Our first full day in South Dakota takes us to Wind Cave and Crazy Horse. Just a normal fun filled day except for when everything gets crazy.
Going into this adventure, we did not develop a master plan for all we wanted to see and do. We are winging it. Accordingly, as we arrive at a new destination, that is when we start looking at maps and brochures as well as asking around for the best sites to see and things to do. Prior to arriving in Custer, South Dakota, I had only rudimentary knowledge of South Dakota. Roughly, I knew there ain't shit going on, the Black Hills are beautiful, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands. Oh, and Fargo is in North Dakota.
Upon arrival yesterday, it was time to bone-up on Sodak geography. I had already verified that the Black Hills are beautiful -- check. Next, I confirmed that Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse were very near by. Then I was surprised to discover that Wind Cave National Park was about 20 miles away. Seeing as we are navigated by the wind, it was only fitting for Wind Cave National Park to be our first local destination.
Jane was pretty excited about going into a cave -- breakfast abandoned, shoes on, "let's go in the truck". Jane did not enjoy going into a cave. We learned this about 10 steps out of 300 down into Wind Cave with about thirty other tourists crowding down behind us. As it turns out, Tommy was not a big fan either. If the National Parks Service gave out "Those People" badges, we would have been the recipients.
On the upside, Amelia will have beefcake arms from carrying Jane, head on shoulder with eyes closed, through the full sixty minute cave tour.
After a retreat to the RV for lunch and naps, we thought we would round-out the day with a low-intensity visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial.
I could see Crazy Horse from the road; his pronounced profile emerging from the mountainside. The Crazy Horse Memorial is not a national or state park, it is a private enterprise. I learned this and more from the twenty minute video at the expansive visitor center. At first I could not decide whether the place was a big gimmick like the Flintstones park back in town or truly awesome and ambitious. While there are elements of the former, I believe Crazy Horse Memorial to be the latter. Other examples of this kind of multi-decade perseverance and persistence do not readily come to mind -- at least not contemporary examples.
For those unfamiliar with the Crazy Horse Memorial, the story goes something like this. A sculptor, Korczak was commissioned by Chief Henry Standing Bear to create this memorial. Korczak made it his life's work to create this memorial and it continues to be the life's work of his wife and family. Carving started in 1948. It is not even close to being finished.
So anywho, we were having a fine time milling about the visitor's center gawking at artifacts and plaques when crazy happened.
We heard a couple loud pop sounds; then many more. It was hailing. Initially the feeling was "Oh, hail. Neat. What a quaint diversion!" I started taking video. Six minutes later the feeling had evolved into "This hail is scary and destructive. I wonder if the apocalypse is upon us?"
We first found shelter under an awning. Eventually, when it became apparent that being hit by the hail would lead to certain death, we moved into the restaurant. Jane and I had Choco Tacos after she removed her tear-filled face from mom's chest [again].
The hail shifted to torrential rain and then to calm. With great anticipation we made our way back to the truck to survey the damage. There was damage. Most notably, the windshield was smashed into an interesting array of spiderwebs. Other than the windshield and four major body panels, the truck was in great shape. Runs like a dream.
Next we made our way back to the campsite to survey the damage there. The hail had penetrated the pine canopy, but the damage to the trailer was less dramatic; only three exterior indicator lights had been damaged.
I cannot help but think that this Black Hills hail storm might have been a form of divine retribution on the white man for the horrifying sins of genocide, exploitation, and [ongoing] desecration of these sacred lands. Or perhaps it was a butterfly flapping in China that set this off.
Regardless, tomorrow I will seek windshield repair in Rapid City, South Dakota -- another day, another adventure, another place.
Update 2013-09-06: Finally got that video uploaded. It is now in its rightful place in this article.