Finally — something big.
I saw Mount Rushmore for the first time from the road, and just the sheer size of the thing was enough to make me sit in silent wonder as we got closer. The size of the crowd pushing strollers and toting camera bags was equally disturbing, but I was able to peacefully coexist.
I had always envisioned the monument as being up a short hike, or secluded in the South Dakota mountains…but surprisingly you can pretty much drive right up to the thing. In fact, the lumpy, RV-driving tourists which were absolutely everywhere probably wouldn’t think twice about doing a drive-by snapping of some pictures then marking it off their list of life goals as “done”.
Luckily for me, we had time to walk the short trails that go around so that I could tune in to the energy of the place. Strangely, one of the first things that I felt deep inside was a sudden realization that, like all other great world civilizations, this giant monument was destined to lay in ruins one day as a testimony to a fallen world power. Sure, it won’t happen within my generation….but I don’t doubt that it will happen. Every great world power has always thought they were the sh*t and that they were here to stay…..now take a look at the countries which once ruled the world….the Persians(Iran), Egypt, the Khmer in Cambodia, the Burmese, the Mayans, the Romans, the Greeks. They all had their time in the spotlight (like America) and they all built gigantic stone monuments (like this one!) which now lay in decay.
The eyes had openings in them that almost looked like windows…Abraham Lincoln would make one hell of a hideout for a rich, evil mastermind bent on world domination — like the CEO of IBM. Who would think to look there? That is…as long as he didn’t mind Dr. Evil living inside of Roosevelt as a neighbor.
It did feel comforting to be so closer to the mountains however. The sky threatened rain for a while and then cleared up. The lack of humidity made it almost seem like you could reach up and touch George Washington’s nose and the sunshine made the pine needles on the ground smell wonderful. As we walked around the trails, a huge Chinese tour group came through speaking Mandarin. Just for fun, I greeted them in Chinese and did my best to talk about going to the Shaolin Temple last year, etc, etc. Every time this happens I find it harder and harder to wring the Chinese words out of my head, causing big delays and gaps in my speaking….I need more practice or I’m going to loose the tiny vocabulary that I have and resort back to grunts and hand gestures for communication. At the end of our conversation (which I highly doubt anyone but me and the English-speaking guide understood) the entire group applauded me. That is SO Chinese…I love it.
Another feeling that washed over me was of how fortunate I am. Despite the tourists, overpriced gift shops, and RVs – I am still able to stand at this famous testament to patriotic America at only age 33. My parents were also seeing it for the first time, only they did not make it until their 60’s. Despite being a bedraggled, starving artist (aka…broke) without even a proper place to call my own….I am racking up the life experiences relatively early. I think it’s part of my effort to put a plaster on my wasted 20s as a corporate slave, but either way I will have something to grumble about between diaper changes when I’m an old man. 🙂
I’ll leave you with a very curious mountain goat that happened to be hanging around the trails. I really feel for the sportsmen in Alaska that have to stalk through the snow for three days to see one of these creatures at half a mile away…animal encounters like this one steal all their glory! We were so close to this one that I could have combed the bugs out of his fur.