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51 Sunsets, 7 States and Countless Lifetime Memories

51 Sunsets, 7 States and Countless Lifetime Memories


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 09/06/2020
Posted On 09/12/2020 09:45:00

Camping | RV Adventure | Passport America | Good Sam | AAA | Campgrounds | RV Parks | RV Resort | Louisiana | Oklahoma | Kansas | South Dakota | Nebraska | Colorado | Texas | Black Hills | Badlands | Rocky Mountains | Great Sand Dunes



The sun has finally set on our seven week RV adventure. What started as a dream to explore the Black Hills and Badlands National Park ended up being so much more. After staying in campgrounds in seven states including Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas, we even got to add two more stickers to our map! Speaking of additions, we also explored two national parks that weren't initially on our radar for this trip - Rocky Mountains and Great Sand Dunes.

We chose RV Parks (and even an RV Resort) based on proximity to the sites that we wanted to see. When possible, we also saved a little money by taking advantage of discounts offered by Passport America, Good Sam or AAA.

Throughout nearly two months away, we were grateful for staying healthy during these uncertain times. We did some advance planning by thoroughly researching each of our destinations before leaving home. We always attempted to plan our visits so as to avoid the heaviest crowds. We always wore our masks when inside (and even when outdoors when there were others around). Finally, we washed and sanitized our hands regularly.

We found that virtually everyone who we passed or interacted with consistently honored recommended social distancing guidelines. We could count on one hand the number of times that we either backed away from someone or requested that they allow us additional personal space.

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Round Trip Route Departing from Austin, Texas

We drove just over 7,250 miles on a (mostly) round trip loop from our Austin, Texas area home:


Our 7 Week Journey

Our 7 Week Journey

Approximate distances from one campground / RV park to another were:

  • 290 miles from our Austin, Texas area home to Sabine River RV Park in Logansport, Louisiana;
  • 295 miles to Lake Murray State Park in Ardmore, Oklahoma;
  • 300 miles to El Dorado State Park in El Dorado, Kansas;
  • 190 miles to Parkville, Missouri;
  • 400 miles to Palisades State Park in Garretson, South Dakota;
  • 410 miles to Custer's Gulch RV Park and Campground in Custer, South Dakota;
  • 60 miles to Sacora Station Campground in Piedmont, South Dakota;
  • 90 miles to Sleepy Hollow Camground & RV Park in Wall, South Dakota;
  • 260 miles to Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing Campground in Bayard, Nebraska;
  • 275 miles to High Plains Camping in Oakley, Kansas;
  • 170 miles to Kanopolis State Park in Marquette, Kansas;
  • 290 miles to Gypsy HideAway RV Park in Stratton, Colorado;
  • 230 miles to Spruce Lake RV Resort in Estes Park, Colorado;
  • 140 miles to Foot of the Rockies RV Campground in Colorado Springs, Colorado;
  • 245 miles to Blanca RV Park in Blanca, Colorado;
  • 325 miles to Big Texan RV Ranch in Amarillo, Texas;
  • 275 miles to Abilene RV Park in Abilene, Texas; and
  • 190 miles to return to our Austin, Texas area home.

In addition to the miles getting to and from camping spots, we put over 2,800 additional miles on our tow vehicle exploring the nearby areas!

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7 Nights at Sabine River RV Park

We had planned to overnight in Nacogdoches, Texas where we were to have a replacement water tank installed in "RV There Yet?". With our home state of Texas being constantly in the news due to COVID-19, we decided to amend our plan. We reserved a full week in Logansport, Louisiana. We hoped that, if we had proof that we were away from Texas for at least 14 days, we would not be subject to any forced quarantines as our journey progressed.

Sabine River RV Park was only about an hour away from Genuine RV Store. It was an easy drive and, as promised, our tank was replaced in about five hours. Contrary to our usual travel style, we had virtually no plans for the week. Other than a day exploring the area surrounding Logansport and our day in Nacogdoches, we mostly relaxed and did some inside reorganization.


Historic Texas State Line Monument on US-84 East

Historic Texas State Line Monument on US-84 East

3 Nights at Lake Murray State Park

We chose our next two campgrounds based primarily on location. We were headed to the Kansas City, Missouri area and wanted to avoid long drives between campsites. Located in Ardmore, Oklahoma very close to the Texas-Oklahoma border, we've previously passed Lake Murray State Park when we've traveled Interstate 35.

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There are plenty of choices inside the state park for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities. In addition to water activities (boating, fishing, swimming and more), other options include hiking, biking and even ATV trails, organized sports and playgrounds for the youngsters. Again, we had no plans, so we enjoyed cooling off in the water and admiring some of the park's historic structures built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and WPA (Works Progress Administration).


