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Road Trip! West or Bust!

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hello Mamas!

I am about to embark on a cross country journey with my 2 yr old daughter! We are moving back to Central Oregon from my home town in Wisconsin. We made the drive to WI about a year ago and it went quite well. I did have a friend along and she was younger and napping more. I have made the drive many times taking many different routes. I love meandering around the west! I am thinking about taking 5days to drive about 6hours each day. I feel like this is the most sane way to get through it. This move is going to be a huge transition for us both and the least stress is the best!. I'll drive through her nap, and a little while she is awake and dealing well with the car seat and activities I have brought for her. We will be stopping a LOT! It will be an adventure!


I am looking for ideas for places to stop, hike, PLAY, sleep, fill up on GOOD FOOD??? and not spend a bunch of money. We will be staying in motels for the sake of a shower and a bed. No camping because of the set up and weather variables though :(  I am still planning our route. I am hoping for some great suggestions from ya"ll to guide our way. Personally, my favorite route has been I-90 through SD to WY then piecing together some scenic routes through WY so I can take the Teton Pass. But that was before DD, I was traveling solo and would pull over and camp where ever. And not have a care that the next stop was hours away. By the looks of my map, it seems like Montana might offer a few more amenities??? I am open to ANY suggestions from ND, SD, WY MT and ID. 


We will be heading off at the end of April, Thank you!!!      

post #2 of 23

Missoula, Montana is a super pretty place to stop.  (Of course I'm biased, since I live here!)  There are a lot of hiking trails and some fun local restaurants that won't break the bank. If you want more specific information, feel free to pm me as there are some things I'm not comfortable sharing with the entire world wide web.  


Congrats on the move.  I love the west, especially the coast.

post #3 of 23

I-90 through MT has lots of scenic things to do nearby and many of the even smaller towns have nice motels. Lots of historic point pull-outs and rest areas usually every hour or so, and most of them are nice and clean.

post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 

yes...it is looking like we will be taking the 90 through Montana. It has been a while since I explored MT. I am looking forward to it....I have to choose our route there now....North or South Dakota?

post #5 of 23

North Dakota is probably more direct...but if you go South Dakota you could get MT Rushmore in there if that's something you and dd might want to see. 

post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 

I have chosen to take the 90 through South Dakota. My past experiences have been better driving through South rather than North Dakota. Fargo does have a zoo and Theodore roosevelt Park is beautiful in ND. I know it is super cheesy and touristy but Wall Drug is free and full of ridiculous climbable Jackalopes that I am sure a 2 year old could appreciate. Mount Rushmore isn't really our thing. Although the wildlife watching in Custer State Park is. Those are a bit out of the way but worth it for a good break from the car seat.


I have been searching Hot Springs in Wyoming and Montana. Commercial, family ones seems best. Unless I found some that aren't too much of a hike for us. Boulder Hot Springs sound nice. They appear to have affordable hostel style rooms to stay the night in. Any experience there?


Admittedly, I keep getting tempted back to WY. Mostly because I know the route. Although, it is mostly scenic byways ;) it only tags another hour or two onto our trip. I have been checking the road report and everything looks clear. Going through Jackson leads us to more HotSpring opportunities in Southern Idaho. Plus Jackson has a toy store that is fun to just go roam and play in. And, I'm guessing, equal dining fare to Missoula.


I know there are pull offs everywhere, and we will have tricycle to pullout and ride about. Also any spotted playgrounds are fair game. Like I said I am no stranger to this this drive, have done it at least 10x before mamahood. And once with her. Some specific stop ideas like Natural Food Stores, Yummy Dining, or anything that would be good reason to try an exit I haven't yet. I' love some Rocky Mountain first hand experience tips.


I'll pick Montana or Wyoming after Rapid City, SD...because I will know what is best, when we get there :)   

post #7 of 23

While I live in MT and think it's beautiful, if I were you I would go through WY just to hit Jackson.  That is my favorite spot in the continental US.  I love going there.  There's a ton to do, it's gorgeous scenery, food is fantastic.  


Now I want to go.  lol.gif

post #8 of 23
Pomegranate Market in Sioux Falls, SD is a great place to get good food. It's a health food store but it has a deli inside and a dining area. http://pomegranatemarkets.com/ Seratoma Park is in the same general area and it's great for kids. There are about 4 or 5 different playgrounds and nice overhead structure with picnic benches.
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 

Yes! Yes! Matt's Mom Jackson is a magical place! I dream of living there one day!

and Thanks123, for the Souix Falls tip...that's awesome and just what I am seeking!

post #10 of 23

White Sulphur Springs is a cute hot springs to go to. It's untreated--no chlorine or chemicals, and there is camping right there or a motel. It's owned and run by a chiropractor. You can soak and get an adjustment! Ahhhh bliss! It's also one of my kids favorite places to stop, because the convenience store has gluten free chocolate chip cookies! :D

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

oooh! That looks really nice. Great idea! 

post #12 of 23

snowfaeriemama, my two teen sons and I are driving out to Portland OR in a month for a family gathering, from Minnesota.  I am leaning toward taking off in the early evening and driving all night (ds drives well - I can sleep while he drives) then camping in either Missoula if we take the ND route or Bozeman if we take the SD route.  


