Friday, June 5th – Sioux Falls, SD to Badlands National Park, SD [Day 2] (280 miles)

Woke up early. Quickly came to the realization that breakfast is much easier to prepare than dinner. My wife had a great idea of packing shelf-stable milk. This was a common item we drank while in the Army during field exercises and deployments. The milk comes in quart-sized boxes and can be stored at room temperature. We keep a box in the travel trailer’s small refrigerator (3 cubic feet). Breakfast options are either cold cereal (with milk) or oatmeal. While staying at an RV campground with hook-ups (electric, water, and sometimes sewer), the 110v plugs inside the trailer provide juice. This allows the use of a coffee maker – a nice convenience in the morning. For oatmeal preparation, it is just a mater of using one of the two propane-fed burners in the galley to heat water in a tea kettle. Clean up of the dishes is aided by the hot-water heater. The heater can warm about 6 gallons of water. The water heater also uses propane for heating – the process takes about 25 minutes.

Breakfast completed, dishes cleaned, we packed up, dumped the gray water holding tank, and hit the road.

Flat and straight along I-90. Until we hit the Missouri River. West of the river, the terrain started to roll a bit – but still easy driving.

Arrived at Badlands National Park. I started to not feel well.

I stopped first at the Cedar Pass Lodge to get directions to the campground. It was nearby (just down the road). At the entrance to the campground there was a board to indicate what campground site campers are assigned – but the board was not in use. I just started driving the loops, looking for the tag with my name on it.

Side note: for our stays at national park campgrounds, I tried to get reservations at each campsite. Each national park has their own method for reservations (and not all campgrounds take reservations). For some campgrounds, you can pick the exact campsite for your stay. Usually the website gives you specifics on each individual campsite: does it offer hook-ups (water, electricity, etc…. almost no national park campsites offer hookups), is the site a pull-through or a back-in, width of the site, and other specific information to let you know if your rig will fit).

Our site at Cedar Pass Campground was not level. Why is that a problem? Besides allowing the RV to be level on the inside for comfort and ease of use, a proper level is important for use of the refrigerator. If the RV is not level, the refrigerator will not work properly and may get damaged.

I was able to level the trailer using heavy-duty plastic blocks that look like large Lego bricks. On the side that needs to be raised, I place the blocks under the tire and then pull the trailer up on the blocks. I keep a level in the galley and place it on top of the refrigerator during this process to let me know when I am good to go.

With staying just one night, life is easier if I leave the trailer hitched to the truck. However, being tired from the drive and trailer setup, as well as dispirited from the failure of dinner the night before, I unhitched the trailer and we ate at the Cedar Pass Lodge’s restaurant. The food was good but none of us could eat that much.

After dinner we did a bit of exploring at the Visitors Center. At this point it may be noted that I did not take too many photographs early in this trip. I am going to attribute that to a combination of keeping my attention focused on the safety of my daughters (and being tired). If I am looking through a camera lens then I am not paying attention to much of anything else.

The campsite did not have any hook-ups (as per the norm in a national park). There was a dump station. But I knew that if I didn’t put any water in the fresh water tank, I would not have to worry about dumping the gray water tank if I didn’t put water in the fresh water tank. When I have hook-ups, water flows directly into the trailers water system. After the water is used and goes down the drain, it fills the gray water tank. When I don’t have hook-ups I can fill up the fresh water tank… it will hold up to 33 gallons.

Here is the deal with water. A gallon of water weighs almost 8.5 lbs. If I traveled with the fresh water tank full, that would be an extra 275 lbs. Weight I just don’t need to haul.

So – if I don’t need to use water for cooking or cleaning, then I don’t need to fill up the fresh water tank and I don’t have to worry about dumping the gray water tank before I leave. Most national park campsites that have spaces for RVs also have a dump station. However, if you do need to use the dump station, chances are that others need to use it as well and that means there might be a wait. That just means you can’t get on the road as soon as you wanted to.

I found out that most national park campgrounds do not have showers at all campgrounds. Cedar Pass at Badlands is an exception. They had showers but the showers actually took quarters to work. I had never seen anything like that before.