My boyfriend is moving and we are going to be driving his car from New York to Seattle with some of his stuff in it. We hope to make good time while stopping for a few interesting attractions along the way. So far the plan is to push it to Chicago in one day and stay with my family for a day or two. Between Chicago and Seattle, I've picked out Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Mount Rainier as points of interest. I've been told that Mount Rushmore isn't worth it esp since we're trying to do the Chicago-Seattle portion in 4-5 days. Keeping that in mind, do you have advice on:
1) any good places to stop for food between New York and Chicago?
2) what are the "must sees/dos" at the Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Mount Rainier?
3) what are good places to stop for lodging that are near the points of interest, but far enough for the prices not to be jacked up because of it? don't mind driving an hour or two in the morning to reach the park or in the evening after departing.
4) are there other "should not miss" points of interest along the way that's worth stopping by?
5) what would you say is the safety of having stuff in the car (after all, my boyfriend is moving) while parking in motel/park lots? any suggestions on theft deterrents?