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  1. #1

    Default MKE-SEA-MKE May 2012

    A friend and I have decided to take a cross-country road trip. We've been friends for 20+ years and did travel to Italy on a guided tour together a few years back for about 9-10 days without too much aggravation! We don't have a budget, but do have time restraints as we both work and we are pretty realistic about how long we can be together 24/7 and still come back friends.

    He has taken long road trips recently, to TX and back. It's been awhile since I've been in a car more than 4-5 hours but have driven to the East Coast, FL, GA, etc.

    One discussion we are having is which vehicle to take, my Prius or his pick-up (with extended cab). I get more than twice the MPG he does and the back seat is just as roomy as his for napping. Luggage/shopping space is obviously more limited in the Prius, but unless we are looking at totem poles, I'm thinking the savings in gas will outweigh shipping purchases home.

    Also one discussion is what time to leave. There is not much between here and Mount Rushmore that we want to see. However, we do want to stop at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug. He thinks if we leave at 3 a.m., we can make these stops and still get to Rapid City so we have a full day in that area.

    We have revised the itinerary a few times and are pretty flexible to changes. I am concerned about not making hotel reservations - just because of the deals you can get on-line and if we just show up, we'll be paying full rates.

    Any input is appreciated. We leave May 2.

    Day 1 WI-MN-SD Milwaukee WI to Mitchell SD = 566 miles, 9:27, Mitchell SD to Wall SD = 221 miles, 3:39, Wall SD to Rapid City SD = 55.5 miles, :55 (gain 1 hour)
    Day 2 Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, hiking
    Day 3 SD-WY-MT Rapid City SD to Yellowstone Park WY = 542 miles, 8:21
    Day 4 Yellowstone
    Day 5 MT-ID-WA Yellowstone Park WY to Spokane WA = 476 miles, 7:45 (gain 1 hour)
    Day 6 Spokane
    Day 7 WA Spokane WA to Seattle WA = 280 miles, 4:38
    Day 8 Seattle
    Day 9 WA-OR Seattle WA to Astoria OR = 177 miles, 3:15
    Day 10 OR Astoria OR to Tillamook OR = 71.7 miles, 1:35
    Tillamook OR to Portland OR = 79.4 miles, 1:36
    Day 11 OR-ID Portland OR to Boise ID = 430 miles, 7:26 (lose 1 hour)
    Day 12 ID-UT Boise ID to Salt Lake City UT = 340 miles, 5:24
    Day 13 - SLC
    Day 14 UT-WY Salt Lake City UT to Cheyenne WY = 440 miles, 6:47
    Day 15 WY-NE Cheyenne WY to Omaha NE = 495 miles, 7:37 (lost 1 hour)
    Day 16 NE-IA-IL-WI Omaha NE to Milwaukee WI = 513 miles, 8:20

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO



    Starting off a trip at 3am and driving till dark is the best way I know of to start off a trip on the wrong foot. Please keep "normal" hours and keep each day down to 600 miles max, LESS if any 2 lane roads are involved. You need to add 20% to the drive times that a computer program gives you, they don't take into account ANY stops, delays, construction, or traffic.

    Bottom line - MKE to Rapid City in 1 day is very foolish. Rapid City to Yellowstone in 1 day is also kinda pushing it - you either have to take US-14 (which has some very slow sections) or go all the way to Livingston on I-90, which adds over 100 miles. What you should do is finish that day in Gillette instead of going back to Rapid City.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Worst Mistake Ever

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Sorry, but the thought that you're going to be able to cover 850 miles, and stop at the Corn Palace, and spend some time visiting Wall Drug, and make the additional necessary stops for food, fuel and bathroom breaks, and deal with about 30 miles of single lane traffic on I-90, and get some meaningful 'naps' in the back seat of either a Prius or a club-cab truck, ALL in 14 hour, is simply not going to fly. glc is right. The estimates for driving time that you get out of mapping routines are fantasies based on wholly unrealistic assumptions and you need to add considerably to those numbers to get real world values, and you have to also take a much more realistic look at what you can do and still maintain a level of alertness and rest that will allow you to be both safe and in good humor to enjoy your trip. Starting any RoadTrip with a 'death march' is getting off on exactly wrong foot. You need to leave yourselves a minimum of three full days for the drive to Yellowstone and then add to that any time you plan to spend sight seeing, hiking, using back roads, whatever. Denying yourselves the time to do your trip properly is the worst mistake you can make.


