Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mount Rushmore Night Lighting Ceremony

Today we got up around 7, and had to wait for an hour before we could turn on our generator so that we could make coffee.  Now we could have made "pressed coffee", but it is a bit of a mess to clean up, and without sewer hookups, waiting for 45-50 minutes was the best thing to do.  I turned it on at 7:55...sorry if I bothered anyone.

The ride over to Custer South Dakota was very easy, except for about a 3-4 mile stretch about 15-20 miles west of Custer.  There the road narrows, lots of sharp curves, and Marcia sure did not like the 2-3 areas where the drop-off to the right side of the road looked like it never would stop.  I just put it in third, put on the PAC Break, and took it easy.  Below is a look near the boarder of Wyoming and South Dakota, right where the Black Hills start.


We will have plenty of time to take pictures of the Black Hills area, so until then, this will do ya.

We are staying at the Big Pine Campground just west of Custer.  The park has about 65 sites, plus tent camping, but it does not seem that busy now.  I am sure that when "Sturgis Rally Week" hits the Black Hills, this campground, as most others, is packed.  But with school starting up in much of the country, the amount of motor homes is starting to dwindle, and the worry about reserving a place to stay has vanished in this part of the country.  But it is not cold...in fact, today was in the mid-90's, with humidity around 20%.  Unusually hot, they say, and they even let school out early in many parts around here since they don't have air conditioning in the schools.  Anyway, the people running this park are the nicest folks...much like we have seen in many of the parks since we left the Portland area.  Here are a few pictures of where we are staying.
With the hot weather it is nice to be under some trees...
 ...but in this case, under trees means no grass...
 ...and no grass means unhappy dogs.
But it is far from the road, will be a nice quiet park, and another one of those "stay 6 days get the 7th day free" type of thing.  We have water, sewer and 30 amp....which means only one AC at a time, but having one on today kept us cold enough since there is virtually no humidity.

Well, I wanted to take Marcia to the night ceremony at Mt. Rushmore.  We left at 6 pm, went into Custer to pickup a foot-long Subway sandwich to share, and headed over to Rushmore.  The only thing about Rushmore is the parking....they have a real nice, huge parking deck, but they charge $11 per vehicle, $50 if it is a bus full of people.  Now that is a chunk of money that this "free" National Memorial brings in for the National Park Service and for Presidential Parking, Inc.  This park concession operates under a contract between the National Park Service and the Mount Rushmore Society, which constructed the parking facility and continues to operate and maintain it.  No federal funding was used to construct the parking facility.  A parking fee is assessed to offset the expenses of construction, operation and maintenance of the parking facility.  

Let's see....this was built in 1997, the memorial has around 3 million visitors each year.  Let's say that 10% come by bus and each bus averages 25 people...that's 12,000 buses at $50 each, for $600,000 per year.  Let's say that of the other 90%, that 30% of them are visiting more than once during the year....this means there are another 1.6 million unique visitors, at 4 people per car, that's over 400,000 cars paying $11 each, for another $4.4 million, or a total of $5 million income each year, for a structure which cost around $17 million to build, and they have been collecting from $3.5 million to $5 million each year since 1997....so in 15 years it has brought in $60 million.  But remember, no tax dollars were spent....but tax payers are surely footing the bill over and over and over again.  Ok, enough said....let's talk about the great experience we had.

On the way there, we realized we really blew it with the selection of our RV park....
....we could have stayed with the Flintstones!   Yabba Dabba Doo darn it!  Maybe next time....

From Custer, we would be coming in to Rushmore from the backside.  Which means that we would see President Washington's profile view before we entered into the parking lot...as long as I could find the turnout....which I did.
The lighting at this angle, during this time of the evening, really made the rocks glow, while President Washington sat there in the shade.
As you leave the parking lot, you start down this walkway, with the Memorial in front of you all the way.
You then come to the flag area that you walk under...
 And then come to the Plaza view.  That is a stage at the bottom of the picture above, where they were to play a movie while it got darker, and then at the end of the movie, they light up the Memorial.
 And here is a close up.  Since the sun is setting behind and to the left of the Presidents (there right), the sky does not look blue...although it looked blue to us.  For those who need the history lesson....that is George Washington on the left, our first president. Thomas Jefferson is next to Washington, he was our third president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence.  Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt is next to Jefferson, he was our 26th President, our youngest President, and played a significant role in the creation of 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 150 National Forests. And next to Roosevelt is Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, the President who lead the Union during the Civil War, and who lost his life at the end of the war when John Wilkes Booth shot him in Ford's Theater in Washington D.C.

At 8 pm, a park ranger came out, introduced herself, told a nice, short story about President Jefferson, and then played a movie.  At the end of the movie, the mountain lit up...
Then she invited all military veterans down on stage for the taking down of the flag, and we all stood to sing our national anthem.  This was a very touching moment, with about 40 vets down on the stage.  She asked for six volunteers out of the bunch, which she quickly got, to take down and fold the flag.  After which, she allowed all on stage to tell the audience their name, rank, and which military service they served in.

Although I took pictures, with this camera we have, night pictures from afar just don't cut it.  But I did get a picture of the California Flag (where I lived for 30+ years) and the Arkansas Flag (where I lived for 21+ years), but missed the Utah and Florida flags where I also lived and live. 
But the real important flag was down on stage.... 
 ....may she always fly high, fly proud, fly free, fly for all...

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