As usual, vacation or no, my parents were up before the sun, and to a teenager that is about as bad as it gets. The smell of frying bacon and eggs drove me right outside, like normal. I grabbed my book, found a log, and by the glow of early morning sailed off with Elric and Co. It was a typical morning at the camp, except it was already hot, another day started on the Great Western Sheeple Adventure.
We packed up camp and headed north through the park. Trees, and plenty of them, seen trees all my life and was sinking fast down the boredom trail. I hummed along to the Walkman and read my book, ignoring where or what we were doing. I figured when we stopped at the next Bait Pile, it may register, and I would climb out of the backseat, and ooh and aah when called upon. The trip had been pretty good so far, but the ever present lameness was still out there, I just knew it.
Then we stopped and I unplugged the headphones, turned the corner of the page and followed the fam toward a big log cabin type building, another Bait Pile.. My dad says the sign points this way to the viewing area, so we follow him. I got my head down, thinking I should have stayed in the back seat, thinking their gonna show me some hole in the ground or some such doodad of significance only to Traveling Sheeple. I had no idea, totally clueless, a state I enter frequently.
We turn the corner, I look up, and I think my jaw hit the ground. We were at Mt. Rushmore. I was stunned. That simple really, I was just stunned. I remember it well, walking up to the railing and just looking. I could not take my eyes off of it, I just wanted to look forever. I have no idea how long we stood there, but eventually, my parents decided we should go into the building and do.. something. I was lost to the monument.
Now folks will say yeah, whatever, I have seen pictures and seen it in movies, etc. So did I before I saw it in person, and of course since then as well. But I am here to tell ya, until you see it from the observation deck, live and in person, those pics and movies don't mean squat. To be fair, I had no idea we were even close to Mt. Rushmore or that we were going to see it. Mom and Dad never mentioned that little fact when they told us about the trip. I think they wanted to surprise us, and believe me, they did. If you have not seen it in person, it is a must do. The beauty, the size, the just overwhelming awe of the place is hard to describe.
Of course once inside, I had to devour the history and everything about it. We even had to sample the Bait Pile. It was dream like, almost.. no I will say it, it was magical. I never wanted to leave, I could not get enough of it. But eventually it was time to move on. I would have camped there, right on the deck, for days and days, just looking, just soaking it in, and feeling the presence of something truly amazing. But we moved on to the next stage of what was turning out to be an awesome adventure.
One of the many weird things I do, even as a surly teenager, is collect and read every brochure that even remotely catches my eye. You know the kind that plaster the inside of every rest stop and Bait Pile all across the land. Yeah, those things. Well one of the brochures I had gathered was this way cool place, a place where you could go horseback riding through the hills. I wanted to do just that. Somehow I convinced my parents this would be cool and off we went, to travel the hills via horseback ~ tallyho!
I convinced them to go on a three hour tour.. had to say that, cause really, it was a three hour ride. The choosing of the horses was fun. I got a nice, gentle beast that I clambered up the side and sat comfortable, waiting for the rest of the fam. My dad and brother had to use a step stool to get up on the horses. Thankfully, the folks there were really nice, the horses very patient. Then there was my mom, she who grew up on a farm and couldn't get on a horse to save her life. She was nervous and skittish, which even the best of the trail horses had a hard time handling. Then this rather attractive young lady stepped up, whispered in the horse's ear, and all was good, we were ready to set out.
I don't think the fam had all that much fun, and to tell by the way they walked and had a hard time sitting in the suburban, I was sure of it. But there was hills and trees and enough scenery and wild life to satiate the most urban of pallets. It was grand. Then again, I chatted with the horse girl the whole time we rode, she was one of the guides and came along for the ride. After about a half hour, she ambled over, yeah we are cowboys! and she turned around in her saddle(which impressed the hell out of me) and we chatted. It was pretty darn cool.
We galloped around, saw the sites, and this city slicker was having the time of his life. I do love horses, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually rode upon one. This was the best, and not just because of the cowgirl either. Seeing the hills and everything from horseback was just a neat ending to a way cool day. This was the day I was hoping for from the beginning, and it just so happens that it erased the surly teenager and obliterated the lameness. Another long day of adventuring and we headed back to camp and to rest our sore back sides. Worth every penny too. Tomorrow, we were heading out to Sturgis and do some prospecting, we heard tell there was gold in them there hills.