Monday, June 12, 2017

Our RV trip across the USA

Well HELLO! We just got back from yet another wonderful RV trip the other day -- and this was by far our best one yet. If you've followed me for awhile you know we take one RV trip a year in the summer. Usually it's tied to my husband's work and we'll head up to Wisconsin or Minnesota. This time we went a little further and recreated a trek I've been waiting 30 years to take. 

When I was young we didn't have much money so we didn't travel much at all. (For my local friends you may be familiar with Indiana Beach -- an overnight there was the furthest and most elaborate trip we did.) ;) 

I was in the Girl Scouts and one year when I was 11 I took off on a 2 1/2 week trip across the country with my troop and many others from Indianapolis. I still can't believe my Mom let me go but I'm so glad she did! We traveled to Wyoming, stopping in many spots along the way in South Dakota as well. 

That trip changed me in so many ways. For the first time ever I got a glimpse of what was beyond our state and it was AMAZING. We camped under the stars, white water rafted, panned for gold, hiked up a mesa and stopped at some incredible places. 

In all my 40+ years it's still the trip that has affected me most and one I've always wanted to recreate, especially when I got older and had a family. We planned this trip for months and I was GIDDY to show our son what I had seen at almost exactly his age. 

Our country is a beautiful, wondrous place. It overwhelms me at times when I get to see it first hand. You know how you see things as a kid and they don't seem as big when you go back as an adult? Not so this time. Everything was so majestic and beautiful. 

We started our trip in Six Flags, Chicago, rode some roller coasters and had so much fun. We traveled on to Wisconsin Dells that night and had a great time at the Kalahari Resort there. We've been to the Dells before and it's SO fun. 

That night we drove to Minnesota and shopped till we dropped at the Mall of America the next day. The drive through South Dakota was by far the longest, so we stopped in Sioux Falls at an RV park for the night and then continued on to the Badlands the next day. 

Like I said, I was worried I would be underwhelmed going back. But they were all I remembered and more: 
Badlands South Dakota

Badlands South Dakota

Here's a video I took of the first outlook point. As you can see there are parts that jut out and you can just walk out on the rocks. I was tempted to keep going out but the walkway got a little too skinny and my hands were sweating and my husband said NO. ;)



RV trip to South Dakota

This park is MASSIVE. I know for a fact we didn't even get to the really huge rocks, but I was so thrilled to be back. We saw prairie dogs and buffalo and sheep with the giant horns -- they walked right in front of the RV at one point. All stuff we don't see often in Indiana -- as much as I love our state. ;) The park has a great little museum/gift shop with a quick video that we enjoyed. 

We drove on to Rapid City where we were staying for the next couple of days. Our first stop was a fantastic Mexican restaurant we found online: 
Where to eat in Rapid City

We are Mexican and margarita freaks and consider ourselves connoisseurs. This place did not disappoint. The food was amazing -- my mouth still waters when I think about the chicken ranch quesadillas and the queso. 

They had a huge selection of tequilas and our margaritas were delicious: 
Mexican in Rapid City

We loved it so much we went back the next night. 😆

The downtown area is SO quaint and beautiful. Next time we will go back and spend more time there. So many great restaurants and shops:
Rapid City South Dakota

And HELLO. There was a little ice cream shop around the corner and they had New England Brown Bread ice cream -- I had never heard of it so tried it. Um...delicious. I mean...de.li.cious. OMG. Now I want to make this mysterious bread on my own: 
New England Brown Bread ice scream

The next day we made the short trip to the Mt. Rushmore area. The trip is a gorgeous one through the Black Hills. It surprised me 30 years ago and still does today that you can be at the desert Badlands and then less than an hour later are in the lush hills. 

The smell of pine hit us as soon as we got off the RV. I was obsessed with the pine trees: 
Pine trees Black Hills

A little sad that I was wishing I had these at home to cut at Christmas. Ha! 

Mt. Rushmore was everything I remember and more. I was so excited: 
Mt. Rushmore memorial

We sat down to just look around and this was one of a few times on the trip that I got emotional. Pictures just don't do it justice!
Mt. Rushmore

RV trip through South Dakota

There was a trail around the park that goes under the monument and you can get a closer look. The scenery is beautiful -- the shimmering granite, the smell of the trees, the views. It was awesome:
Mt. Rushmore memorial

Traveling to Mt. Rushmore

You really get some neat views from the trail. If you go, take the entrance to the left -- the right has way more steps and looked like a much more difficult trek. (You still have a lot of steps but not as many.)

