Favorite RV Destination

Do you have a favorite RV travel destination? That’s a question we seem to be asked frequently and it’s not an easy one to answer. There are so many variables that make a place special and memorable. With that said, favorite destinations are truly a personal experience based on individual opinion. Of course, I do have a list of faves.

I have friends that have been brought to tears when they first set eyes on the Grand Canyon while others don’t see the big deal. In addition to the actual place, I feel a lot has to do with one’s frame of mind. For example, if you and your partner are quarreling or you have a child who’s being difficult, no matter how beautiful the scenery may be, you probably won’t have the fondest memories of that particular destination.

Sylvan Lake, SD

On the flip side, let’s say all the stars align, the sky is filled with rainbows, and you’re surrounded by dancing unicorns, even staying in a Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota can turn into a fun and memorable place to spend a birthday. Yep, been there, done that!

A favorite destination; the Black Hills in South Dakota

I was around fourteen years old the first time I visited the southwest corner of the state of South Dakota. My parents had just upgraded from a popup travel trailer to a Class A Motorhome and this would be our first family vacation with the new RV. It would also be our first time traveling outside of the Midwest. We lived in the Chicago suburbs at the time, and our vacations for our family of five always revolved around my dad’s love of fishing in Wisconsin.

And guess where I am today? I’m back in Hayward, WI … the very place that I spent many childhood summer vacations, but that’s for another post.

That family vacation was an unforgettable trip to the Black Hills and Custer State Park. Ever since that trip, I had always wanted to return but didn’t get a chance until my daughter and I visited during the summer of 2010, and then I returned in 2015 with Al in tow. And guess what? I was recently able to return again in June of 2019.

A revisit to a favorite destination, but first a stop in Nebraska

Anytime I have an excuse to visit the Black Hills in South Dakota, I’m all in. Well, in reality, I don’t need an excuse but a reason sure does help with any trip route planning. And a fine reason we had on our trek from Arizona to Wisconsin to stop for a spell in the Black Hills in mid-June and connect with blogging pals. Once again, we were offered the opportunity to stay on private property from someone we had never met before. Oh yeah, twist my arm! I love my blog community. โค

But first … Since we had well over 400 miles and nearly eight hours of driving time to get to our South Dakota destination, we broke up the drive into two days and knew just the place to overnight; the Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska. This is the original store and home to the founders of Cabela’s. Unfortunately, Bass Pro purchased Cabela’s in 2017 and closed the headquarters in Sidney putting a bunch of employees out of work. Sidney is a small town and this acquisition has had a definite impact on the community in a negative way.

Considering Al had a few outdoorsy things he wanted (when doesn’t he?), he thought he’d help the local economy by purchasing a few items. Ah, but we didn’t stop there. Since we would be boondocking at Jim and Barb’s, we opted to spend a little on a campsite and get a full hook-up site for the night in their campground in lieu of staying for free in the parking lot. (I think it was around $32 for the night) This is a great spot to overnight with numerous restaurants within easy walking distance and a Walmart just down the road. Plus, it’s super easy to get on and off Interstate 80.

Barb and Jim’s driveway. Our RV in the distance.

Beautiful property with a unique building

The next day, we had no trouble finding Jim and Barb’s lovely property located not far from Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. We arrived just in time to reconnect with Jim and Diana whom I had previously met in Sedona this past April. They would be leaving the next morning. Needless to say, that evening we all enjoyed happy hour together … good conversation and tasty margaritas.

A barndominium in the works. Jim and Barb have been RVing full-time since 2014. A couple of years ago, they purchased their dream property in South Dakota and are now in the process of building a home … a unique home that is part barn (that will fit two RVs) and part house. Actually, it’s quite perfect for those of us that love RVing, and it’s something Al and I have often talked about building. Our problem is we can’t pick a location.

The more Jim blogged about their “barndominium”, the more I wanted to see it … and of course, meet Jim and Barb. It really is a great idea and will meet their needs perfectly. They still intend to continue RVing and traveling regularly.

(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)

During our five day visit, the building process needed to continue. While Barb ran errands (visiting lumber yards, picking up doors, etc.), Al helped “fishing Jim” install some windows. Why “fishing Jim”? When there are two different “Jim’s” on the premises, ya gotta have a way to differentiate the two. So while I call Jim, the property owner, “fishing Jim”, I call the visiting Jim, “Michigan Jim”. Seems to work when I’m communicating with my husband. He always knows which Jim I’m referring to, and yes, Al and Jim did talk fishing, but that was after the other Jim returned to Michigan.

Al and me on the left, Jim and Barb on the right.

