Road trips can be unpredictable. We had to get from the West Coast to the East Coast and we didn’t have a lot of time to spend along the way. We had mapped out our route and planned on a couple of stops. But this was essentially a straight shot cross country with a two night stop in St. Louis to catch our breath.
It started out as planned. We made a couple of stops that were essentially going to be bathroom breaks. First a quick visit to Old Faithful. Yes, Yellowstone park was an extended bathroom break. We were just there for one spout of the geyser and then back on the road to Cody Wyoming. The next day we worked our way over to Rapid City, South Dakota where we had planned to make a similarly quick stop at Mt. Rushmore.
We picked up a Jr. Ranger handbook at the rangers station and the kids set off in search of the the clues to complete the tasks outlined in the book. They spent hours in the museum and walking along the pathways under the faces. They loved every second of their search. It cooled down pretty quickly as it began to get dark. Fortunately we were ready for that. We bundled up and continued exploring the park. Not long after sunset there was a flag ceremony in the main amphitheater to retire the colors.
For several hours it had seemed like it was just us and a dozen or so other people at the park but all of a sudden the seating area was packed with what must have been over 1000 people. I’m not sure where they had all come from but apparently the park is more spread out than I had thought. We sat there and watched as members of the military that were visiting that day walked onto the stage and a troop of Boy Scouts from Minnesota filed in to provide the manpower for the actual lowering and folding of the flag for the evening. A slide show played above the stage and the lights on the faces came began to glow.
As the flag was lowered the entire audience joined together in singing the national anthem. There were people there from all over the country and possibly even the world. We had never met. We had never sung together. But on this evening it was one of the most beautiful choruses I had ever heard. I could feel tears start to well up and I almost wasn’t able to sing the whole song because it was so moving.
Later that fall, when my kids, who were 11 and 13 at the time, would tell people about their summer they would talk about their favorite day at Mt. Rushmore. There were no roller coasters, there were no video games, and this was their favorite stop on the trip.
Sometimes we have to remember that one of the best gifts we can give to our kids is the time for us to be together in a place where their imaginations can run wild.
For more information on Mt. Rushmore visit the National Park Service Page.