Where to stop on a Cross Country Road Trip across the USA in an RV!
Notch Trail Badlands South Dakota
Our 9 day, 3200 mile Adventure from Boston MA to Scottsdale AZ including:
Mount Rushmore, Badlands & Rocky Mountain National Parks
Santa Fe New Mexico,
And Frontier Days in Cheyenne Wyoming!
Relationship milestones. First Date, first weekend away, moving in together, and let’s not forget RV trip across the United States.
Nothing can test your relationship bonds like having to sleep, eat, work, and drive with someone for over a week while traveling in a vehicle/ home that has over 100 things that can go wrong and or break.
What’s even crazier, you’ll love it.
Our 3200 mile, 50 hour drive from Dre’s house near Boston Massachusetts, to our home in Scottsdale Arizona, could be achieved through 2, nearly identical routes in terms of duration, but very different in what we would see and do.
A Northern route through Ohio, Chicago, and Minnesota would take US past scenic pit stops like Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, and the Rocky Mountains. This was the scenic route.
A more southern route could take us through larger urban areas like New York City, Ocean City Maryland, Nashville, Atlanta, and travel the historic Route 66. This was the party route.
As tempting as Route 66 was for scenery, stopping and partying while driving an RV across the US seemed too exhausting. Besides, we wanted to drive our RV to natural wonders, and that’s exactly what we found.
The largest cost by far is gas. During this trip, national gas prices were around $5 a gallon, and on a full 40 gallon tank, we could drive about 500 miles. So yeah, we spent over $1200 on gas.
Camping was much more affordable. Generally speaking, we paid about $55 - $80 per night for campsites with RV hookups. There was also that one night we just pulled over and slept in a parking lot, which was free, although not entirely safe.
Day 1: Niagara Falls
On our 1st day we drove for 8 hours, nearly 500 miles from the suburbs around Boston MA to a KOA campsite in upstate New York, along lake Erie. Along the way we stopped at Niagara Falls, and took some amazing drone footage from the US side.
If you’re just passing through, the view on the US side of the falls is not as impressive as they are just across the border in Canada, but still worth a stop if you don’t plan on crossing the border. If you plan on getting a full experience, and stay for the weekend, the Canadian side is much more developed with hotels and entertainment.
DAYS 2: Wisconsin
We arrived at our Westfield / Lake Erie KOA about midnight, so had no idea what the area looked like until the morning.
Westfield / Lake Erie Koa: Website & Rates
T decided we should get some exercise in, so we went on a short hike to explore the Lake Erie shore, along the Barcelona beach and surrounding vineyards.
If you’ve never visited the Great Lakes, they are bodies of fresh water so large, standing on the shore feels like the ocean but so calm, almost no waves.
Picturesque fields filled with grapes from over 35 different countries dotted the region.
We front loaded our trip to drive without stopping for the 1st few days until we got to the more scenic parts of the route in South Dakota.
Today's itinerary would be our most grueling. 12 hours, 760 miles, with the promise that the next day we’d rest a day before our next leg.
We’d travel from New York, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, past Chicago, into Wisconsin, and finally camping on the shore of the Mississippi river, on the easter border of South Dakota. In one day we traveled through 6 states, and was only a few 100 feet from our 7th.
We stayed that night and the next at the Pettibone Resort campground. Quiet and peaceful, we were able to catch up on our day jobs, and explore the sleepy town of La Crosse.
Pettibone Resort: Website & Rates
If you like drinking, La Crosse is your mecca. Ranked 6th drunkest city in the US, with an astounding 6.9 bars per 10k people.
La Crosse actually held the Guinness World record of the most bars per capita so we bar hopped and had some ice cream at the famous The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
T made a REEL of our trip up to this point.
The best part of RVing, imo, are the days we didn’t drive. Day 3 was magnificently relaxing, but we were back on our grind the day after.
The next day we traveled 9.5 hours, nearly 600 miles. This was our last long drive day, and surprisingly, it was our hardest, because of all things, wind.
Although driving across Minnesota and then South Dakota is almost completely flat through the northern plains of the US, cross winds made driving very difficult, and a real struggle to keep the RV in its lane.
At one point a huge gust of wind blew our RV’s slide top (kinda like an awning) to billow out like a parachute, causing us to make an emergency stop and Dre to climb on top of the RV to hold the tarp down with electrical tape.
South Dakota Prairies (REEL)
Definitely a lesson learned moment, this is a real issue one should know when driving a large RV. We found this helpful link on the topic.
IG Story for entire trip
Along the day's journey, we stopped in Sioux Falls, SD, almost at the halfway point, 300 miles into the drive.
Beautifully quaint, we walked around Sioux Falls Park and headed to Phillips Ave to check out the street art and have a delicious dinner at Crave.
We even had a celebrity sighting, Chris Daughtry was in town staying at the Country Inn which shares the same address as Crave.
Craft Cocktails at Crave
After dinner we pushed on into the evening, arriving late at our campsite for the next nights, Badlands Motel & Campground
Day 4 & 5: The Badlands South Dakota
5 days into the road trip the “scenic” route really started to pay off.
Badlands Motel & Campground was perfectly located less than 2 miles from the Badlands National Park's Interior Entrance Station.
Badlands Interior Campground: Website & Rates
Badlands PARK INFO
We spent our day driving through the post-apocalyptic landscape, and took some amazing pictures and drone videos. For an easy yet stunning hike, we recommend Notch Trail which has easily accessible parking. Our (REEL)
We also decided to see about Wall Drug Store
See what? If you live in South Dakota, then you know the most famous drugstore in the state is Wall Drug Store. As a matter of fact, we felt compelled to see this place, because during our 300 mile drive across the state on interstate 90, we must have seen 50 signs for the place, starting at the border. 300 miles of advertising, it was very compelling.
“Wall Drug, is a roadside attraction and tourist stop located in the town of Wall, South Dakota, consists of a collection of cowboy-themed stores, including a drug store, gift shop, several restaurants, and various other stores, as well as an art gallery and an 80-foot brontosaurus sculpture, and draws some two million annual visitors to a remote town” - Wikipedia