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Old 07-20-2015, 12:28 PM   #1
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Oregon Coast to New Jersey

Come August 3rd, my wife, 5 y/o daughter and 19 y/o step-son will be flying to Corvallis, OR to buy a 2005 SMB from a fellow member here on the forum and drive it back to NJ. We, of course, are knee deep in the planning stages of the trip with only two weeks to make all of our arrangements. As you can imagine, it's slim pickings along the route, but so far we've manage to get a few things buttoned up.

Monday night - hotel in Newport OR
Tuesday night - campsite Caldwell (along 84)
Wednesday night - campsite Madison (Yellowstone)

Unfortunately, we don't have all the time in the world to make this trek and need to be home by Wednesday morning August 12 in order for me to be back at work.

3200 miles in 8 days ~seems doable

We are currently looking for something to do for the following portions of our trip.

1. between Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore. Preferably a campground worth staying at. Shell Falls, Devil's tower, etc. We don't want to have to travel too far after leaving Yellowstone so that we can spend most of the day exploring Yellowstone before we head out.

2. After Mt. Rushmore (we are staying in a hotel in Rapid City), we are considering a water park in Sioux Falls to give the kids a break from beautiful scenery. Anything else we should check out?

3. From Sioux Falls to Des Moines? Possibly camp.

4. From Des Moines to Chicago? Where in Chicago? We'll like want a hotel here.

Any first hand experience would be much appreciated.

Here's our route so far:

Our Google Map Route
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Old 07-20-2015, 12:50 PM   #2
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

funny how it always works out to a drive across the nation....we bought our van in augusta georgia in 2012.

dang, if it wasnt going to be a tuesday, id show a nice place to camp locally, but i get to work on weekdaze however, let me know when your coming through. ill come introduce myself if you and yours are up to company.
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Old 07-20-2015, 02:06 PM   #3
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

We more or less just did that drive, from Tacoma, Washington, to Philadelphia. We left Tacoma on Friday, July 10, and got home on Saturday, July 18 (nine days). In between we did three nights/2.5 days in Yellowstone, drove the Beartooth Highway out of the NE corner of Yellowstone to Billings (definitely do this if you can), stopped at Little Bighorn Battlefield for a few hours, hit Roosevelt Nat Park in N Dakota, and spent two nights and a day in and around Mackinac Island, Michigan.

We didn't have any campground or lodging reservations at all, and managed to find a place to sleep each night. We got a bit lucky in Yellowstone, though.

Here's the itinerary we did:

Friday: Tacoma to just outside West Yellowstone. Free camp at a nice Montana Fish and Game access point/campground on the Madison River about 30 miles from West Yellowstone (see http://fwp.mt.gov/fishing/siteDetail.html?id=281507). A very long day of driving, of course, but doable. We left Washington around 6-6:30 and rolled into camp around 11:30 pm.

Saturday: Into Yellowstone via West Yellowstone. Got up early to beat the crowds since it was a weekend. Had breakfast in West Yellowstone. Headed to Old Faithful area and popped into Old Faithful Inn to see if maybe they had a cancellation. They did, and we grabbed a room with shared bath down the hall for $108. Score. If you can stay at Old Faithful Inn (the original one), definitely do so! Check the Xanterra website a few times a day and you'll likely come up with a cancellation the same day or day before. Check in was at 4 pm, so we did a bike ride along the Old Faithful geyser basin, and also rode the 5 mile trail to Lone Star geyser (about 10 miles south of Old Faithful area). Splurged on dinner at Old Faithful Inn that night (prime rib dinner buffet for $30, although there are cheaper options).

