i’m pretty much a city girl and a scaredy cat so the combination means i have had major anxiety attacks all through south dakota, wyoming and montana. jeez, there’s so much open space. on the other hand, some of the folks i’m meeting i wouldn’t trust taking to times square without a significant dose of ativan—for them.
a few years ago my italian friend federico cenci was writing a book about my grandfather and i invited him to stay in my home in winnetka, illinois. he stayed for a month and we traveled to the university of illinois rare books and manuscripts library for extra material. mostly, he worked in the guest room. one afternoon he asked if we could take a day trip somewhere to see the sights.
“where would you like to go?” I asked federico.
“mount rushmore,” he replied. “i’d like to see the presidents.”
“uh, you understand mount rushmore is like a three or four day road trip?”
actually, mount rushmore is a fourteen hour and twenty six minutes 930 miles road trip if traffic is perfect, you’re wearing depends, no doz is delivered through an i.v., and you trick out the back of the car with an endless tank of gas.
federico was crestfallen.
“i’m sorry,” i said. “name somewhere else you’d like to see.”
“niagra falls,” he said, brightening considerably.
niagra falls is wonderful but it’s still a good nine hours and eighteen minutes under the same conditions described.
in a rough justice compromise, we drove to chester, illinois to visit the birthplace of popeye comics creator e c seger.
federico returned to rome and finished his book. on any given day, he can drive from rome to milan (5 hours, 13 minutes), make arrangements for brunch in pisa (3 hours 36 minutes), or spend a weekend in naples (2 hours 11 minutes). his idea of how large the united states is/was a bit skewed. oddly, i have the same problem. i just had no idea how many miles get tucked up under my tires.
so this morning i pulled into the parking lot of the mount rushmore national park outside keystone, south dakota. the usual tour buses of japanese tourists and refugees from aarp. families with kids who are more interested in the concessions stand. a lady berating the staff because she wanted to climb either lincoln, washington, teddy or tommy. the teenagers taking selfies. i sat down on a bench and took it all in. and thought to myself…..i gotta tell federico that i made it.
but of course, i have verizon phone service so i couldn’t.