Day Four of our Big Adventure


It is honestly hard to believe that we are only at the end of day four, and we are sitting tonight in Wall, South Dakota! Today was a very good day, as we traveled from Minnesota to South Dakota on Interstate 90. We stopped at one ridiculous attraction, and the traveled to one of the true wonders of our trip. As we hit South Dakota, the speed limit became 80 MPH and about halfway through the state, we crossed magically from the Central time zone to the Mountain time zone. Today we traveled a total of 389 miles, and for the first time in 3 days, we didn’t come across the gray house on the Interstate! We did however come across weird animal sculptures, more wind farms, and we crossed the Missouri River!


imageWe stopped at a rest stop as soon as we crossed into South Dakota to pick up a map (well, after we hit the bathroom) and ran into one of the most incredible S. Dakota Tourism employees! Susie and I spent close to 10 minutes listening to him lay out things for us in the Black Hills, including Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Deadwood, and even Devil’s Tower…which is in Wyoming! I told Susie I could have spent the whole afternoon listening to him! What a great ambassador for the state he is!

imageNext we headed to a place he didn’t mention, but that Susie had read about and that we’d seen signs about along the side of the road for miles. The Corn Palace in Mitchel, South Dakota! I don’t know what we expected, but what we got was a local auditorium where they play basketball and have shows (Styx is performing there tomorrow night). I guess its claim to fame is that every year the front facade is decorated with various designs that are all made of corn. Yea, I know…BFD! We were not the only disappointed folks, as Susie heard the wife of a couple that had come in with us say, “I’m sorry we came here.” I guess we should have remembered our South of the Border lessons. Too many billboards on the side of the road usually equates to a rip-off tourist attraction!

On the way to our next stop, we discovered two things. The first was that the bug screen on the front of the car didn’t like 80 MPH speed, as it blew from the front of the car, over the hood, and lodged itself over the windshield wipers. That necessitated getting of at an exit so we could reset it! We also discovered that the GPS wasn’t thrilled with 80 MPH either, as shortly after the bug screen incident, it jumped off the dashboard! The things we are learning on this trip!!

Now, our second stop of the day was something that caused both of us to say “Wow!!” the first time we got out of the car! I’m talking about the Badlands National Park! The first wow is that I got my National Park Senior Pass. $10 for lifetime admissions to the National Park system! That will save us some money in the coming weeks! Then there was just the sights that we took in. Just like when we visit Red Rock Canyon outside of Vegas, there was an incredible quiet that seems reverent, as well it should be! Hard to describe the awe inspiring views, so I’ll just let some pictures tell the tale. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!


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As I said, we are in Wall tonight, home of the famous Wall Drugs. I think this is kind of like the South Dakota version of South Carolina’s South of the Border. Having just come back from there, it appears that the little roadside store that existed on whatever the road was before Interstate 90 blew through town, has grown into a 2 block enterprise. Wall Drugs, Wall Western Shop, Wall Cafe, Wall blah blah blah! We happened to have eaten in one of the many “Wallville” enterprises, the Badlands Saloon and Grill! We both had buffalo burgers, and enjoyed them. The rest of the block may be schlock, but the burgers were good and the beers were cold!! A perfect end to day four!!

Tomorrow…Mount Rushmore!!

The Number One Question We Get Asked

We honestly thought that the next time you heard from us, we’d probably be on the road, or just about to start our Big Adventure, but because we keep getting asked the same question over and over again, we thought it might be worth exploring the question, our answer, and our reasoning. For as long as we have been contemplating and talking about this trip, almost every time it comes up in conversation, we get asked this question. In fact, just yesterday, at a lunch with some former workmates Sue was asked it, while at almost exactly the same time, Frank was asked it by our Dentist. Invariably, as we are talking about our route and some of the stops we’re making, someone pipes up and says, “So are you renting a Motorhome for the trip?” Our answer is always the same, “Nope…we’re going in our 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited and staying in hotels.” Sometimes you see a little disappointment at our answer, because I guess this is the kind of trip many see doing in a Motorhome, but for us, it’s just not what we’re looking to do, and here’s why.


Here’s the first downer for using a Motorhome, unless you already own one, the cost of rental. They are not cheap vehicles to rent! From research we’ve done, it looks like a smaller Motorhome, that would be perfect for 2 people rents for around $100 a day. Then, there is a fee of 35 cents per mile driven, plus it gets about 9 miles to a gallon of gas. On the other hand, our 2013 Sonata with 47,000 miles on it is fully paid for. Any service costs that we’d have to pay in preparation or during the course of our trip would be normal wear and tear items that we’d already have to pay for, and it will get close to 35 MPG on the highway all day. “But you’ll save the cost of hotels in the Motorhome”, you might say. Well, lets take a day out of our trip and compare the costs of the two styles of travel, and you decide.

For argument sake, lets take a day when we travel 300 miles and as a stop, let’s talk about our visit to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.


Daily Rental………………………………$100
Mileage Fee………………………………$105 (35 cents X 300 miles)
Cost of Gas……………………………….$ 75 (300 miles @ 9 MPG X $2.25 a gallon)
Campground………………………………$ 63 (KOA Hill City, SD)

Motorhome Total……………………………..$343



Daily Rental……………………….$000
Mileage Fee……………………….$000
Cost of Gas………………………..$ 22.50 (300 miles @ 30 MPG X $2.25 a gallon)
Hotel……………………………………$ 86.51 (Econolodge, Keystone, SD)


Sonata Total…………………………….$109.01

Some might try and throw in the expense of food, but as we already travel with our cooler and supplies for breakfast and lunch, the only meal you might be able to argue about would be dinner, and we’d bet the difference there would not be enough to tip the balance towards renting a Motorhome. Add in the fact that our current plan is to be on the road at the very least 2 months, and to cover upwards of 6,000 miles, and you can see just how much the Motorhome would cost us in terms of daily rental, mileage charge, and gas! Score one for the car!


Ever notice that when you see a Motorhome driving down the highway, if it’s an owned Motorhome and not a rental, it’s almost always towing a car or some motor bikes on a trailer? That’s because if they didn’t have this other form of transportation along for the ride, every time you’d go anywhere, you’d have to take your home with you! Think about it. You stop for the night at that KOA Camp Ground near Mt. Rushmore we used in the price example. We’re staying two nights in the area because there’s a lot to see, so let’s assume we’re doing the same renting a Motorhome. That first night you pull in, get the unit level, hook up the electric service, the water, the cable TV, and you settle in for the night. The next morning you’re off to Mt. Rushmore and what do you have to do? Yep, unhook the water, electric, cable TV, put away anything and everything you took out of it’s storage the night before, and like the turtle, head off to Mt. Rushmore with your house on your back. Then you get to Mt. Rushmore, and you’re not looking to park a car, but a Motorhome. Everything we’ve read, parking for a Motorhome at a lot of these sites is limited, and in many instances far away. We’ve also read that in places like Yellowstone National Park, it’s even a bigger pain to try touring in a Motorhome. But say you do have a successful day touring around the Mt. Rushmore area with your rented Motorhome. When you are done for the day, do you get to open the door of your hotel room and flop on the bed? Nope, you have to start the hookup procedure all over! And what about any cities that may be on your itinerary? How convenient do you think it’s going to be going around Denver or Salt Lake, or even Las Vegas in a Motorhome? All reasons that we think the car wins again.


You know the old Real Estate adage, Location, Location, Location. Well, when you are talking about campgrounds where you can spend the night in a rented Motorhome, it also comes into play. Campgrounds need lots of space, and because of that, are often farther afield from tourist destinations than hotels. In the Mt. Rushmore example we used earlier, the hotel we have reservations for is a mere 8 minutes from Mt. Rushmore, while that KOA we used as an example is 30 minutes away. The more populated the area, the bigger that time difference. You can stay in a hotel in Denver or Salt Lake, but a campground will probably be well outside the area that you wish to see, which will mean added travel time, and then the nightmare of trying to park the Motorhome! Some may disagree, but for us, another win for the car!


Back when the kids were young, we owned a succession of pop-up campers. For about 6 or 7 years, we towed the pop-up behind our van. Many times, it was to return to a known campground where we went every summer, but there were also sightseeing trips that we went on. One year, it was up to Mystic, Connecticut, another year a 10 day journey through New York State and into Canada. On those sightseeing trips, most days we stayed one night in a location, so each afternoon it was set up the camper, and the next morning it was pack it up. Different campgrounds every day, setting up and knocking down daily, dealing with dirt and campground bathrooms, finding parking at tourist sights for our van/camper combo, driving down the road with a vehicle that was more affected by wind and the force of passing tractor trailers than a car….we’ve been there, and done that. It was great back when we did it, and it may be great for many people today too, but it’s just not what we want on this trip. Once again, for us, and based on past experience, the car wins out!

So, no, we’re not renting a Motorhome for our Big Adventure. We will be driving our Sonata, staying in a succession of national chain hotels, and National Park hotels, and enjoying clean sheets and good air-conditioning (or heat) every night! Nothing against Motorhomes and if your own one, we’re sure that they are a great way to travel, but it’s not just for us! The trip itself is going to be a Big Adventure enough for us, without adding the cost and inconvenience of a rented Motorhome. We’re just not prepared for that Big an Adventure!

Hope that answered your question.