Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Once upon a time, in a small town in South Dakota

We spent the 4th of July at Mount Rushmore. It's all well and good for an impressive Facebook status, but to be honest, the park wasn't our favorite. There was no going off the paved and commercialized trail--not even a little bit. (It seemed like every other stone on the path was "sponsored" by one "freedom patron" or another.)
While it poured rain, we watched a film that emphasized the featured presidents' commitment to individual liberties. The irony wasn't lost on my eight year old. "Sooo, we're celebrating freedom, but they don't give us any freedom and make us stay on the same little trail the whole time?"

Still, I'm glad we made the stop. The mountain is a colossal work of art, and it was amazing to learn about the craftsmen and master artist behind it. And you know, the whole patriotic Facebook check-in thing doesn't hurt either. 

Photo credit: The 8 year old
An old filling station in Lead
We were planning to go back to Rushmore that night for fireworks, but they had stopped doing a fireworks display in 2012. (Our timing was impeccable.) So we headed to the small mining town of Lead in search of food and fireworks.

The town was quaint and inviting, yet rough around the edges, with a vintage toughness and tenacity to it. We made friends with some biker chicks in the line for lemonade, and then settled in for the fireworks.

My favorite part of the 4th of July would've been the same whether we'd laid out a blanket on a grassy patch in an Ohio parking lot or stood on a pier in Maine or fought through the crowds at the national mall in DC. It was when, in a small town in South Dakota, my kids leaned in (one on my lap, one under my arm), looked up, and marveled at what they'd later describe--before dozing crooked-necked in their car seats--as the "best fireworks ever."


  1. Ryan wants to go to Rushmore mostly just to have our kids say "yes, we went". And I'm all, that's far and what if it's lame? I've never been. He went as a kid and therefore thinks its awesome, like fireworks.


    1. Yeah, I'm with you. If you can combine it with a trip to Yellowstone or Glacier, I think it'd be worth it. It also might have been pretty great when Ryan was a kid, but I think the current feel of it (commercialized/structured/slightly lame) is probably pretty different from 25 years ago.
      Anyway, I just hope my kids remember this trip as being awesome, like fireworks, when they're grown ups.

  2. I snorted at the phrase "freedom patron." What a great euphemism.

    Mount Rushmore is one of those places that I've never seen, but still kind of want to. I'm hoping that it will be like the Eiffel Tower - a little trite, but unimaginably beautiful person. Maybe if I can roll in a trip to Lead as well...


    1. It is worth a visit once, I think. The faces did look much smaller than I imagined they'd be, I think because they are so much farther away from where you typically view them vs. in the professional pictures. There are other things nearby like Custer State Park, which I think is better for exploring and trails. So as long as you aren't building your whole trip around Rushmore, it should still be a great road trip!