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  1. #1

    Default Pensacola to Yellowstone in May 2011

    Great site! Have been on several roadtrips and just found this site!

    We plan on 3 (maybe 4) week trip from Pensacola to Yellowstone starting in early May and ending before Memorial Day.

    This is my longest endeavor yet and and the first time we've been to this part of the US, so I need some handholding as I develop this trip. There are 2 of us and we are driving a car and plan on staying at hotels along the way. Want to stay at moderately clean and safe places (think Holiday Inn Express) as we're not "spring chickens" (nor wealthy spring chickens). We also would like to drive no more than 5-6 hours at a time.

    This is what I would like:

    2 overnights in St Louis, MO (Gateway Arch/Busch Beer Tour/Grant Farm)
    2 overnights in Omaha, NE (Laundry and break before long haul)
    Visit Deadwood, SD
    Visit Mt Rushmore & Crazy Horse SD
    3 Overnights Yellowstone NP
    Return back home.

    Here's what I need help with:

    Thinking of making the long trip from Rushmore to Yellowstone "area" in one night and stay in a budget place within an hour or so drive to Yellowstone. Then get up and do a full day at Yellowstone and check in to accommodations (yet to be determined) so we don't "waste" the first night stay at the higher-priced lodging in/near the park.

    Any trips/tips/lodging suggestions for the places I mentioned?

    Weather considerations for traveling that way in early-mid May

    Any suggestions for stops on a return trip (taking a different route home). (Heading back down through Colorado, OK, KS -- we've already "done" AR & MS)?

    What about a quick stop at Tetons, NP? What about a float trip in the Tetons? Recommendations?

    I would love to come back through Utah and hit Bryce/Zion etc., but think that will be too hard to sell to hubby based on the length of this trip already. I'll maybe make that next year doing a fly/drive out of SLC.

    Thanks in advance for any help, suggestions and tips.
    Last edited by HAGGIS; 03-21-2011 at 10:43 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Welcome!

    Are you aware that Yellowstone is not completely open till after Memorial Day?

    Your best bet for finding "budget" lodging anywhere near Yellowstone would probably be in Cody. From Rushmore I'd probably allow about 9 hours. You cannot get in to Yellowstone via the east entrance till at least May 6 and your access will still be quite limited till at least May 13.

    It's going to take you at least 2 days to get from Pensacola to STL, it's at least 14 hours. STL to Omaha is about an 8 hour drive. Omaha to Deadwood is a VERY long drive for 1 day - over 10 hours.

  3. #3

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    Thank you for the reply about the park opening times--it helped a bunch!

    I worked around the times and decided to visit YSP 16 & 17 May (staying at Old Faithful Inn--shared bathroom room) and then moving down to Jackson Hole for the 18-19-20 May staying at Cowboy Village Resort. From there I plan on taking a float trip on the Snake River and drive around Grand Tetons NP.

    That pretty much firms up my itinerary for the YSNP & GTNP area.

    From that I'll work backwards and forwards in planning the trip.

    Here is my "plan" so far:

    7 May - Depart FLA, overnight @ Athens, AL
    8-9 May - Drive to St Louis - 2 overnights (See Busch Brewery & Gateway Park)
    10-11 May - Drive to Omaha, NE - 2 overnights (view something in that area)
    12 May - Drive to Mitchell, SD - overnight (visit Corn Palace)
    13 -14 May - Drive to Rapid City SD - 2 overnights (Wall Drug,Rushmore, CrazyHorse, CusterNP)
    15 May - Drive to Sheridan, WY via Deadwood, SD - overnight
    16-17 May - Drive to YSNP - 2 overnights in park
    18-20 May - Drive to Jackson Hole, WY - 3 overnights (Tetons, Snake River Float Trip)
    21 May - Depart for drive back to FLA via CO, KS, OK, AR, MS, AL (still in planning)

    Haven't gotten any hotel reservations other than those mentioned. Will flesh out the details of the return trip later, but it will pretty much be a full-throttle return to FL as we want to get back before the Memorial Day weekend.

