Monday, December 03, 2012

Thirty, Nerdy and Driving Day 5

I thought my heart would explode with excitement as we packed up the car and drove toward Mount Rushmore.

This was the e n t i r e reason for the road trip.
This was what I had,  for years, been trying to convince people to go with me to see.

This was it.
This was real.
This was happening.

We filled up the gas tank, drove through Starbucks, composed some tweets -- using words like "dreams come true" and "four most powerful men"-- and headed up the mountain.

Cathi appropriately chose "Coming To America" as the song to carry us in to the parking lot. 
I cried as we pulled up...unable to control both my pure joy that this was really happening and my incredible gratitude for my friends who had made this ridiculously long drive halfway across the country to see a silly mountain.

The Monument and its surrounding displays are beautiful. Flags from each of the 50 states, as well as US Territories, line the path leading to the observation deck. 

Someone had told us capturing Mount Rushmore was "the easiest photo [I've] ever taken" and he was right. 


I wore my Lincoln Locket {of course}.

We took, easily, 80 photos before heading downstairs to the Museum. Here are a few of my favorites:

Once inside, we watched a film on the creation of Mt Rushmore. The details were fascinating! Did you know a majority of the carving was done by dynamite? The lead sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had learned to cut dynamite sticks to the exact size to create a charge that would carve out specific amounts of rock. Unreal. It was amazing to see the actual film footage of dynamite blasts and Presidential speeches throughout the process of construction.

Mount Rushmore was a nearly 1 million dollar project that took 14 years to complete. The amount of trust and belief that powerful people had in Borglum's dream is inspiring. 

There was a display in the museum where you could push down on a detonator {plunger?} and it would show a video of pieces of the mountain exploding. Talk about knowing your audience--Cathi and I must have played with that thing for 10 minutes {which is ridiculous since each video was about 15 seconds.}

There was also a small model of a Lincoln bench sculpted by Borglum. The actual bench is in New Jersey, so, obviously, we're going to see that on our 2013 Road Trip.

Our last stop was the gift shop. No one needs multiple souvenirs from Mt Rushmore, but I have three: a mug, a magnet and an ornament {which is currently hanging on my Christmas tree!}

As an added bonus, Nick {a man who helped build the monument} was in the gift shop with his photo album from the years of construction. I had to gather myself {of course I teared up at the thought of meeting him} over the course of three or four laps around the store before I could introduce myself and have my photo taken.

We spent several hours at Mt Rushmore before heading back out on the road. Next stop: the Denver Ritz Carlton! {Thank you, Dad!}

It's worth noting that we passed two Flintstone-themed Campgrounds on our drive. Two.

Since our second friendly Wyoming policeman prohibited us from taking a photo as we entered South Dakota, we stopped at the border on our way out.

We also figured Wyoming had been short-changed with the tiny sign in Yellowstone, so why not give her a second chance? After all, she had been so good to us, right? { $170 ticket would beg to differ.}

We could see for miles in either direction. We were completely alone. Naturally, we had to take advantage of the situations by taking some photos in the middle of the highway.

Hours and several audio chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows {and a few, "Wait, can you pause it, I have a question..."s} later, we stopped at Subway for lunch. The man in front of us in line looked at me and said, "I recognize you! You were the girl we saw dancing at the South Dakota sign!" We chatted as we waited in line. They were on their way home {to Colorado} from a family reunion. When we finished lunch, he said we'd driven so far that it was time to check the important levels in the car. He walked us out and checked our oil level and tire pressure. His wife gave us a bag of homemade cookies and his mother told us to stop for dinner at her house when we got to Colorado. They were adorable.

If you have the chance to visit the Ritz-Carlton in Denver, I highly recommend it. Dang, that place is fancy. They have a rock wall in their gym, for crying out loud.

Bonus story: As we drove in to Denver, we quickly realized we were in the midst of a zombie walk. As it turns out, it was a record number of participants, not just for Denver, but for the US. Given the amount of empty land we'd driven through in the previous two days and the number of times I'd said, "If there is a zombie apocalypse, this is the place you want to be...check that out: 360-degree view. You'd see them coming and could pick them off from the roof." {Thank you, Walking Dead}, we were a little freaked out at the sight of the undead walking the streets.

We were welcomed and escorted up to our room with an assortment of "Happy Birthday Ms. Hibbard" and "Welcome Ms. Hibbard"from the hotel staff. Then, the bellman gave us a list of places he would take friends who were in town as dinner options. We called a few, settled on Euclid Hall and began to clean up to look a little less open-road and a little more capital city.

Euclid Hall is way cooler than I will ever be. Their menu is filled with items like schnitzels, hand-cranked sausages and poutins {french fries, cheese and gravy.} They also have an incredible beer and wine was, hands-down, the tastiest beer I had on our trip.

More confetti on the table, means one more birthday dessert: S'mores!

We called it an early night and went back to the hotel to really take advantage of all that the Ritz had to offer and prepare for our longest leg of the trip: Denver, CO to Grand Canyon Village, AZ. 12 1/2 hours. Yikes.

1 comment :

Julie Hibbard said...

If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up...I mean staying at the Ritz! I love these posts! SO happy to experience this trip with you even several weeks later!