dashing through the midwest to mt rushmore

Saturday, August 4, and our goal is to chop off the miles through the Midwest, with our next stop Mount Rushmore on the western edge of South Dakota. Taking I-90, it’s a 593-mile drive from Madison, and we’re just hoping to get as many of those miles crossed off on our first day. We cross the Mississippi River in La Cross, Wisconsin, and then it’s through the cornfields of Minnesota and into South Dakota, arriving in the town of Chamberlain early evening. We’re ready to call it a day, as we watch the sun begin to set over the Missouri River.

We checked at a couple of hotels in town, but every place was booked up. Now, Chamberlain looks to be in the middle of nowhere, and it makes no sense that every hotel would be full up, even if it is Saturday night. We start calling hotels farther on up the road, and after a handful of calls, we find the last hotel room left on I-90 in South Dakota – Gerry’s Motel in the even smaller town of Kennebec about half an hour from Chamberlain.

When we check in at Gerry’s we find out just how lucky we are to get a room. We’ve hit South Dakota during Bike Week. The Sturgis Bike Rally is next weekend and bikers are coming from all around this week to attend. And they need to stay somewhere en route.

The woman at Gerry’s who checked us in told us that the bike rally was their busiest week of the year. Based on the notice in our room, the rest of the year it seems they cater to hunters …

In the morning, it’s a short drive to Rapid City, and because Bridget has a fascination with dinosaurs, we’re drawn to Dinosaur Park on the outskirts of town. Their advertisement in the South Dakota tourist boolet enticed us with FREE ATTRACTION!! blasted across the top of the ad. You get what you pay for …

Needless to say, we didn’t linger long with the stucco dinosaurs; it was time to get a move on to Mt Rushmore. We fell into step with all the bikers doing the same thing, pulling up behind this guy in Keystone – a town that caters to the throngs of folks come to see the presidents carved in rock.

it took 14 years and 400 workers to carve the sculpture – 60-foot-tall likenesses of four American presidents, from left to right: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Despite any controversies surrounding its creation, use of federal funds to pay for it, and usurpation of Lakota land to build it, it is an incredible feat, and it most certainly fulfills the aspirations of South Dakotan historian Doane Robinson, who conceived of the carvings to promote tourism in the Black Hills of his state. People come in throngs. Now, if they’d only carve out the hills for some real legends …

(Photo taken at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago)

A self-professed live music junkie, Shannon is the author of
Astral Weeks Live: A Fan’s Notes, a book about her year on the road attending singer Van Morrison’s epic live performances of his widely acclaimed album Astral Weeks. To find out more about the book or to order a copy signed by the author, click here.

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