This is Part 1 of our 6,000 mile road trip from North Carolina to Montana and back visiting several national parks, monuments, and grasslands. We drove our Ram Promaster Van, which is super comfortable.
Our phones lit UP as we drove through Kansas City. We were on our way home from an epic road trip that included visits to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands, and Devil’s Tower.
“This is a tornado warning for Kansas City. A tornado has been spotted in your area. Take cover now!” blared the radio and phone weather apps.
All around us, people were pulling over into rest areas. Traffic was backing up on the west side of the highway. The wind was blowing sheets of rain horizontally and it looked like black death behind us.
“What do I do?” My whole body was quaking with adrenaline and fear. It was work to keep the van on the road because of wind, driving rain, and other cars darting here and there.
Yukon looked ahead and said, “I see blue skies. Let’s floor it and go!” We pulled over, he jumped in the driver’s seat, and we hauled ass out of there.
Reports later informed us about massive wind damage and serious flooding. We passed through the area with just enough time to not be stuck in the chaos.
Of the 6,000 road trip, those were most terrifying 30 minutes.
The rest of the trip can be described with a whole lot of other, more positive, words.
The Road Trip Begins
When you use Google Maps to figure out your route, it’s kind of shocking to read “Travel Time: 1 day and 9 hours.”
Translation: we had 33 hours of driving ahead of us.
All told, we drove just under 6,000 miles from North Carolina to Montana and back in just under 2 weeks.
Getting started, we gathered our shiny technology bits and paired it with the trusty paper version of the Rand McNally Road Atlas. Bean likes paper maps to pour over as Yukon drives. Technology is best for telling us where to go in real time, for finding food, and for locating campgrounds when we needed one (mostly for their showers).
Most often, though, we found ourselves sleeping in rest areas, sometimes snuggled in between the big rigs.
Lots of folks think Yukon and I are crazy for making such an epic road trip. Truth is, though, we LIKE the road tripping. We like the adventure, seeing new places, exploring, and discovering. Traveling through rural America, through cities, and then out west where all you see are fields that lead.
It was exciting for Bean because she got to see a whole portion of the USA she’d never seen before. It was CRAZY to drive through the desolation that is the Dakotas. But when those sunflower fields and wheat fields and fields with art in them appeared, it made the miles and the hours of driving SO worth it.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more details on our adventures driving almost 6,000 miles to visit Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Badlands National Parks. We also had a bonus trip to Devil’s Tower National Monument, saw the Arch in St. Louis, and drove through or by Little Missouri National Grassland and the Painted Canyon inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
We saw tons of “Americana” including Sue, the Giant Holstein Fiberglass cow, part of the Enchanted Highway, and more!
Here are some of our stats from our August 2016 trip:
- Slept in four rest areas (the one west of Madison, WI, was clean, quiet and awesome)
- Stayed in five campgrounds
- Paid what felt like a billion dollars in tolls
- Drove 5,860.9 miles
- 112.5 hours in the van
- Use 120 lbs. of ice
- Visit 4 National Parks, 1 National Monument, and 1 National Grassland
- Saw SO many animals, including bear, bison, prong horn antelope, mule deer, eagles, big horn sheep, mountain goats, marmot, prairie dogs (soooooo many prairie dogs), chipmunks, cows, horses, dogs, and one cat on a leash.
Stay tuned as go into detail about the places we visited for more than a few hours. And as always, feel free to SHARE these posts throughout social media and definitely SHARE your own stories and photos from these places, too!