You aren’t going to see too many great views in this post, just a few quick shots of our trip.
I am a family guy, like my hero Clark W. Griswold. This is my life. My wife likes a lot of drama and stress, hence we finished our upstairs flooring, got a new puppy, and got a popup camper at the very last minute prior to our annual family trip. All while doing a busy work life (for both of us), it really came together last minute. Welcome to our life – we like to flow and shit things together last minute. We literally figured out our (rough) itinerary a week before our departure. Here’s how it went:
Saturday August 19 – knew we needed a camper for our trip – visited local bumpkin place who did a lot of business. Didn’t like the options, but one we like was supposed to be in the next week. Crossed our fingers and also called around. No real options – we could rent a shit-beater popup, but we ultimately decided our backup was tent camping, which we had everything from pads to screen tent over the picnic table. Not ideal, but an OK backup if things didn’t work out. In the meantime, I wired up the Honda Odyssey from the 4-pin harness (and towing package) to a 7-pin harness. Our trailer came equipped with electronic brakes, so we had a Tekonsha Prodigy P2 Electronic Brake Control installed (bought on Amazon at link) at U-Haul, vs. the standard option they provided. It was the difference between a delay-timed brake delay vs. real-time with acceleratometer. The option we chose was very good, even in the mountains. All in, the wiring, labor, and Amazon-Purchased Brake Control was about $250 at U-Haul-but you have to buy and provide your own stuff, otherwise you get stuck with their stock equipment.
Anyways, we thought things wouldn’t work out. But it did. Camper of choice arrived late Thursday, and we picked up on Friday afternoon (August 25), just prior to both our kids’ soccer tournament (fuck our lives) from Friday through Sunday (at least it was local). Still, we never had much of a chance to shake out the the new popup (a Rockwood Freedom 2280 – just an FYI: we paid about $9,400 plus tax, title, etc. for our rig, your mileage may vary).
Anyway, shit came together last minute – kids coming off local soccer tourney, plus to make matter more fun, we were bringing two dogs – a 6 year-old spaz of a cocka-poo, plus a 4-month-old puppy. Fun times ahead.
We left on Monday August 28. First time driving a trailer with the minivan. Towing capacity was 3,500 lbs minus whatever we brought with us. I thought we were close to our limit with two tween kids and a loaded camper. The rig did pretty well with a few slow pulls over some tough grades, but we pushed through for a 12-hour day
to the badlands where we stayed in a KOA for a couple of nights. Just missed Captain Capitalism on the trip, but with the fam and dogs it wouldn’t have meshed well. Great views, but KOA was weird for this State-Park family.
Pushed on to Rapid City without stopping, then to Mount Rushmore.
We stayed for maybe an hour, with one of the best ice cream cones in my life, and moved on to the next phase of our journey. We took Highway 16A to Custer State Park – with popup trailer. This provided maybe the most unexpected highlight of the journey. After going through several tight pig-tails of highway driving, we came through a single-laned tunnel with the Mount Rushmore view grand center as you came out of the tunnel. So very cool.
We spent the rest of the trip at Custer State Park. We hiked, saw some cool shit, went to Crazy Horse (TIP: get the “donation” rock of the blast-rock from the mountain- my wife is a geologist and after washing the rock it was super awesome. She donated maybe $2, but ended up buying a similar stone for $40 in Hill City). We didn’t get into arguments, but also didn’t break in the camper (if you know what I mean).
Anyways, we saw cool shit. spent most of our money on gas and icecream. Bugs were minimal, but as far as raccoons, this is what we found out:
- We talked to a couple that saw a 12-year old girl with a 4-month-old pet raccoon on a harness and leash that they petted. Apparently, in South Dakota, it is legal to have a pet raccoon.
- We saw raccoon tracks on our table in Custer. Glad I took out the garbage that night.
- Traveling back, we saw a coon eating our dogs’ food out of their dish. Holly had to throw a chair at it to get it to leave.
Anyways, I feel traveled out at this stage. We put on nearly 1900 miles of driving (mostly with a trailer) with two kids and two dogs. Not very relaxing, but very cool. I drove probably 80% of the drive time, which is what a Captain does – wife gets very nervous driving in construction, tight roads, or traffic, hence it was mostly me- but I’ve driven about a million road miles by now so is easy for me at this stage of life.
Next time we’d like to do more hiking and spend more time at seeing things – time went way too fast. Griswold trip a mostly success on the maiden journey of the popup. Good luck on your own adventures.