"OH MY GOODNESS I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS VIEW!"
This morning we left Murdo for our next milestone, Wall Drug. Wall Drug is a giant tourist pit stop along I90. It started by the local pharmacist giving free ice water to travelers in the 1930's. Now its home to multiple stores, attractions, activities, and concessions over almost an entire side of downtown Wall. Read the history of Wall Drug here. It is a beautiful, well written story of the American Dream.
We pulled up and followed the parking signs which lead us to Main Street, Wall. We parked on the main drag, hopped out and surveyed the scene. Across from us,the entire side of the road was Wall Drug. It still had the silhouette of a typical prairie town, but there where giant signs all along the side- much like the signs we had been seeing on the road as early as Iowa (almost 400 miles away!).
The side we were on was local shops. As we stood next to the bus and put sun screen on (for the first time in a few days - it had been cloudy for the past few days) we heard a woman welcoming passers by to Wall from the doorway of a shop next to where we were parked. We were immediately attracted to that store and walked over. We were greeted by three smiling woman. there were kids running around the back of the store and a few folks sitting on the bench outside talking to the women working there. It was a boutique, the Mocha Moose, with a small corner sectioned off into an espresso station.
As soon as i saw the espresso, I B lined for it. Just this morning I was day dreaming about all the coffee in Seattle while sipping my motel coffee- which Sherm is convinced is made with water straight from the Missouri River. We waited for the coffees and chatted with the owners. Its a family store; in its third generation, soon to be four with the rug rat running around the back. The woman who runs it now makes jewelry as well as her husband, Three Trees. The son runs the coffee shop after living in Seattle for a while.
The hand made jewelry they had was incredible. The owner took us around and told us how each piece was made. Three Trees could even remember where each stone was from. They were true artists. More than a being skilled craftsmen, they put so much love and pride into their work. You could feel the artistic energy just walking in. We couldn't have asked for a better first impression of this area.
After a lovely conversation with the owners we walked across the street to Wall Drug. There was a boot shop, jeweler, a gallery, many many gift shops, a candy store, cafe, restaurant, bookstore.... just to name a few. Much like Pioneer Auto Show it seems like it expanded one building at a time. Unlike Pioneer, it was wicked packed with travelers.
Back across the street, there were more touristy shops, just like in any tourist town. We cruised through them all and grabbed some grub at the bar. Before we left we stopped back at The Mocha Moose before we left. We avoided all the made-in-china kitschy souvenirs. The locally crafted work at the Mocha Moose was so beautiful, we need a sovereign from them. I ended up with a beautiful turquoise pendent and Sherman got his first good ring. Before leaving Wall the owners gave us a local road to go through the Badlands toward Rapid City.
Before we left Sherm's friend gave us good advise, "Don't be a slave to the highway." If i could pass along anything to a fellow traveler that would be it. Not only was the back road we took from Wall not on the map, it wasn't even in the GPS. It was such a beautiful drive! Neither of us could believe the scenery as we drove toward the Badlands. mountains sicking straight up out of the plains. The road turned and suddenly it was dirt. As we got closer to the badlands the road stared to curve more. After a few miles of seeing the Badlands from a distance, we climbed a hill. At the crest we turned again. Next to us went straight down to rivers cutting through rocky terrain.
There was hardly anyone on the road, except a few locals and a vacationing family. It was great to go slow for a change and really enjoy the scenery. Protected by the rocky landscape the light wind we faced felt more like a light breeze compared to the highway. It was so peaceful and so calm we could hear the birds singing as they flew by.
Our short cut connected us back to the scenic route into Rapid City. From there we followed the signs to Mt. Rushmore. The Black Hills was a big stretch for the bus, but Neil did awesome. Slow and steady all the way. That is one of the great things about him: you are forced to slow down, take your time and plan ahead.
We found our way to the parking lot at Mt Rushmore, the monument at our backs. We got out, stretched and walked forward to see the view from the mountain. We turned back around and there it was. Sherm and I were immediately taken back. The sheer size alone is such awesome feat. Not to mention how perfect the dimensions are - or the fact its on top of a mountain!
There was a middle school choir performing at the amphitheater at the base of the monument. Behind the ampitheater was an exhibit of the hisotry of the biulding of Mt. Rushmore. There were tools they used, models and videos. We walked by one to hear:
"When we get through, there will be something for the American people that will last through not
This left us speechless. Its still hard to find the words to describe the patriotism, and pride one feels being there. There are families from all over the worlds. As you walk in t the park there is a grand entrance to the monument which proudly displays a flag from each state. In the exhibit there was a time line of American history. It is simple and to the point for foreigners, but highlights all the important points in history that make our country great. The people who founded this country, and the people who have - and do - protect it, did so so we could all have a chance of the American Dream. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It really is the land of opportunities. My great grandmother came through Ellis Island. My grandfather was the first person in his family to graduate high school and was able to start his own business and move his family out of the projects to a very nice town. The founder of Wall Drug moved there to make it his dreams come true, and that is exactly what he did.
Anything is possible here. Everyone has the chance to do something great - you just have to take it.