Sunday: The night before I also scored a last-minute opening at Roosevelt Lodge in the northeast of the park, right at the start of the road to Lamar Valley (one of the best wildlife viewing areas). Lodging reserved, we slept in on Sunday and hit the breakfast buffet at Old Faithful (pretty good, and around $13 including drinks). We drove up to Tower-Roosevelt via Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley. Lunch in the camper en route, some walks/hiking/sightseeing at the Lake, at Canyon, and in Hayden. Checked into Roosevelt around 4:00 (cabin with separate toilet/shower house nearby, $80). We love Roosevelt Lodge and if you can get a reservation highly recommend it. A good value and a great location, and none of the uber-touristy feel you get in most other parts of Yellowstone. Cooked dinner on our stove outside the cabin (picnic tables there) and then did a twilight safari into Lamar Valley to try and spot some critters (moderate success).

Monday: Got up at 5:00 am and jumped in the van to drive Lamar valley. Early morning is the best time to spot wildlife there, and that's when all the hard-core critter watchers are out; you can easily find where the wildlife is by looking for their spotting scopes. Drove out to near Pebble Creek campground and then turned around. Spent some time at an overlook near the Yellowstone Institute Ranch where a bunch of other folks were hanging out, including the park's wolf biologist who had a radio tracking device. Had some false alarms, but didn't see any wolves. Saw a grizzly when heading back to the lodge. Back at the lodge had breakfast in the dining room by around 8:00 or so, then went back to the room and rested for a bit and showered. Checked out around 10:00 and drove out of the park via Lamar Valley and into Cooke City. Took the beautiful Beartooth Highway (Rt. 212) up and over the mountains toward Red Lodge/Billings (lunch beside a lake en route), then jumped on I-90 west to go to Little Bighorn Battlefield in eastern Montana. Spent about two hours there (3:30-5:30), took in a ranger talk and watched the video, walked around the main battlefield, and my son worked on his Junior Ranger badge (we didn't do the entire drive). Were going to camp in nearby Hardin, Mt., (back west along I-90), but en route to the campground drove past a Rodeway Inn in Hardin that had a really nice pool with a great water slide, and succumbed to our son's pleadings to stay there. It was a good choice and the hotel was nice if you are in the area.

Tuesday:Long drive from Hardin, Mt., to Fargo, ND. Stayed at a Rodeway Inn for free there using some Choice Hotel Privileges Points we had. Usually on the really long driving days we'll stay at a hotel rather than a campsite, just for convenience.

Wednesday: Another long drive from Fargo, across Minnesota and Wisconsin and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Stayed at a nice community campground ("Curry Park") in Ironwood, Michigan, for $10 with showers included ($15 if you wanted electric hookups). Ate dinner and stopped at a theater in Ashland, Wisc., to watch the Minion Movie.

Thursday: Drive across the Michigan U.P., with some time lost to a getting a flat tire fixed in the morning and having our son throwing up a few times en route. Arrived St. Ignace, Michigan, right on Lake Huron near Mackinac Island. The plan was to stay at the state park there, but sites were around $40 a night and it was crowded. We ended up getting a motel room right on the water for two nights for $80.

Friday: Full day over on Mackinac Island, very cool.

Saturday: Drive home. About 18 hours total, something like 750 miles. Got home around midnight. No problems.

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Old 07-20-2015, 06:17 PM   #4
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

Some additional thoughts gleaned from another XC trip we did two years ago, with many of the same sites you are hitting:

1. between Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore. Preferably a campground worth staying at. Shell Falls, Devil's tower, etc. We don't want to have to travel too far after leaving Yellowstone so that we can spend most of the day exploring Yellowstone before we head out.

