Saturday 26th November – Patriotism

I actually had sore legs when I woke up! I’m coming to understand just how much riding to and from work kept me in shape. Maybe when it gets warmer I’ll have to start going for morning and afternoon runs. Haha, that’ll never happen.

I’d had a good sleep and was on for a rest day before riding again tomorrow, since there are so many trails in the area to explore. The first thing I wanted to see was a veteran’s cemetery across the highway. I’d seen it when I drove in. Lines and lines of white and grey stones stood in perfect parallelism across a grassy field. There were flowers here and there, but mostly it was perfect similarity. I became reflective. Now understanding much more about some American’s plight through WWII I could appreciate the senselessness of the war and how many lives it took and crushed. I walked amongst the stones, saddened by the young men who died in service. Their wives names, if they had also passed, were inscribed on the back of the stones. What is scary is that in this field are only a select few men from South Dakota who lost their lives, I can only imagine the lives of all lost American servicemen being represented in one place.

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I left, feeling quieter than when I’d come and happy that I haven’t had to know war and hope I never do, we should all be so lucky.

I drove into Deadwood to see a town of the West. It was supposed to have kept its historic charm from a gold rush era. Driving down main street as I head for the visitor’s center, I got this impression. The VC was an old building that had served many purposes over the years. The old lady manning the desk drew all over a map of the town for me, highlighting what was already noted on the map and making a mess, but she was helpful. I wandered the old building for a few minutes, then went to the Adams museum.

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Made of human hair!

 

Founded by a man with a lot of forethought, the museum was established very early on in the town’s history. It was a tiny place with a lot crammed in. Entrance was by donation, enforced when the girl behind the desk came out to watch as you signed the visitor’s register. A very effective way of ensuring donation I’m sure. I didn’t have cash so she let me pay the suggested donation of $5 by card. It was money I was happy to let go, there was plenty to look at inside this house. Everything about the town’s history and a heap of odds and ends from a multitude of cultures that had come here to benefit from the gold rush. I learnt about the characters like “Calamity Jane” that I only knew from the boardgame “Bang!” or “El Bango!”. Nice to get a bit of history in.

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A nudist colony, a possible future life?

Adam’s house was closed for the season, so all that was left to do was walk main street. Unfortunately, I felt like the charm had been lost. Every saloon and bar was offering cheap souvenirs and the gambling atmosphere was rife. Other tourists like me were scarce on the streets, all harbouring inside casinos from the cold. Those that were outside were clearly hotel-goers venturing outside for lunch. I did enjoy an art gallery that was totally devoted to motorcycles, particularly Harleys. I didn’t take any photos out of respect, but the paintings were stunning and the old motorbikes on display even better. They had a bar in the corner and a tiny brick-walled sitting room in the back that gave the whole place a perfect aura. I could imagine intimate parties being held here amongst Harley enthusiast, dressed in their awkward best. I chatted to the lady manning the gallery, she didn’t expect anything of me, just that I should enjoy my art. My favourite piece was a painting of two women on their motorcycles, parked in front of Devil’s Tower taking a selfie. I thought that was a nice paradox to paint something so modern so effectively.

I decided to skip driving up the hill to see Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hicock’s graves and moved on from Deadwood towards Mt. Rushmore. It was a nice drive through a canyon but frustrating since my speed hovered around 50 mph and it’s at exactly that pace that the engine starts missing because of my “Service Engine Soon” problem. I did my best to drive around it.

Nearing Mt. Rushmore, I sussed out a potential camp at Wrinkled Rock. I was surprised to see a dozen cars in the carpark, seems climbing season is not over for a lot of people. Feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) for not climbing at what was obviously a popular spot, I drove on up to Mt. Rushmore. The faces on the mountain came into view before entrance to the carpark. While there was no admission fee, they charged $10 for parking. Toll booths and all. I followed the signed instructions and didn’t u-turn, but drove up to the toll booth and asked to turn around. The toll booth attendant explained how to exit then opened the gate. I drove half a mile back down the road to a carpark then took a stroll back up the hill. Yes I’m a tightass and I’ll take a ten minute walk over a $10 parking fee!

I waltzed into the memorial along with all the suckers, hit the visitor’s center briefly, then walked along the alley of flags towards the faces carved into the rock. I was surprised when I felt a pang of “home” when I saw the California state flag hung prominentaly at the front of the flag parade. Clearly California is my second home.

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I’d had mixed advice about Mt. Rushmore, the most prominent being to drive past it without visiting. I consider this bad advice. Before coming here, I wasn’t exactly sure who it was up there, looking out over the Black Hills. By the time I’d perused the museum, watched the 14 minute film and wandered the Presidential trail at the base of the mountain, I understood who was up there, why they had been immortalised in stone and how they’d been formed. The most interesting thing I learned was that Thomas Jefferson was originally to be carved on the left side of George Washington. After discovering soft rock there, after forming most of Jefferson’s facial features, he was blasted away, then recreated on Washington’s right side. I was happy to have witnessed another of America’s engineering/artistic feats. The sculptures were completed only 5 weeks before America went to war. I can only imagine what would have become of the feature had it not been finished before the first bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbour.

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George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln

While I strolled the Presidential Trail, I caught up with Mikey, excited to learn about his progress towards his adventures through Asia. By the time I’d wandered the entire park, the sun was setting and temperature was dropping. I walked back to the car and had a great view of Washington’s right side sitting amongst the granite columns.

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Back to Wrinkled Rock, I was so close to the end of “Unbroken” that I lay in bed and listened to the last hour. One of the best books I have ever read/listened to. An amazing story of defiance in the face of absolute torture and hopeless situations.

I enjoyed the positive temperatures as I heated up dinner, Thai Green Curry again. Yum!

PS If you’ve been following my adventures, you’ll remember that a few weeks ago, I hit a cactus in Red Rock Canyon with my left hand, ending up with multiple spike wounds. Today, my index finger was itchy and as I scratched, I pulled a piece of that cactus out of it! I think I can feel yet another spike underneath my skin, but will have to wait for that one to get itself out it’s so deep. Eek!

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