14 states in 9 days, or so it started.
My oldest daughter and myself planned out a loop around the western and midwest states starting from California, our home town heading up north to hit these as highlights Glacier National Park and then over to South Dakota to do their National Parks and attractions visiting family in Oklahoma and ending back home via the South Western states. We drove the longer scenic highways for most of our trip and enjoyed it immensely.
I had the brilliant idea of Hula-hooping at the State-lines, adding on hoops at each stop with a grand finale of all 14 hoops swirling about. And doing this, having just picked up a hulahoop for the first time since childhood.
We had plans to rip through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming on the way up as well as Texas, New Mexico and Arizona on the way back because I have been, visited and road tripped to these states numerous to more than dozens of times over the past 20 years. Although, we did in fact make time for 2 short stops, in addition to the hooping stops at the state lines, one at Gold Strike Casino to check out the Fast & Furious 7, how apropos (which should be the name of this blog post ! ) and Batman movie car display (a short and free walk-thru on the casinos main floor) and a stop in Utah to reunite with a middle school friend I hadn't seen in over 30 years. We rendezvous at a local St. George juice stop where 20 minutes, became a hour. By Nevada we were already caught up in T-storms, showers, winds, downpours and lightening, a sign of what was yet to come? Our theme song, played throughout the trip was... "Go Big or Go Home" !
We pull up to the hotel, it was called, Little America, we had never heard of it, not familiar with the brand and to our amazement, we were pulling up into a covered carport next to a large Grand Hotel.
The hotel was old, but well kept, check-in polite and quick with key in hand we sleepily made our way to our upstairs room. Turns out this hotel is SLC most luxurious AAA 4 diamond hotel and the largest in SLC, with 850 rooms.
*I'm highlighting our stay here because it was a great value for those that may find themselves in SLC and in need of a place to crash.
The rest of our stays in MT, SD, were in standard motels & hotels :: Grand Rapids Inn, Comfort Inn, Days Inn which were all under 100.00 and came with free breakfast, wifi, clean and safe. Warm welcomes by friendly locals. Breakfasts were great, make your own fresh waffles, ready made eggs/omlettes, dry cereals and oatmeal, yogurt, coffee/tea/juices, some even had sausage and biscuits & gravy. Our hotels of choice for the other half of SD, MO, OK, NM were Sheratons and an Aloft, at a discount, luxurious in comparison to the previous. All booked over the phone or online via our cell phones en route.
We stopped and took some selfies in the Idaho Falls area at a rest stop where we picked up guides of all the states and parks we were going to be visiting and then jumped on Interstate 20, more selfies at the Targhee National Forest sign. We drove through bits of West Yellowstone National Park, and Wyoming on Hwy 191.
If you are into mining and rockhounding these states are for you... they have opal mines in Idaho and sapphire mines in Montana, black hills gold in South Dakota and diamonds in Arkansas and rock stores to buy rocks and minerals in all sizes from hand held to pick-a-pound throughout.
Through Bozman and onward we smelled strong fire and saw misty smoke all around us, breathing became a bit heavier, I was ready to turn back ! But we ventured onward... Hwy 90 to the 15 got us to our destination. We stayed in Helena, checked out their state capital building all lit up at night, and awoke early to continue our drive North.
On the way from Helena to Glacier National Park, we took the Montana 200 to the Montana 209 taking us through Swan Valley, a route filled with lots of lakes, Seeley and Lake Placid might ring a bell. Here you will find lots of recreational things to do. We stopped into the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Vistors Center, where we were met by a very friendly dog and were given a brief tour of the museum, spent some time hooping at Salmon Lake, ventured off around Holland Lake / Swan caves. Then back on the road Swan Hwy 83 to Hwy 35 to Glacier National Park to Hwy 2.
For 80.00 this annual pass gets you into quite a lot of places. National Forests... you still have to pay for state parks and Indian / non- federally owned places like Crazy Horse and Custer ..
For their Centential they are offering each and every 4th grader who pledges,
a FREE Annual Park Pass
to share with friends and family.
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Exiting at the St. Marys Entrance driving to Great Falls, Montana our next landing spot, we saw 2 steer one brown just on the side of the road and once black crossing it in front of our car after that all we saw were miles of farmland with rolled up wheat bails, beautiful horses, cattle and dairy cows for days. Delapidated old farmhouse fixtures, silos and corn, lots of corn. In Great Falls we visited the Lewis & Clark Interprative Center (interactive and fun for the kids) Missouri River and surrounding sites. Stopped at the smallest river in America, in Giant Springs, a fresh water spring found by L & C. and checked out the Rainbow falls and dam and fish hatchery.
