Crazy Horse, South Dakota

Louise Speaks:  Day 39 Continued:  Well this makes my 200th post to the blog.  Where has the time gone.  I have totally enjoyed writing about my travels and hope you have enjoyed reading about them.  I never thought this blog would become that popular.  There are people reading this blog from all over the country, and some I don’t even know,,,yet they comment with great comments.  So thanks to everyone who has been following along…I hope you continue.

From Mount Rushmore we were hungry and we were told we just had to eat at the State Game Lodge.  On our way to the lodge we went through Custer State Park.  This is a state park that you have to go through to get to Crazy Horse.  However, to get to Custer Park there is a drive to beat all drives.  The road is so curvy it has the name of “Pigtail Hwy.”  There is a point,  where you go through a tunnel and through the tunnel you can see Mount Rushmore.  We tried to take a picture of this but we couldn’t …it was just breathtaking. 

pigtail-bridgePart of  Custer State Park is this Pigtail Hwy. which goes through a huge buffalo range.  As Thelma was driving, I was watching and looking trying to see any type of wildlife.  We were told that we should see herds of animals especially buffalo, and donkey’s.  Begging Burros is a name used to refer to the donkeys in Custer State Park.  For many years, these donkeys have earned this nickname as they approach various passing cars through the park begging for food.  Many people bring food to the park specifically for the purpose of feeding these animals.  The park is home to a famous herd of 1500 free roaming bison. Elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and mountain lions also inhabit the park.   Unfortunately I didn’t see anything with 4 legs…very disappointed.  The pigtail hwy. is also known as the Needles Hwy.  This hwy is 14 miles long, has 5 tunnels and takes about an hour to complete.  You can imagine the curves if it takes an hour to drive 14 miles. 

What the finished carving should look like.
What the finished carving should look like.

Once we were out of the park and back on straight road we were at the entrance to Crazy Horse.  There is a controversy between Mount Rushmore and the Native Americans because the United States seized the area from the Lakota tribe after the Great Sioux War of 1876.  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; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high.  The Crazy Horse monument is intended to be larger than Mount Rushmore.

In 1929, Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, initiated the project to honor Crazy Horse by writing to the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, saying in part, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.” The American sculptor had worked on Mount Rushmore in 1924. Ziolkowski suggested carving the memorial in the Wyoming Tetons where the rock was better for sculpting, but the Sioux leader insisted it be carved in the Black Hills, which are sacred to Lakota culture. After making models, Ziolkowski started blasting for the monument in 1948.  Ziolkowski died in 1982. Sixteen years later in 1998, the face of Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated. The entire complex is owned by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Ziolkowski’s wife Ruth and seven of their ten children work at the memorial on a regular basis. Their daughter Monique Ziolkowski, a sculptor, has modified some of her father’s plans to make the sculpture work better. The foundation commissioned reports from two engineering firms in 2009 to help guide completion of the project. 

100_5554Since I had never been here I wanted to see it.  As we approached the guard station they ask for a fee of $10 per person.  The carving is right in front of you and can be seen from the road.  Thelma had been here many years before and said it appears like there is no change.  Since we could see it from the road, we told the guard we were just going to turn around and leave,  The guard informed us that they had done some blasting today, and changes can be seen from inside.  I still wasn’t interested.  As we were leaving, we stopped to take a photo.  Doing the same thing was a gal from Pennsylvania who said she had been here in the 70’s and according to her there has been no change.  I’m guessing this is going to be a long project, and one that we may never seen completed.

100_5552Our site seeing for the day was done.  Now it was time to go get some dinner.  As recommended by a friend of Thelma’s we headed to the State Game Lodge. The place was packed…even tour buses were here…food has to be good, right? 

We were seated right away on the quiet side of the room.   We had a charming waiter and we ordered.  Once our food arrived Thelma’s did not look like much.  I asked her what she ordered and Thelma said not this.  We were starving so we ate what was in front of us.  Finally we got the attention of our waiter and asked him what was Thelma eating.  When he told us, Thelma said that is not what she ordered.  So Thelma got a second meal at no charge.

The food was good.  The service was excellent.  The ambiance was wonderful.  They had a staff person who just went around and poured water.  The hostess made sure the candles on the table were always lit.  It was a full service dinning facility and the food was good.  Great customer service as well.

The first part of today was historical and interesting, The end of the day was very scenic and breathtaking.  But the middle of the day, Mount Rushmore, is definitely the talk of the day.  You can read more about this in Patricia’s book “1000 Places to See Before You Die”.  So the day’s end gets a raising of a C.  After seeing Mount Rushmore, nothing else could have compare.