We were thrilled to meet the last surviving Mt. Rushmore worker that day, Nick Clifford. He is nearly 96 years young! He signed his book for us, showed us his tools and shared lots of interesting details about how they did it:
Nick Clifford Mt. Rushmore

It was fascinating and I'm so glad we got to meet him. 

There is SO MUCH to do near the monument. We visited Rushmore Cave and they had a ton of fun activities. Their coaster was SO FUN. They also had a zipline that you sit in and ride down. I'm not a fan of heights but LOVE this stuff. So I scream like a little girl and then want to do it again right away. Here's a quick video: 


We also visited Bear Country USA -- a park you drive through to see the wildlife. It was a highlight for sure. 

We wanted to get to Crazy Horse to see the progress but we didn't have time. When I went 30 years ago not much had been done, but I'm so glad they're building this monument. On our next trip I really hope we can get out to Wyoming to revisit the places I saw there too. 

On the way out we visited Wall Drug -- a tourist spot we heard you can't miss! It was closing so we didn't get to see most of it or try the donuts, but it was a fun (and big) shop and we were happy to just say we had seen it:  
Wall Drug South Dakota

My husband drove us all the way home -- it took 20 hours with stops! Holy cow, that took forever. But he loves driving and for long distances. We rented a class A RV this time -- I prefer the smaller versions that I can drive (no way I'm attempting this one), but my family loves the big ones and my husband likes driving them: 
RV trip through the country

Traveling in an RV

Not pictured is the king sized bed in the back! We love that we can eat, use the bathroom or sleep on a bed during the trip -- I can heat pizza up in the microwave and then go take a nap while we're driving. ;) 

When you stay in RV parks you do have to know how to connect the electricity, water and sewage. Most offer Internet, TV, and a bunch of amenities like a shop for food and firewood, pools, mini golf, basketball and even arcades. The nicer ones will have laundry rooms. We stayed in hotels for the most part this time, but it's always fun to stay on the RV!

Technically we didn't travel ALL the way across the US -- it felt like it on the way home though. ;) But we did visit six states in six days. These trips are so important to our family. We love getting away from real life and being in the little cocoon of the RV. We make so many wonderful memories on these trips and this one was by far the best. I'll treasure these times forever!

Have you taken a similar trip? Does your family RV? It's not for everyone -- but this is definitely my favorite way to camp. Or "glamp." ;) 

39 comments:

  1. Wow, look at the stunning views! The trip looks so fun. I'd love to travel on a RV one day! Definitely would prefer to to actually camping ;) I'm such a princess haha!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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  2. When I was 13, my parents loaded up all 4 of us kids, hooked a pop-up tent trailer to the station wagon and we camped literally cross country from MA to CA and back. We took a more norhly route out seeing all the spots you mentioned and more. We stayed with my uncle in North Hollywood for about 2 weeks to explore southern CA and Tijuana, Mexico and then took a southern route home. First I need to say my parents were saints to plan a 6 week trip like that with 4 kids in a day and age when there was no internet, no cell phones and no a/c in the pop up camper! But we made memories that last a lifetime!! We lost our beloved parents in the last few years but when we try to tell people how blessed we were to have such amazing parents, we use that trip as an example. Someday your son will do the same thing!

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    1. Ditto! 4 kids and a pop up camper from Western PA to California and back again. We took the northern route you did (Sarah) on the way out and a more southern route home. (Arizona, Texas, etc.). So many memories from that trip that we will never forget. Our parents wanted us to see the world. With 4 kiddos on a Principal's salary "the world" was not an option, but the US in a camper worked! So thankful for those trips!

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  3. I am actually just starting to plan what I hope will be a 3 month RV trip that we hope will take place when our son enters the fourth grade and we can take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park program (https://www.everykidinapark.gov/). It is scary as I try to guesstimate how much money we will need to check out of life for 3 months but we are so excited to at least try! And we do have a few years to save first. But this...this is exactly why I want to do it. That trip looks amazing!

