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Mount Rushmore, Badlands , and Air Power Museum – Cross Nation USA Highway Journey (Half 13)

Welcome again to Half 13 of our six week highway journey throughout america! On this article, I’ll cowl our go to to Mount Rushmore, Badlands Nationwide Park, and the Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power.

Whereas visiting these parks and points of interest, we spent six days driving the two,200 miles east from Gardiner, Montana again house to Raleigh, North Carolina.  

A quick recap of our journey: we set out from our house in Raleigh in early June and made it again house towards the tip of July. In whole we spent over six weeks (46 nights!!) on the highway and drove 8,200 miles. 

Alongside the way in which, we visited 14 nationwide parks and a ton of different attention-grabbing locations. It was fairly a busy journey, since we stayed in 25 totally different airbnbs or lodges and spent greater than 100 hours touring within the van

To cowl the entire journey, I’m breaking apart the journey abstract into 13 separate weblog posts.

Here’s a desk of contents for our complete journey if you wish to try different elements of our journey:

  1. North Carolina to Kansas by way of West Virginia and St. Louis
  2. Colorado: Denver, Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park, and Frisco
  3. Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde Nationwide Parks plus Ouray
  4. Utah: Arches Nationwide Park and Capitol Reef Nationwide Park
  5. Utah: Bryce Canyon Nationwide Park and Zion Nationwide Park
  6. Arizona: Glen Canyon Dam, the Grand Canyon, and Hoover Dam
  7. A Week in Las Vegas, Nevada
  8. California: Los Angeles and Lengthy Seashore
  9. California: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite Nationwide Parks
  10. Crossing the Desert in Nevada and Utah: Hawthorne and Bonneville Salt Flats
  11. Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah and Idaho Falls, Idaho
  12. Yellowstone Nationwide Park
  13. Mount Rushmore, Badlands Nationwide Park, and Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power

Be a part of me for half 13 of our journey throughout the nation as we discover Mount Rushmore, Badlands Nationwide Park, and the Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power and make our method again house to Raleigh.


From Gardiner, Montana, we headed east by way of Gillette, Wyoming, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands Nationwide Park, Iowa Metropolis, Iowa, Dayton Ohio’s Museum of the US Air Power, and at last again house to Raleigh. 

As soon as we completed our three day cease in Yellowstone Nationwide Park, we had been roughly achieved with the majority of our highway journey to the western United States. 

The drive again house to Raleigh from Gardiner, Montana is 33 hours and a pair of,200 miles. We determined to interrupt the drive up into 5 segments of 6 to eight hours of driving per day, with some sightseeing alongside the way in which. 


Driving alongside the Yellowstone river in Montana


I regarded for respectable resort redemption choices for the pile of resort factors I’ve accrued over time from journey hacking. 

We ended up staying in these cities on the journey house:

  • Gillette, Wyoming 
  • Oacoma, South Dakota
  • Iowa Metropolis, Iowa
  • Dayton, Ohio

We weren’t in any explicit hurry, so as an alternative of a sequence of 1 night time resort stays, we determined to construct in some down time on the journey house. We booked a two night time keep in Iowa Metropolis, Iowa, and a second two night time keep in Dayton, Ohio. 

On the drive from Gillette, Wyoming to Oacoma, South Dakota, we stopped by Mount Rushmore Nationwide Monument and the Badlands Nationwide Park. 

A few days later throughout our two night time keep in Dayton, we visited the Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power. 


Lengthy stretches of open highway on Interstate 90 in Wyoming. Here’s a stretch of highway with a reddish tint to the asphalt. The rocks close by had been crimson, so I assume they used these native crimson rocks when mixing the asphalt for the freeway pavement.


On the second day of our drive again to Raleigh, we had been driving by way of South Dakota so we determined to detour barely and go to the Mount Rushmore Nationwide Memorial. 

For these holding a Nationwide Parks annual cross, be warned that they don’t settle for it for entry at Mt. Rushmore. They’ve a $10 parking payment that everybody pays. I regarded into avoiding the parking payment (after all!) and determined it wasn’t definitely worth the effort to save lots of a mere $10. So we paid the payment, parked within the parking deck, and had a brief stroll as much as the primary attraction.


