Big Sioux Recreation Area, SD

Getting my South Dakota driver’s license was easy. In fact, I managed it the day I arrived in Big Sioux without even staying that first night.

9/19/12 – Wednesday

Since there was no one at the gate when I pulled in, I self registered. There were three copies of the slip I filled out, one went with the check into the drop box, one went on the post for the site I stayed in, and one went in the window of my truck. Because there was no true receipt, I was worried that it wouldn’t count for the proof I need to get my driver’s license, so I ran down to the DMV (it wasn’t far) after I got everything set up with the truck copy of the slip to see. Otherwise I would have had to run back to the park to hunt down a park employee the next day then make a second trip.

Yep, it counted. And since I had the rest of the paperwork with me in the car, I was able to get my license that day ($20), mere hours after arriving in SD. I pulled in at about 3:50pm and was out less than a half hour later with my shiny new South Dakota license, fastest trip to the DMV ever.

Feeling much better with that settled, I discovered that not one block from the DMV was a Culver’s restaurant, it was meant to be. There are no Culver’s in the south, at least not in South Carolina, and it was one of my favorite fast food places when I lived in Wisconsin. I enjoyed chicken and frozen custard, and then one block from that was a Hy-Vee store that had free internet so I could get caught up on online things.

9/20/12 – Thursday

I awoke to temps in the mid fourties, brr. After breakfast, it was an hour drive to get to Madison, my actual city of ‘residence’. There I went to the courthouse to get my registration papers and SD license plates. It cost $382 for everything. I’ll write more about why it was so much in a later post when I go into more detail about how to set up your residency in SD as a RVer, but I’ll just say that I knew it was going to cost that much and was expecting it.

There were a couple other things to do in Madison. I stopped by the My Dakota Address office in person to pick up my mail, might as well right? Close to that was a Wells Fargo, so I changed my address with them and ordered new checks with my SD address on them, the more things I can do to make it look like Madison is my home the better.

Back home that afternoon, it was time to do some exploring. Big Sioux has two hiking trails, and this day I took the prairie one. It started along the banks of the Big Sioux river, and then crossed a neat looking suspension bridge to the other side.

We had a bit of this back in Wisconsin and there I had little appreciation for it. I’ve always been a fan of trees and thought Wisconsin’s forests prettier, but the open plains of this area are on a much grander scale than in Wisconsin. Especially after being surrounded by the dense sub-tropical jungles and salt marshes of coastal South Carolina for the past three years it is a dramatic and awe inspiring sight.

Multitudes of grasshoppers leapt out of my way as I crossed the fields past small copses of trees and brushy vegetation. Sparrows chirped to one another and flew in flocks from spot to spot, feeding on grass seeds and berries. The trail climbed up a hill, and at the top I was rewarded with a magnificent view of Sioux Falls and the surrounding countryside. The only sound up here was the gusting wind and the rushing sound it made over the dried grasses. I wasn’t expecting this to be a scenic stop, just a place to stay while I took care of residency stuff, but as I breathed in the crisp fall air and felt the warm sun on my face I wished that I could spend more time here. Sadly this park (and the other state parks nearby as well) are all filled up this weekend, and having been to the top of this hill I can now understand why. This part of South Dakota is beautiful in it’s own way.

9/21/12 โ€“ Friday

Temps dropped even further overnight, to 40 degrees. Luckily I had my electric heater courtesy of the previous owner and it did wonders. Last night it was a McDonalds that I got my internet from, and this morning it was another Hy-Vee as I researched where I wanted to go from here.

Let me say that Hy-Vees are kind of awesome. I’d never been to one before, although apparently there is now one in Madison, WI as of almost three years ago, right after I left. They’re mostly a grocery store, but they have a pharmacy and wine departments off to the side, that isn’t so unusual. Besides that though, the walls are lined with little specialty shops: cheese, bakery, pizza, there is even a cafe and sandwich shop with ample seating. A fountain bubbled in the corner of the seating area and TV’s displayed the news. It felt a little like the hospitality area of an airport, but cooler. The one I was in also had three different bathroom areas, there was just that much stuff there.

After that was the second Big Sioux trail, called Valley of the Giants. For those people like me who love their trees, this walk delivers. It follows the river, and there are some massive trees growing along it’s banks, I couldn’t believe it. And I’m use to seeing live oaks, and still I’d call these trees big. Anyone know what kind of trees these are? Because I’m not sure. All I know is they’re pretty, and they’re large. Apparently two of the biggest trees in the state grow here.

After that impressive display, it was time to get ready to pull out. Check out in the SD state park system is 4pm, I left the gate at 3:50. From there I drove South back down I-29, the forecast was full of frost advisories and I wanted nothing to do with that without electric hookups.

9/22/12 – Today (Saturday)

Last night I spent at a Pilot travel center just south of Omaha. This post is actually being brought to you from a Walmart parking lot in St. Joseph, MO. It’s actually a pretty sweet spot for a RVer, the Walmart is right off the interstate and I stocked up on groceries before settling in to write, then just next door is a Sam’s Club where I can park and post it up using their free wifi.

I’m not starting at Amazon until the 4th now, instead of having orientations weekly on Sunday and Monday they’re now doing them on Thursday and Friday which pushed everything back a little. Hopefully I can get my reservations at Big Chief moved back as well, waiting to hear back from them still.

