Each week, I’ll update you on my one year trip. I’ve decided to leave everything behind me and spend real time with the people that matter the most in my life: my wife and three children. This is my story, I hope it will inspire you to create yours.
Date: from June 16th to June 24th
Miles on the road so far: 2,417
States/Province traveled through: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota
Last time I left you, I was in a vineyard. This time, I’m in the middle of some old cowboy campground in South Dakota called “French Creek Campground”. To be really honest, it’s a bit “ghetto” (because I’m not a cowboy), but I ended up lovin’ my experience and I’m now able to open a bottle of Heineken on the border of a picnic table with a single try ;-). And once again, is for the end of this article.
Day #7-8 Chicago, the Amazing Windy City
I’ll tell you upfront; I have fallen in love with this city! Not at the moment I entered it though… seriously. Driving a 25ft motorhome (plus another 5 feet of bikes on my rack behind the RV) is quite a sport when you have something like 15 lanes going all directions. Okay… the 15 lanes were really only 6, but I really felt like I was losing grip on reality while I was driving. Let’s just say that other drivers are not that kind when you try to shift lanes with your big bertha! I ended-up missing my exit and parked in a nice driveway where I could go both ways. I took a minute to take a bite of my sandwich (it was already 2pm and I hadn’t eaten since morning) when a well-dressed ARMED guy just asked me if I had a problem. I answered that I lost my way and I was trying to find it with my GPS. He told me that my problem will be solved within the next 10 minutes. At that point, I simply nodded while I recalled I saw a Panama flag while I was parking. Could it be the Panamanian Embassy? I didn’t ask and I simply “solved” my problem within the “10 minutes” he gave me.
We parked at McCormick Place for the 2 days we wanted to spend in Chicago. You can get a feel for our backyard here:
Honestly, while this place was highly industrial, I loved it. It was a totally new experience for us to camp between trailers for 2 days. At the same time, it was a prime location as we were 2 minutes away from the beach (kids spent a whole day there while I was working) and about 15 minutes bicycle ride from downtown. This is exactly what we did during the first day: a bicycle ride for the 5 of us. Caleb, my 4 year old one was sitting comfortably in a super expensive Thule bike bench attached to my bicycle. I completely understood why I paid so much for this thing when we were going between buses and cars at a red light and I lost the balance of my ride. Caleb was frightened to almost hit the floor, but the whole rack stood like a rock and I was able to get everything together before my kid’s face hit the ground. These are always fun stories to tell when nobody gets hurt ;-). So we traveled the whole city with our bikes and we could really enjoy the city beat. I fell in love with Chicago because of its energy mixed with a great place filled with green spaces. We stopped at the cloud gate to walk a little and there was a private party being held right below us:
There was loud music and we enjoyed ourselves just being there. My daughter was dancing to the hip hop rhythms and we just stayed there for several minutes. Then, we walked around the city to ended-up at Giordano’s for a famous deep dish pizza. The children were impressed by the size of the pizza 😉
We headed “home” pretty late. In fact, we were still riding our bikes around 10:30pm on the lakefront trail. As much as I enjoyed it during day, it was a little bit worrisome at night. Let’s just say that we became the “visible minority” and just wanted to get to our RV.
The second day, my wife and I both went for a run on the lakefront trail (alternate turns) before we each got to our destinations. My wife went on the beach and I went to a Starbucks to work for a few hours. I really like these moments when I’m alone and working on my websites as I felt like I really want to do this when I finish the trip. I feel real, I feel alive, I don’t count my hours or my efforts. I’m just having fun!
I really appreciated my time in Chicago and both my wife and I made a mental note to come back as a couple. There are just too many things we didn’t get to see in during our short escapade!
Day #9 Time to shop before bigger adventures!
We spent our 9th day at the Chicago Outlet making sure we had everything for our next destination. We are heading towards the National Parks and we wanted to make sure we are all setup with trail gear. We didn’t spend that much as our biggest expense was shoes. It’s very important to have solid shoes when you plan on hiking mountains ;-).
It was a smooth day of shopping and then hit the road to sleep at another Walmart (I’m proud to be a shareholder!).
