Road Trip 2019, Week #1

Where in the world is Odin The Winnebago headed?

We have two extra months this season and a tentative destination in mind. Northern Idaho. Planned routing is I-90 through South Dakota & Montana (we thoroughly enjoyed this stretch a few years ago: planesboatsandbicycles.wordpress.com/?s=South+dakota). No reservations!

When we first bought our RV, we drove from Florida through Missouri to Colorado. No reservations. Free as birds. Oblivious. RV friends were floored. The next year we made our reservations a month in advance and the next year—to get our favorite spot at our favorite campgrounds—3 months in advance (Colorado is getting increasingly difficult).

This trip we’ll be using a combination of Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome to supplement our preferred campgrounds at state parks. Stay tuned to see how many times we get stuck in the WalMart parking lot!

Stop #1 Weston Bend State Park. Weston, MO

Our first drop-in to a state park and we scored the only premium site that was ALSO a pull-thru (50-amp, no sewer or water at site. Dump station at entrance). Paid $25 by check—no online booking fee or park entrance fee! (The camp host said they’ve been full because a lot of other campgrounds in the area are underwater).

No one else showed up in our end of the loop, so we had complete privacy except for a deer and a turkey. Again, we were still not the biggest one here.

They also have a nice little laundry room. T-Mobile had 3-4 bars despite the heavy trees (we’re up on a cliff). We would definitely return and schedule time to do the hiking trails, wineries & distillery in the area.

Leg mileage: 261

https://mostateparks.com/park/weston-bend-state-park

Stop #2 Union Grove State Park. Beresford, SD

Along the highway and the perfect distance for the day put us at this campground with a pull-thru, 50-amp (water spigot close, dump station) for $21 + $7.70 out-of-state fee + $6 vehicle entrance fee = $36. Spot 19E and 21E are ideal for big rigs because they are flat.

Elevation 1500 ft. We were just far enough off the highway for the T-Mobile to be roaming on AT&T (200 mb limit).

The camphost was off-duty (and didn’t appear to be home), so we had the park all to ourselves until an Airstream rolled in well after dark. There are several trailheads. We’d definitely stop here again.

Leg mileage: 299

https://gfp.sd.gov/parks/detail/union-grove-state-park/

Time to make up some miles.

No GPS required.  Follow the Wall Drug billboards until they say we’ve arrived!

We passed the first one before our campground last night.

Chamberlain, SD rest area. Lunch overlooking the Missouri River. The most beautiful rest stop we’ve seen with a great walking path for stretching our legs!

Stop #3 Sleepy Hollow Campground. Wall, SD

We’ve arrived in Wall, SD!  The Copilot drove the second half and lost track of the construction zone-cones at 40 miles. The Captain, zero!

However it was all worth it because The Captain got to see his first Tesla charging station! (The car had Illinois plates).  We walked through Wall Drug (which is kind of like a little indoor mall) and had dinner at the cafe–a Gardenburger on gluten-free bread and a chablis. Not bad for a tourist spot.

Our campground is $36 for 30-amp, water, no sewer (dump station)—all they had available.  Elevation 2825.  Gained an hour. T-Mobile streaming.

Leg mileage: 340

Stop #4 Spearfish City Campground, SD

Today is a short hop up the road, a WalMart stop for groceries & some Instant Pot risotto using the generator before proceeding to our 2 o’clock check-in at the campground. Unfortunately there is some construction in downtown Spearfish, but we wiggle our way through VERY SLOWLY.

We paid $30 online for primitive camping at Spearfish City Campground (no hookups). The amazing employees loaded us up on the golf cart to help us find a gravel spot big enough for Odin the Winnebago. T-Mobile is roaming on AT&T limited to 200 mb.

We have never been the biggest RV in the campground, but we were the biggest in the primitive camping today. (I’m sure there are bigger during the Sturgis bike rally!)

It was such a nice area, we decided to stay a second day.  I walked into town, past a beautiful city park, for an a morning London Fog and some internet at Blackbird Espresso.  We walked the multi-use path that went by the campground and past the small hydro plant(?) just upriver from the campground.  Then The Captain headed out to explore on his road bike–towards Deadwood and the north entrance of the Black Hills National Forest (Mt. Rushmore).

Leg mileage: 50

https://www.cityofspearfish.com/departments/city_campground/index.php

D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery

With the extra day in Spearfish, we also decided to check out the FREE museum right outside our campground. The main attraction is the underwater viewing windows of the large pond, stocked with rainbow, brown Snake River cutthroat and brook trout. Our second favorite exhibit was the fisheries railcar! We recently saw a documentary on the restoration of a fishery railcar and I was fascinated that they used to transport fish like this! We also followed a few nature trails up above the hatchery and visited the Mort Pit (where they buried sick fish). Highly recommend.

https://dcboothfishhatchery.org

Stop #5 Grandview Campground. Hardin, MT

We made it to “big sky country”, Montana! Our first visit in Odin the Winnebago.

Still terrible cell service on our short drive through Wyoming. T-Mobile roamed to AT&T which is limited and then nothing over the passes, of course. Make sure you plan ahead for this stretch by:

Checking into our campground took a LONG time because of the overly chatty lady behind the desk, compounded by the RVer parked behind us that cut in front of me at the door. I had reserved a “30-amp, no water or sewer for $37” on their website and then the campground called for payment (that’s a new one). I confirmed they had a dump station. Upon arrival we were charged for one night 30-amp ($37) and one night FHU ($47) “for using the dump station”:

  • 1) They don’t have a dump station–they use one of the empty pull-thrus
  • 2) Typically, the average $5 fee is waived if you are staying at the campground.

Insisting on staying in the FHU one night since I paid for it would have just made our check-in even LONGER. If the fee had been disclosed before we arrived, we would have dumped before we arrived or made a reservation for a FHU.

Do not recommend.

Leg mileage: 336

If you stop in Hardin, definitely check out 3 Brothers Bistro. AMAZING food.

Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument

In 1991, President Bush changed the name of Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Big Horn Battlefield. I was torn between the terrible history that is represented by this place and the stunning beauty of Mother Nature. We walked all of the trails out into the battlefield to see the grave markers and drove the length of the park while listening to the audio tour. Definitely worth the stop. We took the car, but this looks like a popular lunch stop for RVers, so plan accordingly.

For more history on this National Monument: https://www.nps.gov/libi/index.htm

Summary

In general, we prefer town, county or state parks over RV parks. RV parks along the highway are convenient and tend to not require reservations since everyone is transient. On the flip side, they are usually bare bone, gravel parking lots. They are handy when they are economical ($25) but annoying when they are not (over $45!)

The only Harvest Host along our route was a golf course in Butte that didn’t respond to our email. In the future, I will always call.

Stay tuned for Road Trip 2019, Week #2. Fourth of July week without reservations!

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