Late Friday afternoon, on the brink of Memorial Day Weekend, just mere hours after school released children for the summer vacation, three families headed north to begin a grand adventure of exploring the wild west. In the weeks before departure, each family had carefully packed their 35 foot trailer to the max. Heading west in late May meant they could face a variety of temperatures: from snow to blazing heat; from sunshine to windy days. Their trip was well planned; for they had spent the last year researching and planning every leg of the trip, every pit-stop, every meal, and a multitude of activities to keep them busy during their sixteen days on the road. Betty (the Smith’s RV), Roxie (the Masters’ RV) and The Rockwood (the Todd’s RV) were off in grand fashion full of excitement for what laid ahead of them.
Day 1: Kansas City to Onawa, Iowa, 227 miles (3 1/2 hours)
Originally, the plan was to leave Kansas City early on the morning on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend and make it to Chamberlain, South Dakota so we could camp on the banks of the Missouri River. But then we missed the mark and the RV parks were full for the Memorial Day Weekend. So, we decided to have our first stop be Wall, South Dakota which meant a longer drive from Kansas City than anyone really wanted to do in one day. Leaving after work on Friday, traveling the short 3 1/2 hours did not feel daunting and knowing it helped relieve some of the drive time for the next day made it a win.
We spent the first night at On-Ur-Wa Campground (get the cute play on the town name?). We will do a full campground review later but for now I will say: check in was quick. we even got escorted to our sites, and we were set up in no time. We walked to dinner that night, less than a block from the campground was a Dairy Queen. In hind sight it seems fitting that we started our vacation off with ice cream and we continued that trend through out the entire time we were away. Determined to get our daily walk in, Meeghan and I were able to follow the gravel road for a few miles. The road parallels I-29 and it was loud and dusty. However, the noise of I-29 did not penetrate the campground, so once we finished our walk, we were able to relax under the giant shade trees.
Day 2: Onawa, Iowa to Wall, South Dakota (412 miles/5 1/2 hours)
After a morning walk and breakfast, we departed Onawa by 9:30 a.m. just about an hour or so south of Sioux Falls, SD. We made our first “stretch our legs” stop in Mitchell, SD. If you don’t know, Mitchell, SD is home to The Corn Palace. Yes, it is a total tourist trap but it is free to enter, they had great bathrooms, we enjoyed a few corny jokes, and their parking lots were large enough for us to put the slides out and enjoy a picnic in our campers. What we did not know is the Corn Palace is an actual concert venue so their gift shop is on a gymnasium floor and everything is on wheels so it can be moved quickly. The only hiccup we had in visiting The Corn Palace is the street in front of the palace was all torn up due to a water main break and was under “corn-struction”.
The travel across South Dakota on I-90 was what we expected it to be; windy. We passed the time away playing traditional road trip games (Where is a Hawaii license plate when you need one?) and counting the number of Wall Drug Store billboards. Meeghan had given us heads up that as we approached Chamberlain we would be inspired by the view of the Missouri River. Traveling by road is interesting because the landscape changes gradually and if you are not careful you can miss the moment when it all stops looking familiar and starts to look different. For me, Chamberlain was that place. It sorta reminded me of driving west on I-70 and passing Gennessee and catching the first glimpse of the mountains. It is a moment that just says, “You are not in Kansas anymore, you are on an adventure!”
Feeling confident and capable, I offered to give the husband a break from driving as we left our gas stop in Chamberlain. As 4:00 p.m. approached Betty, Roxie, The Rockwood, and all of their passengers were getting tired of traveling. Crossing the line from Central Time Zone to Mountain Time Zone and gaining back an hour literally brought a round of cheers and applause. It was just the boost we needed! We arrived in Wall, South Dakota and Arrow Campground at 3:30 pm local time.
The excitement is different than last night. Last night we were excited because we were on our way. Tonight we are excited because we are somewhere exciting. We are heading out to explore Badlands National Park!
to be continued….