Adventures in the Villa


Mt. Rushmore

2017-09-17 Westbound; Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles, Wildlife, and Pigtail Bridges…

Today is the day for Mt. Rushmore!

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 03

We began the day with a temperature of 34 degrees at the campground.  However, the day warmed up nicely…

We set off to see Mt. Rushmore – the Presidential Memorial.  We got more than we bargained for!

We drove towards Mt. Rushmore via the Needles Highway.  We saw (and drove through) spectacular rock formations:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles

2017-09-17 Black Hills 06 Needles

And when I say “drove through”, I mean through tunnels:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 1

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 2

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 4

Tiny tunnels!  No Villas allowed on these roads!

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles Tunnel 1

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles Tunnel 2

There were a few viewpoints along the way that offered distant views of the monument:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 05

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 08

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture’s design and oversaw the project’s execution from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum, and Chief Carver Luigi del Bianco. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot tall sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).  The memorial park covers over 1,278 acres and is 5,725 feet above sea level.

South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region.  Robinson’s initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from Native American groups.  They settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure.  Borglum decided the sculpture should have broad appeal and chose the four presidents because of their roles in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.

Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents’ faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum’s death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over as leader of the construction project.  Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist.  Lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

Mount Rushmore has become an iconic symbol of the United States, and it has appeared in works of fiction, as well as being discussed or depicted in other popular works.  It attracts over two million visitors annually.  (I think they were all here today… see below…)

After Needles we found the Ironwood Highway.  It is famous for the Pigtail Bridges – wooden (logs) bridges that spiral the road upwards to meet a tunnel, then offer spectacular views after you drive through the tunnels:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 02

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 05

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And then the payoff at the end of the tunnel:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 07

It is quite the dramatic scene!

We drove on to the memorial itself.  Then we waited for over an hour, in a mile long traffic jamb of cars trying to get into the parking structure.  (PS to the National Park Service:  You need to get this figured out!  I would hate to be here in the summer when the park is busy!)

We opted not to park; we did have some fine views of the monument:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 04

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 02

When we finally were able to drive around the traffic jam we saw something that I had not known about:  Washington’s profile:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 15

This was not intentional on the part of the sculptor; he originally had Jefferson placed here, but after they had done some preliminary rough blasting, they found that the rock was not suitable; they blasted off the preliminary work, and this remained.

Just for fun:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 15a

Also, if you look closely, you can see some people climbing on the monument***:

2017-09-17 North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(28)

After seeing the monument we took a break and met my cousin and his wife (Chuck and Joan Canaan) for lunch; they live here in Rapid City, SD:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 99 Canaan

Then, back to the Black Hills we went.  This time to see its counterpoint, the Crazy Horse Memorial:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 41 Crazy Horse

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in South Dakota. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski.  It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

The memorial master plan includes the mountain carving monument, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center.  The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high.  The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high.

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion.  In fact, it appears that nothing has been done in years.  If it is ever completed, it may become the world’s largest sculpture.  I say, If…

At the base of the mountain is a huge complex containing western native american art, memorabilia, and trinkets, basically a giant gift shop.  The sculptor died in 1982, and his wife died in 2014.  Their 10 children have taken over the foundation.

Friends had told us this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.  We thought the whole thing was a giant waste of time.  It appears to me that if they had spent half as much effort on completing the memorial as they did on building a giant gift shop for selling trinkets, they would have made more progress.  At this point it appears that it will never be finished…

So, after our disappointment at the Crazy Horse Memorial, we headed into Custer State Park, and drove the Wildlife Loop.  We saw beautiful outcroppings and wildlife…


2017-09-17 Black Hills 08 Needles Deer 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 08 Needles Deer 02


2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 04 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 09 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 08 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 07 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 06 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 05 Bison

Wild Donkeys:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 02 Donkey

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 01 Donkey

They were very friendly:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 03 Donkey

And rock outcroppings:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 03a

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 03

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 02

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 01

We finally returned to the Villa, exhausted.  Happy hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…































*** The monument was famously used as the location of the climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1959 movie North by Northwest.














