I have these 2 friends. Their names are Jenae and Audrey. I met them when I moved into my apartment complex. Jenae was my roommate and Audrey was our unofficial roommate (she was basically there 24/7). We became really close friends. And then Jenae moved back home to upstate New York, and Audrey moved back home to Eastern Utah to prepare for her mission, and I missed them a whole lot. I got this crazy idea that I wanted to drive to Mount Rushmore over Labor Day weekend. I had the day off work, so it would be a long weekend. And it just so happens that one of my co-workers from Shenandoah National Park - cute, little, old, Louise - was working at Mt. Rushmore this season. It also happened that Rick and Tut, other co-workers from Shenandoah, were working near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was the perfect set-up! So Jenae, Audrey and I had a 3-way phone call and we made a plan. Jenae would fly out to Utah and we were going on a roadtrip! And conveniently, Jenae has an aunt that lives in Jackson Hole,
so we had a free place to stay. Couldn't have been more perfect!
So we left early in the morning, hoping that we could drive all the way from Utah to South Dakota and get to Mt. Rushmore before sunset. I have a goal in life to see all 50 states, even if it is just driving through. I hadn't been to Nebraska, so I figured while we were already so close, it would be really easy to take a detour through the corner and then head straight North to Mt. Rushmore. It would only add an hour to our drive. We didn't quite leave when we were planning because we had to stop at Walmart and get some groceries and wait for a bank to open so Audrey could get some money. So we headed out a little late, but made up some time while driving. We just ate sandwiches for lunch in the car and only had to stop a couple times for gas/potty breaks. We made it all the way across Wyoming and into Nebraska and then into South Dakota
We got to Mt. Rushmore at around 7:30 pm, which was pretty good. They have a lighting ceremony at 8:30 that we didn't want to miss. We got there while it was still pretty light outside, so we parked the car (entrance is free, but parking is like $11... in case you were wondering/planning a trip there in the future) and walked through the entrance, which is lined with all the state flags. I was really excited to see the monument! I love traveling and doing all the touristy stuff, and I love history, so I knew this would be really cool. We finally got to the opening and..... it was smaller than I was expecting.... But still so neat! So we found a seat in the amphitheater and waited for the ceremony to start. Once the sun set, they showed a video about the presidents of Mt. Rushmore and a little bit about how it was built. As the video is playing the lights on the monument slowly light up, so when it was over, the lights were on all the way and it was awesome to see. Then they called down all the people who are serving/have served in the military and had every single one of them say their name and what military branch they served in. I was teary-eyed by the end of it. I get really emotional about stuff like that, and I'm so grateful for those that serve our country! To end the night, we stopped in the gift shop to see when Louise would be working. I couldn't go all the way there and not see her! Luckily they told us she would be there the next morning. So we went back down the hills and into a cute little town called Keystone, South Dakota. It's got a bunch of hotels and restaurants and shops.... a cute tourist town. We were planning on getting campsites along the way and just setting up a tent, but we found a hotel room in Keystone for a good price so we just stayed there.
The next morning we got up and went back to the gift shop to see Louise. I told her I would be coming on Labor Day weekend, but we didn't really make a plan to coordinate or anything. So when I showed up in the gift shop, she was so surprised! It was so fun seeing her! I miss her sweet little self. We talked for about 20 minutes and caught each other up about our lives. She introduced us to a guy in the store named Nick. Nick actually worked on building Mt. Rushmore! He was super old, but it was so cool to hear his stories. He wrote a book about his experience, so I bought one, and he signed it for me! He was precious :)
We then had to say goodbye to Louise and head out. We had a long drive ahead of us. Instead of stopping halfway between Mt. Rushmore and Jackson Hole like we originally planned, we decided that we just wanted to drive all the way there instead and get it over with. I can't decide if it was a good or bad idea.
It was a LooOOONNG drive (longer than any I've ever done before, and that's saying something, cause I've had many long days of driving).
*Just decided that I'm going to post all of this in a separate entry -- stay tuned!