty-eight days. That is the number of days since we launched on this Odyssey and up until this past week we had not spent any time in our new home state of South Dakota. We also had not seen one of the most iconic symbols of America, Mount Rushmore, but that changed recently when we made the trip from our campground near Wind Cave NP to Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
I have to admit that we both thought that Mount Rushmore would be very touristy, crowded and a bit kitschy, but as we were driving up the winding road leading to the memorial we came around a bend in the road and there it was, the four great men carved in stone with a brilliant blue sky as a backdrop. Both Laura and I were struck by, well, the magnificence of the extraordinary sculpture.
The idea of South Dakotan historian Doane Robinson, the sculpture was designed and executed by the Danish-American Gutzon Borglum, an already accomplished artist when he undertook this monumental project, and his son, Lincoln Borglum. It was Gutzon Borglum’s idea to create a sculpture that included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, and to carve the piece in Mount Rushmore, near Keystone, South Dakota. There is a wonderful national park visitor center with a movie that explains how the project began in 1927 and did not end until 1941, just months after the death of Borglum, who labored tirelessly directing a team of workers over the 14-year period. Lincoln Borglum saw the project through to completion after the death of his father. Interestingly, 90% of the 60-foot tall sculptures were carved in granite using explosives, with jackhammers used to smooth out the rough edges.
Yes, we did have to pay $11 to park in a three-level parking garage. Yes, it was crowded. And yes, there were somewhat kitschy items in the gift shop. But you know what, when you move past all of that, consider what an artistic and engineering marvel the sculpture is, walk through the Avenue of Flags from every state and look up at the four individuals who were so important in making this great country what it is today, you can not help but feel a tremendous sense of awe and pride.
Photos from Mount Rushmore National Memorial are below.
Click on photos to open gallery in Flickr –