Another Roadside Attraction

Washington at Mt. Rushmore“That fire still out there?”

“Oh yeah.” I’m looking out the window of the Super 8 Motel that we chose in lieu of a another night of sleepless, airless, gruesome night in a tent. As we pulled into Hot Springs, South Dakota last evening there was a chimney of smoke sloping into the air. As we set out on our journey today we find that there are now two fires. There are now two fires. There are 100% more fires than there were the night before.

Brush fires are a very real traveling drama since at the very worst they are a concrete threat to life and limb and at best they are an impetus to detour. There’s a decision to be made: flee or flight. We, for some reason or other, decide to fight.

So, we gear up the Diesel and head into the fire.

Our first stop is Mount Rushmore, which turns out to be little less than a roadside attraction with jaws attached. We stop by the road and take a picture without spending the 11$ annual (seriously?) parking fee. The fee is a sweet deal for the nine people on Earth who have visited Mount Rushmore more than once and especially for the two people in history who have visited it more than once in one year. We find a spot on the road which offers us a grand view, pull over and take the requisite snaps of the glorious heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Popkey.

Should you ever be in the universal milky way that is South Dakota, there are two things you must avoid: the monuments for Crazy Horse and Wounded Knee. The Crazy Horse monument is $10 for each person in the car and consists of a carving on the side of a mountain that someone’s eight year old child did in art class. After doing a U-turn to avoid the fee, we try unsuccessfully to discern the value of the Crazy Horse monument on the two hour drive to the Wounded Knee monument. Unfortunately, just as we come to believe that Crazy Horse was the most useless rock on the planet, we arrive at the Wounded Knee monument. What Wounded Knee lacked in content and actuality, it made up for in disappointment and overpriced jewelry. I am sent out of the car to speak to the native American woman making a necklace in a shack in the middle of a field.

“Hi, could you direct me to the Wounded Knee memorial, please?”

“This is it.” She points to the field in front of us and I look around at grass and what appears to be a rock commemorating one of the most tragic slaughters in American history.

“That is it?”

“Yes. Would you like to buy jewelry? We are all unemployed.”

After running away and hiding in the car, we take off to our final destinations: Wall Drug and The Cosmos Mystery Area. There is not a word strong enough to explain how Wall Drug is inundated into you in South Dakota. A driver sees roughly 8,392 billboards every six miles telling them to go to Wall Drug. By the time you arrive in the vicinity of it you simply must visit. Considering Wall Drug is, um, nothing at all, it is really an ingenious marketing campaign. We leave and head to the only attraction worth seeing in South Dakota: The Cosmos Mystery Area.

The Cosmos Mystery Area is a small area in the woods of South Dakota where the laws of physics don’t apply. Our tour guide exhibits gravitational pull that allows a person to perch on a wall of a cabin like a very confused spider. Another room allows you to hang from a pull up bar and feel your legs drift up to the wall. Tennis balls roll uphill and Collin and I are the same height – this is a place I can get behind.

By  evening we make for Colorado and leave the two brush fires, poor monuments and alternate universes behind us as we speed into Wyoming.

  1. #1 by Andy on August 13, 2012 - 7:42 pm

    All that driving and not one, single billboard for Burma Shave Cream?

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on August 14, 2012 - 5:13 pm

      Damn it! There were about 50. I forgot to mention. I am now having blogger’s regret…

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