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Trip Report We SAW the USA in our Chevrolet (Aveo)! 9.5 day road trip Detroit to CA

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My daughter recently graduated from college and is starting her career with 4 months of training in California. She wanted to have her car there so we drove from Detroit, Michigan to San Jose, California. I could only get one week off work, so it was a quick trip but we had a wonderful time! It was so exciting to see so much of the country that I'd never visited before. We visited 11 states, 7 of which were new to me, and I also added 4 state capitols to my list. Here is a trip report. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

Day 1 – On our way
We left downtown Detroit at 3:00. We had reservations at a Hampton Inn north of Chicago but we also had the address of 2 other Hamptons further on in case we decided to drive longer. Traffic wasn’t bad and we weren’t tired so we called from the car and booked a Hampton in Madison, Wisconsin and cancelled the other one. This helped shorten our drive the next day.

Hotel - Hampton Inn, Madison, East Towne Mall area, $122 including taxes, clean comfortable hotel with the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered.

Day 2 - On to South Dakota
We hit the road just before 8:30. Shortly before leaving Wisconsin we were excited to see a bald eagle flying above us! We were interested to see the large number of windmills along both sides of the road in Minnesota. After seeing the billboards we couldn't resist making an unscheduled stop in Austin, MN at the SPAM Museum. This place was fun. We spent about an hour learning more about SPAM than anyone would ever want to know! There are plenty of hands-on activities for kids and a huge gift shop. After a dinner stop in Sioux Falls, we checked into the Hampton in Mitchell, SD and went to check out the Corn Palace. The murals were interesting. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside because the Corn Palace Festival was going on and there was a concert going on inside.

Hotel - Hampton Inn, Mitchell, free night with points

Day 3 - Across South Dakota
We were on the road at 7:00 because we had a full day planned. We had the road between Mitchell and De Smet almost to ourselves. We found the early morning sun across the fields very pretty and stopped for a few photos. Our first stop in De Smet was at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in town. Unfortunately they don’t open until 10:00 on Sunday and it was only 9:00. We moved on to the Ingalls Homestead instead. I read the Little House books as a child and then read them to my children, so DD and I were very interested to see De Smet. We spent an enjoyable 2 hours at the homestead (www.ingallshomestead.com) and then we had to move on. I probably could have spent an entire day exploring the town. Next stop was Pierre to see the state capitol. The drive was pleasant, with field after field of sunflowers along the way. The state capitol was open although there are no guided tours on weekends. Next we drove through the Badlands Loop, stopping periodically for photos. Such an odd looking landscape! We also drove about 5 miles down a dirt road to see the prairie dog town. There were quite a few prairie dogs and we also saw bison in the distance. Next stop was Wall Drug. I had heard a lot about this place and I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t very interesting so our stop was brief. After a dinner stop in Rapid City, we programmed the hotel address in Keystone into the GPS. Unfortunately the GPS didn’t know that address so we were on our own. The 30 miles between Rapid City and Keystone was slow driving and when we arrived in Keystone we couldn’t find the hotel in the dark until we called for directions. Finally arrived after 10:00; a really long day!

Hotel - K Bar S Lodge, $149 a night for a room with 2 queen beds and a balcony with a view of Mt. Rushmore, includes free breakfast. We liked this hotel; it was outside the noisy and touristy town and was quiet and relaxing. Families with children would probably prefer to be in town.

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