Have you made your move?  And if so, what would you advise?  Any thoughs?  Also, what were the highlights?  (Of course highlights for two year olds will be much different than for my 16 & 20 yr olds!)


Also - anyone - books on tape that would capture our imaginations as we drive west?

Thanks for any ideas!



post #13 of 23

anybody else willing/able to give me some ideas for driving through with two older teen boys?  Where to stop, whether to go the North Dakota/I94 or SD I90 way?  Or book on cd ideas?


post #14 of 23
I've driven both routes and personally prefer the sd route, but from mn I'm pretty sure nd is faster. Bozeman has a nice koa campground and Missoula is a very nice town. I'm sure they probably have a koa too, just haven't stayed there.
post #15 of 23
Originally Posted by 100%mom View Post

I've driven both routes and personally prefer the sd route, but from mn I'm pretty sure nd is faster. Bozeman has a nice koa campground and Missoula is a very nice town. I'm sure they probably have a koa too, just haven't stayed there.

Thank you 100%mom - what do you think of KOAs in general and for tenting?  I have not been in one for decades.

post #16 of 23
Originally Posted by 100%mom View Post

I've driven both routes and personally prefer the sd route, but from mn I'm pretty sure nd is faster. Bozeman has a nice koa campground and Missoula is a very nice town. I'm sure they probably have a koa too, just haven't stayed there.

I just thought of another question - when you've driven this, how have you planned it in terms of how long, where you stop, etc?  If you have time, I sure would like to hear from someone who'd done it.

post #17 of 23

KOA's are usually very nice..if a little pricey compared to other campgrounds. BUT, I have kamped ;) there a lot with kids. There is usually a pool, laundry, showers, etc. and makes for a nice place to stay. I also usually felt safe--lots of families and kids and nice grounds. You might alternate in and out of them to a less expensive accommodation in between. KOA's national headquarters and the very first KOA is in Billings, MT :) 

post #18 of 23
We've timed our trips to only stop one night. Normally somewhere around Billings or Bozeman.
post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 

I did make my drive and took the SD route. If you are Driving from Minnesota the ND route may be faster. Our drive took 5days and it was wonderful. We stopped a bunch but mostly at playgrounds and hot springs. I got a motel room every night for the ease of bed/shower. I was traveling solo with my toddler and my van was full of my belongings. No room for camp gear.


If you are planning on taking the adventure than pack just what you need and camp. Sounds like at least 2 of you can drive so you can make great time. Theodore Rosevelt  National Park in western ND is beautiful and has nice campsites. Mostly any sate or national park will have decent bathrooms and showers. I wouldn't worry about laundry because once you are in Portland you can freshen up all you have packed. Camping about 2nights is all you'd need to do if you are driving a fair amount each day. Montana is a great drive with plenty of ammenities. Missoula is lovely. Northern Idaho is gorgeous too!


If you plan on taking your time, drive about 6-8 hours per day and do some sight seeing. Map out your trip guided by how long you would like to spend on the road each day/night. Where ever that lands you check out the accommadations in the area. If you plan on driving through the night you will miss most the sights to see, but it will get you there fast but all messed up clock wise. Plan on taking a day to recalibrate once you arrive in Portland.


I have made this drive many times driving both routes. I camp in National Forest or on BLM land for free. Just pop up a tent and sleep. I love breakfast diners and towns with tiny post offices. I collect postcards and write them out while fueling up on coffee and eggs. Hit the road and try to make it to a hot springs anywhere. I balance out on healthy snacks while driving and stop when ever something looks lovely and worth gazing at while stretching. Natural food stores have great salad bars to fill up on greens so it's good to just know where some are along your chosen route.


Things have changed since having baby. Toddler traveling is a bit different. But you and your boys could have some serious fun considering their ages. 17 was the age I was when I first drove west from Wisconsin with a friend. yay! have fun~

post #20 of 23

snowfaeriemama, I did not see your post until tonight!  Thank you so much for the great ideas!  Could you say more about stopping at hot springs?  Do you mean to bathe?  This is not something I have ever done. Are they usually set up to mix hot and cold h2o?  I am intrigued.


Also, where do you start in terms of finding natural food stores on your route?  Just google "natural foods" and the names of the towns through which you'll be passing?


Thanks - I hope you see this and post before I leave Tuesday!


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