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  1. Default Virginia to Colorado and back

    Hello all. I just discovered this wonderful website and have been looking through others road trips. Perhaps thereís some ideas, suggestions others can make for our upcoming one. Hubby and I will be driving out to Denver then return via North and South Dakota. That strikes off the last two states heís not been in. Looking at about two weeks. So far, this is what weíve outlined,
    Day 1 central Virginia, via I-64 to Louisville, KY
    Day 2, drive to St. Louis, take in the Arch. Just heard about the Native American mounds just east of there in Illinois so may drive through there. What else?
    Day 3, drive to Albilene, KS and visit the Eisenhour Library
    Day 4, make it to Denver where we are visiting family

    After that the trip home is more tentative. We want to head up to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. To fit in the Badlands and Devils Tower, how much more time is needed for those? Any suggestions what to do or see in North Dakota? From there we figured weíd stop to see Mall of America in Minneapolis and head through Wisconsin down to Chicago. Any suggestions of side trips in that section? I havenít been in Chicago for over 40 years so like to see it again. After that there may be a family stop in Indiana then heading on home.

    We do a lot of traveling already but most of it has been from VA to New England, or to Indiana, or Florida. This will be our first really long road trip. So, on that note, another question, any good ways to spend the time in the car? I know, music, audio books, other ideas? Good old license plate game? Thoughts?

    Thanks all.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    4,712

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Your trip going to Denver looks pretty good. Nothing jumps out at me as not-doable, though Day 2 seems a bit squeezed. Louisville to the mounds is about 250 miles. The mounds you speak of are the Cahokia Mounds, I believe, not far from Collinsville. You'll need a couple of hours there. As for the Arch, if you want to go UP in it, you'll either need tickets in advance (IF they're offering those now) or be prepared for a wait. That's where you may be squeezed.

    To answer your questions about the Badlands: you can drive through in about an hour and a half, but you'll want to stop at a few places, so allow 3 hours, plus any hikes you may want to take. On the west entrance to Badlands is Wall Drug. That in itself is a kick and definitely worth a stop.

    Devil's Tower is also a neat place to visit. Getting there, though, depends on how you want to route yourself out of Denver. DTNM is about 30 miles off of I-90 in the northeast corner of Wyoming. If you want to walk all the way around the Tower, to get different views, you'll need about 2-3 hours. (That's what my husband and I did a few years back.) Otherwise, you can drive out there, take a good look around, stop at the field of prairie dogs (cute rodents), spending more time to get out there and back than you do seeing the place.

    North Dakota has Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I can't comment on that one since it's one NP that I haven't been to. Near Bismarck is a big Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan, if you follow history and the voyage of L&C. Then there's stuff in the Fargo area.

    In the car -- all of those. Plus talking. While hubby and I don't play the License Plate game, we do look at plates just to see where others are from. Family members think it's funny when we suddenly say, "5" when a certain brand of commercial truck passes us, or "7" when traveling alongside railroad tracks that were pretty busy one day. (Our highest number was 13 trains in about 250 miles.)

    BTW, how long are you planning to stay in Denver, and in Indiana? It's 4 days on the road (the first will be the longest) going out, and if you're planning to return that other way, you're looking at 2500 miles, or at least 5 days of traveling. That's 9 days, and that would only leave you about 5 days for visiting and sightseeing?

    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
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    9,442

    Default Sounds Like You Know What You're Doing!

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Let's see... You're taking four days to drive what could be safely done in three. You've split your westward drive up into four relatively equal-length segments with some place interesting to stay each evening. You're taking a separate route back home to increase the number of places you get to visit. You've named several of the attractions in the Black Hills area where most people only know about Mount Rushmore. You're planning ahead. Looks like you've learned well from your own previous RoadTrip experiences. But. you've asked for some ideas and comments, so what can I tell you?

    Some odds and ends for the trip to Colorado. Just east of St. Louis (on the Illinois side of the river and just north of I-270 off IL-3 is the site from which Lewis and Clark actually launched their expedition. There's not much there besides some monuments and placards, but the view of the Mississippi and Missouri joining along with the history make this a stop to consider. Also in St. Louis is Grant's Farm. Once owned by the former president, it's now a zoo and the home of the Budweiser Clydesdales.

    As for other things to see on the way home, also in the Rapid City area are Wind and Jewel Caves, so with everything else to do there, you might want to consider spending multiple nights in the Rapid City area. Then if you head more-or-less straight north from there you'd be heading for one of North Dakota's jewels, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. And you'll cross paths with Lewis and Clark again at Fort Mandan. If you liked Chicago 40 years ago, you might want to stop in Milwaukee and take a stroll along its lakeshore. It reminds me a lot today of what Chicago used to be like.

    And finally, you didn't ask about anything from Chicago to Virginia and you may be getting close enough to home that you know the region as well as I do, but you should be able to fit in a bit of Ohio Amish countryside and the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Have fun as you continue your planning, but you already seem well on your way.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 05-15-2018 at 08:30 AM.