Water Service in the Lodge and Cabins Originally Relied on this Pump House

Water Service in the Lodge and Cabins Originally Relied on this Pump House

2 Nights at El Dorado State Park

A search for attractions near El Dorado State Park in El Dorado, Kansas helped us find Teter Rock and Texaco Hill. Our Ford Expedition was not happy with the combination of gravel roads and highway construction during our journey and displayed its displeasure with a flat tire! Rather than spending our afternoon exploring the park, we spent our time changing a tire and then having two tires replaced.


View of the Flint Hills from atop Texaco Hill

View of the Flint Hills from atop Texaco Hill

6 Nights in Parkville, Missouri

The most important stop of our first four was in Parkville, Missouri. It was there that we joined up with Scott's brother and sister-in-law who would be joining us for the upcoming two weeks. Although the six nights flew by, we did have an opportunity to enjoy some time with Scott's parents and sister.

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2 Nights at Palisades State Park

Our early morning departure from Missouri marked the "real beginning" of our journey. On our way to Garretson, South Dakota we spent too little time in Downtown Sioux Falls - but at least we can say that we saw the falls!


Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Our two night stay was in Palisades State Park. In addition to exploring the state park, we spent a day taking in the scenery at the nearby Split Rock Park and Devils Gulch Park.


Taking a Hiking Break in Devils Gulch Park

Taking a Hiking Break in Devils Gulch Park

6 Nights at Custer's Gulch RV Park and Campground

We couldn't pass the opportunity to pause our drive for a stop in Mitchell, South Dakota to wander through The World's Only Corn Palace.


Outside of The World's Only Corn Palace

Outside of The World's Only Corn Palace

Our six nights in Custer's Gulch RV Park and Campground were perfect for exploring Custer State Park, Custer City and so many more popular and historic sites. Our fully packed days included a ride aboard the 1880 Train, daytime and nighttime visits to both Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore National Memorial and much more.


Bison in Custer State Park

Bison in Custer State Park

Viewing Mount Rushmore through the Avenue of Flags

Viewing Mount Rushmore through the Avenue of Flags

The RV Park was one of our favorites of the entire trip, and they even offered AAA or Good Sam Discounts. We could have easily filled more time in Custer, but our goal was to see the best of the Black Hills in just 12 days.

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3 Nights at Sacora Station Campground

Although Sacora Station Campground ended up being our least favorite sleeping spot of the trip, at least it had a good location going for it. It was just over an hour away from Custer, but relocating allowed us to reduce our daily drives over the next couple of days. From our home base in Piedmont, South Dakota, a few of the sites that we visited included Spearfish Canyon, Sturgis, Rapid City, Devils Tower National Monument and historic Deadwood.


Exploring the Grounds at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis

Exploring the Grounds at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

2 Nights at Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park

Our final two nights as a group of four were spent at Sleepy Hollow Campground, another Good Sam park. Our home away from home was walking distance from the well advertised Wall Drug Store.


Hustead's Wall Drug Store

Hustead's Wall Drug Store

You would have found us at Badlands National Park during the majority of our two days, but we also had a chance to tour the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.


Sunset at Badlands National Park

Sunset at Badlands National Park

2 Nights at Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing Campground

After dropping off our traveling companions at the Rapid City Regional Airport, Scott and I headed south into Nebraska. We are happy that we got a chance to see Carhenge on the way to our next sleeping spot.


Nebraska's Carhenge

Nebraska's Carhenge

Our first RV stay in Nebraska was at Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing. We had an awesome view of the Chimney Rock from our campground plus had time to explore both the Chimney Rock Museum and Scotts Bluff National Monument.

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2 Nights at High Plains Camping

We returned to Kansas for a two-night stay at High Plains Camping in Oakley. In addition to eating at the onsite restaurant, Cap'n Jack's Pub, we ventured out to explore Monument Rocks and Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park.


Monument Rocks

Monument Rocks

High Plains Camping offers a 10% discount to members of Good Sam or AAA.

2 Nights at Kanopolis State Park

The last campground that we had reserved before leaving home was Kanopolis State Park. Located in Marquette, Kansas, our eastbound drive took us near IH-35. Returning home would be a straight shot south on the interstate.

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While there, we found some more locations to add to our list of quirky places to visit in Kansas! In addition to exploring the city of Lucas, we drove the Post Rock Scenic Byway. Before returning to "RV There Yet?", we also used our time to see the World's Largest Czech Egg and Mushroom Rock State Park.


Carved Post on the Kansas Post Rock Scenic Byway

Carved Post on the Kansas Post Rock Scenic Byway

1 Night at Gypsy HideAway RV Park

We were truly enjoying our time away and realized that we weren't quite ready to return to the Texas heat. Although we had to retrace a part of our route, we were Colorado bound! To break up our drive to the mountains, we stopped in the city of Stratton, just 30 minutes west of the Kansas-Colorado border. We didn't even disconnect our trailer from our tow vehicle for our short stay at Gypsy HideAway RV Park.