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    1. Check out Jonesdesigncompany.com. She did a trip like that with her 4 kids in an airstream last year.

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    2. Thank you so much! I'm checking out her site now.

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  4. i would say this looks awesome - but i KNOW it is awesome, we saw the same things a few years ago. Prepare to be jealous - but we have taken 2 one-month RV trips with our kids. The first was from VA to CO (and SD!), and then all around the upper mid west. AWESOME! This year, we did go ACROSS the country - from VA to Grand canyon, then San Diego, LA, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Yellowstone. it was incredible. these trips are amazing, and I am so blessed to have been able to take them. LOVE love love my RV.

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    1. Love it!! Yellowstone is our next trip for sure! It is so, so beautiful.

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    2. Then you must make sure to spend some time in Utah! We have some amazing parks to visit!

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  5. Looks like a fun trip! Why did you rent an RV if you were staying in hotels? Seems like a budget buster!

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    1. For all the reasons I mentioned above! :) We did stay on it throughout the week and the nights in hotels my husband used hotel points so those were minimal.

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  6. We are actually road tripping, from Wisconsin, there on Saturday. Cannot wait! looks amazing...thanks for some of the tips

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  7. I've wanted an RV for a LONG time but my husband kept saying we will buy one and never use it. In the end, he decided to get an old one that we refurbished! We used it so much for 2 years that he decided on his own to go upgrade to a really nice newer one. So now we really enjoy traveling! Still planning our trip out west (since we moved to Georgia from Oregon and wanna take the kids back to see much of the west coast) but with their ages ranging so much from 21 down to 8, it's really hard to coordinate everyone :) but we did do a whole-family long trip all the way to creation museum, Niagra Falls, Washington DC, Amish country and more last year and it was amazing! (And it was with the old RV but still amazing haha)! The last family trip we took was to the Florida keys last Christmas with the newer one :) and lots of shorter weekend trips. Maaaaany memories!! We love it! I'm glad y'all had such an amazing time!!

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  8. So glad you enjoyed yourself. I love going on road trips. When I was younger my family took three cross-country trips from New Jersey to California and back. We loved every second of it. My hubby and I plan on buying a used RV next year and hitting the road for some short trips as well as lengthy ones maybe two to three months at a time. The hubby would love to get a big Class A but I'm a chicken and don't want to drive it. We shall see because ours will be a Toy Hauler as we will have our motorcycle with us as well. That in itself makes whatever we buy longer in length. To me Crazy Horse is a must. Went there 2 or 3 years ago and even though a lot of work is not done on it, just the story behind it it is amazing in itself. How's this for perspective: Mount Rushmore wpuld be able to fit in just the head of Crazy Horse.

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  10. We just went to Mt. Rushmore last summer-it had been on my list forever! When we got back we bought a travel trailer and have been camping whenever we can since our purchase. I can't wait to travel all over. We're headed to the Dells next month. My motto-when the heat hits, head north!

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  11. I haven't thought about Indiana Beach in such a long time! "There's more than corn in In-deee-annnnn-a..."

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  12. Life long South Dakota resident here and I'm soooo happy you enjoyed your visit to our wonderful state and hope you return again.

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  13. Beautiful trip. I love camping. That was our only vacation growing up. We had a pop up camper and then my dad upgraded to a bigger model, which we loved. Now as an adult, I think back about those times and how much fun they really are. We have a camper at a lake near us and find ourselves going almost every weekend. Gotta love camping.

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  14. What a wonderful trip. I love seeing places like Mt. Rushmore. But does anyone else think, "Why would they go to the expense of traveling in an RV and then say in hotels?!!!!"

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    1. If financially possible, it would certainly alleviate some of the many, many hours in close quarters when traveling by car on such a long trip. A big RV for the "on the road" hours during the day and then a hotel room for carefree sleeping at night sounds like a perfect vacation to me!!

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    2. Oh my goodness. I touched on the reasons above in the post. And we did stay on the RV throughout the week. We used hotel points for the nights we stayed in hotels. (And that's exactly right Pat! 😊)

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  15. Your trip sounds fantastic. I went on a trip with my best friend similar to yours when I was about 12. I never will forget that trip either. My favorite memory was going a around the mountain in Colorado and seeing a flock of sheep grazing in the greenest grass with the most beautiful blue skies with big fluffy clouds. Unfortunately, the only worthwhile trips my family thinks are great are the ones to the beach. I would love to see this country!

