3203 miles round trip.
8 states. Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
10 billion bugs.
Why did we subject ourselves to this motor vehicle torture?
Setting up residency for full-time RVing, using South Dakota as our state of record, that's why.
As I may have explained before, South Dakota is one of three states that caters to full-time RV-ers as Barbara and I are going to be in 2 months and 17 days (Thanks for asking!). The other two are Florida and Texas. All have low or no income taxes for retirees, low sales taxes and registration fees on vehicles, and all have very limited laws in place to maintain residency and limit paperwork.
In short, there's very few requirements to keep pulling you back into their states on a regular basis, which is important for full-timers.
We chose South Dakota for a number of reasons, but primarily because the people who will be handling our mail while on the road (America's Mailbox) are full-time RV-ers themselves, so they understand what works and what doesn't for us travelers. South Dakota also has the least invasive registration and residency requirements of the three, and NO income taxes. There's a need to setup this residency BEFORE we buy our RV, so that the lower sales tax can be paid to the right state. Hence, the trip to South Dakota. (More on the Rapid City portion of our trip in the next blog post)
I've got to say, if you have to do 3203 miles in 4 days, doing it in a Mini Cooper convertible in late Spring is certainly the way to go! While nights were too cool to have the top down, days were comfortably warm without being too hot, and next to a huge front windshield on a Class A motor home, nothing beats the views of our Midwest and Great Plains states like having the top down and the cruise control on. And while there was really no extra time in this particular trip to stop and enjoy some local color, we were able to take note of some places we'd like to visit (and a couple we'd like to avoid) once we get on the road in the RV next year.
Until you experience it, you don't really get an idea of the vastness of the middle part of our great country. It's HUGE! For instance, on the way back home, we drove on I-90 from Rapid City, SD to Albert Lea, MN for more than a third of our return trip time. One road, 2 partial states, and almost 8 hours with stops. And maybe for about an hour outside of Rapid City, it's flat as a pancake.
And the bugs! We ended up using more than a gallon of windshield washer fluid on the trip up and back, with much of it used in South Dakota and Minnesota, with an honorable mention to Iowa. Don't know if it's the time of year for that area, but the Mini needed a good scrubbin' once we got home, and every gas stop featured yours truly using a ton of elbow grease just to keep seeing safely between fill-ups.
One of the rare detours we made along the way was in Sac City, Iowa. Now, Sac City, Iowa isn't known for very much, but they do have themselves the World's Largest Popcorn Ball sitting just 3 miles west of State Route 20. Having nothing else better to do at the time (State Route 20 is notable for it's lack of turns and elevation changes), when a sign popped up saying 'World's Largest Popcorn Ball' next left, by God we were going to take that left! I guess there's a lot of leftover corn in the great State of Iowa each year, so popping a couple of tons of the stuff isn't too much extra work, because they had themselves quite a large popcorn ball just off of the Sac City downtown area. It literally is a must see! Frankly, it came as a welcome relief to the torture of State Route 20's mind-numbing sameness for mile after interminable mile.
On a sad note, the floods that have devastated communities along the Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas rivers are simply unbelievable in scope and severity. To drive past vast acreages of fields that should have been planted by now that are still underwater, to have to take detours of dozens, if not hundreds of miles due to road and bridge closures; well, the devastation is simply epic. The cost to livelihood and property is too large to wrap your hands around.
On a positive note, Barbara and I were both impressed with the use of wind power in the states we traveled through. Huge wind farms are the norm in these states, and given the topography you can see why. We saw as little as one solitary wind turbine to what looked like hundreds clustered as far as the eye could see. It's clean, quiet, and allows the land to still be used for farming. A win-win for everyone. They ARE a bit disconcerting to see at nighttime, when their red anti-collision lights blink on and off in orchestrated unison. With very few other lights around, and just a darkened roadway sitting in front of you, you're not sure if your going to be driving into these things down the road!
All-in-all, a great trip, a productive trip, but an exhausting trip. What we did in 4 days in the Mini would have been a much more relaxing 10-12 day trip in the motor home, but that's for sometime next year (maybe).
Next post: Welcome to The Mount Rushmore State!
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.