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TRAVEL JOURNAL INDEX >This Land is My Land. This Land is Your Land.

Badlands National Park, ND to Keystone, SD to Rapid City, SD  07/03/06 (Day 69)

This Land is My Land. This Land is Your Land.


We wake up to the sound of coyotes howling in the distance (and our obnoxiously loud camping neighbor who feels compelled to shout out the most inane observations at the top of his lungs as if he’s the only person for miles around). As we drive back out the Creek Rim Road we come across other early morning risers, including the biggest buffalo we’ve seen yet nibbling so carefully on the tiniest, most delicate morning-blooming flowers along the side of the road.

Through pure chance, we are headed to Mount Rushmore National Monument  on the very day they put on their annual Independence Day fireworks display over the heads of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson. A rumor that Dick Cheney will be in attendance begins to circulate, but turns out to be nothing but idle, ugly chatter.

As expected, it’s a bit of a madhouse at Mt. Rushmore as thousands of locals and visitors crowd into the place for the fireworks. We pass folks parked miles down the road heading to the monument, but we decide to try our luck at the site itself, in the (very) off chance there is a parking space within Mt. Rushmore still available. To our surprise, the gate attendant waves us in. A brief flurry of rain has scared some visitors off and there are a handful of spots newly open. We snag one, smack our Staples’ “Easy” button once again and sit out the last of the bad weather.

As fireworks time approaches, we find a perch up on a hillside. The fireworks themselves are fantastic and exciting and all the things they should be (the Mt. Rushmore folks obviously don’t skimp). But the soundtrack blaring out during the whole show is a bit confounding. What does Van Halen’s “Jump” have to do with the Fourth of July, anyway?

It’s not until the show is over that the downside of parking in the Mt. Rushmore lot becomes apparent. To avoid bottlenecks and traffic jams on the main highway out of the complex, all traffic leaving the parking areas is held for an hour to allow those parked on the road to get a move on.

Random question: when did the world switch from liquid soap (after abandoning perfectly good bar soap) to “foaming cleanser?” Every bathroom we’ve been in lately has a dispenser that squirts out a palmful of goop that looks more like dessert than something that’s going to actually get road grime off our hands.

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