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10 Nights at Spruce Lake RV Resort

What started to be a week long stay at Spruce Lake RV Resort turned into 10 days, our longest time in any one place since being RV owners. We chose the Good Sam resort due to its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, on what was to be our first full day in the park, we had car trouble immediately after entering.


Spruce Lake RV Resort

Spruce Lake RV Resort

Once we realized that replacing the throttle body in our Expedition would require a drive to and overnight stay in Longmont, we added the three additional nights. Our longer stay also allowed us to explore both Estes Park and Grand Lake plus spend parts of seven days driving and hiking inside the national park.


Historic Stanley Estes Park Hotel

Historic Stanley Estes Park Hotel

Sunset at Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunset at Rocky Mountain National Park

3 Nights at Foot of the Rockies RV Campground

We knew that we couldn't drive near Colorado Springs without going to the top of Pikes Peak. Our stay at Foot of the Rockies RV Campground was in a good location for that and more. It had been a while since we had ridden segways but our tour of Garden of the Gods proved that we hadn't forgotten how!


Pikes Peak Mile Marker 16

Pikes Peak Mile Marker 16

Guided Segway Tour through Garden of the Gods

Guided Segway Tour through Garden of the Gods

The first two of our three nights was discounted by 50% with our Passport America membership. The campground generously allowed us to also take advantage of the 10% discount for members of Good Sam or AAA on our final night.

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3 Nights at Blanca RV Park

We realized that, by just going a short distance out of our way, we could visit one more national park before returning home. Blanca RV Park, a short drive from Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, was our last stop in Colorado. Having either our Good Sam or AAA membership also gave us a 10% discount on our stay.

We stumbled upon SpinDrift Sand Board Rentals and couldn't pass up the opportunity to have some fun! After sandboarding for several hours, the rain came calling so we left the national park. Thankfully we had another day to do some hiking and people watching. We wrapped up our final night before returning to Texas with a soak in the geothermal waters of The Greenhouse at Sand Dunes Pool.


Sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

3 Nights at Big Texan RV Ranch

After being away from Texas for almost seven weeks, Big Texan RV Ranch was the first of two parks where we camped in our home state upon our return. We couldn't pass up using our Good Sam membership again, nor a free limo ride to the The Big Texan for a steak dinner!


Ridin' in Style to The Big Texan

Ridin' in Style to The Big Texan

Much of our time in Amarillo was spent making encore appearances at places that we visited just a couple of years ago. It was impossible for us to resist the Cadillac Ranch, 2nd Ammendment Cowboy and an iced tea at Water Still!

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2 Nights at Abilene RV Park

Since we had been going almost constantly for the past 7+ weeks, we decided to spend two additional nights before heading home. Just as we started our journey, we ended our days away with some rest and relaxation. Other than a short swim in the pool at Abilene RV Park (a Good Sam park), we did nothing!

A Successful Journey - With Some Firsts!

Reflecting back on our journey puts a smile on both of our faces. We were successful with three new "firsts" for the two of us. In the three years that we have been RV owners, it's always been just the two of us. For two of the seven weeks that we were away, we had two guests joining us. Having family to laugh and share memories with more than made up for any space constraints caused by sharing our home with others.

Another first was successfully turning what was planned as a five week journey into seven weeks away from home. We found six additional campgrounds with space available at the last minute, explored two more national parks, bought more groceries, cooked more meals, washed more laundry . . . and loved every minute of it all! Although our local U. S. Post Office was less than helpful with extending our "hold mail service", our mail was even waiting for us when we returned home!

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Finally, we were able to navigate changing a flat, replacing two tires and having the throttle body on our tow vehicle replaced. Although we would certainly have preferred not to spend the money for service work, at least no one was injured and the repairs were completed relatively quickly without putting too much of a damper on our fun.


Replacing a Flat Tire - Not Part of the Plan!

Replacing a Flat Tire - Not Part of the Plan!

Passport America

If you are not already a member of Passport America, you can sign up today and The Wordy Explorers will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. (We truly appreciate your support!) Depending on where, how often and for how long you stay in participating locations, your membership can pay off very quickly. In our first two years after purchasing a three year Passport America membership, we already had a net savings of over $400. We don't find locations everywhere, but our stays have more than paid for the membership fee.

South Dakota

Don't miss our upcoming posts filled with so many ways to fill your time exploring South Dakota. You'll soon have access to campground reviews, itinerary suggestions, must do's, tips and more.

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Camping with Friends and Family

When traveling by RV, what suggestions do you have to help others who plan on inviting guests to share their space for an upcoming trip?


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51 Sunsets, 7 States and Countless Lifetime Memories







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