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Dakota Royale

Crazy HorseSo you want to go gambling in the Dakotas? Easy … nip along to your local gas station.

It’s odd but true, but almost every single gas station that we’ve stopped at in South and North Dakota has had a little dark dingy room attached to the side of it. ‘Gambling Room’, ‘Lottery Room’, or just ‘Casino’ which is what it really is. ‘Only open between 7am and 2am’ said one cheerful sign, as if having 5 hours of downtown on slot machines at a 24 hour gas station was going to make any difference.

Slots are big business here … huuuuge hoardings by the side of the road advertise hotels and motels to stay in with the banner headline reading “Best slots in town!”. Upon which some young cheeky chap had climbed up and stuck something on the bridge of the ‘o’ so that at a distance it read “Best sluts in town!”.

We headed on up US Highway 85 today, when we got out first real stark warning that gas station were going to be few and far between. We leaned towards “Destroyer” tactics – Ships in the US Navy back in World War II would fill up even when they didn’t really need to, so that they could be ready for action at anytime. So even when the gas needle was just over halfway today and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have filled up, we stopped to get gas. This IS the Dakotas …

… talking of which, in the great Geoff car break-in of Greensboro 2009 in which I lost my iTunes and iPod, the Stereophonics ‘Dakota’ was one of the songs to go missing that I haven’t got back yet. My new replacement iPod teased me and reminded me of this fact by throwing up two OTHER Stereophonics songs at random within the space of an hour as we zoomed up the 85.

At one point, I got so engrossed in the scenery on the horizon – mainly consisting of, er, well … nothing really, that I failed to see a group of pheasants bravely wandering out in the road in front. “Pheasant!” yelled Nik – too late. “Badddump!”, went the car, knowing that some local yokel farmer would no doubt come along in his car in about 20 minutes time and think “Mmm … dinner”, scooping up the roadkill.

And all this was off the back of our non-enjoyment of the monument to ‘rival’ Mount Rushmore thus morning as we left the Black Hills. The photo you see here of the Crazy Horse monument, was NOT taken by me – not when the entrance fee to get in was at $10 per person.

Going to Mount Rushmore, something that is quite patriotic (err, even though I’m not American) is quite a thrill to see. It means something to see four of this countries most famous presidents carved up their the mountains, at a time when the technology behind doing something like that was somewhat in its early stages of life.

Roll forward a few decades, and you’ve got the Crazy Horse monument. It’s still under construction, it will be more many more years yet, and it’s going to be about twenty times the size of Washington & Co.

And they wanted to charge us ten dollars – each – to get in and see it. How can I put this politely? … fuck ’em.

When we paid ten bucks for Rushmore, you know that the money is going to the National Park services – it’s paying the salaries of the Park Rangers the whole country over. Here? I just feel it’s less deserving, and there’s no way I’m going to pay MORE money to get into see something that it still under construction. And is it just me that think this, or is there a little but of churlishness going on here. “I know” thought Korczak Ziółkowski, the man behind it all. “I’ll see if I can OUT DO Mount Rushmore by building something even bigger just a few miles down the road”.

And so it was, that as we pulled into ‘Indian Reservation’ drive, and there was no advance warning of how much it was going to be, a grumpy old woman looked at us and said “Two of you? Twenty dollars”, practically demanding the money from us. “Er, yeah, that’s if we’re coming in … which we’re not”, because we’d decided about 30 seconds prior that we weren’t prepared to pay more than five dollars each.

We got scowled at, told to take the next left and turn around, and instead we went to the nearest internet cafe to go google for images of it instead.

5 responses to “Dakota Royale”

  1. Pat (aka "cheappd") says:

    Last time we were in the Black Hills, I also pulled up to the Crazy Horse monument not knowing the admission cost. When they told me how much ($19 for a family of 4 in 2002), I did exactly what you did – made a U-turn and left. I think the guy taking the money scowled too.

    It used to be free to enter Mount Rushmore back in the ’80s. It got so busy and parking became a problem that they had to build the parking garage that’s there now. Not a lot of flat land there to build a standard parking lot. The parking fee is to pay back the cost of the garage.

  2. Brent says:

    My family took a western road trip in 1990 when I was 10. We stopped at the Crazy Horse monument site and my parents paid the entry fee (may have been much different back then). Back then there was no face on the monument and the hole that will be the gap between Crazy Horse’s arm and the horse’s neck was barely there.

    My mom had gone to the monument on a trip when she was a kid back in the 1960’s. Aside from the face, it really hasn’t changed all that much in the over 60 yrs of work on it.

  3. Andrew says:

    Hands up who just put Dakota on?

  4. geofftech says:

    It’s now $27 for a car-full of people at Crazy Horse… and yup, i think i used to know that Rushmore used to be free, and i can totally understand the entrance charge to pay for that parking lot in a town where there isn’t a lot of space to build one!

    Crazy Horse however is much further out of town from Keystone, in a huge massive expanse of land, and they’re clearly just trying to cash in. Shame on them.

    And thanks to Steven for sending me ‘Dakota’ on .mp3! (he then swiftly followed it up by sending me a song called ‘Montana’ to help me through where i am today…)

  5. Brent says:

    If you do a little digging, you’ll come to find out that the Crazy Horse people aren’t really just trying to cash in. I believe the story goes something like this: the guy that started crazy horse, while he may have wanted to show up the Rushmore people, wanted to do it all on his own. Rushmore started as a family charge, but they then took in federal funds and it all of a sudden became property of the government. The gov’t promised the family that after the guy (Borglum) died, they would continue the work to finish his grand design, which was that the 4 presidents be depicted from their head to their waist. We can all see that it is only their heads that show to this date (and some of them barely that much is finished – Lincoln has no ear on his left).

    So the Crazy Horse people saw what happened at Rushmore, and when they too were propositioned by the gov’t to take over and fund the project, they turned the gov’t down because they didn’t want their vision to end up wasted. The money that they take in at the gate and the souvenirs that they sell are what continue to fund the work on the monument. Without people paying those charges, the work would cease and the vision would die. That is probably why the lady at the gate gave you a glazed look, because she knows the behind the scenes story.

    I’m not faulting you for not paying, b/c that’s a hefty amount. I’m just trying to put straight the idea that they are “cashing in,” because surely they are not.

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