AM…Page 633 and 637

Thelma Speaks:









Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

100_5536Louise Speaks:  Day 39 Continued:  Well we are finally here…what I’ve been waiting for.  We weren’t even going to come to South Dakota, but when I did a mapquest and saw that Mount Rushmore was only 80 miles from Valentine, Nebraska, I told Thelma we gotta go.  My thought is I made it to see Venice and the Leaning Tower of Pissa, I best go see Mount Rushmore before it crumbles down.  So Thelma agreed and here we are.

Our plans when we left Nebraska was to come straight to Mount Rushmore.  But as you have read we have already stopped by the Rosebud Reservation, 1800 Town, Bandlands National Park, Prairie Homestead Interior and Wall Drug Store.  It was a short drive from Wall Drug Store to Mount Rushmore so we were on our way.

100_5538It was starting to look stormy outside and the dark clouds were coming in.  We were just pulling around a corner and there it was…OMG…I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I had seen this monument in pictures, in movies but seeing it in person was more than I could ever imagine.  This is huge and the faces are in such detail.  After getting this glimpse, I couldn’t wait to get to the monument.

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. This is the same hope Ted and Dorothy had for the Wall Drug Store.

100_5537Robinson contacted sculptor Gutzon Borglum who received support of US Senators and Congressman. Robinson and Borglum settled on the Mount Rushmore location, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure. Robinson wanted it to feature western heroes like Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody but Borglum decided the sculpture should have a more national focus, and chose the four presidents whose likenesses would be carved into the mountain. 

The carving started on August 10, 1927, and ended October 31, 1941 with no fatalities.  It took 14 years to carve the mountain, but the actual work time was less than 7.  Money was not available to work year round.  Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission

From the Canadian Side.
From the Canadian Side.

on March 3, 1925. President Coolidge insisted that, along with Washington, two Republicans and one additional Democrat be portrayed.  Between October 4, 1927, and October 31, 1941, Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the colossal 60 foot high carvings of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. 

By July 4, 1934, Washington’s face had been completed and was dedicated. The face of Thomas Jefferson was dedicated in 1936, and the face of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on September 17, 1937.  In 1939, the face of Theodore Roosevelt was dedicated.  When comparing the carving to the model, you can see there is still much work to be done.  It was never finished for two reasons.  One because Borglum passed away in March 1941 and second because WWII was about to start and the money allotted to the carving had to go to the war.  When Borglum died his son Lincoln began to supervise the project until the money ran out.  On October 31, 1941, Lincoln closed down the project and called it finished.  Finished or not the idea of carving this monument to increase tourism proved to be a good idea since Mount Rushmore is the top visitor attraction in the state of South Dakota. 

During our visit today, just as we approached the row of flags, the rain began.  Luckily for us we were right by a tent where they were giving out brochures.  Thelma and I ran to the tent and crowded underneath with about 25 other people.  We waited until the rain passed and then continued viewing the monument. 

100_5539You know, I keep saying these adventures that Thelma and I take always seem to work in our favor.  I mean look at last year, we kept chasing the Colorado fires and didn’t miss seeing one attraction.  Today, there is a down pour and it stops after just a few minutes so that we can continue enjoying this attraction.  But, even more rewarding was the fact that the only living worker of Mount Rushmore was signing his book in the gift shop. 

Don “Nick” Clifford worked on Mount Rushmore in 1938, 1939 and 1940.  Borglum, an avid baseball fan,  hired Nick mostly because he was a good baseball player.  In the beginning Nick did a variety of jobs below the mountain.  After several months, Nick became a winchman on top of the heads and a driller in front of the faces.  Nick, states that even as a teenager he is still so proud to have worked on the most famous sculpture in the world.

100_5541As you approach the monument you are greeted by The Avenue of Flags. These flags lead from the Concession Building to the Grandview Terrace. The flags of the 56 states and territories fly below the memorial. Here, the avenue provides direct and easy access to the Grandview Terrace and Presidential Trail, a half-mile walking trail that offers spectacular views of the mountain sculpture.  The 56 flags represent the 50 states, one district, three territories, and two commonwealths of the United States of America.  I’m guessing the flags are placed in the order of the states becoming states as Arizona was the first flag.

This attraction was definitely worth the 80 miles to go from Nebraska into South Dakota.  It is more than I ever imagined and I feel like this was the highlight of the trip thus far.  I love seeing world landmarks, and this is certainly a major landmark.  It is free to see Mount Rushmore but they do charge you to park…they have to get money someway.  I would tell everyone who lives in this country, this is something you just HAVE to see.  I’m going to recommend this to all my children and grand children as a must see attraction.  Mount Rushmore gets a rating of an A+…you have to put this on your bucket list.

Thelma Speaks:

Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota

wall-drug-storefront-2008Louise Speaks:  Day 39 continued:   Still continuing west we came across the famous Wall Drug Store.  This is Thursday and the place was packed.  There had to be over 1000 people here and it’s in the middle of nowhere.  Thelma has been here before and says this place has really grown.  