- The Roe River is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's shortest river. The Roe flows 200 feet between Giant Springs and the Missouri River near Great Falls. The Roe River competes with the D River in Lincoln City, Oregon for the title of the shortest river.
You want Historic, western towns, wildlife, America then this is the state.
South Dakota, so much to do you could stay a week easily. Our stops and adventures took place here at Crazy Horse Memorial, worlds largest mountain carving, Custer State Park, this is where you see the Buffalo and Bison, Mt Rushmore National Monument, in Keystone, Badlands National Park, climb around on geological deposits, Historic Deadwood, western town, Wild Bill Hickok/Calamity Jane, gold and Shootouts !, Black Hills National Forest, Spearfish / Spearfish Canyon, Wall Drug, Rapid City... I can only say, do everything.
After doing all of this my suggestions would be, do Badlands mid day to sunset. Bring carrots to feed the donkeys and mules at Custer and go around mid afternoon to 5.00p lots of Buffalo and Bison coming down to graze by the road. Be sure to drive the road with the curving tunnel down to view Rushmore, Hwy 16 and do view their night show, so go around dusk. Crazy Horse has a fee to get into and a whole separate fee to actually go up to the monument. We were able to get a couple of pieces of granite rock for a small donation to bring back to my rockhounding husband and they have a night light show. Have lunch at Wall Drug. Spend an entire day in Deadwood doing the tours, riding the trolley, watching the shootouts and stories. Do the stamping activity you can do throughout the town, to win your choice of a chocolate bar and/or western playing cards. We stayed in Spearfish, a little better priced than Deadwood and you get to drive through their beautiful canyon on your way to the other sites. When we got to the Badlands there was no one to check our National Park pass, so it was free to get in and out.
We reached Kansas City, Missouri in the evening, the streets were a ghost town, with old brick buildings mixed with modern architecture. We drove around in awe of the gloomy clouds against the city, venturing around street after street. After check in and I have to add a free upgrade to the club level, by the Sheraton KC, walked over to the Crown Center with the Crayola Cafe and Lego store via "the link" tunnels while we awaited room service to arrive.
Our drive through Missouri lead us to great finds with President Harry S. Truman State Historical sites like his Birthplace and family farm (where you do a self guided tour via your phone), as well as George Washington Carver National Monument and museum (that was a favorite !) He's not just the peanut man !
Along the hwy 40 drive we drove pieces of Route 66, and did a stop at the Route 66 Museum in Elk City . Use your AAA card for a small discount. The entry fee is next to nothing. Lots of memorabilia, cars, motor bikes, history and displays to view. You can buy a cold ice-cream in the little soda shop in the tiny town, inside that you walk thru.
I am certain I am leaving some things out but I think you get the picture.. whether you do the Fast and Furious version or slow and steady, I think everyone should spend time with there families on a road trip, you really get a sense of this great nation of ours, the history, the beauty, the art, cultures and the freedom of living in this amazing place.
Total Miles Driven by my daughter, singly = 5,000 (5234 to be exact) *Hertz didn't even blink. We purchased unlimited miles and there were no cross country hidden fees contrary to what was written online.
Over 4,000 photos and videos taken.
And if you were curious as to how the hooping went. Well, here's a collage of photos of me at some of the statelines and a video of my last one with 14 out of 17 hoops (2 broke)
Do buy an Annual National Park pass
Do spend a lot of time in South Dakota
Do rent a car with lots of charging plugs for back seat tourist photos and electronics
Do bring a selfie stick and use it
Don't map out your entire trip, leave it open, you never know what may add on or drop off of your plans
Do talk to locals, hotel employees, they give great advice
Do download apps for hotels, maps, I loved using the hands free google app.
If you are like me and have seen all of the western states and want more time I would suggest a fly out to Montana and start from there. Begin in Bozeman vs Helena That's what I am doing on my next adventure through these states doing a MINING theme with my husband, re-visiting the hotspots and mines, taking my time.
Tip: Contact the credit card companies that you will be using while out of the state to let them know that you are doing so. Even though I knew this for out of the country travel, I never thought to do it for within the U.S. That way they will not shut down your credit cards while you are out, this happened to me on this road trip about 1/2 way thru and even after I called them and updated everything, they shut me down again a few days later in another state. Just give them the name of the states and/or countries you will be visiting and the timeline for your travel
If you have any road trip questions specific to this blog post ...
please contact me via my email provided under the contact tab above and I will give you all I've got !
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My next blog post will be about my S.E. Asia Adventures in the next few weeks, so come back for that!