Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Driving America's Heartland

Living in Wisconsin provides a wonderful opportunity to really explore the Great Midwest.  This rather last minute impromptu eight day road trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming took me across Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming . . . all rather large states to traverse resulting in long distances and a lot of windshield time within each.

The beginning (out of Milwaukee) and the end (through rural Wyoming) provided opportunity to see some small towns along the way.  In between, however, it was a long slog across I90 through the four states.  Experiencing a July heat wave that saw temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees, the drive was in relatively nice weather.

My drive out to Yellowstone took three days, mostly because I spent the better part of a full day exploring the Badlands of South Dakota as well as Custer State Park and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  All of these tourist destinations are in relatively close proximity to one another, making them an interesting way to spend the day getting from point A to point B.

On the return drive home, I spent much less time seeing the sights along the way, making it home in what was roughly 21 hours drive time for the 1,400 +/- miles over a day and a half.  When it was over, I was glad to be home in my own bed by midnight after two long days of driving.

A bit more about "the plan".  We have a Pontiac Montana van which I used as my sleeping accommodations for much of the trip (five of the seven nights).  Originally my plan was to only utilize campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park, opting to sleep on the road in rest areas or perhaps Walmart parking lots where "boondocking" is widely practiced in the RV community.

Once on the road, however, I realized that sleeping in areas not designated for over-nighting was probably not a good idea, so I did stay in campgrounds throughout my adventure.  Fortunately, on my westbound trip I made it all the way to Badlands National Park by a reasonable hour and was able to get a campsite in their one campground at Cedar Pass.  My second night west, plus my one night returning eastbound was spent at the KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming.

Sleeping in the van was pretty comfortable.  David made a wonderful sleeping area for me using several old comforters and packing blankets.  With a fitted sheet to hold it all together, I had a makeshift mattress.  Topped with a sheet and blanket, I was set.  On a couple of the nights in Yellowstone, however, I did need to use my sleeping bag as a comforter as the nighttime temps dropped into the mid 30's.

For meals, I had packed a lot of food that did not require refrigeration or cooking.  I did have a small cooler with perishables for the first couple of days since I could start the trip with ice packs to keep things cold.  I enjoyed hard boiled eggs along with tuna fish or chicken for lunch and dinner my first day on the road.  By midday on day two, however, the ice was gone and I was to the packaged dry food items and fresh fruit.  It was very convenient to travel and eat this way, making sure that I did stop to take a break from the driving every few hours.  This was my dinner at a rest area in South Dakota.

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