Day #10-11 A well-deserved break
We hit the road again as we wanted to head towards South Dakota. We almost made a mistake in taking a reservation in Yellowstone state park. I write “almost” as we needed to make this reservation if we wanted a place to stay during our trip. The “mistake” was because we now have to “rush” our way to get there in time for June 27th. We actually decided to take a break at an amazing campground in Lanesboro (yeah, I’m sure you know where it is!). However, the camping was big and almost empty as the busy season hasn’t started yet. It was simply amazing to have our nearest neighbor a good 200 feet away J. We spent these two days chilling, working (for me) and enjoying the campground. After running two days in Chicago, we kept our running habit in the campground for another day (for me) and for the two days for my wife (yeah… she’s a machine). We were now ready to hit the road again.
I must take a pause to tell you how it is difficult to have a routine while you travel like this. There is school for kids, work for me, travel time between destinations and all the small things you can encounter. For example, I was wondering what happens when the black water tank (the bad tank if you know what I mean) is full. Well… I found out one morning when I was doing a number 2 and the tank was full… it just doesn’t disappear!!! So we have to take care of these “small things” that become “big” at one point ;-). Still, after 10 days, we are almost getting a good routine. I guess it will get better as we go!
Day #12 Boring Interstate 90 and an amazing boondock in the badlands
I started my day with a 2nd bad news. The first one was my GPS showing me almost 800 kilometers to do on the same highway:
The second one was coming from my Caleb who felt sick after 20 minutes on the road. You can imagine what it looks like when you have a white & turquoise blanket and the kid is sick on it…
After this misadventure (yeah, because while the trip is amazing it is not just full of roses!), we hit the road… for the rest of the day! It was hitting my brain like a hammer each time I saw an advertisement for the “famous” Wall Drug. If you have been on this road before, you are smiling right now ;-). It was hard and dull, but the last 2 hours of my day was worth the whole trip. We finally entered the Bad Lands national park (we accidentally did it backwards so we didn’t pay for it). Wow… this was something to see. We saw mountain goats right in front of us. Here’s the greatest pic my wife took:
After going through this park, I tested my limits once again; I did some trails with the RV to find a boondocking spot. Honestly, I know I will have to do a lot worse in Central America, but for now, just hitting a trail road I would just hit with a Polaris 4×4 is enough for me ;-). Nonetheless, we ended-up in the most amazing place to stay for a night. I’ll let you judge by yourself:
Day #13-14 Mount Rushmore & our first hike
My wife and I decided to try something else for the upcoming weeks. Instead of hitting the road almost every day for a few hours, we decided to establish camp at least 2 days or more at the same place and to more road on defined days. It’s harder when I hit the road, but we think it will make things easier for everybody the other days.
This is why we decided to stay 2 days in the Black Hills…. Best decision so far! We spent the first day at Mount Rushmore. I was very interested in the story of M. Borglum who carved the faces of Mount Rushmore and his relationship with the natives. It was great to find out that he made a true bond and was willing to work together with the first nations. I hope we could find more people in this world that believe we can all work together for a better world!
On our way to the campground, we stopped by a winery which was making… rhubarb wine!?! They made me try 5 of their wines and I ended-up buying 4 bottles… including their famous rhubarb wine called red ass. All right, they had me with the name 😉 but it was delicious!
Then, we found our campground, the ghetto-cowboy-style one I was describing at the beginning of this article.
At first, I must admit I was a bit discouraged. It wasn’t a campground with facilities for kids (no parks, no pools, etc). But Hey! It’s $11/day with free showers and free wifi! (thx to the Passport America pass!). The next day, we hit Cluster State Park to hike Harney’s peak (please make a google image search to see what we have been through). So the goal was to reach Harney’s Peak and this is the tower we finally saw after one hour hiking:
And believe it or not, all my children (yeah, including the small 4 year old) hiked the whole thing to the summit! 3.5 miles hiking and they were still smiling:
This was a true demonstration of when our brain tells us what is possible or not. When you tell your brain otherwise, you can do it. My toddler hiked with a smile on his face the whole time. He spent a pretty good time on his way back on his dad’s shoulders, but hey! We hiked a summit at 4 years old! I can carry him for a few miles back on his way back.
This is how we finished our 2 days in South Dakota. I found people very welcoming (including this cowboy! Hahaha!) and the place is awesome. If you like hiking, you need to come into the Black Hills!
Tomorrow, I’m heading out onto the road heading for the Grand Tetons!!!!!