Today we headed east on I90. Our first stop was the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center and then the D-01 Launch Control Center. Fascinating and tied together things like why we learned to “duck and cover” as kids in elementary school. As I got older I understood there were ICBMs in the mid-west but really never computed why until today. Interesting. Really dangerous work for US Airmen assigned to this detail.
Leaving there, we drove into the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands – saw lots of cows but no bison – and into Badlands National Park. We rounded a curve and the entire landscape dramatically changed. Unreal. Felt like I was in a western movie set with Clint Eastwood or John Wayne! It is beautiful but uninhabitable (as the Native Americans and initial settlers in the area would agree). Even more interesting are the sea, dinasour, and other fossils that are found in this area. Volcanic upheaval that pushed up the ganite crating the Black Hills also created the ash that changed this area forever.
We took a detour through Wall to stop for ice cream at the Wall Drug Store. This place is a bona fide road side tourist attraction!
We ended the day by visiting the only remaining Minuteman Missile Silo – Delta-09 – in South Dakota. The missile in the silo is unarmed and not manned but really gives a clear picture of the Cold War threats this nation faced.
I can only imagine the faith it took to settle this area. Primarily this was settled by Germans, Slavic, and Irish immigrants. There is a large Catholic and Lutheran presence here. Still I wonder if they felt like Abraham and went not know where they were going.
Today’s adventure took us to the southwest first to Mount Rushmore and later to the Crazy Horse Mountain at Custer (as in “George Armstrong Custer”).
Mount Rushmore is a National Monument under the care of the National Park Service. It is surreal and very moving. And the science and craftmanship behind it is truly amazing. The four presidents whose faces are carved into that weird piece of granite represent the USA at strategic turning points in her history. Washington is the most fully featured. Teddy Roosevelt (who ranched in SD), the most personality. All important to who we are today.
The faces appear before you enter the park. As you approach the viewing area, you walk through a plaza with state flags and flying above the state name and the date of their admission to the Union. We checked out the history surrounding the sculptor and walked the “Presidential Trail” which allows various perspectives of the carvings.
From there we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This project is not under the national or state government but is a non-profit. The sculpture is still actively in progress and our guess is that it will be for another 50+ years. It was fascinating. We talked to a Native American artist there who was making story telling bracelets and doing beautiful metal work.
There was some rain today in the area. They desperately need it. The forests and prairies are a tinderbox.
Tomorrow on to a little Cold War History and the Badlands.