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Driving to Yellowstone - need a boost

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Feb 27th, 2009, 11:17 AM
  #1
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Driving to Yellowstone - need a boost

Planning to drive from IL to Yellowstone this summer. I have our reservations set in Yellowstone for three nights (one at Roosevelt and two at OFI). We have three kids ages 12-14 and a husband - all who are up for visiting Yellowstone - but none looking forward to the long drive. Flying is cost prohibitive. Since we'll practically drive right through Mt. Rushmore - planning to make a stop there. Otherwise, after 3 days in Yellowstone we're going to spend another 3 days in the Big Sky/Bozeman area before heading back to IL. Can this trip be done in 10-11 days without feeling like we've just been in the car the entire time? I'm allowing 2 days to drive there and 2 days to drive back. Anyone have some words of encouragement that we can do this and it will be fun? I don't have the vacation time to do more than a 10-11 day trip. If you've made this trek - where are some good places to stop along the way to break up the trip (without blowing half a day - because we're on a time schedule). Thanks!
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Feb 27th, 2009, 12:00 PM
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When we did this trip we drove north from Chicago and stopped at Effigy Mounds NM which are ok if you're interested in Native American history and are in Iowa not far from Prairie du Chien , WI. Then cut northwest and hit I 90 near Austin, MN. We spent a night somewhere along I 90 in South Dakota. Then made a brief stop/drive through badlands NP and then went to Mt Rushmore. Then back on I 90 spent the night in Gillette, WY. The next day we took 90 to 16 through Cody and into Yellowstone. We spent a couple of days in Yellowstone then went south through Grand Teton NP, Jackson Hole, down 191 to 80 and back. We did get up early and drove until 5 or 6 pm, so those were long days but the stops made it ok and we hadn't seen that part of the country. The trip back seemed much longer than the trip out and driving on 90 was not as hectic as 80. If you need to get out on a specific schedule, save some of the stops for the trip back and if you're coming from the southern part of IL, then I 70 to 25 may be a faster way to go.
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Feb 27th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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Thanks emalloy. I take it you all survived the trip home. I like to find something "wow" to do on te drive home - to help break up the very looonnnggg drive. We're in central Illinois.
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Feb 27th, 2009, 02:34 PM
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Hi blueslipper,

It's too bad you can't take more time! Yellowstone needs more than just 3 days. I've been to the Big Sky area (Gallatin Valley) and also Paradise Valley twice recently.

What are you planning to do in Big Sky? Unless lots of outdoor activities (fishing, hiking riding), I would recomment giving Yellowstone 1 more day and using 2 days for Big Sky.
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Feb 27th, 2009, 02:49 PM
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"Can this trip be done in 10-11 days without feeling like we've just been in the car the entire time?"

Important thing is to spend your days in Yellowstone doing things, not just driving around looking at stuff and getting stuck in animal jams. Make sure you get out and do some hikes, and take time to just have a picnic and sit around enjoying the outdoors.

Just to see what Mapquest says I plugged in Bloomington to Yellowstone (I figure Bloomington is close enough to being central IL). It routes you through Iowa and Nebraska to Cheyenne, then northwest to Yellowstone. From Bozeman back home to Bloomington it routes you through South Dakota past Mt. Rushmore.

In other words, maybe it makes more sense (depending on where exactly in central IL you live) to save Mt. Rushmore for the drive home instead of taking a little bit longer route to get to Yellowstone. That would also give you a different route getting there and back which would help break up the monotony.

If you're heading through Minnesota on I-90, go to the SPAM Museum in Austin. It's kind of silly but free and would take maybe an hour or so. It seems like everyone stops at Wall Drug in South Dakota. Devil's Tower isn't too far off the interstate in Wyoming.
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Feb 27th, 2009, 03:55 PM
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I agree that perhaps an added day in Yellowstone, subtracting from Bozeman.

We have done long road trips with our kids since they were little (no more - they are in college). We found cranking out as many miles as possible in a day worked better than meandering on side roads and seeing a lot of stuff along the way. Our kids would rather arrive at hotel a little earlier in the day and be able to swim and avoid us after a day in the car than making several stops during the day.

Survival tips - buy/rent personal DVD player(s) for car, along with all the electronic gadgets the kids want. If they are into email, Facebook or other electronic communication means, make sure you have a laptop along and hotels with wireless service. We always brought a small cooler - not for lunch on the road, but for sodas - plus we would stop at a supermarket every few days and let the kids pick out whatever disgusting snacks they wanted for the car. We also let them most of the time pick the type of restaurants for lunch and dinner. Rule was at the end of each day the car had to be cleaned out - it sometimes looked like a traveling dumpster.

While some may think this is over kid-indulgent, by keeping them creature-comfort happy along the way we were able to see a lot of this country and everyone had a good time. Remember, just sitting in a car is incredibly boring, and if you are trying to make time and miles, the sights are likely rather boring - and young teens are not often into scenery anyway. I remember driving part way across the country as a kid (before there were interstates everywhere) and seeing nothing but cornfields and wheatfields for what seemed like days. The trip would have been more tolerable for siblings and me if we had had McDonalds, pizza joints, iPods, cellphones. A little less of my father saying "look out the window - you may never be here again" would have also helped.

Have a great trip - we loved Yellowstone - were there when our kids were about 14 and 18.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 07:18 PM
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if your time allowes consider entering the park thru the NW entrance which would take you over the most senic hwy in america the beartooth Pass. If you are comming west on I-90 its a easy route and a great way into the park. I am in Billings if you have any questions contact me at [email protected]
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Mar 1st, 2009, 12:53 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions! I agree - good idea to save Mt. Rushmore for the end. It looks like if we can survive 2 hard days of driving each way - it will be well worth it. Here's my plan to date:
Day 1 Drive to mid-Nebraska
Day 2 Drive to Cody (What will the driving be like through Wyoming? Cheyenne to Cody is almost 400 miles - how many hours should I allow for that?)
Day 3 Tower Junction/Roosevelt Lodge/Cowboy Cookout (via Bear Tooth Hwy - Cooke City)
Day 4 Old Faithful Inn - Castle Geyser Hike; Riverside Geyser Hike. I'd like to maybe check out a Yellow Bus Tour?

Day 5 Old Faithful Inn
Firehole
I don't quite have the actual days at Yellowstone figured out.
Day 6 Big Sky - Float Trip?
Day 7 Bozeman (Golfing with friends)
Day 8 Bozeman with Friends
Day 9 Drive to Mt. Rushmore (via Devil's Tower?)
Day 10 Mt Rushmore/head home
The kids are 12 thru 14 - any other suggestions would be very welcome! Also - I have reservations at the OFI cabins which only sleep 4, so we need to bring an air mattress. Are there any other accomodations I should try that would sleep 5? When I called - it was a challenge finding beds for 5 on the dates I was looking for. There were still options, but felt overwhelmed talking to the reservations gal who talked a mile a minute. I wasn't sure what would have the best atmosphere. I wanted to stay around OFI those last 2 nights. Other suggestions for lodging I should try? Thanks again!
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