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  16. Our family vacations growing up consisted of 5 days at most in our car, with mom, dad, brother and grandma. Being a Wisconsin dairy farmer, my dad didn't want to leave his cows for too long! We would usually head north to the UP of Michigan, to visit family in northern MN and of course, west to the Black Hills. I remember those Wall Drug signs starting in Sioux Falls going west. We also visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, a very cool place. Fortunately my children have also gotten to see Mount Rushmore on a few occasions and we are thinking about another road trip out that way. By the way, we just returned from our summer vacation: myself, two daughters, sister, two nieces off to Spain for 12 days! Barcelona and Madrid - fantastic!!

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  17. You're right when you say that photos do not do justice to Mount Rushmore. My first thought when I saw it in person was amazed at how white and bright the faces are, standing out from the rest of the rock. And I had an emotional reaction also - couldn't hold back the tears.

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  18. When I was a kid we lived in North Dakota because Dad was in the Air Force. Every year we would take a month vacation and drive from ND to MA to visit family. We would make the trip in 3-4 days in our van. I loved those trips.

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  19. I love this post because we are actually doing this with our kids next summer. My aunt is getting married in Wyoming at a working cattle ranch and we live in Illinois. We are driving with boys who will be 9,6 and 3 then so I would like to rent an RV. One point a friend made though was that will be our only vehicle to get around with then. So like when you went to the Mexican restaurant and the ice cream place- did you drive the RV?? My friend was also saying that that means you have to unhook sewer, electricity etc each time. We have a regular camper so we know how to do all of that but was it a pain to unhook each time you went some where?? We will stay in cabins in Wyoming but I am thinking we might camp at Siouxx Falls on the way out and then we want to go on to Yellowstone before we come home. Any advice??

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    1. Also, I have been reading your blog for years but this is my first time commenting! Love your blog!

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  20. I grew up just north of the Dells. I don't think most people understand what it's all about; thus the resort stay might not make as much sense. At any rate, we each have the perogative to design our own vacation! :) Sounds like yours completely satisfied!

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  21. Sarah, My hustband so badly wants to do a road trip like this, can you please tell me who you rented your big RV from as I don't know where to start?

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  22. Sounds like so much fun. You definitely need to make brown bread. I have made it a few times. It's unique and delicious!

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  23. I have never seen Mt. Rushmore except in photos. My sister had to take 3 trips before she was able to have clear weather and could see it! You were so ucky!

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  24. I'd LOVE to take a trip like this!

    Funny story, I was working from home on Monday with a sick kiddo and popped over here while taking a break. We recently added the book "Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon" to the kids collection and in it he floats by Mt. Rushmore. She saw your photos and asked immediately "Where's George?" lol!

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  25. That gelato sounds fun! But i'm from New England and I've never heard of anyone "making" brown bread. I've only ever known it to come from a can! :) See... http://www.bmbeans.com/products/bm-brown-bread-plain/

    This kind of trip is on my bucket list as well but want my youngest (he's 3) to be a smudge older. Thanks for posting about your amazing adventure!

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  26. Wonderful trip, Sarah! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. A vacation is for doing whatever you and your family want to do. If that's day tripping in an RV and night sleeping in a hotel that's your choice. It's the best of both worlds! No need to explain your reasons to anyone. Glad you were able to make beautiful memories to cherish with your husband and son. :)

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  27. A tip for those of you who may be thinking about renting an RV, is that you can park your RV at many Wal-Marts overnight if there is no campground nearby.
    https://www.allstays.com/c/wal-mart-locations.htm

    I was 11 or 12 when we road tripped from WI to SD and WY. A big ol' van with a rented popup camper. My brother and I both brought a friend along. Two weeks and it was a great vacation. I want to get back to the Badlands. I don't remember it being so beautiful.

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  28. That looks amazing and so much fun, that RV is where it's at! So nice. I love roadtrips like that so much fun and wonderful memories. Glad you had such a great time and thanks for sharing!

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