Friday, August 19, 2022

September 1

Julie Mason
Big doings all night long among the local Sage Creek coyote community—they howled for hours and hours from all directions. It was annoying and kind of cool at the same time, like a loud exasperating friend who you wish would shut up, yet can't turn away from as they tell their next crazy story.

The plan for the day was Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer State Forest.

The dirt road out of Sage Creek seemed much rougher on the way out than on the way in. This may have been an illusion produced by the excitement of arriving and the disappointment of leaving—we really loved the stars, grassy hills and the little prairie rodents in this dehydrated inferno paradise.

Once we hit the pavement of Rt 240 we listened to Julie Mason on the SiriusXM POTUS channel. She hosts a very even and smart politics show where she interviews journalists from both right and left outlets on the news of the day. Back when I was still working the day shift, her show was on in the afternoon, and I used to think of her as my pretend girlfriend. We seemed to vibe on many levels: politics, early 80’s punk and the necessity of a hearty cocktail. But the reason I thought of her as my pretend girlfriend was not because we vibed, but because we shared a hatred of many of the same things. People always talk about the necessity of liking the same things with a prospective or pretend mate, but it’s just as necessary to have a shared hatred of things. I forget the context now, but that very memey shortened Gandhi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” came up on the show one day and Jules was like: “NO! Just NO!” I was in love, in a pretend kind of way. I used “vibe” and “vibed” earlier in this paragraph because those are the cringy kind of words Julie would hate. I’m so into her.

As we said goodbye to the Badlands I programmed in Mount Rushmore in our Garmin GPS. First thing that came up was Mount Rushmore National Museum. The Garmin route took us on 90W to a touristy information center on a dead end street on the outskirts of Rapid City. This was becoming a recurring and very frustrating problem trying to get from place to place.

We decided to get something to eat at the next restaurant we saw and regroup. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a Hardees connected to a Love’s gas station. I ordered a Frisco combo— egg, cheese and ham (I ordered sausage) on bread with little hash brown circles on the side. Donna got biscuit with egg, sausage, cheese and a coffee. In the time it took to walk from the counter to the booth all the paper our food was wrapped in was soaked with grease. Despite this and because we just spent fifteen bucks, we ate this slop. Well, I did. Donna got a few bites into her sandwich and set it aside. Even the coffee was bad and she threw it out.

But we did accomplished our goal of finding the right route which was another thirty minutes through Rapid City. We were learning the penalty for every little driving mishap was twenty to thirty minutes.     

Once we got to Rushmore I found it a little underwhelming. An amazing engineering feat to be sure given the time in which it was constructed and the available technology. It was set up in an aesthetically pleasing way as well with the Avenue of Flags, the indoor, outdoor theaters and all the informational monographs scattered throughout the grounds. Even the rest rooms were first rate. Both Donna and I had to use them almost immediately as a result of our Hardees breakfast. But still underwhelming.

Avenue of Flags

There was just something false about these iconic busts. Maybe I had seen this  Rushmore image so much through the years its been reduced to a plastic gift shop tchotchke in my mind. The four presidents extended from the mountain with this whiteish hue that was so different from the surrounding rich gray rock. The busts almost looked like a starlet who’s gotten too many facelifts and goes way too heavy on the foundation. No doubt the craftsmanship and the maintenance are first rate, but it just felt a little inauthentic.

Also underwhelming is Teddy Roosevelt being one of the selections. Of course, Rushmore was being constructed while Franklin Roosevelt was still president and steering through the Great Depression and WWII. No offense to Teddy—great man, great president—but the bust of FDR should be carved into this mountainside and mountainsides all over the country. Further, if Mount Rushmore was the Beatles, Teddy would be Ringo. Lincoln—Paul, Washington—John, Jefferson—George and Teddy—Ringo.

Still feeling the aftereffects of our Hardees breakfast, I had to use the facilities again once we arrived at the Crazy Horse Memorial. In addition to the fierce, iconic, in-progress mountainside image of Crazy Horse the memorial was a huge well-lit museum with an open floor plan. There were thousands of native American artifacts in glass cases and portraits on the walls. There was so much information to process it was impossible to take it all in. Again it was well done, but too much and I was numb with information overload.

We did take a short bus ride down to where they were carving the image in the mountainside. Unlike Rushmore, the bust of Crazy Horse was the same iron color as the surrounding rock making it more authentic. But as we got off the senior-citizen laden bus out into the hot sun I was uninterested in the Q & A being conducted by the bus driver/guide. Instead, after taking the requisite pics I thought: Is this our life now—travelling around looking at shit with other old people because we have a little money and nothing important left to do? I could hear my pretend girlfriend Julie Mason in my head—So LAME!!!

Crazy Horse

As my thoughts grew dark in the unrelenting sun there was this old guy with a thousand questions. From when carving was going to be complete to how all this was funded (completion date- unknown, visitor funded). Back in the bus question guy turned to his wife and of the bus driver/guide said: “That guy was good. Real good!”

Still feeling the aftereffects of breakfast, we decided to call it a day and skip Custer State Park for now. Donna found a cheap, close by campground at Bismarck Lake. When the Garmin GPS directed us down a dirt road to some Lutheran retreat I was pissed. Donna tried to be helpful by showing me we were close using the  Google map app on her phone, but I snapped at her.

This was only like a ten-minute driving mishap, but the damage was done. I tried to get her to understand how frustrated I was with this GPS bullshit, but she wasn’t buying what I was selling. After getting an overnight spot I asked what I could do to make things better and she said, “You figure it out.” Then she went for a walk. When she got back I tried to be funny, saying, “I’ve been thinking and thinking and I still can’t figure anything out.” Still, she wasn’t buying.

Some frayed nerves are to be expected with a couple of people sharing sixty-square feet of living space not knowing where they’re going. 

How we got here...
An Ode to Fire and Donna
Chronological Posts From The Road 
Going Mobile: What We Learned
Our Rig: A Pictorial Essay


  1. Good post. But, “Teddy would be Ringo?”

    Well, maybe. Let me think about it

  2. Hey, Teddy and I share a grandmother, so now I've been reduced to Ringo's distant cousin...blah!!!

  3. Love the inclusion of the husband/wife dynamic. Best part of the blog!

  4. I'm loving following the travels..poor Donna lol

  5. Love your posta Paul. So real. Iconic sites made to loog grand in the books and movies are not as pleasurable to see when you are there in person. I very been to too many sites where when I get there the focus will be on the gift shops food and bathrooms rather than the site itself.

  6. I love it! Funny and real.