, taken from the side of the road perhaps five miles away.
John and I compared notes today at Mt Rushmore. Yes, while riding along we sing to ourselves and we are both guilty of several renditions in the past couple of days of 'Rocky Raccoon'. For those uninitiated, he who so famously lived - and died '....some where in the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota'.
Back to more serious matters, we set off this morning to ride the Loop, hoping to see some bison on the way and aiming to strike Mt Rushmore after 11.00 am, as the midday sun provides the best light for photos. We enjoyed fantastic scenery, with granite massifs rising out of the green of the fiesta, interspersed with grassed meadows. And some lekker bends, although we pretty much respected the slow speed limit. Our first stop was caused by motorists stopped next the herd of wild donkeys. We had been told not to feed them, but some of the tourists had brought carrots!! We eased past and went looking for the bison.
Eventually we saw a herd grazing perhaps 500 yards of the road so we stopped and took photos. Even with the zoom they showed little of how impressive these beasts are. A car pulled up and said there was another herd on the road further on. We proceeded without delay and were delighted to find the animals literally within touching distance. Great photo opportunity. I also reflected that it wasn't all that long ago that the American bison had been hunted almost to the point of extinction. Marvelous to see and know that they are now safe.
Back on the road again to Mt Rushmore, to join the thousands who visit every day to visit one of America's finest monuments to their experiment in democracy. They celebrate their history so well, given they are a comparatively young country.
This was one destination that Liz had been waiting for and neither she, nor I, nor John and Anne, were disappointed. As an amusing aside, entrance to the Monument is free. But parking is not. They have, basically in the middle of the bush, a multilevel car park.
The idea of large scale sculptures was to bring tourists to South Dakota and it was conceived in the early 1930's. The original idea was for people like Lewis and Clark, the famous explorers, Buffalo Bill Cody and some others to be hewn into the rock; but the sculptor, clearly a man of great insight, said the focus needed to be national and he came up with the four presidents we see today. The reasons for selecting Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were well recognized, but it would seem that Theodore Roosevelt got the nod because he was the sculptor's mate, and had been for a long time!
Notwithstanding that element of controversy, the sculptures are a work of art. Make that Work of Art. They are beautiful. They capture and wonderfully convey the gravitas of each of those famous men; and also their humanity. And then there has to be remembered that these sculptures were blown INTO existence by dynamite! Mind blowing!
One takes the short Presidential walk which passes close to the base of the mountain, giving a different and, in a way, more personal perspective; and this aspect of a visit to Mt Rushmore should not be missed.
On the way down there was an Indian display with a ranger answering questions. Another short history lesson which we found fascinating.
And so a twenty mile ride back to Custer, passing the Crazy Horse Memorial which is not visible from the road, and which is a work in progress which might take another two decades to complete.
Mount Rushmore is yet another highlight, of course quite different from the others, but it is, in my mind, one of the not-to-be-missed things to see when visiting the USA, appreciating it is off the beaten track. However, millions of people every year make the effort, and go away satisfied.
In that vain, we this afternoon reflected on how fortunate and privileged we have been to be able to visit, in a little over two weeks, admittedly briefly, so many of the world's greatest, most iconic attractions. This is, truly, the experience of a lifetime.