4th December 2005
Rapid City, South Dakota

Last night we popped over the road to pick up some supplies and picked up a computer headset whilst we were there. I've been meaning to test out a bit of software called Skype for some time now. It supposedly allows the user to make international calls over the internet for just a few pence. Because the Thunderbird Inn has wireless we give it a go and it works wonderfully. Calls to the UK from the US for under 2p a minute. Fabulous Technology.

Today we are to drive into the 'Black Hills' and see the famous Mount Rushmore. The drive into the Black Hills is a great piece of road, often carved through the fabric of the rock. Twisting and winding down through the valleys and small mountain villages we soon round a corner and see the familiar sight of Mount Rushmore up ahead.

We pay our entrance fee and drive into the near empty car park. One of the big benefits of seeing America at this time of year is that almost no-one else is doing the same thing. Wrapping up warm against the increasing cold we climb the steps up to the viewing area. Mount Rushmore has been very nicely presented. It's obviously one of the prides of the nation. Wandering through pillars into a wide thoroughfare you pass between two rows of pillars adorned with the flags of the 50 states of America. All the time the enourmous carving is waiting for you at the end of the 'corridor'. Past another row of columns is a wide open area with a staging area where talks and displays take place in the summer months. For now, it's just us, a Russian chap, and the four presidents who make up the carving - Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and... the other one.

Sadly the walk that gets up really close to the carving is closed because of the snow. Off to the left is a very nice christmas tree. We take our photo opportunities and oblige the Russian man a photo. We take a quick look around the shop at the myriad of Rushmore memorabilia and head back to the car, finding our way blocked by a small herd of deer grazing near the steps. We work our way through and head back to the car.

A few miles away from this symbol of Americanism is another lesser known carving that is still a work in progress. The Crazy Horse monument is a tribute to the natives of the land. It is a work on a much grander scale. The whole of Mount Rushmore would fit within the head of Crazy Horse. It is being carved 'in the round' and will be at least another 50 years before it is finished. The whole project is self funded from the cafe and museum that we wander around. I genuinely hope to be able to come back here in later life and see how far it has come on.

We take lunch at the café and wander the shops, gallery, and museum. The most interesting pieces are old photographs recording the lives of the native Americans. A ginger cat joins us in the gallery, apparently belonging to the family who are carving the monument. This place genuinely is their entire life.

Chris Cottam