As we drove from North Dakota down toward Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, we started encountered many groups of bikers. At first, we didn’t think too much of it other than perhaps people were out having fun. We made a stop at Belle Fourche to rest and discovered that it is the Geo Center of the U.S. How strange was that? I would have thought it would be in Kansas (click the picture on the right to see the explanation clearly.) Maybe all the bikers were visiting the world famous Geo Center of the U.S., I reasoned.
By the time we got to Spearfish, there was no doubt that something was going on: everywhere we went, we saw a sea of bikers, bikes easily outnumbered cars by a ratio of 100 to 1. We had entered the Planet of the Bikers. We decided to take the scenic route (14A, 85 and 385) to Mt Rushmore: to live up to our motto “take the scenic route whenever we can” and perhaps to escape the onslaught of bikers. We soon entered the area known as the Black Hills, the tallest mountain range east of the Rockies. We had been driving most of the day through areas mostly flat; it had been hot (100F) so this was a welcome change as we started to gain elevation. The drive was a pleasant surprise, windy roads among forested mountains, dotted with canyons and gulches. The Black Hills is a sacred place supposed belonging to Lakota Indians but it is still in dispute to this day (see here).
Along the way, we saw groups of bikers everywhere; I was starting to get concerned about where to stay that night. All the motels we passed by had no vacancy sign up. Luckily we were camping and were able to find a campground (Rushmore/Grizzly Creek) within 5 minutes of Mt Rushmore. Actually the campground was almost surprisingly empty. I supposed bikers do not camp much.
It costed 8 dollars to park at Mt Rushmore and our national park pass was no good there;
no wonder a lot of bikers were on the side of the road to view the Mt Rushmore. The parking pass was good for a whole year so we went there three times, that afternoon, that night and the next morning. The best time was in the morning when the sun shined on the sculptures. We took the Presidential Walk (about ¾ miles) to the base of the sculptures to admire them at a close range from a different perspective. The walk had many interpretive panels about Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln portrayed on the mountain. An easy and informative walk should not be missed.
We asked some bikers there about what was going on and discovered that it was the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They said that they expected around 500,000 bikers there. That was amazing. I never knew there were that many bikers. Although bikers have the stigma of being rough and rowdy (and unfortunately couple of bikers were killed at Custer State Park when we were there), we ran into a few soft-spoken and gentle ones there. We took a picture with some bikers who belonged to B.A.C.A. (Bikers against Child Abuse). A few days later we camped with a couple of bikers in Wyoming. They were on their way back to Alberta and Vancouver. That was a long way to ride motorcycles for a rally. They had been to the Sturgis Rally a few times and think it was getting too commercialized now not much of real racing actions so that they wouldn’t go again.
In the past, I thought going to see Mt Rushmore could be a big disappointment because it would be a long drive to see 4 statues carved on a mountaintop that I have seen hundreds of time already. Would it be worth it? Yes, it was. It is one place Kadia still remembers and talks about to this day. The statues were amazing, how could anyone think of doing something that big? What an ambitious project it was! It took Gutzon Borglum, his son Lincoln Borglum and 400 workers 14 years to complete the 60-foot high carving. Actually they ran out of money; they had intended to carve the statues down to waist as depicted in the Sculptor’s studio at the base of the Mt. Rushmore. For outdoor lovers like us, the Black Hills itself, even without Mount Rushmore, was worth visiting. We will plan more time next time we go.