Friday, July 25, 2008

Playing Tourist

Currently in Keystone South Dakota, 3408 miles into the trip.

Rode through Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park yesterday. Wind Cave is the world's second longest known cave and Custer State Park (Named after General George Custer of Custer's Last Stand) is the second largest state park in the U.S.

Today I toured Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. Crazy Horse Memorial is the world's largest mountain carving in progress. It will depict Crazy Horse, a famous Lakota Sioux Chief setting atop his horse pointing to his lands in the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota. The carving was started in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski, a Boston born sculptor who won first prize at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The dimensions are staggering. A mountain sized statue of an Indian Chief and his spirited war-horse that's as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60 story skyscraper. Since Ziolkowski's death several years ago, his wife Ruth and 7 of their children are continuing work on the mountain. Through a friend of my brother, I was able to meet Mrs. Ziolkowski today and also tour the top of the mountain, something I will never forget. At 82, Mrs. Z, as she is affectionately known by all, is clearly in-charge of the project. In addition to the massive sculptor, the site contains the Indian Museum of North America and a university for Native Americans is planned upon completion.

Mount Rushmore was every bit as awe inspiring as I remember seeing it as a kid. The 2 mile 10% grade climb up to the visitor center was somewhat of a challenge, but will worth the effort. Got some great pictures of the Presidents on the mountain, unfortunately, my camera was on a very high setting and I can't download the pictures.

Caught a great sunrise on my way out of Hot Springs Thursday morning. Saw a lot of wildlife Thursday in Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park, including approximately 300 buffalo. Seeing buffalo roam free in their natural setting was amazing, yet a bit scary when you are riding a bicycle and they are within yards of the road with no other vehicles within sit.

If you haven't visited the Black Hills, I would encourage you to do so. While there are many "tourist traps", the beauty of the mountains and parks are unmatched.

Spent Thursday afternoon and evening in Custer South Dakota with my best friend from high school, Harry Parry. After 20 years it was great to get caught up on everything from family to old friends and good times. Life-long friends are precious and something to be treasured for years to come.

Tomorrow I will ride out of the mountains and head toward Badlands National Park. For the next several days I may not have internet access or cell coverage as the next 250-300 miles heading East in South Dakota are very remote with very little in the way of services.


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