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  1. #1
    travisva Guest

    Default Midwest National Park Tour

    My dad and I are looking to make a big loop from suburban D.C. down south, then up to North Dakota and back during this summer, starting late June.

    Specifically, we must, at a minimum, drive through the following states (not necessarily in this order):

    -South Dakota
    -North Dakota

    (and if you're wondering, it's part of my attempt to visit every U.S. state by 18. currently, i'm up to 30 states.)

    We're hoping to stop at the following National Parks along the way:

    -Great Smoky Mountains
    -Hot Springs
    -Wind Cave (including Mt. Rushmore)
    -Theodore Roosevelt
    -Mammoth Cave

    A drive through the Sand Hills in Nebraska is also a must, and we intend to make the quick drive out from the Badlands to see Devil's Tower in nearby Wyoming. If we end up driving from Great Smoky Mountains to Hot Springs, we'll probably spend a little time at the Tupelo National Battlefield.
    We're also considering tripping through the Geographic Center of the 48 Constiguous States (in north-central Kansas), Geographic Center of North America (in north-central North Dakota), Abraham Lincoln Birthplace (just north of Mammoth Cave), and the KVLY TV Tower (between Fargo and Grand Forks).

    Is it possible to do this in 10 days? If not, we can extend it to 11 or 12 (possibly), and we could expunge most things in the above paragraph.

    At this point, we're pretty sure we're gonna rent a car and just wing it when it comes to sleeping accomodations. (We're planning on bringing camping gear too, if the need arrives.) I'm thinking about this route thusfar (though we're very open for other suggestions, and this is only a very rough route):

    Day 1: D.C. --> Great Smoky Mountains NP (8 hours)
    Day 2: Great Smoky Mountains NP --> Tupelo National Battlefield --> Hot Springs NP (12 hours)
    Day 3: Hot Springs NP --> Salina, KS (8 hours)
    Day 4: Salina, KS --> Wind Cave NP (10 hours)
    Day 5: Wind Cave NP/Mt. Rushmore/Badlands NP
    Day 6: Wind Cave NP --> Devil's Tower --> Theodore Roosevelt NP (7 1/2 hours)
    Day 7: Theodore Roosevelt NP --> Omaha, NE (10 hours)
    Day 8: Omaha, NE --> Mammoth Cave NP (12 hours)
    Day 9: Mammoth Cave NP
    Day 10: Mammoth Cave NP --> D.C. (10 hours)

    All times are approximate and taken from a route built on I'm sure these aren't very accurate, so I'm also wondering what times look like from people that have already done a similar trip. (This past summer, we drove up to Nova Scotia. Coming back, we had a 12-hour day from Kejimkujik NP to Nashua, NH, so we are accustomed to long drives.)

    Thanks for reading and ANY and ALL help is unbelieveably appreciated!

    [Editor's Note: This member requested that his/her account be closed today]
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-21-2008 at 02:43 PM. Reason: Membership Info

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default No Joy

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Believe me, I take no joy in what I'm about to say, but I think you'll get even less joy from a trip such as you've got mapped out. There are just way too many 600 and 700 mile days stacked back to back to back for this to be anything more than a grueling slog. Yes you will 'see' a lot of places and you'll be able to cross a number of states off your 'To Do' list, nit that's it. You will have no time to actually experience the Smokies, Hot Springs, Devils Tower, the Badlands or any other place you have listed. You'll get a quick photo op and then have to hop back in the car. Consider this. You say that you are no stranger to long drives because you made the 700 mile or so drive from Nova Scotia to New Hampshire. (I'll assume you didn't 'cheat' and take the ferry.) Now think about doing that day after day for 10 days. Here are the mileages you've laid out: 480, 700, 510, 680, 1 day break, 300, 740, 710, 1 day break, 685. While this trip is doable in the sense that you can make it, other than the areas around southwestern South Dakota and central Kentucky where you'll be taking your 'breaks' it won't be, I don't think, terribly memorable.


  3. #3
    travisva Guest


    I was thinking along the same lines. Do you think 16 days would be more do-able?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Time, Time, Time

    Any addition of time would be a big help, but you still have to budget it out appropriately. If you actually want to have the 'luxury' of exploring and experiencing the places you'll be visiting, then absolutely add time to this trip. Just as important, however, is how you budget that time. 600 and 700 mile days are just not conducive to enjoying the drive. Plan to be out of the car at least a few hours a day. Personally, I find that I can keep up 400-500 mile days pretty much continuously and that such a pace allows me to spend an hour or two at 2 or 3 venues along the way. But then I do generally start my driving day at 7 in the morning and run until 9 at night. That allows me to devote 14 hours a day to the journey, including driving, sight-seeing, and relaxed meals, and still have time to get a good 8 hours of sleep each night.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Just a tad different view

    Overall, I agree with AZBuck. I have done several speed runs where I have driven700 miles for two days at a time. The first day is great. The second day, is tough. The third day, I'm always thrilled that it's either a no-driving day or a very light driving day.

    Just an general, if you are spending most of your time driving and if the stops you make are very brief and limited to things like fuel/food/bio breaks, you will probably average about 55mph over the course of your day. This figure also allows for occassionally slow downs for congestions, etc. You might let that be your guide in determining how many miles you can drive in a day. The various mapping programs tend to be optimistic and don't really allow time for those stops/slowdowns.

    I think you would benefit from reading these tips about doing a speed run safely.

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