Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stage 1 Complete

So, Mount Rushmore is a bit of a con. If you were clued in, you’d stop for sure in one of the wee lay-by/passing places on the way up the road and snap a photo from there, because if you go on up the hill further, you get filtered into a u-bend which reveals (a) no way back to the road and (b) a sign saying that the monument is free, but parking is $11. I’d have turned round there, except see point (a). Nothing for it but to get your parking ticket, which if you can believe it is valid for your vehicle for a year. Well that’s useful. I could go back every day if I wanted. But why would you, even if you were staying ne

ar by? There’s only a mountain to photograph and a kind of museum about how it was made, when you’ve seen it once, that should be enough.

Ah well, tourist photo op number-I-don’t-know-how-many accounted for. Maybe I was just too tired to appreciate it. Having spent 4 nights sleeping fitfully in the car by then, waking up about 6am, and having actually hit the road at 5.30 am that morning and driving for about 12 hours to get to Rushmore, I was a bit run down, I’ll be honest. I then spent that night in a truck stop an hour or two further up the road, and then did the same thing the next day – up before 6am, on the road, drive until about 7pm, slept in a Rest Stop area, up again at 5.30 and drove til about 6pm. All to get across the Dakota plains (which were actually very scenic, just never ending) and into Chicago by Saturday.

It almost worked, too, except I’d forgotten to book ahead for accommodation on a Saturday night, so I was left looking for camp sites that the internet swore were there, but when I arrived they weren’t. Except the first one which was full. So once again, sleeping in the car in a suburban street hoping not to get a ticket! Which I didn’t, and I was up early again and in to Chicago for Sunday morning, and a day of walking about, taking photos and enjoying the sunshine

in the Windy City.

Chicago seemed really nice, actually, and its

somewhere I’d go back to for a

better look, given the chance. The CBD buildings are all skyscrapers but still pretty cool architecture, and there is a good park setup by the lake and heaps of places I could have gone to if I’d had more time. As it was, I just walked about enjoying the Taste of Chicago food fair that was on, and revelling in not being stuck in the car for another 12 hours!

I had my first night’s sleep in a bed in a week on Sunday night, but still had to get up early to get back to Waterloo – only 8 hours driving according to Google Maps, but there was a customs stop too, which could add who knew how much extra time. As it turned out it was pretty quick process – just queuing time in the car really, but I got so focused on being in the correct lane that I missed the turning to the duty free area and therefore my chance to buy cheap single malt for my friends. The customs officer seemed quite smug when I said I had nothing to declare, but was hoping to get some duty free on the way out. She pointed out with a satisfied smirk that I had missed my chance. Worse than parking wardens, I tell you.

Anyway, back to Waterloo successfully, and it was good to catch up with Smitch, who is to be my travel buddy for July when I go out east. I now have until Sunday (its Tuesday to day) to go over plans, rest up and get my back attended to some more. It’s behaving itself but I don’t want to ignore the fact that I have been sitting down far too much lately. Oh, and the distance-ometer so far is 12000km or there abouts, which leaves me with about 3,900 free km on my rental agreement. Which won't be enough, I can tell you now!

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