Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Thanksgiving weekend
What a week this has been. I can no longer count the number of times the word ‘Wow’ has escaped my mouth. On a usual Wednesday evening, before Thanksgiving, I found myself wishing I had planned out the weekend. I had nothing to do and 4 days to kill. Well, I did want to go out and buy myself a whole bunch of things on ‘Black Friday’, but the idea wasn’t very enticing.

Sarjana, my friend, IM’s me and invites me to road trip. “It’s still iffy” she said since a few of her friends had not confirmed yet. But that state of affairs did not last too long. Before long, I cancelled all my plans and I had signed up for a road trip that would begin at 6am Thursday and end 6pm on Sunday.

The objective was Mount Rushmore, 1400 miles away along I-90 and to me this was a fantastic opportunity to hone my absolutely Rotten driver skills 🙂 away from my home state of Washington where people know me. And yet, in Sarjana’s word, while Mt. Rushmore may have been a destination, the objective was really the journey. Sort of puts life into perspective doesn’t it.

Day one: An Outback could be overkill
Sarjana managed to convince, or should I say con :), Rudra and Swati-she into coming along. I had met Rudi once before. We drove down to the airport to add Swati and my name as drivers of a flashy new Subaru Outback 🙂 rented. Boy, was the car a wise choice or what. Rudi turned on his charm and managed to get a deal on the car to sweeten the trip. It was either that or the fact that the rental company rep. was just too sleepy to want to negotiate with us.

Before long we were on our way, rattling down I-90 in what was a determined assault on our destination. On the first day itself, the rain was pouring down. As we continue East towards the Washington – Idaho border, the Sun mad a brief appearance to encourage us ahead.

A quick decision to visit the Gorge required us to take a detour after Columbia river. Unfortunately, the Gorge, a natural amphiteatre, was closed to visitors, I cannot be sure why.

I got my first taste of driving through lookout pass before we reached Montana. It was a treacherous pass and the rain pelted the car mercilessly. I had the wheels and I proceeded to terrify everyone else by passing at least 2 14-wheelers along tricky curves and steep grades.

The group got a different first impression of me though :). On approaching a gas station, Swati-she who happend to be at the wheel asked which side the gas tank opened up. I confidently piped in that all Japanese cars had them on the left. Well my Honda does, and so does everyone else in the car (they all own Honda’s). Everyone bought it :)! However, it turned out that the Subaru fills from the right hand side haha and everyone had a good laugh.

Day Two: Can I wake up at 5am
Sure I can 🙂 and I found out first-hand that it can be tough. Rudi was the first one to wake up, and we were on the road once again. We still had the time and therefore the luxury of breakfast. We duly stopped at a restaurant in Sheridan, Wyoming!! Setting out on the road, we had just a few hours more of driving ahead of us.

First stop on crossing into South Dakora were the jewel caves. I’ll be the Park Ranger there was surprised to see the four of us walk into the office enthusiastically without any foreknowledge of what the timings were. Next stop was the Crazy horse monument dedicated to all native american tribes. I had mixed feelings watching a mountain being carved out for the purpose of people. What if the work stopped halfway, the unfinished sculpture would only not only disturb the erstwhile pristine and beautiful black hills, but it would also be a very funny sight.

Mount Rushmore was more of the same, it did offer a vignette into 4 significant people who shaped the idea and the character of Democracy in the USA. The sculptures were etched into the face of the tall cliff and stared out into space. Surely, these men’s deeds earned them such greatness.

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