As I was planning out my trip, I was excited to learn that the Crazy Horse Memorial was very close to Mount Rushmore (to which I'd assigned "MUST SEE" status). I'd seen bits and pieces on this from time on Discovery and the Travel Channel, and I was psyched that I was going to get to see it first hand. It's a work in progress and, when it's done, will be the largest sculpture in the world.
I left Devils Tower and made my way east into South Dakota:
|My first time ever in South Dakota...|
I was getting a bit hungry, so I decided to pull over in Sturgis, South Dakota for some lunch. I opted for The Knuckle Saloon:
|I've never watched the show, but I'd guess they had a fun time shooting here...|
|The door (well, one of them) into the Knuckle Saloon...|
|It's true: They all do...|
|Some of the decor of the Knuckle Saloon...|
|Whassat?? Me? With a cup of coffee?? Believe it...|
I'd ordered a burger with Swiss cheese and bacon, and it was pretty damn good for eight bucks. I didn't want to stay too long in Sturgis, as I still had things on the agenda. I enjoyed lunch, paid the check, and then made a quick pit stop:
|I sure hope my brother wears a "large"...|
My plan was, initially, to spend the night in Rapid City, South Dakota. It's not far from Mount Rushmore, so I figured it would be a good place to set in for the night. I had no reservations, and that was fine. I decided I'd find a place to stay after visiting Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore.
The Crazy Horse Memorial was a bit further from Rapid City than Mount Rushmore, so I decided to hit that first, and work my way back. It was a wonderful drive through some great countryside but, unfortunately, road construction took a little bit of fun out of the drive. When I saw the sign for Crazy Horse, though, I was pumped. This was going to be cool. This was going to be epic.
This was going to be the mother of all disappointments.
Now, I really try to stay positive when I write this blog, but I'm finding that to be quite a challenge when talking about Crazy Horse. Permit me to explain.
The cost for parking and entry into the Visitor Center was $10.00. That, to me, was perfectly acceptable. Parking was easy and, despite the crowds, I found a spot close to the Visitor's Center. Once inside, I was invited to watch a short film about the memorial, and about Korczak Ziolkowski, the designer and original sculptor.
Ziolkowski was petitioned by Standing Bear, a Lakota Chief, to do the project after seeing Ziolkowski's work at Mount Rushmore, some 17 miles away. Ziolkowski agreed, and the project began.
What the project has never seen is a single dime of federal funding. Revenue raised through admission fees and gift shop sales help pay for the project, as well as private donations. This is laudable, I suppose, as Ziolkowski always feared that federal involvement would actually result in the project being shelved. His descendants, who now run the project, agree.
I spotted an information booth, and wanted to ask about going onto the memorial itself. I knew it was done, for two reasons: First, I've seen photos taken from what will, one day, be the arm of Crazy Horse when the memorial is finished. The second reason I knew it was allowed is because I could see people up there.
When I inquired as to the cost to go up, I was stunned, shocked and, yeah, maybe a little disgusted by the reply:
The guy then had the audacity to follow that up with "Yes, but $125.00 of that is tax deductible."
I quickly reminded him that $135.00 of that was "wallet deductible", and far too spendy for my blood. I thought about it: If a family of four wanted to enter the memorial grounds and ascend to the arm, it would cost $540.00.
That's just ridiculous. I get that they don't want to accept federal funding. I think it's a stupid reason not to, simply because I think there would be too big a spotlight on the whole affair to not finish it, but I dig that they want to do it all privately.
But $135.00? I literally could've taken a helicopter tour for less.
So, as I came to grips with the fact that I wouldn't be going to the arm of the memorial, I decided I would walk to the base of the memorial for a different aspect for my photos. I started walking down this dirt road when I was stopped by an older woman who was obviously a memorial volunteer.
She informed me that walking to the base of the memorial was not allowed. If I wanted to go, I'd have to ride in one of their vans, and that would be four dollars, thankyouverymuch.
I was dumbfounded.
It wasn't the fact that it was four dollars for a quarter of a mile trip. What irked me was that I didn't have a choice in the matter. I could see the base of the mountain from where I was standing. I could get there on my own. But, if I wanted to go, I'd have to reach for my wallet. No option.
Well, there was one option. I turned my very comfortable Merrell hiking shoes towards the door, and left.
Ordinarily, I would post a bunch of photos, but I got spare few here, simply because I didn't feel like taking a bunch of photos of the exact same thing from the exact same angle. That said, here are a few:
|The Crazy Horse Memorial... Some 65 years after it was started...|
|A scale model of the memorial in the foreground...|
As I said, I was pretty put off by the astronomical price to go to the top of the memorial. As I thought about it, I remembered some of the reservations I'd driven through on this trip. Crazy Horse was Lakota, yet you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find too many Lakota who have the means to pay for a family visit to the top of the memorial. It seems wildly ironic to me. Furthermore, Native American critics believe that Crazy Horse would be appalled at his likeness being carved into a mountain in the hills that he and his people held sacred.
With regards to the admission, my belief is that they could lower it to $50.00 (which I probably would've paid), and they'd get more than three times the amount of people going up, thereby making more money for the project (which probably won't be completed in my daughter's lifetime).
But it is what it is and, for that reason, it's really very difficult for me to recommend a visit here. Considering that I came here with such high expectations, that's a shame...