> Looks like your route takes you through Cody, which is a cool (albeit touristy) town. Consider staying there, or just before it. On Hwy 16 out of Yellowstone to Cody there are quite a few BLM/NFS campgrounds you could stay at. In Cody we stayed at the Big Bear Motel just west of town and it was nice and affordable (we negotiated a good walk-up rate). A good breakfast place just across the street.
> The route you show through Yellowstone misses the main geyser areas and also the Lamar Valley. The former is a must-see (you can't go to YNP without seeing the geysers), and IMO Lamar Valley is the premier place to see wildlife. It looks like you will go through Hayden Valley, which is also good for wildlife, but not as good as Lamar. The NPS has a cool new phone app that shows the predicted eruption times of the geysers near Old Faithful. See https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nps-yel ... 14175?mt=8 There isn't much cell phone service in the park, but it was pretty good around Old Faithful area with Verizon.
> Instead of going out through Cody, I highly recommend taking Rt 212/Beartooth Hwy out through the Lamar Valley/Cooke City, Mt., in the NE corner of the park and across the Beartooth Hwy. There are a number of beautiful campgrounds along that route high up in the mountains (this road has been called "the most beautiful highway in America"). Then connect with I-90 near Billings and take it east toward your existing route to SD. A quick Google Map check shows that it's only about 20 miles and 30 minutes more to go that way.

Photo: eating lunch along the Beartooth Highway, a week or so ago.



2. After Mt. Rushmore (we are staying in a hotel in Rapid City), we are considering a water park in Sioux Falls to give the kids a break from beautiful scenery. Anything else we should check out?
> We came into Mt Rushmore from the west via Hwy 16, which cuts off of I-90 in Wyoming. This has the added benefit of avoiding the Sturgis, SD, area, as the gigantic Sturgis motorcycle rally takes place Aug. 3-9 and I'd want to steer well clear of that mess. After you come into SD you'll be in the Black Hills National Forest. We found a nice dispersed (free) place to camp down a dirt road in the forest about 15 minutes or so from the town of Custer, SD.
> When visiting Mt Rushmore, you have to pay to park in their parking garage, even if you have a NPS yearly pass. It's like $15-20. Save the money by parking on the shoulder of the road near the parking garage and walking in. (Hopefully they haven't put up no parking signs in the past two years).
> Stop at Wall Drug in SD, near the Badlands. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but it's a slice of roadside Americana and kids love it.
> Drive through Badlands NP. It doesn't add that much time to your drive and it's really cool to see. Not far off the highway and near Wall Drug.
> A bit before Sioux Falls, stop in Mitchell, SD, just of I-90 and visit their crazy and famous "Corn Palace." This is an auditorium decorated completely with corn designs outside. You have to see it to believe it. It's only 5-10 minutes off the highway and makes a fun diversion.

Here's the route I'd suggest between Madison CG and South Dakota:

https://goo.gl/maps/fuWWR



3. From Sioux Falls to Des Moines? Possibly camp.
> It's likely to be really hot, so keep that in mind if you are planning to camp.

4. From Des Moines to Chicago? Where in Chicago? We'll like want a hotel here.
> If you come across a Culver's restaurant, stop and eat there. This is a quasi fast-food chain in the Wisconsin and surrounding areas, with a following akin to In-N-Out Burger in California. Great burgers, and also really good custard (ice cream).
> Unless you have some reason to visit Chicago, I'd highly suggest bypassing it by taking a route like I-355 or I-294 down to I-80. Chicago traffic can be ugly, any time of day or night. I'm saying this as someone who lived there for almost two years.

PM me if you want more hints. We've done two XC trips in the past three years and know many of the routes and areas pretty well. Also, when you get back to NJ, we'll have to arrange a meetup. There are a few SMB'ers in the NJ-PA-NY area and we've never connected.
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Old 07-21-2015, 06:15 AM   #5
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

WOW Thanks for all the info Brian. I haven't digested it all, but will be referring to your posts as we develop our plan. Last night we decided to extend our stay in Yellowstone one more day. As far as Chicago goes, we have family there so I think we will try to pass through and possibly spend the night. Let me chew on your posts for a bit and if I have any questions I will hit you up. Thanks again!
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Old 07-21-2015, 03:44 PM   #6
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

Quote:
Originally Posted by shenrie
funny how it always works out to a drive across the nation....we bought our van in augusta georgia in 2012.