In the meantime, tentative plans have me staying in the Missouri state park system for a while, as several of their parks offer wifi and I’d like to sit still a bit longer to get some more things taken care of. The low tonight here in St. Joseph is 31, so I’ll probably keep going south for now.

* * *

Ack, computer battery dying! ย Going to post this up quick, I promise I’ll respond to all comments once it’s charged…

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. cozygirl on September 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Missouri has some beautiful state parks! A book indeed … Id buy it ๐Ÿ™‚
    I just read and read dreaming for our takeoff Becky! Did get a lot of upholstering done in the Casita…wait till you see it! Keep toastie….you speed queen. Now plenty of time to lay back ๐Ÿ™‚ check out the Katy trail…
    cozygirl recently posted..YUMMY SATURDAY minus the food :O)My Profile

    • Becky on September 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      Ooo! A friend of mine sewed cushion covers for the small dinette, the upholstery was looking a bit dated and sad. No need to do ones for the rear dinette since that’s always a bed. She made curtains to replace the blinds too, do I have the best friends or what? Still trying to figure out how I’m going to hang them though.

      I love this park I’m in now, the view I got on yesterday’s walk was incredible, there’ll be pictures coming.

      Takeoff will come sooner than you think! Enjoy the process as much as you can – we can only live in the present after all – and I hope it all goes smoothly!

  2. Liz on September 23, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I’ve found that public libraries are also a good place to hang out when you want quiet and wi-fi. Many of the small-town ones have a lot of character (and characters!), and the librarians are also very helpful and knowledgable. One teensy one on Southport Island on the coast of Maine even had free cookies and coffee. By the way, I live in Madison, Wisconsin, where it was 32 last night. Stay warm. And another by the way, there are electric blankets that you can plug into your dc outlet. Would probably drain the battery though, so you want to be in an electric site.

    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

      Ooh I went to school and lived in Madison, WI for a few years, loved that city.

      I was a frequent visitor at the public library in Bluffton once I moved into the RV and didn’t have internet service anymore, my biggest worry there is that there won’t be room to park the rig since I’m pretty much in constant motion right now. When i get settled into a park in MO I’ll probably head out to find one.

      Back when I lived at home I had an electric blanket since my bedroom was the coldest in the house and we heated using a wood furnace which was less consistent, it was nice…

  3. Tina on September 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Glad to get an update from you, sounds like things are moving along. Can’t believe DMV was that fast, in CA if takes up half your day. That is some chilly weather already. Great pictures! I’ve been to Sioux Falls but that is about it in SD. Enjoy your extra time getting things all wrapped up.


    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Thanks Tina, I’m particularly proud of the hill one with that lone tree. I couldn’t believe the DMV was that fast either, never had a DMV trip go so smoothly! Not only that but the lady who took care of me was very pleasant and friendly.

  4. Brian on September 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Thought of you this morning when I saw the national weather. The forecast called for a temperature of 22 degrees in North Dakota. You made a wise decision to head south.

    Thanks for letting us travel with you. I’ve been back home for two weeks now and I’m already getting hitch itch again. Ready for some fall camping.

    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

      Yep, looking forward to seeing fall color this year, such a thing doesn’t happen in Bluffton, SC. The color was just starting in northern Missouri when I was driving back south! South Dakota had a bit of color too but it’s been so dry that most of the leaves were just falling off there, there was some yellow as you can see in the pictures.

  5. Kim on September 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Congratulations on your new residency! I love SoDak. Like you, I’m accustomed to the steamy canopy of trees here in the south so I find the prairie refreshing. It’s got a beauty of its own.

    Marvin has a good suggestion! You are a good writer and I’m sure there would be some interest in such a book.

    Keep us posted!
    Kim recently posted..Maiden VoyageMy Profile

    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

      Yeah I’ve thought maybe during my off time at Amazon I might start writing an e-book, then again we’ll see how much free time I have while I’m there, haha!

      Congrats on a successful maiden voyage! That park looks quite similar to Indian Springs which was also a nice place to be. I decided I like gravel sites, too easy for ants to climb up grass onto (and into) the rig.

  6. Kim and Jerry Portelli on September 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    If Big Chief won’t move your reservation, you could always check with Buckeye RV Resort. There are a lot of open spaces and the space next to us is still open!! Travel safe and we will look forward to seeing you soon.
    Kim and Jerry Portelli recently posted..City DayMy Profile

    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

      Still waiting to hear back from Sharon at Big Chief, if I get nothing back from them I’ll consider it! Looking forward to seeing you guys soon too.

  7. Sherry on September 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    That was definitely one of the fastest residence changes I’ve ever heard of. Well done.
    I think the reason the campground was full on the week-end, which is a problem everywhere during all good weather, is the local people coming out to get away for a few days. I hate making reservations ahead but it’s difficult taking your chances.

    Very nice pictures of your hikes. So glad you had the time and took it to do that. I find that nearly everywhere I go I wish I could stay longer. Just means you have to come back. :-))
    Sherry recently posted..Autumnal EquinoxMy Profile

    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Indeed! I wanted to go farther west in SD to visit the Badlands and Black Hills areas again, haven’t been out there since a family road trip when I was 14. Seeing how cold it was about to get though I decided it was a trip for another time.

      Julie told me to make sure I fit the hikes in and I’m glad I did, still working on logistic stuff but having that time off to relax was good.

  8. MARVIN on September 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm


    Becky ,

    You should consider an Amazon E-Book as a how-to on your first year .


    • Becky on September 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Thinking about it. ๐Ÿ˜›

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