Our creative director, Greg Miller and his family took the road trip of a lifetime to Yellowstone National Park this summer and brought Lap Around America along for the ride. In our last post in the series, The Millers make their way home across the great state of South Dakota and catch a ton of beauty on the way. Didn’t catch their first two posts in the series? You can read about their trip to Mount Rushmore here and the amazing time they had in Yellowstone and Montana here.
We reveled in our last Montana sunrise before packing everything up and heading out on the road again. Some neighbors stopped by to chat on their way to ask about the truck/camper and what exactly this ‘Lap Around America’ was. They were super friendly and invited us back to visit with promises of dinner and potential visits with horses in the future.
Back through the beautiful mountains of Montana, we crossed over into Wyoming and found our way to the Buffalo WY KOA for the night. The kids had their minds set on swimming, so that is exactly what we did. Well, they did. We watched and enjoyed conversation with other adults about road tripping with two kids. That was a quick stopover night and we were up and out early the next morning, headed back to South Dakota.
We opted for a northern route around the black hills for some different scenery. This took us through Spearfish and then into Sturgis for a quick drive-thru look at the town, not the rally. Not sure we would have gone this way the previous week but since the rally was officially over, we thought we’d check it out. It’s a cool little town and I cannot imagine what it is like with an extra 500,000 motorcycles funneling through their streets.
Hungry for lunch, we did a bit of googling and found a BBQ place not too far away that was so highly recommended that we couldn’t resist. JR’s Rhodehouse BBQ Pit in Summerset, SD– on my goodness! We said that the food alone was worth the drive all the way there and back. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the people were so very friendly. We really wish it wasn’t 900 miles from home.
We were so full after lunch but determined to make it back to our home at Palmer Gulch/Mount Rushmore KOA. The girls in the family had reservations for a horseback trail ride that would not be missed! Fortunately, the KOA we loved at Palmer Gulch is also home to the Stables at Palmer Gulch. The stables are home to over 100 horses and trail rides are available three times daily. After a quick orientation, we were in the saddle and off on an hour-long adventure through the Black Hills National Forest. What a dream. It was a gorgeous day, the perfect amount of time for a ride and our horses and guide were great. Welcome back to South Dakota! We weren’t sure anything could top that, so we spent the rest of the evening indulging in bike rides, water slides, walks around the grounds and an ice cream treat to top of the night, naturally. There was a storm rolling in over the hills, so we called it a night early and were off to bed.
Another stop added to the agenda- Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. We were headed to the Badlands and ultimately the other side of the state that day, but we just had to stop and see what it was all about. From its humble beginnings in 1931 as a local drug store and source for free ice water for travelers, Wall Drug has grown into a full-blown mall/roadside attraction. We shopped for a few souvenirs, ate some lunch and of course grabbed some free ice water and spent a couple of hours there overall. We didn’t even see a quarter of the sites to see there.
But we were off to the Badlands! We didn’t really know what to expect, but literally 10 minutes down the road from Wall Drug and the interstate, you enter Badlands National Park and just wow. We marveled over the change in landscape and imagined what it must have been like for anyone traveling across South Dakota a century ago coming up over a ridge and seeing this view. It was breathtaking. Canyons and rock formations without limits. We happened to be there during a record heatwave, so we didn’t spend a terribly long time outside, but we stopped at key points to enjoy overlooks and take a ton of pictures. The Badlands loop is a 90-minute drive that runs parallel to the interstate so we were still making progress as we looped through. After seeing everything we could and meeting back up with the interstate, we were back on the road enjoying the fields of sunflowers on our way to Sioux Falls for the night.
At this point in the trip we are tired, but still up for any attractions we could come across. We never thought about the name Sioux Falls, but when we realized that Falls Park was so close to where we were staying and, on our way out of town, we stopped in before getting back on the road. We were so glad we stopped. The Falls on the Big Sioux River are so pretty- we could have stayed there all day. We took a quick stroll around the park and saw only a small portion of it before heading out to Topeka, KS. Driving through Nebraska was a first for several of us and one more state to add to our list for this trip. We drove south into Kansas and stopped on the south side of Topeka for the evening at the local KOA. The kids swam again in a beautiful saltwater pool and we took a sunset stroll through their fields before heading off to bed on our last night of the trip. The next morning, we opted for a big, local breakfast and found a gem of a diner, Banjo’s, just minutes from our campground. We filled up on delicious French toast, omelets, biscuits and gravy and bacon and called ourselves good to go. We’re off to home!
This trip was something we probably never would have done if we’d had time to think about it too much. It was daunting and a little scary at first- ‘What if we break something? What if we don’t know what we’re doing?’ but we are so glad we jumped in and went. The memories we made on this trip as a family will be talked about for years and years. We had our moments of tension, but we laughed and laughed more to outweigh and of those tense moments. What a great experience!