So, while everyone was busy working on the barndominium, I went out exploring with my camera. Hey, I did my part by offering some very helpful and important tidbits. As a former home builder, I’m full of all kinds of useful (and non-useful) information.๐Ÿคฃ

Actually, door swings, placement of electrical switches, and cabinet layout are rather important and I gave Barb some suggestions on how to ensure an end result that she’ll be happy with. I think we’ve all visited a place where the light switch is in an awkward location or even behind a door. It’s all about the planning and attention to little details and that’s my expertise. Oh, and I’m really good at pointing a finger and telling people what to do. Just ask Al!๐Ÿ˜

However, it wasn’t all about the build. We did have time for some fun together. One evening we saw a comedic play at the Black Hills Playhouse. Another day, Al and Jim did some backroad exploring with the Jeep and then Jim took me on a 4×4 drive in the four-wheeler in search of photo-ops. This image is for you Jim.

A great campsite

Our five-day stay in the Black Hills whizzed by. We would’ve loved to stay longer, but 1. we didn’t want to overstay our welcome having just met these lovely folks in person for the first time, and 2. rain was expected and with rain comes a very muddy driveway … that’s the real reason we bid farewell. If it hadn’t been for the impending rain, they may never have gotten rid of us … but shhh, don’t tell them that or we may not be welcome back.

Come on, with a campsite like this, why would we be in a hurry to move on? It’s obvious why Jim and Barb fell in love with the property. If it weren’t so darn far away from our children and the winters weren’t so nasty cold, we would consider buying land in the area. Yes, we really do like the Black Hills that much … in the summer, that is.

Thank you, Jim and Barb for opening your home to us. We enjoyed meeting you, hanging out, and hope to do it again. Oh, and let’s not forget about the handsome neighbors.

Jim and Barb’s neighbors

But why are South Dakota’s Black Hills one of my favorite vacation destinations? I’ll share more photos and information about the area in my next post.ย 

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64 thoughts on “Favorite RV Destination

  1. Ingrid we too often get asked about favourites and you bring up such a good point about state of mind at a destination. Since I was ill most of the time in SE Asia Iโ€™m not sure Iโ€™ve given it very good reviews when people ask.
    The Black Hills look like a destination we need to add to the US road trip list. Gorgeous photos and the โ€˜barnโ€™ construction looks amazing.

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    1. Keep me post on your US road trip planning. I’m sure I can add a few “must see” stops to that itinerary.
      Being ill while traveling is never fun and does not provide the best of memories for any excursion. Sorry to hear about your SE Asia adventure ๐Ÿ˜Š

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      1. Ingrid when we finally get on that road trip Iโ€™ll be sure to be in touch.
        There was a lot of learning in that Asia trip and most of it about how valuable oneโ€™s feet are. Early on I cut my foot on coral while snorkelling. It got wildly infected as coral cuts are prone to do. Add some nasty red ant bites and my feet looked like they belonged in a horror movie rather than a cycling trip.
        The positive is I learned so many good lessons and value those feet so much more!

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  2. Y’all have a great time, that is easy to see. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos. Thank you also, Ingrid, for stopping by my little blog. I appreciate it more than you may know! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Love the barn idea. I remember living in North Dakota when I was really young and it was just fields of grass and mud. They had the best mud to make mud pies with in North Dakota but I missed my home state of Arizona. We moved back. On our travels my nana wanted to see Custer’s last stand. I was too young to understand what that was about and remember it just being a big empty field of grass. Looks like I need to head back to that area because traveling through as a tiny kid I don’t remember much. Wow, seeing everything through your photos is always a treat. What a beautiful planet we live on. Thanks for sharing another great adventure. Happy travels out there,to both of you.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed my little excursion to South Dakota. I always find it interesting what memories I recall from my childhood and it’s fun to return to places from those younger years. We’re having a great time spending our summer in the northwoods but I’m already looking forward to returning to my winter home in Phoenix to dry out. The humidity has been an adjustment. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐ŸŒต

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  4. Wonderful to see the sights and read about your many gorgeous travels, Ingrid. I would like to visit the SD Black Hills someday, and your photos bring that vision into a crystal clear “yes.” Your adventurous spirit and stamina are admirable.

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    1. The Black Hills is a beautiful place filled with lots of fun history … add in some roaming buffalo, colonies of chirping prairie dogs, and a couple of massive sculptures carved into rock (Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse), you’ll find plenty of entertainment. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  5. As you suggested, it is not just the location but also the memories at that location. Travelling as we often do in the “shoulder” seasons, we had several occasions when we were the only ones in a particular campground. Each was special in its own way, but I am not sure they would have been the same at another time. Then there were a few that just had spectacular views. Then there were those made special by the people we met while staying in them. Just thinking about the subject renews many happy memories.

