Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 15: Home Sweet Home

Saturday, June 14: one last waterfall

Falls Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Falls Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

In the morning, we visited Falls Park to see the large waterfalls that gave Sioux Falls its name. From then on, it was a long day of driving. We encountered a large storm in Minnesota that rocked the car with strong winds. The straps holding down the kayaks stayed strong, and we didn’t have any further issues with the boats coming loose.

After crossing the Mississippi River, passing through Wisconsin, and sitting in Illinois traffic, we finally reached Chicago. We picked up our dog River, who was ecstatically happy to see us. We were sad that our amazing adventure was over, but it was still good to be home.

States visited: South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois


Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 14: Battle of Little Bighorn

Friday, June 13: Bighorn, Deadwood, and Sturgis

After making it through most of the trip without incident, we had our first and only scrape-up with the kayaks as we left our motel in Billings. Kurt drove under an entranceway that had the clearance noted on the entrance but not the exit. Luckily, the kayaks sustained minimal damage and none of it too serious–a cable connecting the rudder was snapped and the brand stickers were peeled off.

Our first big stop was at the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn. We walked through the rolling hills to see the site of Custer’s Last Stand and the memorials dotting the green plains.

Indian Monument

Indian Monument


Custer's honorary gravesite

Custer’s honorary gravesite

Back on the road, we grabbed lunch at Taco John’s and reentered South Dakota. We drove through Deadwood, which seemed to be mostly made of beautiful views and casinos. We stopped in Sturgis and visited the Indian Motorcycle shop to do some Father’s Day shopping.



Kurt at the Knuckle Saloon

Kurt at the Knuckle Saloon

After getting ice cream bars (because that’s how hard we roll in Sturgis) we hit the road to get through more miles. Our two long stops had put us schedule to arrive late that night in Sioux Falls, so I called their Holiday Inn to reserve a room for us. We hit one more travel snag when a third J-bracket on our roof rack snapped, unable to withstand the barrage of wind on the South Dakota plains. Kurt used the straps we bought at the REI in Bozeman to get the kayaks secured.

only one bracket survived the trip unbroken

only one bracket survived the trip unbroken

The sky began to darken, and we still had a lot of miles before Sioux Falls. We made one final stop at a biker bar in Kennebec for dinner, and then pushed on. As we drove, we had a great view of the “honey moon,” a rare lunar occurrence. It was pretty special to witness, especially on a Friday the 13th, and on our actual honeymoon.

honey moon on our honeymoon, South Dakota

honey moon on our honeymoon, South Dakota

We finally arrived at the Sioux Falls Holiday Inn just before midnight, ready to check in and pass out. After getting our key and room number, we were delighted to discover that we had an enormous suite on the concierge floor that was easily twice as big as our condo back home. We didn’t get much time to enjoy it before we fell fast asleep after a long, busy day.

States visited: Montana, South Dakota


Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 3: the Black Hills

Monday, June 2: Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest

In the morning, we attempted another hike into Badlands backcountry near Prairie Dog Town, but were quickly defeated by the muddy conditions. Bison were plentiful on the road, crossing from one plain to the next. We watched them cross the street from inside our car; one curious bison walked right up to us and gave the hood of the Subaru a good sniff.


bison surround our car


more bison on the road

After saying goodbye to the Badlands, we headed to Mt. Rushmore. As expected, there were plenty of crowds out on the perfect sunny day. Unexpectedly, we learned that you can buy a “Red Rally Racer” at the concession stands, which is a cherry slushie with a shot of vodka or tequila. God bless American, indeed.


Mt. Rushmore


diamond doll

After leaving Rushmore, we took a scenic drive through Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park. On a wildlife viewing loop in Custer, we saw bison galore, pronghorns, elk, and mule deer.



