Welcome to the wonderful world of the U.S. political machine, where in one fell swoop, everything that makes our country so iconic – from the Statue of Liberty, to Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon, are shuttered and inaccessible because our elected officials are engaged in petty bickering. The National Parks are essentially being used in this blame game, with both parties claiming the other is responsible for locking up America’s treasures. (Thankfully, those aforementioned National Park sites, as well as a few others, have been temporarily re-opened due to state funded efforts.)
Here in D.C. I can’t even run through Roosevelt Island and the C&O Towpath, which stretches from here to Cumberland, MD, is still apparently off-limits even though most of it’s “clientele” are day joggers passing through. Going to great lengths to keep people from recreating on their parks has been one of the biggest embarrassments in a shutdown full of punchlines.
A couple months ago Breeah and I started plans for a road trip that would take us through South Dakota and Nebraska, we’d wind through Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave and Scotts Bluff during the four day weekend and pick up two new states for her (while Nebraska would be a first-visit for me, putting me at 46 states). That long weekend is coming up in two days!
The last few weeks the trip planning had to be put on hold. I even considered other ideas. If you think going to Nebraska in October is random, try Saskatchewan (which, kinda of like Nebraska, is my one “hole” in the middle of the map of Canada I haven’t reached). Yes, I tossed around the idea of going to Winnipeg to see a Jets hockey game (I hear the fans are about as rabid for hockey as can be up there) and then driving west to Regina, Saskatchewan to see a CFL football game and coloring in the province on my travel map.
I’m actually kind of glad my senses came to me. It helped that Mount Rushmore has been re-opened for at least the next couple weeks (starting today, in fact). Even though with each passing day it looks more unlikely that we’ll see the likes of Wind Cave, stretch out the trip to add Devil’s Tower (in Wyoming) or even catch the Pipestone National Monument (in Southwest Minnesota) at the very beginning of the trip, we’ll find more than enough to do. In fact, I’ve discovered there are more than enough interesting state parks in the Nebraska panhandle that I realized (they even have their own version of the badlands there). Oh, and one can’t forget Carhenge, that’s a MUST visit considering I saw the real thing just last year.
As Matthew Good once sang, “someone would love to have my first world problems,” I feel fortunate to even be able to travel as much as I do. That said, there are people whose livelihoods are directly affected by the national park closures, whether they are park rangers, staff or businesses depending on tourists coming through. It’s long past time for D.C. to wise up to this – the shutdown is doing nobody good and ultimately will leave a disaster in its wake.