Every Monday I’m going to try to post a picture and talk about a memory. It’s really just a gimmick to get me posting *at least* once a week, and give me something interesting (to me!) to talk about. So here is installment #1:
In August of 1995, Nate and I were newly engaged, and moving across the country, east to west. We took the northern route – I had driven 80 several times in each direction, and was eager to see something other than Nebraska. So, we toodled along 90, taking side-trips as the urge struck us. We decided to stop at Mt. Rushmore. We were there at the same time as the Sturgis biker rally (who knew?!), so it was just us and a whole bunch of Harley dudes. The Black Hills region of South Dakota is amazing. It’s rocky, and scrubby, and majestic. As you can see from the photograph, the day was picture-perfect – not a cloud in the sky.
The thing about Mt. Rushmore is that you can’t really get up close. I mean, it’s huge, of course, so you can see if from far away, but when you’re looking at it, it still feels like you’re really far away. We thought, “Hey, let’s take one of those helicopter rides so we can see it up close!” This is, of course, a terrible idea. I am a white-knuckle flyer. I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea. So anyway, we signed up, paid our exorbitant amount of money, and climbed aboard. The helicopter wasn’t like the kind that you see monitoring traffic or landing at hospitals – this was one of those old-style, mosquito-looking things. There were no doors (we were strapped in with seat belts), and there was clear plastic all around, so we could look down between our feet and see the ground.
So we climb in, and at this point, I was still excited. And then we lifted off, leaving my stomach behind. I clutched Nate’s hand in a death-grip, and stopped breathing. The flight lasted 5 minutes, during which I took maybe three gasping breaths. I was blindly clicking away with the camera the whole time (not looking through the viewfinder because I couldn’t move), so we got a couple of grainy shots of Washington’s nose, and many shots of rocky mountain with scrubby brush. The whole time, Nate was chattering away over the headset with the pilot, who was a retired military man who had flown choppers in The Nam. Once they got on that tack, he let out the throttle and showed us what he could do. I almost died.
Of course, we survived. Nate said, “That was awesome! Did you get any good pictures?” to which I replied, “I have no idea.”