Presidents and Pioneers: The Midwest

Howdy! Last post, we hinted that we would write about California next, but there’s been a little change of plans. We wanted so badly to get you completely caught up with where we are RIGHT NOW, so this time is REAL TIME! In the past two weeks, we’ve been through the Midwest and want to tell everyone what’s going on now:)


Have you ever seen someone’s pictures from a vacation or read a magazine article and thought, “Man, I wish I could see that in person.”? Well, I have for a long time, and now I can finally say that I have been to Mt. Rushmore. It was one of those spots that you imagine being so much grandeur in person than in pictures…let me just say the history behind the project was more fascinating to me than the actual sculpture itself. To make it simple, here’s a couple fascinating facts we learned about Mt. Rushmore National Monument:

  • The carving of the mountain started in 1927 and ended in 1941; a month before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
  • Gutzon Borglum was the man who started the building, but before it was finished, Gutzon died and his son Lincoln finished the task.
  • Borglum’s son was named after Gutzon’s favorite president: Abe Lincoln.
  • The mountain itself was named after an attorney named Charles E. Rushmore.
  • While carving, the sculptors used a staircase that was located behind Lincoln’s head to easily access the construction site.
  • They weren’t able to complete the building (ran out of funds); the presidents were supposed to be shown each with a full bodice!
  • Jefferson wasn’t supposed to rest on Washington’s left side, rather, he was supposed to be on his right. His original face cracked straight down the middle, so they blasted it off the side of the mountain and started again!
  • Roosevelt wasn’t supposed to be tucked back so far into the mountain either; the granite was too soft, so they had to keep blasting until they reached the harder rock.
  • Borglum originally wanted to carve heroes from the Wild West.
  • Washington represents the nation’s founding (Revolutionary War), Jefferson represents the nation’s expansion (the Louisiana Purchase), Roosevelt represents the nation’s development (the Panama Canal etc..), and Lincoln represents our nation’s preservation (the Civil War).

Here’s a Freebie!

Did y’all know that Thomas Jefferson (the third president of the US) not only penned the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence; he also created the very first ice cream recipe? So I’m thinking, new favorite president! Mt. Rushmore recognizes that and offers an ice cream parlor where, if you order their regular vanilla, you’ll be tasting the ice cream recipe Jefferson made. How neat is that?!


Mt. Rushmore was made interesting thanks to the Junior Ranger booklets. The mountain itself doesn’t look too different from the pictures (besides the up close ones), so the Jr. Ranger program really made the history of the place come alive. If you’re thinking, “I know what a Park Ranger is, but what is a Jr. Ranger?”, I think I can help with that. A Junior Ranger is a program used in all the National Parks, Monuments, etc. They hand you a booklet filled with age appropriate activities to complete throughout the park, and once completed and approved by a ranger, you take an oath to keep learning and protecting the parks, and are sworn in as a Junior Ranger! The activities have been extremely helpful in guiding us as we explore the history of so many parks-not just Mt. Rushmore. Sadly, there was a portion of the park that was closed for renovation, but we still had a great time learning it’s backstory!

Travel Tips:

If you’re visiting Rushmore in the summer…bring bug spray!! Those no-see-ums are BRUTAL! They crawl and bite through your clothes, so if you have any issues with mosquitoes, gnats, or any other biting bugs–it may be a good idea for you to visit later in the season. Also, the Sculptor’s Studio is a must-see (if you have time). Us girls and Dad stayed behind (those flies!) while the boys and Mom went to finish their Jr. Rangers, but we regretted it once we saw the cool pics of the sculpture they found. Lastly, try the ice cream; you definitely get what you pay for portion-wise:)


Anyone ever read Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Laura was a simple pioneer girl that become a very well known author. In her stories, she described her life as a pioneer with her parents and three sisters. I’ve wondered where exactly she settled, and where their farm was. Well, the answer is somewhere in South Dakota; and we should know, because we camped at Laura’s homestead! There were only four RV spots, so we felt lucky to even be able to stay:) We got to ride ponies, drive a team of mules hauling a covered wagon to the schoolhouse (yes, WE drove the wagon ourselves!), play with kittens in an old barn, make rope, and even do the laundry the way they did! It was a very hands-on learning experience, like scrubbing sheets with a washboard and homemade soap, and learning how to make a corn husk doll like Laura’s Susan. Not only did we get a living history lesson, we also learned a lot about Laura and her family that she left out of her books. On top of all that fun, we made new friends! We met the neighbors two sites away and played tag with their two kids until it was time to go inside at night. Staying at the homestead made for some of the sweetest memories we’ve made on the road, and we are so glad we didn’t miss that little stop! Bonus: most of these pics are of kittens. Even though Mom is severely allergic to cats, us kids had a great evening chasing them down, playing with them, and even getting in an impromptu photo shoot!

I will now feature some of Mama’s photos; Ann was a little busy having fun:)

Another Fun Fact:

Laura became a teacher when she was only fifteen, and became a writer at the age of sixty five. Why was she a teacher so young? Her oldest sister, Mary, fell ill with Scarlet Fever and went blind. Laura and her Pa wanted so bad for Mary to attend the Institute for the Blind in Iowa, a college to educate blind people. She started working young so Mary would be able to attend, and combining her and Pa’s funds, they were able to send her to school where she learned academics and the pump organ!


Thanks folks for reading, and we hope you’ve enjoyed our tales of our most recent adventures! We’re still in the Midwest, but are rapidly making our way down to Florida to spend time with family, and then back up to Missouri to meet up with friends! Next post, we’ll shoot back to where we left off in Cali, and pick it up from there. Thank you for bearing with us as we get caught up!

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