After a quick lunch, we set out for the carved granite hills. Proudly, we presented our Annual Park Pass to the Parking Lot attendant, who shook his head and stated, “I’m sorry. We do not accept that here. This is a private concessionaire-operated garage. Parking is $10. It is free to see the Monument.” I balked. We asked if there was a military discount. Nope. Begrudgingly, we paid our ten dollars and verbally abused the universe of concessionaires on federal lands. I pulled out the accompanying brochures that came with our pass. There, on the third page of the second brochure, it stated, “This pass is not valid for state parks or Mt. Rushmore.” I just shake my head, spout a few chose words, and join my husband as we head to the visitor’s center.
Now, from those who have seen this monument, I have heard it is really small in person. And you know: they are correct. The layout of the viewing platforms, the museums, locations of key views of each member’s face is mapped well. We visited the museum and learned about the sculptor and his family, the original design (it was supposed to include their jacket collars and upward facing hands), how sculptures “commuted” to work each day, and the unique tools they used to carve such realistic eyes and glances of each face.
We later learned that we should have stayed a few more hours for the lighting ceremony. Each evening, the park invites all veterans and active duty members to fold the flag and participate in a moving, patriotic ceremony. Bummer. Brad and I are still undecided whether or not we want to pay $10 to participate should we be there again.