Rushmore is Perfect

Travels with Smartacus. Part 3

We’re in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I’m no longer sure of anything. For instance, why am I in Sioux Falls? No Sioux. No falls — at least as far as I can tell. Even the Dakotas themselves are unimpressive.

As I’ve always said: Do we really need two Dakotas? Wouldn’t one great Dakota be the better choice?

(In fairness, I feel the same way about the Carolinas.)

My son and I came to Sioux Falls by way of Salt Lake, then Jackson Hole, then Fort Collins, zigging and zagging across the northern plains, chasing a perfect plate of hash browns.

We stopped by Mt. Rushmore for a peek. Gotta say, Jefferson’s nose looks a little big. Was he Italian? Greek? Otherwise, Rushmore is perfect. I don’t think they should mess with it.

There is a spot, off to the right, where they could add another great American – say, one of the Jonas Brothers, or Kanye West, or Oprah. I no longer know what constitutes greatness anymore. Maybe they could run one of those polls on social media, where reason and good taste always triumph.

In any case, we are at Mt. Rushmore, and it’s a magnificent sight, fully worth the trouble if you ever get the chance. Were I an emotional man, with a heart and such, I would get tingles.

As you look at Rushmore, you find yourself wondering how the revisionists would attack it, which diminishes the experience somewhat. It won’t come down easy, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s not made of mashed potatoes.

It’s also probably booby-trapped. At the very least, it’s going to be hard to get a rope around Jefferson’s oversized schnoz. It would be like trying to lasso Cher.

My prediction is that Mt. Rushmore will survive. But who makes predictions anymore?

I mean, I’m in Sioux Falls, and I never saw that happening. Is it pheasant season yet? Where do I buy a muskrat trap? I’m just the type who could survive these rugged plains, long as my AmEx holds out.

Point is: Road trips are not for wimps, which is really disappointing to me. My back is killing me from this too-thin Honda seat. Every little seam of the interstate, every pebble, comes up through the suspension and into my L5 vertebrae.

As you know, I never complain and try not to cry in front of Smartacus, my son, my navigator, my Sacajawea. Sweet Jesus, my back hurts. We are so close to finding the trail again, the scent of the interstate, which smells like pecan logs and cheap motel coffee.

Happy to report that the corn is healthier than I’ve ever seen it, thick and Irish green, good news for anyone who likes In-N-Out burgers, cheap gas, Dr Pepper and bio-related plastics. Corn shapes our foreign policy and our diets. Like Rushmore, is a symbol of American grit and determination.

Ah, corn … reassuring corn. If you have corn, you have everything.

We roll through Dubuque, masterpiece on the Mississippi, and finally into northern Illinois, an undulant landing spot — my soft green pillow.

I know it’s the Midwest because I almost run over a bunny while out walking. In fact, three bunnies. They emerge from the long grasses in the front yards – you can mow, but two days later it’s too long again. The bunnies are like characters in an E.B. White story, pink eared and dumb with summer.

We all are.

I also think of Cheever when I’m back here. And the cush suburban stories of Updike. Trench coats. Scotch. Good leather shoes. Lust.

There is a spot on Rushmore, off to the right, where they could add another great American – say, one of the Jonas Brothers #ChrisErskineLA #rushmore #roadtrips

Meanwhile, my sister is in the kitchen, explaining that her bottom teeth are like sugar cones.

“You know, kind of twisty and cupped,” she says after visiting her dentist.

Later, all the adults gnaw on porkchops and decide to play Kick the Can, after baseball, the greatest game God gave us.

“Do you have a good can?” someone asks.

“Used to.”

Prepare for war. Prepare for Kick the Can.

Next: So many bratwursts, so little time.

18 thoughts on “Rushmore is Perfect

  1. Love this. Feels like we are right there with you. I think maybe the spot on the right is reserved for the Greatest Humor Writer in Ametica. God knows, we need it right now. Thanks for taking us along for the ride with you and Smartacus!

  2. I love the Sioux Falls/Black Hills area of South Dakota! I have been three times in my life but it never gets old! Beautiful!

  3. Nothing like the open road that goes on and on and on. But it makes we wonder how those long haul truck drivers do it.

  4. Funny how road trips are often more fun and funnier when you are telling about them later !! I had tons of fun reading about yours !!!

  5. What a marvelous trip you and Smartacus are having. You make me long for those evenings when the lightning bugs come out, and the crickets tune up. Catch a lightning bug for me and I will see it in my dreams…

  6. Answer to the 2 Dakota question: After controversy over the location of a capital, the Dakota Territory was split in two and divided into North and South in 1889. Later that year, on November 2, North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted to the Union as the 39th and 40th states.

    The 2 US Senate seats per state continues to be a problem. If you add up the populations of the smallest states, it takes almost 25 to equal California’s 40 million. That is a voting margin of 50 to 2 in the US Senate. And people wonder why nothing gets done.

    Safe travels. We made similar trips to visit relatives in northern MN. Other than Medora, North Dakota is nothing worth visiting in that wilderness either, now with flaring gas fires burning off of fracking wells in the Bakkan Formation.

    Cheers, Rick Eastes

  7. If you get a chance on the way home go back to South Dakota and see the carving of Crazy Horse ! The entire Mt Rushmore including room for Clint Eastwood , would fit on Crazy hires face!
    It’s that big of a carving !
    Enjoy the cheap gas and clean restrooms

  8. Hey Chris, turns out Jefferson was English, probably a little Welsh, but definitely not Italian or Greek. Too bad, he would have been sexier if he was. Have fun and enjoy the smell of fresh mown grass while in the midwest. it’s better back there.

  9. Love hearing about your trip! TIP: Save your back with a.) a rolled up towel at the base of your back b.) a lumbar back cushion you might find at a stop and go (unless you can find a Target). This saved me when I had to drive a lot.

  10. Ahh the midwest. You made it! Did you have Optimistic Voices (Wizard of Oz) on your playlist as you drove in singing “Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place on the face of the Earth…” Enjoy your time here!

  11. Some of the worst back twinges I’ve ever had were on those long cross-country drives….give it some gentle stretching (tips online) and I bet it’ll unkink pretty soon…and there’s always Aleve…

  12. Growing up in Southeast Michigan we loved catching firefly’s as well, but were too selfish to share. My nephews and moi would release them in our darkened bedroom for a terrific light show.

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