The 4 presidents of Mount Rushmore


I’ll be sincere, my expectations for Mount Rushmore had been fairly low. Sure, it’s an impressively enormous sculpture on the aspect of the mountain. However that’s it. When you see it, that’s sort of all there may be to see. 

It’s not the sort of place I’d usually go to as a vacation spot in and of itself, however because it wasn’t a lot of a detour on our drive again east, I figured it could be worthwhile to go to and see it with my very own eyes a minimum of as soon as in my life. 

There’s a respectable quantity of touristy stuff round Mt. Rushmore for those who do wish to make it a vacation spot. Typical mountain city stuff like memento retailers, ice cream parlors, and outside journey operators.

We spent half an hour taking within the huge cliffside sculptures of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln from the viewing gallery. Then we went contained in the museum portion of Mt. Rushmore. They’ve a variety of displays displaying the development course of and planning for the sculptures on the mountainside.

We took a glance across the museum, acquired our fill, and shortly headed again to the automobile. We had a variety of floor to cowl on this present day, together with a drive by way of the Badlands Nationwide Park.


After one other hour and a half drive east from Mt. Rushmore, we arrived on the Badlands Nationwide Park. On the way in which there, we handed by way of the outskirts of Speedy Metropolis, South Dakota and refueled the van earlier than persevering with east. 

Simply earlier than making the flip to the Badlands, we handed by the city of Wall, South Dakota. That is the place the well-known Wall Drug vacationer lure is situated. We didn’t have time to cease at Wall Drug, and we don’t actually thoughts lacking it! 

As soon as we arrived within the Badlands, we spent a few hours driving alongside the Badlands Loop Highway. The Loop Highway weaves by way of the hills of the badlands for about 25 miles and has a minimum of a dozen overlooks with nice views of the enduring colourful hillsides and valleys that the Badlands are identified for. 


Badlands Nationwide Park



Whereas driving alongside the Loop Highway, we didn’t get out and do any prolonged hikes. Nevertheless there are some hills to climb for a greater view. And 1 / 4 of a mile boardwalk loop with some fossil displays on the jap finish of the Loop Highway. 

Alongside the way in which, we noticed a great little bit of wildlife together with mountain goats and prairie canine. For those who see a bunch of vehicles stopped on the highway forward of you, there’s a good likelihood they see some cool wildlife. Decelerate and have a look too! 


Bighorn sheep grazing within the Badlands


Taking a break within the Badlands. Simply. Taking. It. All. In.


After leaving the Badlands, we continued east on Interstate 90 for a pair extra hours. Then we stopped for the night time in Oacoma, South Dakota proper after sundown. 

On the to-do checklist: unpack, sleep, stand up, eat on the resort breakfast buffet, pack up, and hit the highway once more for an additional eight hours of driving. To interrupt up the lengthy drive by way of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, we stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for lunch at a Cambodian restaurant. 

Whereas in Sioux Falls, we stopped by the downtown riverfront park. There are a few waterfalls and rapids within the properly laid out Falls Park. The water degree was pretty low within the Massive Sioux River flowing by way of the park, so the falls and rapids weren’t as spectacular as we had been anticipating. 


The Massive Sioux River working by way of the center of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


The customer middle has a free commentary tower with an elevator. We went as much as the highest, about 40 ft up, and acquired an awesome view of Sioux Falls and the Falls Park. 

Needing to make some extra miles earlier than it acquired too late, we hit the toilet and returned to the minivan for our onward journey. The vacation spot for the night time was our resort in Iowa Metropolis, Iowa. 

We spent two nights in Iowa Metropolis. Though we had a full day in Iowa Metropolis, we determined to get some take out pizza and calm down on the resort for the day as an alternative of doing something of touristic worth. We had a number of lengthy journey days bookending the break in Iowa Metropolis, so we loved the chance to “do nothing” for a day.

After leaving Iowa Metropolis, we continued east on a seven hour drive by way of the Quad Cities, Peoria, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana earlier than arriving at Dayton, Ohio for the night. 