We set up camp at the Bismarck Lake campground and kicked back with a bottle of wine while reading our guidebooks. Overnight, some loud thunderstorms rolled through, but our little tent held up like a champ. Next stop: Yellowstone!


our Black Hills campsite


Sites visited: Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forest
Wildlife sightings: bison and calves, pronghorns, elk, mule deer, wild turkeys

Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 2: Exploring the Badlands

Sunday, June 1: Our first full day

We woke up and cooked a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sausage and veggies using a pan and Jetboil on our front porch. In the light of day, we saw that ours was the third Subaru Forester in a row on our block of cabins. After breakfast we checked out of our cabin and began to explore the park. There were several short hikes that we completed, including one known for its spectacular view that came with a warning “not for those afraid of heights.”



I am pretty acrophobic, but I gave it a shot and climbed the ladder that took us to the next part of the trail. The view was indeed fantastic, which I enjoyed a nice and safe full 5 feet away from the edge.


Kurt is braver than I am when it comes to heights

After we finished hiking, we left the park to check out Wall Drug (where we purchased the mounted jackalope head I’ve always wanted because I am a weirdo) and tried to see the Minuteman Missile Site, which was sadly and inexplicably closed. On the way back, we drove the Badlands Scenic Loop, keeping an eye out for bison. Sure enough, we spotted their distinctive shapes dotting the green meadows. Once we got to the primitive campground at Sage Creek, we saw a few more hanging out about 200 yards away on a hill, grazing calmly. The forecast called for rain, so we quickly set up our tent and cracked open a few local beers we had picked up at the grocery store in Sioux Falls. After a brief rain passed, Kurt and I got in one more quick hike towards the river, coming across yet another bison on the way. It was our closest view of one yet, and their size was impressive. Though they seem pretty chill, they can be aggressive and do serious damage with their horns, so we kept a respectable distance. The wet ground acted like clay, clumping to our boots with each step. It made it difficult to hike very far, so we headed back to camp to clean ourselves up and relax before night fell.

our first campsite of the trip

our first campsite of the trip

As the sun went down, other hikers staying at the campgrounds slowly returned from their explorations. A neighboring camper remarked that he had heard coyotes yipping at him. Sure enough, as we slept in our tents that night we could hear the howls and yips of the pack.


diamond doll at the Badlands

Sites visited: Wall Drug, Minuteman Missile Site
Wildlife sightings: bison, bighorn sheep, jackalope (heh), coyotes (heard only)

Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 1: the Badlands

Saturday, May 31, 2014: we hit the road 

photo 1

packing up the Subaru

Kurt and I set the alarm bright and early for 5 am to get a head start on our longest day of driving (12 hours total). After saying goodbye to our dog River and my parents (who cared for her during our 2-week trip), we left their house in the Chicago suburbs and set out for South Dakota. The drive was mostly uneventful, though we did have to make a few stops to refasten one of the kayaks to the roof of our car. The high winds on the road pushed and pulled on the kayaks enough to crack one of the brackets on our roof rack, which we tightened back in place with heavy duty straps. Finally, we got the kayaks secure and were able to finish the drive.

photo 2

we arrive!

We arrived at Badlands National Park a little after 8 pm local time. Almost immediately, we saw several female bighorn sheep cross the road in front of our car and shoot up the side of a craggy ridge. Since we knew we’d be rolling into the park pretty late and didn’t want to deal with setting up a tent after such a long day in the car, we had rented a cabin at Cedar Pass within the park. We grabbed a late dinner of fry bread and bison burgers, checked into our cabin, and relaxed on the adirondack chairs on our porch with cold beers in hand, watching a lightning storm in the distance. It was a near perfect start to our adventure.

photo 3

female bighorn sheep

States passed through: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota
Wildlife sightings: female bighorn sheep, wild horses


Honeymoon Road Trip

Kurt and I just returned from our honeymoon roadtrip to South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. Neither of us had been to the Great Plains states before, and it was also the first time for both of us to visit Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.  Here is a photo of our route. Over the next few weeks, I will  post a day-by-day account along with photos, wildlife sightings, and more.

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