  4. Default

    Thanks for all the information so far. Really appreciate it. We will definitely check into Theodore Roosevelt NP, hadnít heard of it before. I hadnít thought of Milwaukee but itís a good idea, never been there. Part of me is tempted to check into Wisconsin Dells. I know it is a tourist trap but I saw it almost 60 years ago with my parents. The only thing I remember, and I know doesnít happen anymore, was the dog jumping over to the other ledge and back.

    The beauty of retirement is we arenít on a solid schedule to get back so may take another day or two. We are looking at about four days in the Denver area, mainly to see family as weíve been there many times already, just always flown before. Indiana, at most, may be a detour to check on family property and not much else. I had to chuckle at the suggestion of Amish country. I grew up with Amish (Adams County, IN) so know the culture well. New River Gorge in WVA is beautiful. I love driving through that state. Right now Iím looking forward to seeing more of the middle part of the country, our usual ďfly overĒ zone.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Default

    The Dells has become a MAJOR water park destination. My Illinois family has commented many times on how the Dells have mushroomed, grown, and is more for the water park folks than for the folks who want to ride a tour boat and see the Dells themselves. I did the latter as a kid.


    Donna

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,251

    Default

    I think if I were in your shoes, based on what you've said at this point, I'd look at going up from Denver to the Custer, SD area. That's a great base for Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, as well as Custer State Park and Jewel and Wind Caves - which I'd also highly recommend if you're going to visit the Black Hills.

    From there, I'd head west checking out places like Deadwood and Sturgis (I'd avoid taking this trip in early August due to crowds from the annual Motorcycle Rally, btw) on the way to Devils Tower. Then head north to Teddy Roosevelt NP from there. This plan would have you skipping Badlands NP, but TRNP and Badlands have quite a few similarities, and I don't think you'd really miss out too much by doing only one of them on this trip.

    Between MSP and Chicago, you could follow the Mississippi River south for a while, either go as far as LaCrosse, and head over to the Dells, as you mentioned, or even go down all the way to Davenport, Iowa, and then head back towards Chicago through Galena.

    If you do visit the Dells, there is still a lot of natural beauty, beyond the tacky tourist traps and water parks. A boat tour of the Dells is a nice way to spend a few hours - and see the spot where they used to have a dog jumping from ledge to ledge (as you can imagine, that sort of thing isn't done anymore), you could also continue onto Devils Lake State Park and maybe take a free ride across the Wisconsin River on the Merrimac Ferry.

  7. Default

    Thanks for more ideas to ponder. One thought we have is to head up to Devils Tower from Denver then head to Rapid City and use that as a base for Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We arenít into much hiking, more drive and stop and take in views, etc. so still are trying to figure out how much time will be needed for each place. While TRNP looks great, Iím almost wondering instead of going there to head towards the Badlands then turn and go up to Bismarck. Iím trying to see how to keep heading back east without to much backtracking west. After writing the note about Wisconsin Dells I went and googled their info and saw what you meant about it being a water park haven. Definitely not interested in that so may skip it and rely on old memories. Is there a decent road driving down along the Mississippi to La Crosse? That could be really scenic. Itís fun looking at the possibilities!

    Oh yes, I discovered the Sturgis rally last year. We had considered going to Mt. Rushmore for our anniversary last August 6 and was trying to figure out why the hotel prices were so high. Then I went googling and discovered the Sturgis Rally. No thank you, donít need to be there then! Instead, we went to Cleveland, another story there. 😄

  8. #8
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    May 2003
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    Default

    The option you've laid out for the Dakotas is perfectly fine as well - going up the Missouri River could be a nice way to get from SD to ND. However, I will say either way you're going to end up doing a little backtracking - either east west or north south, as Devils Tower is a fair bit north of Rushmore and the Badlands.

    There are branches of the Great River Road on both sides of the Mississippi. For the most part, US-61 follows the MN side from St. Paul to La Crosse, while WI-35 goes down the WI side. Both sides have plenty to offer.

  9. #9
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    Southern California
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    If you feel like something a little more out of the ordinary, in Minnesota, give consideration to going up to Lake Itasca State Park. That's where the headwaters of the Mississippi River are, and you can actually wade across it (water was mid-thigh on me, just a little above the knees of my taller husband). I thought that was a real kick when we did it a few years ago. Bring insect repellent, though, as the mosquitoes in the area are thick!


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default What I like to do.

    Quote Originally Posted by NowthatIamretired View Post
    We do a lot of traveling already but most of it has been from VA to New England, or to Indiana, or Florida. This will be our first really long road trip. So, on that note, another question, any good ways to spend the time in the car? I know, music, audio books, other ideas? Good old license plate game? Thoughts?
    Read up about the history of the areas through which you will be travelling. Who lived there before …uropean settlement, what was their life like. How did the pioneers cope breaking uniknown ground, and how did folk cope even 50 years ago, before all this technology and the highways.

    Put yourself in their place. Imagine what their life was like.

    Lifey

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