Friday, October 20, 2006

Day 3 - Part 1: South Dakota | More Mt. Rushmore

This is part one of..... probably three for day three.Another full day for the boys in the Bravada, starting in Keystone, SD, heading to see Mount Rushmore. After taking in the dramatic lighting of George, Abe, Teddy and Tom the night before, we went to see what the monument had to offer the daytime visitor. One big difference I noticed from the night before was our parking spot on the front sidewalk was no longer available. Judging from the license plates on the cars, there were a lot of visitors from the Dakotas, Nebraska and Minnesota at "The Rush". (I wonder if any not-so-clever marketing people have tried calling it "The Rush" yet?) We stepped out of our car and I offered to take a picture of a family of Russian (or Eastern European?) tourists that were walking from the lot towards the monument. The American family that I made the offer to was not amused. (Bad joke, sorry.) I only offered to the Russians to take a picture in front of the monument, for which they happily posed. They smiled and laughed, I nodded without understanding anything they said and thought about how it is always exciting to see what kind of camera equipment people from other countries are sporting.

My thoughts were wrong. Their camera broke the rule. It was the same point and shoot I was using and not that exciting... Anyhow..., the place was a little more crowded than it had been at 11pm the night before. We made our way up to the overlook and recreated shots taken a million times before by people from every populated continent in the world. It is hard not to do. Rushmore is so impressive that you want to take it in. If you have a camera, you have to put your stamp on things. Even though every new-to-you picture you decide to take can easily be found on the internet. As a matter of fact, it can likely be purchased with more flattering light and sharper focus on a postcard being sold in the gift shop less than 100 feet to your right. But I digress.

For the record. I did not see this shot of Abe Lincoln on a postcard in the gift shop. Probably for good reason.
Those of you who are Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant or Eve Marie Saint fans, some scenes from the the movie North by Northwest were set around Rushmore and kept popping into my head as I walked through the park. Remember the part where Eve shoots Cary in the cafeteria? I was there and it was pretty cool. I never saw the cool mansion from the movie but the walk around the woods surrounding the park seemed very familiar. There is a small trail (using the term loosely) that meanders through the wooded area between Rushmore and the gift shop/promenade area. It is short, flat and paved or decked the entire way but offers a few new glimpses of the monument you wouldn't get otherwise. It also takes you by some of the buildings where the designer stayed while working on the giant sculpture.

Here are a few pictures taken from the trail. Can we interest you in a picture of the presidents in a Sepia tone?
Finally we resorted to taking pictures with our heads in place of one of the four presidents. Is that Teddy Roosevelt in a black baseball cap? The resemblance is striking.
After checking out the visitor center and gift shops for postcards of the photos we had just taken, we prepared to hit the road again.

I ran into this guy while we were leaving the parking lot. He needed a ride to Rapid City. I felt kind of bad because I told him we weren't going that way. We were headed towards Rapid, but I didn't want him to see all the mountain-goat-hair sweaters we had just purchased from a vendor up the road. He seemed happy when I told him he could likely get a ride from a very nice Russian family heading that way.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Day 2: Nebraska and South Dakota | Chimney Rock, Scott's Bluff and Mt. Rushmore

We left our cool little hotel in Sidney, NE to see a little snow dusting on the ground. Now we finally get to start hitting the monuments and parks. First stop, Chimney Rock National Historic Site in Nebraska. Famous Scott Clinton over the shoulder pic to the right. Chimney Rock was a guiding point for the Oregon Trail heading west. After spending a few minutes at the Visitor Center, it looks like we will be following the Oregon Trail for a while during our trip west.

Chimney Rock

We stopped outside of Scottsbluff in Gering, NE to have lunch at the local counter. We both ordered breakfast so the food was pretty good. It is hard to mess up eggs. I also had to grab one of their "big as your head" cinnamon roles before we left. (This decision would serve me well later in the car when I needed a quick fix to get me through my daily afternoon lack-of-food coma.)

Scott's Bluff National Monument (lay, lie, laid, lain, ?) just up the road. You can see it from the highway so we pulled up and parked our car next to the sign. We hiked a small and vanishing path that lead toward one of the bluffs. After reaching the bluff we noticed a visitor center a bit further up the road with a nice trail that would have been a little easier hike than the "unmarked" one we had taken.

Eventually we made it to the Visitor Center where we discovered a few things that would shape our trip for the next 3 weeks.