    Any suggestions and comments are much appreciated. Thanks for viewing.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

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    Other than for YSNP, the only other place where you may want to make reservations is in Jackson. I don't see any problem with walk-ins in any of the other cities, none of them are really "resort" areas and they will have a good choice of chain hotels/motels around the Interstate exits. If cost is not a major issue, you may want to stay downtown in STL at something like the Hampton Inn - it's huge and within walking distance of the Arch.

    Just got a thought - I see you are from P'Cola and you might be retired military - if so, you can stay on military bases to save considerable money - I understand that Scott AFB has a very nice facility and it's just outside STL. Omaha has Offutt AFB nearby and Rapid City has Ellsworth AFB, I have no knowledge of their facilities.
    Last edited by glc; 03-24-2011 at 10:17 AM.

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Other than for YSNP, the only other place where you may want to make reservations is in Jackson. I don't see any problem with walk-ins in any of the other cities, none of them are really "resort" areas and they will have a good choice of chain hotels/motels around the Interstate exits. If cost is not a major issue, you may want to stay downtown in STL at something like the Hampton Inn - it's huge and within walking distance of the Arch.

    Just got a thought - I see you are from P'Cola and you might be retired military - if so, you can stay on military bases to save considerable money - I understand that Scott AFB has a very nice facility and it's just outside STL. Omaha has Offutt AFB nearby and Rapid City has Ellsworth AFB, I have no knowledge of their facilities.
    Yes, I'm retired military. I have been considering using Space A billets at Scott, Ellsworth and Offutt and possibly a few more on the return leg. I'm not sure if I can book this far ahead for billets, but I think I'm going to make a few calls in the next day or so. Some won't let you make reservations till 72 hours or less out. In that case, I'll just book some refundable rooms with 24-hour cancellation clause and roll the dice as I travel.

    We already have confirmed reservations at Jackson and YSNP, but before I go, I like to have most of my hotels booked so I'm not searching blindly around at night for a place to crash--maybe 30 years ago it was OK, not so much now.

    I'm planning on a float trip at Teton; due to the time of year, my only choices are (1) Triangle X Float Trips or (2) Solitude Float Trips--any input on these? Also is a 9am or 1pm a better choice.

    Thanks for all the inputs!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    I would not be concerned at all about finding lodging near STL, Omaha, or Rapid City if the Space A falls through. They are all large enough cities where they have a wide selection of easy to find hotels.

    When I'm concerned about finding lodging for whatever reason (which is rare) if I know where I am going to spend my next night I will pick a hotel and book it online the night before. I do travel with a laptop and always try to find hotels with wifi or wired connections. I've used wifi at Starbucks and McDonalds. I've also sat in a Super 8 parking lot to take care of a little business, most of them have unsecured wifi.

    I'm sure others do things differently, but I use hotels.com to see what's available in an area and get the approximate rates (along with reading reviews to make sure the place isn't a dump), then I'll reserve on the hotel's site or call the hotel directly to negotiate a rate and book it. The only major chain that doesn't list on hotels.com is Motel 6, so I'll use motel6.com to check on those.

  7. #7

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    Got only 9 days till departure; pretty much got my itinerary for the ride up to YSNP/GTNP.

    Decided to stay in Rapid City, SD for 3 nights (taking a bus tour of all areas of interest), then depart and take in Deadwood and Devil's Tower along the drive before a night stop in Buffalo, WY.

    Then plan on driving to Cody, WY for another overnight.

    QUESTIONS:
    What is the 'don't miss' stuff along the way from Rapid City/Deadwood/Devils Tower/Buffalo?

    Anything I should check out in Buffalo, WY?

    What is the most interesting driving route to take from Buffalo to Cody and what is there to see along the way?

    Is a float trip (not rapids) through Grand Tetons too cold to take for this time of year (planning on the 1pm trip) assuming that it doesn't rain.

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