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Mount Rushmore: free to enter but charged to park

We left Deadwood after breakfast and passed through Custer, a small town with fur trading posts and rustic saloons that advertised buffalo and elk steaks.

We were heading for Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore is near to Rapid City, and whilst it is geographically almost in the dead centre of America, it is a long way from anywhere else you’d want to go.

It is free to get into Mount Rushmore and this fact is advertised everywhere, on road signs and in tour brochures.

Dog Days by Andrew ThompsonWhat they fail to tell you, is that you are forced to enter the affiliated car park and that costs $11.

‘It’s a real rort this isn’t it?’ I said to Hailee, the young girl who was manning the car park booth. ‘They say it’s free, but there’s no other option than to pay the parking.’

Hailee giggled and didn’t say anything.

‘It’s really an entrance fee isn’t it?’ I said. ‘Why don’t they just call it that?’

‘I suppose it is,’ she said, and handed me the parking permit. ‘This is valid all year.’

‘Well, that should come in handy,’ I said. ‘We’re here almost every day.’

Our guide book recommended that tourists allow at least two hours to fully appreciate the monument. Whilst it was very good, the carvings of the four ex-presidents’ faces almost perfectly defined, we were there ten minutes. I couldn’t see how anyone could take any longer. We walked up to the viewing point, looked at the mountain, took some photos, and left. There was nothing else to do.

Dog Days by Andrew ThompsonDuring the few minutes that we were there, I overheard a woman who was standing next to me. She was gazing at the faces like they’d been blessed.

‘Oh dear God,’ she said to nobody specific. ‘It’s amazing. Truly amazing.’

I looked at her, but she wouldn’t avert her eyes from the sculpture. She was transfixed with the mountain.

‘It’s almost as if God descended from the Heavens and carved that mountain himself,’ she continued. ‘It is that beautiful.’

As we were leaving, I saw her getting onto a bus in the car park.

‘Rivers Harvest Church’ was painted on the side, and under that were the words ‘Need Jesus? Ask me how. You need Jesus!’

Extracted from Andrew Thompson’s highly entertaining book, ‘Dog Days, tales from an American Road Trip‘.

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