Mount Rushmore Mileage: 1,1 82. 62 Miles Altitude: 4,340 ft.

Bad Lands 100-105 degrees. Beautiful mounds of pink, yellow and beige silt for as far as the eye can see. Even a short walk proved enervating to say the least. I hiked down between some of the wedges, just to stand in the brief ledges of shade. Quiet and humbling. Molly’s awe and joy in her first experience with this kind of landscape made my day. May I walk in beauty each and every day.

Then, we wandered up to Wall Drug, the opposite of the Badlands, but wonderful in its bad way and kitsch. While the corn palace under whelmed us, Wall Drug surpassed our expectations—just like million miles of billboard signs announcing its impending arrival. Rooms of cheesy souvenirs greeted us: plastic cap guns, gemstones, baby clothes, plastic dinosaurs, as well as restaurants, tourism information, galleries of art, a bookstore, donut factory, ice cream store, and an actual pharmacy. In one hallway a giant tyrannosaurus rex raises up on its hind legs every 20 minutes “to feed” and give the small children a thrill. Outside a water garden revives kids and give parents a break; there was even a giant piano playing gorilla, and more stores. However the best room, between two packed stores–empty of the hustle and bustle, is a narrow chapel. Only one person sat in the pews, an atheist singing, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Clean, cool, brightly paneled with a simple stain glass window above the altar, the chapel houses good acoustics and peace. Three cleansing breaths for an infidel-visitor who appreciates irony and mythology.

We sped south from Rapid City to find a campsite just past Rushmore. George Washington’s profile rising up out of the mountains, complicated our ability to pay attention to the road. “The heads! The heads!” Molly exclaimed trying to keep one eye on the road and another on the four faces. Smiles were exchanged. This morning we head up to the site—pun intended.

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