2017-09-14 Westbound; New Refrigerator and Minnesota…

We were up at 5:00 am to get the Villa ready to be moved into the service bay here at Shorewood RV, just outside Minneapolis.  All went well, and by 6:15 the Villa was in the Service Bay and we were on the road to the town of Elk River, about 6 miles down the road…

2017-09-14 Elk River 01

Elk River is a delightful town along the banks of the Mississippi River.  The town has been around a long time, but recent developments have nicely enhanced the town and the feel of the downtown business district.  As you see in the photo above, the historic buildings are on the left and a new apartment building is on the right.  The new building fits the scale of the street, contains retail spaces at the street level, and provide a very human scaled space.  The same thing is going on around the corner:

2017-09-14 Elk River 02

We walked about the town, then had breakfast at the Olde Main Eatery.  It is what a small town diner should be:  friendly people, regulars sitting at their regular tables, with olde time photographs on the wall.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast and looked at maps to better understand the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.  We hope to be there the day after tomorrow (Saturday).

After breakfast we walked down to the Mississippi River; it was very quiet in the early morning light:

2017-09-14 Elk River 04 Mississippi River

2017-09-14 Elk River 03 Mississippi River

The town has developed a nice waterfront park with an informal amphitheater for community events.  All in all, it is a very nice town!

We returned to Shorewood RV to find out thet there was a small snag in the parts that had been delivered, so it was going to take a little longer to complete the new refrigerator installation.. We spent the morning in their lounge, planning our stays for the next few days…

By 11:30 the refer was done and we were hitching up.  We were underway just before noon.  We are heading west, across most of Minnesota, but first we had to get out of Minneapolis.   We even encountered our first detour of our trip; we were led off the southbound freeway and re-routed back north again for five miles, then west and south again.  Hopefully, we won’t see this type of thing again any time soon.

Once we were out of the city we traveled easily along two lane roads through endless farmland.  While it was quite beautiful, it was not as lush as Wisconsin.  On the other hand, it is one week later and fall is clearly on its way.

These photos show what we saw all day:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 03

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 04

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 02


2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 05

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 01

We did see a little Minnesota humor adjacent to one gas station:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Humor

And then, out of the blue, the road was closed.  We had to head back east about 15 miles before we could go south and then west again.. These detours are maddening!  Why can’t they put up better signs and prior warnings?

There are also some small towns that we passed through.  Some are really tiny; this is Gibbon.  It is a little more substantial than many:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 01

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 02

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 03

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 04

And churches.  Lots of churches:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 05

Our mid-day break was to stop and see the town of Walnut Grove and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum:

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 01

The Ingalls family lived in Walnut Grove in two increments of two years each.  In between, they moved to Iowa and managed a hotel for two years.  In contrast to the Little House on the Prairie TV Show, they had a miserable time here.  They lived in a dug-out, and their wheat crops were wiped out two years in a row by grasshoppers; they pretty much lost everything and moved to Iowa. Also, Mary had a stroke (not scarlet fever) that left her blind, and a newborn baby boy died.  After their years in Iowa they returned to Walnut Grove, and “Pa” opened a butcher shoppe, while Laura worked as a housekeeper in the local hotel.  But I digress…

The museum has very little memorabilia that is actually from the Ingalls family.  There are lots of historical references, photos, book excerpts, and antiques gathered from many sources that attempt to show what life was like on the prairie.  It was interesting in a modest way.  But, in general, a giant waste of time…

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 02

They have a re-creation of a typical dugout, but it is made from reinforced concrete…

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 03

They have a recreation of a typical school house from the 1880s; Laura taught school for two years, starting when she was 15 years old, but it was not here:

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 04

To prove to you readers just how old I am, I actually did attend a two-room school, and we had desks exactly like this… (We never could figure out what those holes in the desk-tops were for…)

So we moved on; tomorrow we visit De Smet, the actual “Little Town on the Prairie”…

We drove to our RV park for the night, in Pinestone, MN.  We have full hook-ups (water, sewer, power), plus good internet access and satellite TV.  We had a quiet night, with Happy Hours and burritos for dinner.  Tomorrow we can shop to re-stock the refrigerator.

An an enjoyable time was had by all…
















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