Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 26: The Land Before Time

From the riders: The day began interestingly with Shane and Jason confessing to Sanford their desire to read Twilight, however lacking security in their masculinity, the pair decided against it. Shane settled to watching Lizzie Maguire reruns and Jason proceeded to consume 8 cans of Muscle Milk in attempt to compensate for even considering the idea.

And now on to the story…

Biking across America, you learn many valuable life lessons. One of which is how to maximize your dollar at tourist locations. After wasting more than enough of our cash in the carnival town that is Moab, Utah, we approached Mt. Rushmore with a new sense of direction. There was no need to pay $20 for a tour of the caves, the idea of a $50 helicopter ride sounded pointless, and it seemed unheard of to pay $30 to go to a reptile farm.

With a prudent nature imparted on us by Claire and Jason’s heritage, we left our regal hotel for another attempt at understanding the limestone faces and surrounding worshipers. With Jason’s Lincoln-esque facial hair leading us in discussion, we argued in true Stanford fashion the topics of the call to serve, citizenship, and the meaning of the stone faces. Agreeing only to disagree, our group finally pushed away from this national memorial and drove to one of another kind. Just 10 miles away from Mt. Rushmore is the Crazy Horse National Memorial and Native American National Museum. Not funded by federal money, it is truly a wonder that the monument is still under construction. The carving in the limestone of the black hills will depict Sioux chief Crazy Horse riding a, presumably crazy, horse. More interesting than Crazy Horse, however, is the next door statue called “Crazy Train.” Although ground has yet to be broken on this monolith, this next work will feature Ozzy Osborne, a real American icon. Though it is still unfinished, the “fifth face” made us rethink what it means to be American, and in following again with Jason and Claire’s heritage we chose to sit outside the park and study the work instead of paying $80 to enter.

Heading on a windy route back to North Platte, we tried to maximize our time and see as many of the sights in South Dakota as we could—despite the size of the state, this would prove fairly simple given there are only three attractions in the (cleverly named, might I add) “Mt. Rushmore State.” After our traditional Sonic lunch, we drove through Badlands National Park against Jason’s criticism. “Look, a mountain is a mountain, hills are hills, and Badlands will look exactly like Utah except it will be green instead of red.” To his dismay. however, the stone castles scattered throughout this national park were worth the drive and looked nothing like the canyons of Utah because they were green.

As children of the 90’s, this “Great Valley” reminded us of the hit animated film Land Before Time and we peered around each curve in the road with a childlike fervor only rivaled by Claire’s daily tantrums. Stopping to explore, the timid, somewhat cowardly pterodactyl Petri (named Jason in our saga) was coerced by the rough and tough triceratops Cerra (Sanford) to run across the salt flats and heard cows. With Moos louder than the roar of a T-Rex, the two frolicked through the fields as Ducky (Shane), Spike (Zane), Kirsten (to old to have a animated character name), and Little Foot (ha ha, think about the irony of Claire being named Little Foot) walked along the flats to find rocks.

Reconvening back at the car, the team traveled back into reality and began working their way back through the park. Apparently, though, the angered cows had texted some of their friends and set up a “Cattle against Jason and Shane” facebook group. However the means, word spread about the dynamic duo and after a couple miles of driving the car came to a sudden halt as it was surrounded by a heard of more than a hundred cattle. Transforming out of his Mexican state by removing the power of Zane’s cowboy hat, Shane referred back to his Hindu tradition to pray to the cows for forgiveness. With the power of the Ramayana, Shane managed to convince the cows to let the poor riders free, and they slowly marched away, leavening only hundreds of flies and a terrible stench behind them.

Determined to see a wild bison, the team ventured into the neighboring Buffalo National Park for Land Before Time IV (does anyone know why they used roman numerals in this movie? We had no all had no idea what they meant as kids). In the park, Kirsten, in true Eliza Thornberry Fashion, asked some of the local Prarie Dogs if they knew Timone from Lion King, while Zane, Sanford, and Claire all watched as Jason and Shane got in touch with their Old West Roots. In true Buffalo Bill fashion, the two got within 15 feet of the enormous Bison at the park, before the animals decided that enough was enough. Divorce and a debt ridden life flashed by Jason’s eyes as he realized that the stomping foot of the Bison could mean the end of his road. Managing to escape with only their lives, the two jumped back into the getaway vehicle and headed out of the Taft-financed national park.

In conversations with the always insightful Mr. Fisher, father to the much lesser insightful Claire Fisher, we were told to visit Wall, South Dakota on our way home. Wall is known as the “Window to the West” and is surrounded by an 80 mile radius of nothingness. In Wall, is the Wall Drug Store, made famous in the early twentieth century by providing free ice water to travelers heading west. This indoor mall/saloon/western Wal-mart provided Shane with an opportunity to acquire his own cowboy hat, gave Zane a chance to get some postcards, Jason a moment to get in touch with his Amish roots, Claire a reason to avoid eating, Kirsten a setting for more pictures, and Sanford with the realization that old is not better than new and Romeo and Juliet not as well written as Twilight.

Departing the historic mall, our exhausted bunch piled into the van one last time for the four hours left in the drive. Mother nature, desperate to teach us one last lesson before we left Dakota, provided us with a demonstration of her power as she thrust a electric lightening show miles ahead of us, a beautiful countryside sunset behind us, and a double rainbow in the rain directly in front of us. The scene was something out of a movie, as we drove on one of the loneliest roads in America through the multitude of conditions.

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