After our time in Canada we spent one weekend in Boston to celebrate my mom’s 60th and my sister’s graduation:
After this fun weekend, we hit the road for our big ol’ USA adventure! The first few days were filled with driving, driving, and more driving as we put in the miles to get us out west where we planned to do most of our exploring. Thankfully, we had lots of friends and family to see along the way. Here’s the skinny on our first week on the road:
1 night: Rochester
Driving time: 6 hours
We spent our first night on the road with our friends Matt, Michelle, and their adorable baby girl Catherine near Rochester, NY. They moved there in the last few months for Matt’s new job and seem to be loving the area. Their neighborhood is great and their house is beautiful – they even have an amazing garden out back! Michelle made us a fabulous dinner and it was so nice to visit with good friends and get to see the life they’re building in their new town.
2 nights: Chicago
Driving time: 10 hours
Next up: Chicago, where we were lucky to have friends to stay with again. A huge thank you to Patrick and Kristen for hosting us! John met Patrick when they worked together in Baltimore. Since then, these guys moved to Chicago and we were so excited to see them in their new city!
We spent two nights here which we were particularly excited about because it meant a break from the car. Unfortunately, we can’t all be funemployed so Patrick and Kristen had to work and couldn’t join us for our daytime adventures. While they were tied up, John and I drove out to the Chicago ‘burbs to visit Hanbun, a Korean restaurant opened by John’s friend Dave. THIS PLACE WAS FREAKING AMAZING. It’s located in an unassuming food court in an “international mall,” but what’s inside was magical. We went in and were warmly welcomed by Dave’s finance, Jen, who asked us what we liked and then started bringing out dish after dish of the most delicious food ever. We felt like stars. The food was fantastic and topped most things we ate in Korea (or anywhere else, for that matter)! And we’re not just biased in loving it – they have top ratings on sites like Yelp and have been featured in several Chicago-area magazines for their awesome food. It was such a treat to finally try it.
We left feeling full and happy and we spent the rest of the afternoon bopping around Chi-town, taking in the sights and enjoying the perfect May weather. We rented bikes from the bike share program (a favorite activity) and rode down Lake Shore Drive to Navy Pier where we stopped to enjoy the beautiful views. From there, we cruised further down to check out the giant bean and see a little bit of the downtown area. We ended the day with some deep dish pizza and beer at Patrick and Kristen’s place and had a blast catching up with them.
2 nights: South Dakota
Driving time: 9 hours
From Chicago, we hoofed it to South Dakota!
We hit a few states along the way, the most memorable being Wisconsin because cheese.
We eventually made it to Sioux Falls, which is the second biggest city in South Dakota but felt a lot like a small town to us! We stayed in an Airbnb just a short walk from the 4-block square downtown and had a lovely evening exploring the area. We went to Sioux Falls, the town’s namesake, and also spent some time wandering downtown. We grabbed dinner at a place called Bros that was playing live music outside. This ended up being one of the most delicious meals of the trip and the ambiance really made it a stand out spot. We had a great time in this cool little city.
Badlands, Mt. Rushmore & Black Hills
Driving time: 6 hours
The next day we drove across the state. One of the most memorable parts of the drive was riding through the Badlands, our first national park of the trip. We played Bruce Springsteen on loop and got out for lots of photo opportunities and one short hike. It’s really easy to visit the Badlands on a cross-country trip. The entrance to the park is right off I-90 and there is a 45-minute driving loop through the park that pops you right back out the highway on the other side! While we would have preferred to spend more time here, it was definitely an easy national park to see on a time crunch. If you ever find yourself driving across South Dakota, don’t miss this quick adventure.
After discovering the Badlands aren’t bad at all, we hit the road for another all-star South Dakota attraction, Mt. Rushmore! This was another easy adventure. We rolled up to the monument and walked the 15ish minute loop around the base to see our old presidents from all angles. It was fun to see such an iconic American monument in real life and we enjoyed our little trip here.
With the Mt. Rushmore box ticked, we capped off our time in South Dakota visiting family. John’s great aunt Kathy, who we know well, mentioned she would be out in South Dakota visiting her brother (John’s great uncle) for a cousin’s graduation party. It ended up being the day we rolled through town, so of course we stopped in to hang out. We had the opportunity to spend time with some SD family that I’ve never met and that John rarely gets to see, so that was a real treat. They were so awesome and put us up in their “cabin” (aka beautiful, modern home) in the Black Hills for the night and we had an absolute blast staying in the most gorgeous house in the most beautiful setting. Thanks, McCarthys!
South Dakota may have been the most unexpectedly awesome state of the trip. We had no idea it would be so beautiful and so memorable!
1 night: Montana
Driving time: 6 hours
Next up: Billings, MT. This was just a pit stop on the way further north, but interesting to see nonetheless. We stayed in another Airbnb and had a fun dinner at a cool brewpub downtown.
From Billings, we crossed the border again, this time to explore a small slice of the Canadian Rockies! Stay tuned to see what happens next on our Great North American roadtrip!