First up, the National Park Pass. Jerry Lucas, one of the Rangers at the Scott's Bluff Visitor Center did a great salesman job in convincing me to purchase the pass that would allow us entry into over 300 National Parks and Monuments (and probably other things I can't remember right now.) His pitch was unsuspected and almost unnoticed, but effective none the less. $50 for entry to every park we were going to see was a money saver right off the bat. We would have spent that at Yellowstone and Grand Teton within the week! I was already sold, but there was more. He must have seen me coming from a mile away. He introduced me to the "collectible" aspect of owning the pass. Oh no! I was in over my head. I was swimming in the same feeling I used to have while walking into baseball card shops as a kid. I couldn't reach for my credit card fast enough as he explained how we could collect stamps from every park and monument in the US and put them in a scrapbook. They even sold a special passport book that was especially designed to collect the stamps as well as stickers that you could buy at each park visitor center. The pass was the best 50 bucks we spent on the trip.

Second, our friendly Ranger Jerry became the first official portrait for "The Project", representing Nebraska. Jerry agreed to have his picture taken outside of the visitor center with Scott's Bluff Monument in the background. It was Scott's and my first attempt at getting all of the photo equipment out of the back of the Bravada and set up for a shoot. There were plenty of onlookers as Jerry put on his hat and jacket and struck a few distinguished poses for the camera.

With new park pass and our first portrait for "The Project" in hand, we headed north toward Alliance, NE and our next stop - Carhenge.

Hwy 385

We left just enough time to make it to the... um... unusual... and...... interesting rural western Nebraska monument before sunset. We drove by the endless corn fields looking for the turn off taking us to the monument. I had to stop at Taco John's for a burrito to go when we got to downtown Alliance, NE since we hadn't had time to stop for lunch. We ended up asking a girl at a gas station for directions to Carhenge and arrived at the site with plenty of daylight left to take it all in. It was fantastic! If you find yourself in the general area... (that area being rather large if you go by population density) you should definitely plan to take some time at this future "National Monument". There you go. You heard it here first. NATIONAL MONUMENT! Of course, I have no idea of the criteria for such a status to be granted to anything at all, but, a bunch of cars buried to their windshields to make a model of Stonehenge in the middle of rural America should certainly garner some votes.

What a long day. You might think we would be done after taking in sooooo much. Not even close. This seems to be a pattern of our days - looooooong.

We left Carhenge and took some pretty pictures of a Western Nebraska sunset before driving north toward the Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. The drive was dark. The Black Hills at night are pretty much that, "Black". We arrived in Keystone, SD, and checked into a room before heading out to look for food. Scott had been here once before and remembered a bar that had good food. We found the place just in time to watch the Cardinals finish off the Mets in the NLCS and just miss their kitchen being open to serve us dinner. We ended up at the only place in town still serving food, the local gas station/pizza parlor/submarine sandwich shop.

With a little energy from eating our first sort-of-meal of the day we decided to head over to Mount Rushmore to take a look at the four boys at night. We drove up and weren't exactly sure if it would be open or if we would be escorted off the premises. The outside gates were open and there was a lane to get past the parking toll gates. We drove all the way up to the front step of the visitor center and parked the Bravada. It was strange to see the place with NOBODY around. We could have parked on the front sidewalk if we had wanted. We walked up the dark walkway to the observation deck and viewed the former presidents in their dramatic night lighting. Not a bad way to finish off a long day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Day 1: Nebraska | Birthplace of Kool Aid

After taking the first official "Over the Shoulder" shot of the trip from Scott's driveway we finally got on the road this afternoon and headed West from Omaha, NE.

The Road opens up to some wider views of Western Nebraska a ways outside of Omaha.

This inside-the-car pic shows the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument that spans I-80 in Kearney.

While the scenery was nice, I was most excited about driving through Hastings, NE, the home of Kool Aid!

During a gas stop in Brady, NE, we came across J.T. working in a scrap yard off the interstate. He agreed to let us take his picture as an early test for "The Project".

We pulled into North Platte for dinner and the best General Tso's Chicken I've ever tasted. Inside the restaraunt they had pictures of Air Force 1 from the President G. W. Bush landed nearby on 9-11. I can't think of many places that are further from terrorists and their "terra" than the middle of Nebraska.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


"The Beginning"

In August of 2006, Scott called and said he needed to drive to LA to pick up a 3000 album record collection that his uncle had left him and asked if I wanted to make a roadtrip out of it. Since I maintain a "flexible" work schedule, I said, "sure!" and "BS Roadtrip Project" (BS = Brent and Scott) was born.

"The Project"

In addition to driving through 14 states visiting small towns and national landmarks, we are taking lots of photographs. The "project" part of the trip is to compose an "Environmental Portrait" of different people we see along the way while capturing one person from each state visited.

"The Blog"

Hopefully, I can put a little something of interest up each day so our friends can see what we are up to when in a work meeting or while the kids are napping.