Friday, 24 June 2005

A Slice of America

With far flung relatives and in-laws, cross-country trips are at least an annual feature for my family. This year, though, was the first time in my son's life to make the journey by car. I've driven cross-country seven times now and always love it in spite of the downsides. I wish I had a vehicle that didn't depend on fossil fuels, but still I love it.

This trip featured the University of Montana, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, the site of Custer's last stand, Devil's Tower in NE Wyoming, the Black Hills & Mt Rushmore, Wall Drug, the Badlands of South Dakota, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, a stay at the Hotel Julien in downtown Dubuque, and a lot of beautiful country in between. I love it all, from the majestic mountains, to the geologically weird arid wastelands, to the flat fertile farmlands, and the American kitcsh along the way.

On my previous pass through the Black Hills in 1977, my sister and I passed on the chance to see Mt Rushmore. We grew up not that far from Stone Mountain, Georgia, and weren't so enamored of human efforts to "improve" on nature's majesty. Of course my boy wanted to see it, and I found that I wasn't offended by the carvings. Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln may not have wanted to be honored in that way, but seeing them there, did move me to "talk to" George and thank him for his resistance to an imperial role, and to "assure him" that many of us continue to treasure the principles on which our nation was founded and will fight against modern day imperialistic tendencies promoted by the current George's administration.

Watching the film there, I learned that the designer, Gutzon Borglum, was instrumental in steering the project toward a more appropriate tribute than that which had been previously considered. He chose the less spectacular Rushmore over the Cathedral Spires, and determined that any such huge carvings should be of the most significant figures in forming our country, not Wild Bill Hickock or Buffalo Bill Cody. Doing a web search, though, was disillusioning, as I just found out that Borglum was a Klansman himself.

I flew back from Chicago, and will later return and rejoin my family for the return voyage back west a little later this summer.

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