dang, if it wasnt going to be a tuesday, id show a nice place to camp locally, but i get to work on weekdaze however, let me know when your coming through. ill come introduce myself if you and yours are up to company.
Shenrie - once we get our act together on this end, I'll be sure to post up our "schedule" so that we can meet up along the way. Look forward to it.
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Old 07-22-2015, 05:11 AM   #7
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

You cant simply leave us with "We bought a van". We need some details, specs, and pics.
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Old 07-22-2015, 08:14 AM   #8
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianW

> The route you show through Yellowstone misses the main geyser areas and also the Lamar Valley. The former is a must-see (you can't go to YNP without seeing the geysers), and IMO Lamar Valley is the premier place to see wildlife.

We will be spending the afternoon on Wed and the bulk of the day on Thurs exploring as much of YS as possible. We didn't show any of this on our google route because Google only allows 10 way points.


> Instead of going out through Cody, I highly recommend taking Rt 212/Beartooth Hwy out through the Lamar Valley/Cooke City, Mt., in the NE corner of the park and across the Beartooth Hwy. There are a number of beautiful campgrounds along that route high up in the mountains (this road has been called "the most beautiful highway in America"). Then connect with I-90 near Billings and take it east toward your existing route to SD. A quick Google Map check shows that it's only about 20 miles and 30 minutes more to go that way.

Based on your recommendation I think we are headed up through Lamar, but we may come back down once out of the park and camp near Shell Falls if possible.

> We came into Mt Rushmore from the west via Hwy 16, which cuts off of I-90 in Wyoming. This has the added benefit of avoiding the Sturgis, SD, area, as the gigantic Sturgis motorcycle rally takes place Aug. 3-9 and I'd want to steer well clear of that mess. After you come into SD you'll be in the Black Hills National Forest. We found a nice dispersed (free) place to camp down a dirt road in the forest about 15 minutes or so from the town of Custer, SD.

Thanks for the heads up on Sturgis - we'll avoid it altogether.

> When visiting Mt Rushmore, you have to pay to park in their parking garage, even if you have a NPS yearly pass. It's like $15-20. Save the money by parking on the shoulder of the road near the parking garage and walking in. (Hopefully they haven't put up no parking signs in the past two years).
> Stop at Wall Drug in SD, near the Badlands. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but it's a slice of roadside Americana and kids love it.

We'll give it a shot - thanks for the tip


> Drive through Badlands NP. It doesn't add that much time to your drive and it's really cool to see. Not far off the highway and near Wall Drug.
> A bit before Sioux Falls, stop in Mitchell, SD, just of I-90 and visit their crazy and famous "Corn Palace." This is an auditorium decorated completely with corn designs outside. You have to see it to believe it. It's only 5-10 minutes off the highway and makes a fun diversion.

My wife is excited about the Corn Palace.

PM me if you want more hints. We've done two XC trips in the past three years and know many of the routes and areas pretty well. Also, when you get back to NJ, we'll have to arrange a meetup. There are a few SMB'ers in the NJ-PA-NY area and we've never connected.
Thanks again. We def have to do a meet up soon - SCBrian and I have tossed the idea around a few times.
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Old 07-22-2015, 08:17 AM   #9
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

Quote:
Originally Posted by SCBrian
You cant simply leave us with "We bought a van". We need some details, specs, and pics.
We've made arrangements with cyclesomatic (who's been incredibly accommodating) to come get his rig. 2005 E350, Fresno built EB50, 6.0, 4x4 with AtlasII, silver/champagne/green, with a roof full of solar.
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Old 07-22-2015, 11:23 AM   #10
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Re: Oregon Coast to New Jersey

For camping along I-84, I think Farewell Bend state park is pretty nice. Good space between sites, hookups available, some historical stuff there, and a little closer than Caldwell:
http://www.oregonstateparks.org/inde...kPage&parkId=4
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