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    1. I can totally relate. It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite location and it’s usually family or friends that make the difference between a nice visit and a very memorable visit. We do tend to have fonder memories with fewer crowds. Thanks for the comment ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Beautiful photos and your post brings back fond memories for me too. The Black Hills area is a favorite for me and went there as a child as well as with my mister man. What FUN for them in building their dream property and in such a beautiful area too! Happy Day – Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I think a visit to Mt. Rushmore is a vacation every family should do … even though as a fourteen-year-old, I found the rock sculpture rather boring ๐Ÿ˜„. With that said, it’s still educational and the wildlife added a level of excitement to the visit. A very fun family adventure.

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  7. I must agree, the Black Hills is our favorite spot too. It stole our hearts and we have not been the same since. Such beauty and a feel of the old west and pioneer spirit of discovery. It is definitely on our bucket list to return and spend a few weeks in the area.

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    1. A few weeks is a great idea. We’ve never spent more than a week in the area and we always leave before we’re ready. I think we like to slowly linger about and just enjoy a picnic by a lake or watch wildlife or enjoy a slow hike. This is a place to hang, move slowly, and take in the history. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Very nice post. I love the pic of the lone tree!
    We are often asked what is our favorite place we have encountered during our travels. Honestly we don’t have an answer to that. It is so difficult to choose. You are so correct, different places work for some but not others. That even makes it harder to pick, “the best place”.
    I have to admit that Black Hills ranks up there in wonderful places. We really enjoyed our time there and can see why you would put it on top of your list.

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    1. Thank you. Jim and I really worked on photographing that lone tree. Unfortunately, by the time we made it over to that tree with the four-wheeler, the unique clouds had moved on leaving a mostly white cloudly sky. Oh well, we made the best of it and it’s still an image I’m drawn to … oddly.
      I’m sure the Black Hills is a location that many would not put at the top of their list, but for us, we find it very calming and reminiscent of our vacations spent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area when we were newlyweds, but without the huge mosquitos (Minnesota’s state bird ๐Ÿคฃ)

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  9. Ingrid, I can’t decide what I enjoyed more – your wonderful post or your fabulous photos. Thank goodness I don’t really have to choose! Custer State Park is one of the BEST State Parks we’ve ever visited, but it’s also memorable to us because it was the site of our daughter’s only travel meltdown – which, coincidentally, took place at the very lake in your first photo. (Sylvan Lake – am I remembering correctly?) Since we didn’t realize that swimming was a possibility there, we didn’t bring our bathing suits. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Let’s just say that the game of tag Alan quickly organized saved the day.

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    1. Awe, thank you Mary. And yes, you are correct, that is Sylvan Lake. Once you’ve seen that lake, you always remember it. That had to be quite the ordeal with your daughter making for a family vacation you’ll never forget. Fun times!

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  10. Very nice, the barn-condo… well yes, that. I love the Black Hills. We spent many family vacations there. Growing up in Minnesota that was a favored family destination. You pictures are beautiful. Stunning. What a nice time. Looks like lots of good memories and planning fun thing in the future too. REally enjoyed reading this post! Kim

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    1. Thank you Kim. Fortunately, the Black Hills isn’t too far from MN making for a great vacation destination. We always had wonderful family vacations and I’m enjoying my summer in WI back where I vacationed as a child. Amazing how very little has changed. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. It is almost impossible to pick a favorite. For me, it seems to come down to the memories created in a particular place which goes beyond the beauty of the landscape. My list of faves is long!

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    1. The Black Hills is a great family vacation destination. We are really enjoying our time in the Midwest, much more than we anticipated. However come October, I’ll be ready to return to AZ. ๐Ÿ˜Ž I look forward to sharing a bottle and swapping summer tales with you!

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  11. The US is full of fantastic destinations and I totally agree with the choice being very personal and that outside factors affect any person, experience, and place! My new favorite: Southern Utah. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I’m with you and absolutely love southern Utah. April ’18 we had an amazing 5 week stay at Lone Rock and really explored the area and there’s still so much more I’d like to see there.

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  12. I have difficulty picking a favorite destination for now, perhaps once we settled in we may rethinkg and revisit certain places. And perhaps to our adopted state which I truly had a wonderful time.
    Oh I bet your expertise in construction was handy and on display during your visit.

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    1. Picking a favorite is definitely difficult, but for me, it’s those memorable experiences that rise to the top … like in southern Utah. I never tire of that place. But the Black Hills will always hold a special place in my heart due to family memories.

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  13. Great post. I agree, Cabela’s is not the same since Bass ProShop bought them. Sad to hear that original store got shut down. We love the Black Hills area too. I was told by locals there the winters are surprisingly not that bad. I know, bad compared to Phoenix but more mild compared to the mid-west.

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    1. Oh, the Cabela’s store in Sidney is still going strong. It’s the corporate buildings that are empty. I grew up in IL and then moved to CO. Those Colorado winters were far more pleasant than in the Midwest. We’re spending our summer in Wisconsin and Minnesota and getting reacquainted with humidity and mosquitoes ๐Ÿ™„ Not sure what I was thinking when I planned our summer ๐Ÿ˜†

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    1. Like minds! I still want to return. I never seem to get enough time there. And due to weather, we weren’t able to stop at the Badlands, another favorite.

