Sunday, 25 November 2012

Faces on a Mountain: Mount Rushmore

My biggest dream has always been to see a mountain with larger-than life-size faces protruding so stately out of it. When I was little and this dream took much too long to accomplish, I figured I would create my own version of a mountain with faces. And who would be the model but me. There would be little me, bubbly little thing with curly hair flying wildly to make my mark on a mountain. The world just had to be made aware of awesome little me. Now many years later, I get to see the real thing.

Arriving in South Dakota way too early for the average sane person, we stop off at a local diner to have breakfast. When you’re driving for hours on end the time for proper sit down meals are distorted and you will find yourself eating dinner when you’re suppose to be having breakfast and lunch when you’re suppose to be having afternoon tea. With stomachs singing in tune to the radio blaring in the car, we made the best decision. The diner served some really delicious biscuits and gravy, my wonderful introduction to mouthwatering southern food. Next because of the ungodly hour we had arrived there, and because we had to see this mountain with faces in it in just the correct light, we did some exploring in the light town. We stepped out of the diner looked up the street and then down the street, and had seen the entire town plus some in that two minute turn of the head. Exploring of the town done, and the hour still sitting somewhere between ungodly and insane we made our way to the towns information center, where we were greeted by a lovely lady. She told us all about the town’s history, some fun things to do, and the best hiking trails. The hiking trails seemed like a really brilliant idea, but first we would practice. We were young, fit awesome people; a little incline up a dusty deserted road would pose no threat. So in the middle of nowhere, well in the middle of the parking lot, which considering our location was the middle of nowhere, we stripped down and proudly put on our exercise clothes with our sneakers that looked oddly new. We would wear them out on this vacation. Kevin, Kate, Carmen and I started off on a lovely midmorning/pre-afternoon sprint, which five minutes later turned into a jog, and two minutes after that turned into a fast walked, and thirty seconds after that deciding to give up all pretenses turned into a comfortable stroll. Although Carmen and Kate did manage to do a whole lot better and ignoring signs ran into a park without even paying. Foreigners, you cannot take them anywhere.

Concluding our run we made our way to our very inviting hotel, where we freshened up and declined the beds offer of a tiny little nap. We were too grown up for that. The hour was still not quite right to receive just that perfect amount of light on the mountain, so what else would four young adults do to occupy themselves? Well, wine tasting of course! Driving around sampling the magnificent wares of the area, we were quite inebriated with the wonders we were experiencing all at once. And so impressed by the quality of these fine wines we opted to buy a bottle of “Red Arse”, a truly-out-of this-world specimen of wine, which turned into a standing joke for the vacation.

With the lighting finally playing in our favor we made the drive up the mountain to see those faces I had long since been dreaming of. With everything becoming a reality so soon I was not quite sure I could handle it, but I had come this far, I would just have to go and see it now. The drive up was magical, with evergreen trees and colourful flowers lining the road on both sides, and neither giving any glimpse or hint of the mountain it was hiding. And finally there before us, looming larger than life was the faces of four very famous men on the side of a mountain. And my first thought? My face would have looked a whole lot prettier and amplified their handsome just a little more, but they did a good job.

Seeing Mount Rushmore for the first time, is indescribable. It is something that is so much a part of American history and the way we as foreigners view this country, that trying to put even some words to it will surely just dimmer the magnificence of this wonder. We spent some hours taking pictures, making sure the world knew we had been there, and the lighting was perfect. And finally to end off our walk among the fathers of the nation, we closed off our glorious day in a typical way. Sampling the best ice cream this world has to offer. Even months later I can still taste that ice cream so smooth and creamy, sparking bright fireworks in my mouth.  And then it was off and goodbye to a place I had dreamed of for so long. It held up to its expectations.

Now before I conclude, I have been asked, well more like threatened, to tell you about the part of seeing Mount Rushmore that had made our trip worthwhile. Not for me that is. But grudgingly I will tell you since it did end off our time there very well.

Mount Rushmore has an amazing lake at the bottom. With crystal clear waters and the most superb view all around you. So being the crazy people we are we decided to go have a dip in the lake. Now if we had stopped at that, I believe our vacation would have run very smoothly without a hitch. But no, we did not stop at that. There above the lake stood this really cool cliff calling out our names and begging us to just jump. Well with Kevin in the lead I decided it would be worth a try. What could possibly be so hard about a little jump off a cliff? So I follow shakily behind him, and as we get to the top I realise I have no idea how to do this. There I am at the top wanting to climb down and forget this idiotic idea, and Kevin is busy explaining the precise details of exactly how cliff jumping is done, with the very clear command of, “Remember don’t look down! Water is as hard as rock when you hit it.” With Kevin getting lots of practice counting to ten, I finally managed to make the plunge off the cliff. The drop felt like an eternity, and I am sad to say I never heeded those very wise words. When landing in the water I had decided that I would try my own technique, and enter the lake sitting. The lake thought this was definitely very silly, and so I emerged with instantly red, blue, black and purple butt and legs. When surfacing, I called out to a very flabbergasted audience that I was in pain, and with a remark of, “Just put your head in the water and swim!”, from the ever sympathetic Kevin, I knew that no one would let me live this down. And so as I emerged and we all oohed and aahed about the damage I had done, and everyone had got their belly full of laughs, I was picturing the next ten hours of driving ahead of me. My face, and butt, twisted in pain. And that bottle of “Red Arse” wine? Well it was used in a very nifty photo op next to my equally red butt. I knew we should have left that specific bottle off our shopping list!

Safe travels!

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