  4. #4


    In Australia we do this kind of road tripping all the time!! We regularly leave at 3am and arrive after dark. We have such vast distances to cover that it's almost a necessity if you want to get out of your state the same day!! I think it depends on how used you are to driving. I know I can drive the distance as long as I watch myself in the afternoon and carry cold drinks in the car. We also have non driving days which it looks like you have planned too. You might find your friend has to drive more as he has recently done long trips while you drive the shorter sections. Not sure about the hotel reservations - interested to hear though. We start our 3 month road trip of the western half of the States on 14 April and there doesn't seem to be much budget accomm. available!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I have to agree with GLC and Buck, your first day has the potential to truly torpedo your trip. The idea that you can travel 850 miles and have time to see anything, is a fantasy, as is the thought that you'll have the energy to sitesee and go hiking the next day. If you make it to Rapid, it will leave you exhausted to the point where enjoying yourself for the next several days will be highly unlikely. Much more likely, you won't enjoy much anything at the start of your trip, and you'll end up taking out your exhaustion on each other.

    I've done the Badlands to madison in a day, and that was a extremely long day, that didn't end until after midnight, but I didn't have to worry about driving again the next day and I hadn't done any long distance driving for a few days before.

    The farthest I would recommend going on day 1 is Chamberlain SD, which even that is a very long day, but it also gives you the advantage that you'd be able to go through the badlands on day 2.

    Looking at your trip, I think you would be much better off using your time by picking up the pace a bit more on your trip back rather than trying to kill yourself out of the starting blocks.

    As far as hotel reservations, you can still get good deals online during your trip without booking well in advance if you have a computer with you on the road. Simply find a wi-fi spot (which isn't usually too hard) and make your reservations just before you are ready to stop for the day. Just remember that searching for a good deal can take a bit of time, and you can run into problems if you try to book too late (After 9-10 pm many sites will stop taking same day reservations.).

  6. #6

    Default Thank you!

    I appreciate all your input - my first drafts of the itinerary had us staying the first night in Mitchell, which I thought was quite far enough. And, believe me, leaving in the middle of the night was not my idea :) Although, I have driven from MKE-ATL straight and that is about 800 miles and includes about 3 hours to get around Chicago!

    We have left a couple days wiggle-room at the end of the trip, so will get to adjusting.

    Also, I probably should have left out the times. I realize those are basically miles/mph and are not true travel times.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    One of the big things I'd really keep in mind is that you are doing a marathon here, not a sprint.

    If you were planning to spend a week in the Black Hills and wanted to try to just get there in one day, that would be much more doable. I still wouldn't recommend it, but pushing yourself very hard, when you've got recovery time is a much different experience than trying to push yourself very hard on day one, when you've still got several thousand miles of trip ahead of you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Rapid City, South Dakota, United States


    While you are in the Black Hills make sure to stop in Rapid City and check out Downtown and all the presidents. We have the City of Presidents which is a life sized bronze statues of all the past presidents. Main Street Square has an interactive fountain that shoots water to the beat of the music while changing colors.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 04-05-2012 at 10:28 AM. Reason: New Members may not post off-site links

  9. #9

    Default Thanks

    Thanks for the tip-I think we will. We are staying in Rapid City.

  10. #10


    I keep forgetting to update this... We ended up leaving at 11pm. I had about 2 hours sleep in the previous 48 with all the excitement, errands, packing, etc. We drove thru the night and got to the Corn Palace as it opened at 8am. AAA had suggested going thru Badlands National Park which was incredible! We also stopped at Wall Drug and made it to Rapid City in time to freshen up, hit a happy hour and get an early dinner. We did see all the president statues on our after dinner stroll, thank you, Erika! We also drove all the way from Rapid City to Yellowstone, stopping at Devils Tower for a hike. The rest of the trip was incredible as well - best stops were unplanned like the Golden Spike National Monument, Grand Coolie Dam and Dale Chihuly's Tacoma, WA, the Columbia River Valley... just a fantastic, fantastic trip at a good pace for us.

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