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  14. Hi, Ingrid – Like Amy Elizabeth – your insightful comment about the Grand Canyon also caught my attention. That’s so true, with so many things. When I was at the Louvre in Paris, I stared, fixated in front of the Mona Lise for hours. My husband (I shudder to write this) barely glanced up and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about!

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    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! My husband refers to the Grand Canyon as “the big ditch” and rolls his eyes whenever I say I want to go back for photography reasons. I usually leave him behind at the campsite ๐Ÿ˜„

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  15. Hi, Ingrid,
    RVrs that also blog are the best kind of friends. We should have a โ€œRoad Writers Rallyโ€ somewhere like the Black Hills. Wouldnโ€™t that be fun? Loved this post and your pictures. I also agree with a comment above…one look at the Grand Canyon was enough for me.

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    1. I enjoy visiting the Grand Canyon, but I’m not overly enthused like I am at the national parks in Utah. A “road writers rally” would be awesome. You’re in charge ๐Ÿ˜† Ok, I’ll help!

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  16. I like the idea of building a custom home with room for RVs in a central location to act as a hub for travel. For us, it would definitely NOT be in California. I wouldn’t mind looking at property in central Texas, then being able to RV all over the country from that location. Not sure we would sell our current house but perhaps rent when the time comes. Good ideas, Ingrid! Glad you got to visit the place of your first RV experience! Lovely shots of those areas! Oh, yes, I will be one of those who cry the first time I visit the Grand Canyon!

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    1. We thought about Texas and even looked around. We do like the hill country and the Gulf Coast, but in reality, we like being somewhat near our children. If they were to move, then I guess all bets are off.
      Can’t wait until you do finally visit the Grand Canyon and hear what you think.

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  17. Sounds like a great time in the Black Hills, Jim and Barb are building a cool place just not where I’d build. We also get asked the same question often, we usually end up qualifying our answer some way. Alstrom Point though is one of our all-time favorite lunch spots.

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    1. That day at Alstrom Point was pretty awesome. That whole visit to Page ranks as one of my top favorites. Al and I had an amazing month filled with cool hikes, stunning scenery, and fun with friends. I’m ready for a repeat.

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  18. Beautiful pictures Ingrid. We loved South Dakota and the Black Hills last summer. Like you we donโ€™t know where to build yet when itโ€™s time ha-ha!

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    1. One day, we’ll all figure it out. Looks like you’re having an amazing time exploring Alaska. I finally got caught up with Brian’s Tumblr posts.

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    1. I’m always leaving before I’m ready. One day we’ll stay long enough that I’ll be ready to move on. I also love the Badlands but weather kept us moving on.

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    1. When Jim first took me out ATVing, I noticed that lone tree and the next day went back specifically to photograph it. Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t what I envisioned, but it works.

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  19. Great post friend, enjoyed! The 2nd paragraph got my attention… “I have friends that have been brought to tears when they first set eyes on the Grand Canyon while others donโ€™t see the big deal.” When I there, all I saw was a giant hole in the ground. ha ha! Pretty, but after 5 minutes I was done.

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    1. Lots of American history around the Black Hills and the roaming buffalo add to the scenery. Beautiful place to visit in the summer.

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  20. Hi Ingrid,
    We haven’t been RVing long enough to have a favorite yet…but your photos look great. We have already met some wonderful folks in our short RV experience. It seems to be a wonderful. supportive community.

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    1. Yep, the RVing community is a great group of people, but so is this blogging community. Most of my close RV friends were met via this blog. I’d say that cute little cabin in NH would be #1 on your favorites list ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  21. What s great post! Being in a favorite place and being withfriends. It doesn’t Get much better than that. I can relate to your love of the Black Hills. I was in the 3rd grade when I went there for the first time on a cross country trip with my family. Henry and I went twice in the RV. Love your photos!

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    1. Thanks Beth. We did have another lovely time in South Dakota and would’ve stayed longer if not for impending weather. That weather also had us canceling a few days in the Badlands. I can’t wait to go back there too. Such a fascinating place!

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  22. It was great finally meeting you and Al after all these years! You did leave just in time as it poured later that day and made the driveway a mess. Looking at your pictures we are amazed at how much further along the house is in just a few weeks. Hopefully next time you are here we can spend more time exploring the area together.

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    1. Yippee! According to that last sentence, sounds like we’re welcome back ๐Ÿคฃ We really enjoyed meeting you guys and now that we’ve got about a month under our belt of staying in WI, we totally get why you picked SD…. and we agree! Can’t wait to see more updated barn pics.

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