The first year, we just took a brief tour to California. The second and third years, we travelled across the U.S. to get to the "DCI Midwest" competition in Whitewater, Wisconsin. I remember certain stops on that tour, but not every state we passed through, so I had to use Google Maps to assist me in figuring it out.
The first thing I'm certain of (and the thing that got me writing this post), is that we visited Mount Rushmore on the first leg of our journey, which means we drove from Salem, Oregon to Keystone, South Dakota. I was looking this up, because I wasn't sure if that route takes you through Montana (it does) or through North Dakota (it doesn't), when I saw something funny.
Can you name the 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore? Most folks probably remember George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And nearly as many can probably conjure up Thomas Jefferson. But who is the fourth?
If you remember that it's Teddy Roosevelt, then you were paying closer attention in history class than I, or else you've visited it or read about it and remembered better than I (presumably because you ate less paint chips as a kid than I did, or something). If you remember, it almost certainly isn't because you think, "Hey, who are the four greatest presidents of all time?", and then come up with Teddy as El Numero Cuatro.
The official South Dakota page says, "This epic sculpture features the faces of four exalted American presidents..." Uh, yeah, I guess if by "exalted" you mean "someone carved their faces 60 ft. high on the side of a mountain", then Teddy certainly qualifies. After summing up the other three (Washington guided our nation's birth, Jefferson envisioned a more perfect nation, Lincoln wanted us to be free and equal), the National Park Service page says, "At the turn of the Twentieth Century Theodore Roosevelt envisioned a great nation, a leader on the world stage, our nation was changing from a rural republic to a world power." I guess that's a clue...
Turns out the sculptor Gutzon Borglum built the thing along with about 400 cronies. He built several other big or important sculptures of national historic importance around that time, and, surprise, surprise, he was a contemporary of good ole' Teddy. I guess he also built a big-ass six-ton head of Lincoln which was exhibited in Roosevelt's White House and can now be found in the Capitol Rotunda.
The Wikipedia article sums it up well enough. Mount Rushmore was meant "to represent the first 150 years of American history", from Washington, to Jefferson, to Lincoln, to... uh... the guy who was then writing the checks when the thing was commissioned, or something.
I just love the way Teddy is nestled back there in the corner, almost hidden. He's the sneaky guy who jumps in behind the other guys when someone is taking a celebratory pic, gives the thumbs up, and says, "We did it!" *thumbs up*! (Though, naturally, the sculptor made him look more somber and serious that that... falsely, I think.)
There's a scene from the Kids In the Hall movie Brain Candy where almost exactly that happens. Dave Foley is a random scientist walking down the hallway when he hears a team of scientists celebrating their recently announced success. They're all saying, "We did it!", and he pokes his head in and says, "Yeah, we did it!" They say, "Uh, who are you?" And he pauses, and then says, "Just some guy." They all look confused, and then he walks away.
This strange inclusion of Teddy also reminds me of the thing my friend gruntinator and I liked to do for kicks in a completely teenage silliness kind of way when we were visiting the theme parks of Southern California with our high school band during our senior year. In this case, we were at Disneyland. Every time we'd be walking along and see someone stopped to do a posed group picture ("Get close everyone! Everyone in the picture!"), we'd alter our walking path and speed so that we would be behind the group being photographed. Then, slyly, right when it seemed the photo was being spanned, we'd look directly towards the camera, and make some ridiculous and yet subtle face.
We did that over and over, thinking how funny it would be (though we would never see it), when these folks would get home from their vacations, go looking through their precious pictures, and find these easter eggs... unexpected shots of two crazy teenage boys making unnoticed faces at the camera while the group photo was being taken. We laughed a lot about it while doing it, even.
But then there was this one time, on the bridge going to It's a Small World... we were ambling behind a group and trying to get in the shot, but they were too many, and squeezing together wasn't getting them all into the shot. So the photographer backed up... eventually to the opposite rail of the bridge, but it still wasn't enough. And then he asked the group to back up, and back up... until they almost ran us over, moseying there behind them. I realized it wasn't going to work this time, so I jumped out of the way, embarrassed, but hoping no one had noticed what we were doing.
But gruntinator, bless his heart, was braver and quicker than I. He jumped out to the left on the end, and put his arm around the last person, smiling broadly, laughing, and acting like he was one of the group, causing all the rest of the group to laugh, too (and causing me to laugh about as hard as I ever have). They loved it. He was their hero. And both they and we had a silly story to tell the rest of our lives, perhaps even to be immortalized one day in our Live Journals.
So anyway, yeah. That's Teddy Roosevelt up there on Mount Rushmore.
And I drove through South Dakota on a tour bus once.
NOTE: This entry was originally posted to my zderek journal.