I had to give that title to this blog entry, because it's a slogan I keep seeing on the tourist materials. And it does feel that way... like we're taking part in some great tradition - especially when so many of my older relatives have responded enthusiastically to my recent blog posts, enjoying their own memories of similar trips!
I have a different perspective, this time around, than I did as a kid. I appreciate different things ... much more attention to the history of how things happened, and the people who made them happen. I'm less interested in the spectacular, and more interested in the personal stories. And of course, a big part of my attention is focused on the children's experience. What are they seeing, what are they learning? What will they remember about all of these places?
So, we've been staying for 2 nights in Keystone, South Dakota. It's amazing to be in these tourist towns in the off season. So many hotels, restaurants and shops are already closed for the season. The big sites are very quiet. And in some ways I understand it - it's COLD here! Early morning temperatures are in the 30s. So, my running has been practically non-existent this week, as I can't handle running in a dark, cold, empty, strange place. (see "ruraphobia" from previous entry).
Our first stop today was Mt. Rushmore. We stayed warm by trekking around the site, and learning about the sculptor and the amazing process of creating the monument. Most interesting for us - the site is under its annual maintenance right now, you can see a tripod perched on top of Teddy Roosevelt's head, and some little workers up there at the top. We got to see the riggers at the bottom of the hill hoisting supplies, on a series of pulley ropes, to the upper team, and one of the men stopped to talk to us about their work. Fascinating! Below you can see the bag of supplies being carried up the ropes.
In the afternoon, we went to the Jewel Cave National Monument. The kids had never been in a cave before, so we took the 1.5-hour guided tour, exploring the rock formations and learning about spelunking. (Which, by the way, is not a cool term to use among serious "cavers" these days. The joke goes that cavers rescue spelunkers.) The kids' favorite parts of the tour were imagining different shapes in the rocks, and the time that the ranger let us experience total darkness by turning out all the lights in the cave. It was quite intense.
We were sightsee-d out after that adventure, so we declined to stop by the Crazy Horse monument on the way home. We could get a pretty good look at the site from the road, and as Baz complained, "it's not even finished yet!" ... so, I guess they can take their children to that one, instead.
Our hotel in Keystone has a kitchenette and an indoor pool, so we were happy to have some more time here this evening. Now we're all going to sleep early - tomorrow morning, Wyoming awaits!