Since we live in Western New York, the first two days of our big two week road trip involved long travel days. Sitting in a car for 12+ hours each day isn't very fun, but necessary to travel the distance required to get to Yellowstone. Since we were passing through South Dakota on the way there, we stopped for a few days in the Badlands. This helped break up the road trip and let us explore two more National Parks.
Our first day involved traveling from Jamestown, NY to McFarland, Wisconsin. The trip was 631.1 miles and was estimated to take 9 hours, 41 minutes according to Google Maps.
Google, @2021 INEGI
The actual trip took closer to 12 hours, as we were pulling the pop-up camper. The tent trailer was bouncing all over the place on the road, which lowered our maximum speed to about 55 mph. We tried redistributing weight in our vehicle and in the trailer, but the bouncing was a big issue. We finally identified the real issue and flipped the trailer hitch to a different orientation, which solved the bouncing problem. Unfortunately, we didn't figure out the hitch issue until after we were already at the Badlands, but it definitely slowed our travel time on the first two days!
We arrived at Babcock County Park and stayed for one night. It is a bit of work to pop up the camper and set it up for just one night, but the total set-up time is only about 20 minutes. We don't set up tables, put out the awning, or cook dinner on one-night travel stays.
The site was level at Babcock County Park in McFarland, WI. It took us a few minutes to get the trailer backed in straight, but soon the boys were leveling the trailer and managed to pop it up.
I did set out our rug to keep dirt out of the trailer, but otherwise didn't set anything up. Babcock County Park was inexpensive for the rates ($30 per night) and had free hot showers in the bathhouse. We went out to dinner at the nearby Palenque Mexican Food place in the adjacent strip mall. I had a molcajete there, which was absolutely delicious.
After dinner and showers, we all went to bed and woke up early the next morning for the second day of travel. This time, we were traveling 708.9 miles with an estimated time of 9 hours, 51 minutes.
Google, @2021 INEGI
Again, our actual travel time was 12 hours and we were still dealing with a bouncy trailer. We stopped to see the Dignity statue at the Chamberlain rest stop area. This rest stop is well worth the time, as it overlooks the Missouri River, has the Dignity statue, and is home to a Lewis and Clark expedition museum. The museum was closed when we visited, but it looked interesting through the closed gate.
We made it to Cedar Pass Campground before nightfall, and were grateful to get set up. The Badlands have frequent storms and wind, so we never put out the awning on this trip. We also didn't use the rug since our door faced the asphalt road and the pull-off loops were narrow.
Our camping dinner this night was Walking Tacos. I pre-made taco meat and froze it before leaving home. All that was required for dinner was heating up the taco meat and adding it to bags of Doritos with lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes.
The temperature hit 102°F (39°C) during the day, and we were concerned about the heat persisting into the night. Fortunately, the temperature dropped to around 68°F (20°C) at night and the constant breeze cooled things off in the pop-up.
Despite being tired from our long drive, we attended the famous "Night Sky" program at the Badlands amphitheater that night. This program is highly worth it, and the astronomers use laser guides to point out different star formations. Large telescopes are on-hand for viewing different stars and planets.
After the program, we returned to our site and went to bed. We wanted to get up early to hike in the Badlands!