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Ft. Hays, Presidents Slide, Mount Rushmore

100 degree heat did not deter this dedicated tourist from her mission on Monday. Mission: seek out and explore new worlds near Keystone, South Dakota. As usual, had I been caught, my family would have disavowed me (course they do that anyway 😉 ).

First stop just south of Rapid City was Fort Hays and the movie sets from “Dances With Wolves”. The actual site was 16 miles away from there but after filming, the movie sets were moved to this new location and a great little tourist spot was built with a tin shop, rope shop, knife shope, sawmill, penny crusher, brick maker, supply house (gift shop), headquarters, and chuckwagon dinner/cowboy show.

Fort HaysFort Hays 2

Check in at headquarters first where you can see lots of pictures taken during filming along with commentary, news of contributions Kevin Costner later made to the area, the movie playing, and the office where John Dunbar received his orders from the major who shot himself. I stood on the actual spot there where Kevin Costner stood. Try to hold down your enthusiasm. You know you would have too!

HeadquartersMajor’s Office

Next door is the gift shop which has a pine box/coffin on the porch. Great site to see on a really hot day…

Next check out the demonstrations in all the other shops there. Learn to make a rope or brick, see what goes into making a good knife.

Knife shopRope ShopSawmillTin Shop

Supply House

All day bus tours of many of the local attractions depart from Fort Hays daily after their 99 cent pancake breakfast. The tours are great from what I hear and well worth the price. My screwy schedule makes doing the 9 hour tours a little too hard for me but check them out.

On to Keystone, SD to slide the mountain. It was soooo cool. You must do this no matter what your age is. You take a chairlift up to the top. They have a nice little grill on top and flower garden. Then you can either be a chicken and ride the chairlift back down bok bok or be a man/woman and slide on down. You are in total control of how fast the sleds go. The slide is long, curvy like a bobsled track, and at times bumpy. Warning signs are posted everywhere and you have to sign an injury waiver. I loved it and actually had a little speed going. Heh heh.

ChairliftSlide2Slide3Slide4

Next was Mount Rushmore. If you want a shot in the old patriotism, go there and take the ranger tour. Without the tour it seems like just 4 guys faces. With it, you get a real feeling for the guys and what they did. They definitely push you to do more. The rangers really know their stuff and feel it. Excellent summer education for the kids. The ice cream is pretty good too! I liked the Avenue of Flags and the dripping water canopy setup to cool us down. While I was there, a bunch of guys were on top and below hauling up fireworks for the big show on July 3rd.

GatewayAvenue of FlagsRushmore1Rushmore2

RangerKatrina

Of note, despite all the best planning, what you see on the mountain is not the original design. When they tried to carve Jefferson, they hit bad rock and had to move his face away from the left of Washington to the right which also forced Lincoln to move. They blasted off their mistakes but you can still make out eyes and a nose in the old location. Some tablets were up there where Lincoln is but they had to blow those too. Teddy Roosevelt was not in the original plan but hey they had the room and he was responsible for most of the national forests and monuments you see today.

5:30pm and time to head back to Fort Hays for the chuckwagon supper and cowboy show at 6:15pm. Served on tin plates, tin cups, on long pinic tables in a big gravel floored barn like building, it was the genuine article. Food was served in a line from huge tubs. We actually got through the line and were eating faster than at the fast-food window at McDonald’s as they promised. They served barbecued beef, baked potato in foil, baked beans, applesauce, biscuit, spice cake, and lemonade. After dinner, we actually had to carry out our own dishes just like on the trail.

The entertainment was most enjoyable. A cowboy band played old Sons of the Pioneers tunes, current country hits, a little 50’s swing, etc. The girl fiddler sure held her own playing Charlie Daniel’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia” while own of the guys sang. In between songs were plenty of jokes and a goofy maintenance guy wearing a propeller beanie.

Show over, time for a mad dash back to Mount Rushmore for the lighting ceremony which ain’t easy when you are stuck driving behind a Minnesotan. I knew my chances of getting a seat in the amphitheatre were nil since I was late and I likely would not make the beginning of the show but what the heck. Nothing tried, nothing gained. My parking pass I had purchased earlier that day was good for a year and it was not too far to take the loss if I missed.

Parking when I got there was pretty full. They had 2700 people there the night before I had heard. Now if you have ever seen me run, you know it is more of a duck shuffle. I shuffled on up to the theatre and found myself too short to see over the balcony above it. Not to be deterred, I headed for the stairs below and found a perfect spot on the stairs to sit and view everything. The sound was excellent and piped over speakers throughout the area. The slide show was enjoyable and we watched at the end as the lights started to come up on the presidents above. We stood to sing the national anthem and they honored all those of us who have ever served in the military, whether in peace or war. Like I said earlier, visiting Mount Rushmore is a great shot in the old patriotism.

Amphitheatre

Hot, sweaty, tired, and satisfied I returned home with a free light show in the sky courtesy of Mother Nature. I made it to within a mile of my off ramp when the huge storm hit. Visibility was cut to almost nothing unless you slowed to a crawl. Under the freeway at my exit, I found a bunch of cars and drivers sheltering under the overpass. I proceeded the few hundred yards to the RV park and home. I thought I would catch hell from the Dang Cat but she seemed to be just happy that I was home. Whew! What a day!





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