We had one other two day keep booked in Dayton, Ohio. This was the final resort of our whole journey! 


Throughout our full day in Dayton, we spent a number of hours visiting the Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power. It’s probably the most spectacular collections of aviation historical past that we now have seen wherever on this planet. I’d undoubtedly put it on par with the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Air and Area Museum in Washington, DC. And just like the Smithsonian, the Air Power museum is completely free! 

Contained in the Air Power Museum, there are 4 interconnected hangars stuffed with lots of of planes, drones, helicopters, missiles, and numerous different aeronautical units.  Every successive hangar proceeds in chronological order from the origins of flight up by way of area exploration. 

The primary hangar covers the early years of aviation historical past and World Warfare II. The subsequent hangar consists of planes from Vietnam Warfare and the Korean Warfare. The third hangar covers the Chilly Warfare. After the third hangar you’ll discover a dozen or so missiles within the Missile Gallery. 


Rockets and missiles within the Missile Gallery


The fourth hangar may be essentially the most attention-grabbing. In there, we had been capable of stroll by way of a number of planes previously used to ferry the President of america across the nation and the world. I realized this cool reality from a tour information within the museum: The designation “Air Power One” is barely used whereas the president is utilizing that exact aircraft. When the president’s aircraft is off responsibility, it’s not technically Air Power One. 


Waving to my fellow Individuals from my private Air Power One


Additionally within the fourth hangar is a reproduction of the area shuttle with a sequence of controls and devices displayed from the precise area shuttle. We additionally noticed a ton of giant planes and jets within the “International Attain” exhibit contained in the fourth hangar. 

We toured the hangars in reverse chronological order, beginning with the extra trendy fourth hangar and continuing again in time towards the early days of aviation historical past within the first hangar. In whole, we spent a number of hours strolling amongst all of the planes on exhibit however nonetheless didn’t see all of it. It will be straightforward to spend your complete day right here! 


The B-36 “Peacemaker” with a thermonuclear bomb to the left of the aircraft’s fuselage


After leaving the museum, we stopped by an area Chinese language buffet for a late lunch. As soon as we had our fill (after which ate some extra ice cream), we headed again to the resort for the final night time of our huge summer season 2021 highway journey! 


The subsequent day, we expertly accomplished the morning departure routine one last time. Get up, dine on the resort breakfast buffet, pack up, and hit the highway. The ultimate vacation spot: house! 

It’s about 8.5 hours from Dayton to Raleigh so we had one other strong day of driving forward of us. As we continued southeast by way of Ohio and into West Virginia, we finally returned to the identical route we took out west over six weeks earlier. It’s a pleasant feeling to be again on considerably acquainted roads! 

Over the subsequent couple of hours, we handed by way of Virginia after which into North Carolina. After I stopped for gasoline close to Mt. Ethereal, North Carolina, I knew we had been nearly house after I heard the locals talking with that particular North Carolina drawl. Mah folks! 

One other couple of hours from Mt. Ethereal and we had been again in Raleigh. House candy house! 


On the ultimate leg of our six week summer season highway journey, we spent six days driving the two,200 miles east from Gardiner, Montana again house to Raleigh, North Carolina. Alongside the way in which, we visited Mount Rushmore, Badlands Nationwide Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power.

Mount Rushmore was a fast cease the place we checked out the huge carved stone heads of 4 former United States Presidents. 

We spent much more time touring the Badlands Nationwide Park. The colourful rolling hills dotting the panorama had been a sight to behold! 

After leaving the Badlands and getting some sleep, we headed east and took a break in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on the Falls Park in downtown. The Massive Sioux River bisects the town and produces a sequence of small waterfalls or rapids because it cascades over the rocks within the riverbed. 

Our last vacation spot of the highway journey was the Nationwide Museum of the US Air Power. We spent a number of hours wandering among the many large jets and different navy plane, missiles, and smaller planes from the final century of aviation historical past. Whether or not you’re an aviation junkie or similar to cool stuff, this museum has rather a lot to see for everybody. 


Which of the locations that we visited on our highway journey would you most like to go to? 


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