Monday, May 26, 2008

The plains of America

Monday - I'm writing this on the picnic bench next to our RV while the laundry dries and Abi fake tans :-) (I'm sure she'd want y'all to know that). I'm surrounded by pine trees, tame rabbits and our fellow campers.
So what did we get up to yesterday? We'll we drove into Custer State Park and spent the afternoon watching the wildlife. It's a very small park in the heart of the Black Hills of Dakota. Regardless of what you see in the movies this is where the west was won - or should I say 'taken at gun point from the native Americans'. It's amazing how much damage the European settlers have done wherever they've been - America, South America, Australasia, Africa. The 'locals' had so much respect for the animals and environment - they understood that their survival depended on maintaining a very fine balance. The we come along, nearly wipe out most of the native species (including the locals) and took what we wanted. This wasn't the great voyage of discovery - it was as if a swam of locusts had descended. Just taking and not putting back.

The park is home to a herd of Buffalo - around 950 - 1400 dependi
ng on the time of year. We were hoping to see one or two and did when we arrived in the park but were we in for a surprise!!! After stopping for lunch we came to a plain and noticed a couple of cars parked up so we pulled off the road. Then round the corner came 100 - 200 buffalo, adults and calfs. We stood there for nearly an hour watching them go past - some of them just feet from our RV. It had to be the highlight of the trip so far. I've posted quite a few photo's on Flickr.

We stopped for tea and then headed north to Mount Rushmore. Here we have a perfectly good mountain and some 'patriot' came along and ruined it. I find it hard to understand why you would want to do something like that. Why not put up a statue in Washington DC, thats where the majority seem to be. Why go into the middle of nowhere and carve it up in the name of patriotism?!? Answers on a postcard please. It's very impressive although a lot smaller than I expected. The whole 'experience' is based upon America and how great it is. Lots of information about the presidents and 'America the great and beautiful'. The evening lighting ceremony started with a 30 minute presentation which was quite interesting. The national anthem was explained in detail and the ranger than sung a few verses - It's mainly about beating the c**p out of the British during the war of independence. They then followed this with a video about the four presidents carved into the rock after which everyone stood and sang the national anthem....'Oh say can you see.....!!!!!' Very patriotic and to be honest I enjoyed it - it's nice to have a sense of pride in your own country and not be afraid to stand up and say I'm an American. Finally the lights were switched on, the flag was bought down and we all left. (note: just realised I loaded the Mt. Rushmore photos onto my laptop and then deleted them...:-( I've grabbed a few off Flickr so not all is lost). All in all a fantastic day.

Today we're off to Ellsworth Air Force Base (home of the 29th Bomb Wing) to visit the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. It's a small detour and I'm sure Abi won't mind looking at planes for an hour or two. Interesting fact is that South Dakota (and some of the neighbouring states) are home to a considerable number of ballistic missiles. You can even visit a decommissioned minuteman missile silo. From there we head north west to Crow Agency, Montana to spend a couple of nights at Little Big Horn. We're staying at the 7th Ranch and RV Park right in the middle of the park. Looking forward to touring the battlefield and seeing Montana (another State!!!! YAY!!!).

More reports tomorrow :-) Take Care

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