As many of you may already know, I traveled to South Dakota last week to fulfill a long-time wish on my “Bucket List.” I have always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, ever since I was a youngster growing up in Los Angeles. As I grew up, graduated from High School, served in the Air Force, got married, raised some fantastic daughters, watched them grow, and their kids have kids, and their kids have kids, I kept putting it off. Now, after multiple surgeries, and my mentioning to various family members that I still wanted to go there, my ex-wife, Cathy Bittinger, called a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I still wanted to go to Mt. Rushmore. Of course I replied “yeah, but I really don’t have the time right now.” Now, Cathy is the kind of gal who does not always take “No” for an answer. She politely told me to make room that we were going, “that if you don’t do it now, you may never get there.” So within 24 hours I had made room.
We arrived in Rapid City, S. Dakota, on Thursday morning. The Alamo rental SUV was ready for us, and we were on our way to Custer State Park. Our first stop, of course, was Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. It is definitely majestic and, oh, so very powerful. We got there at just the right time, as the sun was highlighting the faces of four of our great presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln. And, there was no mass of people to slow the traffic. We found a great parking spot (handicapped) on the top of the parking garage, and casually walked to the viewing sight. There was a short film about the original idea for the sculpture by Gutzon Borglum, and after his death by his son, Lincoln who completed the iconic legacy. The history of this giant sculpture starts in 1927, when a single man accepted the task, Gutzon. He labored for a couple of years, with only one assistant, but soon Federal money began arriving, and he eventually had more than 400 people working with dynamite to blast away the special granite. The total cost, when actually completed in 1941 (right after his death), was a few dollars short of $1,000,000.00. If done today, the cost has been set at a wee bit more than $14,000,000.00 (2009). Of course today it would actually cost more than even that with the environmental tests, concerns, attorneys, etc. Thank God it was done when it was.
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After leaving the Park, we headed for Iron Mountain Road, and a second loop, that also included a series of one-way tunnels, a very interesting, twisting well-paved two-lane road, which features spectacular Black Hills scenery, including some fantastic granite spears that look like they are reaching for the Sun. This is where you can see the famous Needles Eye.
This is also where we encountered a very close BFF (pictured), heading casually down the center of the road towards our SUV. Our first thought was, “Ok, is he going to go around us or over us?” He decided to stop for a second and looked us over, then the giant Buffalo ambled to the driver’s side of the car, looked me square in the eye, sorta winked (I’m guessing of course), and said to himself, we were O.K., and ambled down the road following the double yellow line. A few more miles down the road we found our new BFF friends, a herd of about 100 more great Buffalo. That was a beautiful, and a personal great moment, for Cathy and me, and was definitely a highlight of the entire four days.
We arrived in the town of Custer and checked into our hotel for the next two nights. Right across the highway from our window stood “Flintstone Park,” which was closed, since it is really a kid’s park during the summer months. I mention this only as it looked quite out of place. Our next full day would take us south to Wildlife Loop, an 18-mile loop where we saw majestic granite mountains, millions of trees, a group of cute little Prairie Dogs, a beautiful Pronghorn, more commonly referred to as Antelope (See photo), who crossed the highway in front of us, a small group of white-tailed deer, some little tiny squirrels at play on a pile of rocks, and some other outstanding sights. We had been advised that we should take a short trip south to Hot Springs, and visit the Mammoth site and museum, which we did. And it was well worth the extra time and miles.