There is a cute story to tell how this drug store became what it is.  It was December 1931 when Dorothy and Ted had bought the only drugstore in a town called Wall on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands. They had been open a few days, and business was bad.  Christmas was coming, but there was no snow, no sparkling lights just cold air. Ted could see a row of cars chugging along the two-lane highway.  Suitcases were strapped to the running boards. Ted thought someone’s going home for the holidays, I just wished they would stop, just for a cup of coffee, but they didn’t.

Let me back up a bit.  Ted had graduated pharmacy school in 1929, and after two years of working for other druggists,knew that he and Dorothy had to find their own store. Ted’s father had just died, and he’d left a $3,000 legacy. They would work with that.  Ted and Dorothy were living in Canova, South Dakota, when they began their search, covering Nebraska and South Dakota in their Model T.  As they searched, they were sure of two things:  they wanted to be in a small town, and they wanted the town to have a Catholic church.  In Wall, where the drugstore was for sale, they found both a small town and a Catholic church. And when they talked to the priest, the doctor and the banker, they all told Ted and Dorothy that Wall was a good place with good people and that they wanted them to come live there.

Although Ted and Dorothy were excited, their family was skeptical.  One cousin said “That town is in the middle of nowhere and furthermore,everybody there is flat broke busted.”  Dorothy’s father was understanding, but even he said, “You know, Wall is just about as Godforsaken as you can get.”  Even after these concerns, Ted and Dorothy headed to Wall.  Business was bad and then got worse, yet they kept trying.  Dorothy tried to lift Ted’s spirits and said just wait once Mt. Rushmore is finished people will be driving by here in groves, and they’ll stop.   Ted would fill prescriptions, help the ailing children and elderly, and they did make many friends.  Ted even studied to learn animal medicine so he could help out the farmers.  But all of that didn’t seem to be enough. Ted still spent too many hours looking out the store window for customers who never showed up. Ted felt he was wasting too much of his life watching people pass by. 

100_5534By the time the summer of 1936 came around, the business hadn’t grown much at all.  One hot Sunday in July,  when Dorothy said to Ted, “You don’t need me here, Ted. I’m going to take a nap.”  Ted minded the empty store. He swatted flies with a rolled-up newspaper, stood in the door, and no matter where he looked, there was no shade, because the sun was so high and fierce.  An hour later Dorothy came back.  It was this conversation that changed everything. 

The conversation was, “Too hot to sleep?” Ted asked. “No, it wasn’t the heat that kept me awake,” Dorothy said. “It was all the cars going by on Route 16A. Those jalopies just about shook the house to pieces.” “That’s too bad,” Ted said. Dorothy said, “No, because you know what, Ted? I think I finally see how we can get all those travelers to come to our store.” “And how’s that?” Ted asked. “Well, said Dorothy, now what is it that those travelers really want after driving across that hot prairie? They’re thirsty. They want water. Ice cold water! Now we’ve got plenty of ice and water. Why don’t we put up signs on the highway telling people to come here for free ice water?” 

It wasn’t all that exciting but Ted was willing to give it a try.  During the next few days a high school boy and Ted put together some signs.  They modeled them after the old Burma Shave highway signs.  The plan was they would space the boards out so that people could read them as they drove by.  The next weekend the boy and Ted went out to the highway and put up the signs for free ice water.  Ted had to admit that he felt somewhat silly doing it, but by the time Ted got back to the store, people had already began showing up for their free ice water. Dorothy was running all around to keep up so Ted pitched in alongside her.

“Hey this free ice water is a great idea,” said a salesman, sliding up onto a stool. “How about selling me an ice cream cone?” For hours they poured gallons of ice water, made ice cream cones and gave highway directions.  When the day was done, Dorothy and Ted were pooped.  “Well, Ted,” Dorothy said “I guess the ice water signs worked.” 

The signs surely did work, and Wall Drug has never really been lonely for customers since then. The next summer Ted and Dorothy had to hire eight girls to help. The store is now in the good hands of Ted and Dorothy’s son Bill. Wall Drug draws up to twenty thousand people on a good summer day. So when I say there were over 1000 people here today, that is no exaggeration.

water playgroundAgain because I was so anxious to get to Mount Rushmore, we only went to a handful of stores, but there are over 50 different shops, galleries, and eateries on this 76,000 square feet wonderland of shopping.   Wall Drug has earned the title of America’s Favorite “Free” Roadside Attraction.  There are even attractions like a T-Rex, a water playground, and some side-show attractions.  They still have the drug store, and a soda shop where they serve home-made ice cream,.,,yes we did have a cone.  I would definitely make this a stop when going to Mount Rushmore, but again plan on spending at least a half of day here if not longer.  Wall drug receives a B rating…it’s just too interesting to pass up.

Thelma Speaks: