I know that many of you are reading this thinking to yourself, "An RV trip, what fun! I'm going to do that someday." Well, I am here to tell you all about how fun it is going to be to go on a 15 day RV adventure with my four children, my parents, and my 19 year-old niece, Ellie.
I apologize in advance for being a bit long-winded. I figured if I was actually going to do this travel blog, I should actually write about everything we do. I also have a lot of downtime in the RV. Reading makes me feel sick in a moving vehicle, but for some reason typing doesn't make me carsick. So feel free to read as much or little as you'd like.
In the beginning of June I asked my parents if they wanted to go to the Smoky Mountains with me. At this time, I was naively thinking that COVID-19 cases were diminishing and that Tennessee would be a fantastic place to take the kids in August. My parents didn't seem too keen on the idea of going to Gatlinburg. My mom, as expected, said to me, "Do you have to go on a trip every summer?" To which I replied, "Yes, yes, I do. I need it." I love traveling. I love going to new places and returning to places I love I think I have managed to make my children love it as much as I do.
As much as I love actual vacations, I also truly enjoy planning vacations. I love searching for hotels and trying to find the cheapest flights and figuring out what we will do and where we will eat. I can spend hours and hours searching for hotels in places that I have no immediate plans to visit, just in case I may happen to make my way there (I'm talking to you Panama and Nantucket). I have found that just knowing that I have a vacation coming up psychologically helps me get through just about anything.
I was slightly dismayed when my parents were not down with my Smoky Mountain plans. I told them I was also considering taking a road trip to Mount Rushmore with a friend and her children. I could tell by their silence that they were certainly not happy with that idea either. I may be only eight years away from receiving the 15% off senior discount at Kohl's, but I will always be their little girl. They may even worry about me more now because they also have to worry about my four children.
So I was only a little bit shocked when my dad called me the next day with the grand idea to rent an RV and drive all of us to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone. I'm sure you can only imagine my delight. An RV trip to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone, two places I have only dreamed about going!! Yes, yes 1000 times yes.
It wasn't all that easy to find an RV since the whole world decided to rent an RV this summer. I read that RV rentals were up 4000% this summer. My dad finally found one and then the planning began.
I knew pretty quickly that my dad was really excited about this trip because all he wanted to do was to talk about it and plan it. I think he has always wanted to go to Yellowstone and he probably knew that in normal circumstances, my mom would never have agreed. She likes to travel, but we have never been a camping family. My dad did a lot of camping when he was gorwing up. We spent a few hours going over possible itineraries and then had several phone calls about where to stay along the way. We found this great itinerary online used that as our starting point.
We also recruited my brother and his two kids to come along. The plan was that we would be in the RV and they would follow along behind us. Sadly, Rob and Luke had to back out because Luke is starting his freshman year of college and was told he needed to report to school on August 10th to start soccer. Rob didn't want to be gone for his last week at home. Fortunately, Ellie was still on board and we had one extra spot in the RV since Angel (my husband) was going to Mexico to see his family. Normally, we would have gone to Mexico with him, but I didn't feel comfortable taking them to Mexico during a pandemic and three of the children's passports expired in June with no quick way to get them renewed.
It was fairly easy to find the RV campsites, except for Jackson Hole. Some RV sites only take reservations by phone. We tried to keep the driving to less than five hours a day, except for the first leg from Chicago to Minneapolis. We had hoped to stay in Yellowstone, but all the RV sites were booked. There are some sites that you can get on a first come, first served basis, but we didn't want to chance that. Also, it appears that the Yellowstone spots don't have electricity and since we are new at all of this, we decided we needed our 30 amps.
After several hours of reserach, we decided on this itinerary:
Day 1: Chicago (Elmhurst) to Minneapolis
Day 2: Minneapolis to Mitchel, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace
Day 3: Mtichell to Hill City, SD (near Rapid City), stop at Wall Drug and Badlands
Day 4: Hill City, SD to Buffalo, Wyoming (stop at Deadwood and Devil's Tower)
Day 5: Buffalo, Wyoming to Cody, Wyoming
Day 6: Yellowstone (stay in Cody)
Day 7: Yelllowstone (stay in Cody)
Day 8: Yellowstone (stay in Cody(
Day 9: Cody to Jackson Hole, WY
Day 10: Jackson Hole to Casper Wy
Day 11: Casper WY to Custer, SD (Custer State Park)
Day 12: Custer, SD (Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore)
Day 13: Custer, SD to Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota
Day 14: De Smet, SD to Minnepolis
Day 15: Minneapolis to Elmhurst
There was a lot we needed to do to get ready. I never knew you needed special toilet paper to use in an RV toilet. There are even little pods that you put in the toilet to help with odor. Fortunately my parents are very organized, prepared people and they took care of most of the little details, which gave me time to pack for the boys and myself.