Our third and fourth day was spent traveling north to the Crazy Horse Monument sight, and the towns of Deadwood, over the Spearfish Canyon byway. We made a stop in Hill City (very artistic town) and the town of Lead, finally arriving in Spearfish, where we stayed in a quaint lodge (named the Spearfish Canyon Lodge), which was the gateway to a beautiful waterfall. While there, we must have witnessed at least three weddings at various special locations near the fall. I will write more on our last two days next week.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Three past winners of the annual Smith’s 350 are entered in this Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Las Vegas’ Brendan Gaughan, winner in 2003, will be joined by former winners, Johnny Sauter (2009), and Ron Hornaday Jr. (2011) on NASCAR’s tentative entry list. Also on the entry list is NASCAR’s newest winner, Ryan Blaney, of High Point, N.C., who scored his first major series victory last Saturday in the Nationwide Series at Kentucky Speedway. Saturday’s Smith’s 350 will be an international affair, with drivers from Mexico (German Quiroga), and Brazil (Miguel Paludo), joining 28 racers from the United States. Qualifying is scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, with the Smith’s 350 starting at 5:30 p.m. Many of the drivers entered in the event also will participate in a free autograph session Friday evening (7-8 p.m.) at the South Point Hotel & Casino.
Returning to Las Vegas for a record-smashing 54th consecutive year, internationally renowned comedian, actor and entertainer, Don Rickles, will return to The Orleans Showroom September 28 and 29. Teaming up with Rickles will be well-known singer and actor, Robert Davi, who will open both evenings with a selection of songs by the legendary Frank Sinatra. Having earned the nicknames “The Merchant of Venom” and “Mr. Warmth,” (the latter coined affectionately by Johnny Carson), Rickles’ style of comedy is never mean-spirited and all part of his act. It has been said that being “zinged” by Rickles is like “wearing a badge of honor.”
Rickles took his first step toward national fame in 1957, when he spotted Frank Sinatra in the audience at a nightclub in Miami Beach. The still-unknown Rickles eyed Sinatra and said, “I just saw your movie, ‘The Pride and the Passion,’ and I want to tell you, the cannon was great. Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody.” Sinatra, whose pet name for Rickles was “bullet-head,” enjoyed Rickles so much that he returned to see him when he was performing in Los Angeles, and encouraged other celebrities to see his act. Rickles soon became the “in” comic among Hollywood stars, who flocked to see him to become a target of his insults. Davi – a recognizable and applauded entertainer has appeared in more than 100 film and television roles. Robert was handpicked by Sinatra to play Mickey Sinardos in the 1977 NBC television drama “Contract on Cherry Street.” Davi recorded the album “Davi Sings Sinatra, On the Road to Romance.” About “Davi Sings Sinatra” Quincy Jones said, “He (Davi) absolutely touched me down to my soul and brought back the essence and soul of ‘Ol Blue Eyes himself.” And USA Today raved, “Listening to it, you just know Sinatra would have smiled, given Davi a light tap on the cheek, and said, ‘Nice job, kid’.” Showtime each evening is 8 p.m. Tickets are available starting from $79.95, plus tax and convenience fees, and can be purchased at any Boyd Gaming Box Office, by calling 702.365.7075, or visiting www.orleanscasino.com.
Brazilian performer, recording artist and jazz sensation, Patty Ascher, will debut in Las Vegas at Sun City Summerlin’ s Starbright Theatre for one performance only, this Saturday, September 28th at 7 p.m. The show,“PATTY ASCHER and Friends!” will include Las Vegas’ Enrique Lugo, and his dance group, plus a three-piece band directed by Michael Tramontana. There will also very possibly be a surprise guest star or two, who will join Patty on stage. In the 90-minute show, Ascher will perform bossa nova, jazz and samba song styles. She will also sing selections from her best-selling CD, “Bossa, Jazz ‘n’ Samba.” Ascher has performed in New York at the Loews Regency Hotel’s Feinstein’s Supper Club, and the famed Blue Note Jazz Club. She also has toured nationally with the awarding-winning composer, director and arranger, Michel Legrand, and performed at Washington, D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Patty hails from Sao Paolo, Brazil, where she studied with bossa nova pioneer Roberto Menescal, who invited her to record her first CD. Enrique Lugo is a principle dancer and choreographer for the world-famous Spanish-American actress, comedienne and flamenco guitarist, Charo. Presenting the show to the Las Vegas audience for the first time is Mistinguett Productions. Tickets are $15 & $18. The Starbright Theater is located at 2215 Thomas Ryan Blvd., Las Vegas NV 89134.
Well, gang, that’s about it for this week.