May 4 - South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana

South Dakota to the Starting Line

Another 4 hour sleep. We got up at 8a.

Well, our alarms went off at 8a. It was a tough wakeup. We started very slowly. In fact, it took us nearly 2 hours, until 10a, to get on the road. That did include a continental breakfast, though. Well, Dad and Taylor had biscuits and gravy; so just breakfast I suppose.

Enjoying the morning sunshine before sitting in the car for 15 hours.

Enjoying the morning sunshine before sitting in the car for 15 hours.

With the nice morning sunshine, we were able to observe the carnage of our meat collision the night before.

Not mud.

Not mud.

Oh goodness.

Oh goodness.

The pictures don’t convey the smell, obviously, but it was pretty potent. In fact, our fellow hotel guest’s dog noticed from across the parking lot and came over to see what the snack buffet was all about.

He knows what we've done.

He knows what we've done.

We held our noses, packed up, and vowed to do some hazmat cleanup later in the day. Taylor volunteered to drive first. We had a very long, very flat day ahead.

Hills in South Dakota

Hills in South Dakota

Taylor put in a nice first stint. The drive was uneventful, other than the fact that we had no fuel gauge still. We paid good attention to mileage and range previously, so we stopped with plenty of fuel left in the tank. We’ve been averaging about 20mpg with the trailer. The speed limit has been 80 for quite a bit of it, so we’re happy with that figure. We go about 250 miles between stops, which has us refilling with about 1/4 tank; the wide open country has some large stretches with no fuel, so we don’t run too low.

Pretty rare on gas station bingo.

Pretty rare on gas station bingo.

I was particularly struggling with our curing deer jerky odor, so I went in search of something that I could use to clean the car, at least a little bit.

Please help.

Please help.

My search yielded a snow tool and windshield washer fluid. I’ll spare the details of the cleanup; I typed it up, but then deleted it. Too graphic. I was able to get a satisfactory amount of cleaning done and we’ll leave it at that.

We hit the road again.

The time changes have been killing us, as it always seems to hit right before we land at our hotel for the evening. Arrival is at 3am, but then we lost an hour so it’s actually 4am. 2am-3am, etc. 

I knew we would be losing another hour about 50 miles outside of our destination for the evening, so I set my watch ahead by that hour early in the morning. Trying to psych myself out of the sadness.

Dad seized the opportunity as well and declared it was time to plan a meal immediately, rather than in an hour. We started planning as we (finally) left South Dakota and entered Minnesota.

Our strategy had developed into finding a city that closely correlated to a good gas stop, then Google Map search for restaurants. I looked ahead to find a highly reviewed establishment called “Pizza Ranch”. As we would learn later, they are not rare. At the time, however, we (especially I) got wildly excited by the descriptor “Pizza Buffet”

Pizza Buffet!

4.4/5 stars on Google (with 40 reviews)!

I started the chant over an hour before the planned glory:


We counted down the miles until we arrived. It was open! Taylor and I unloaded as Dad went inside to check out the scene.

I could tell right away that something was wrong when he returned. Mostly because he said the awful words, “No buffet.”


Well, while we set our watches ahead to tend to our own mental states, Pizza Ranch did nothing of the sort. The buffet wouldn’t be open for at least another hour. We were eating at 330p.

No buffet = no smiles.

No buffet = no smiles.

The restaurant was open, so we ordered a regular pizza. To be fair, the pizza arrived and it was really delicious, so we didn’t go without. Dad even got a salad buffet.

Happy and full, I hopped behind the wheel and drove us deep into Wisconsin for a Pilot Travel Center gas stop; a bit over 3 hours. While I was driving, I suddenly remembered that we needed to pick up a new tire to replace the one we killed in Seattle. We definitely wanted a spare to take on the journey with us, as the Volvo only has a donut spare.

With Tire Rack (the title sponsor of the entire event) closing soon, I needed to call and reserve one that I could pick up in the morning. Their headquarters are in South Bend, which is why the event starts and stops there. The first and last event are held on their tire testing track.

Happy that I remembered, I called and inquired about 1 extra tire.

Bad news.

They didn't have any in stock, and the east coast warehouses were closed for the weekend.

Ugh, why didn't I remember to do this Wednesday or Thursday? Very frustrating. As I was trying to come up with a plan (where might we be able to ship the spare to along the route), the salesman said he could overnight me a tire from Nevada, because they were 3 hour behind and hadn't shipped for the day. The tire cost $145. Shipping would be $117. Double ugh.

I couldn't think of a better way to assure we would get the tire when we needed it, so I told him to go ahead and get it. I could pick it up on Friday after 1pm. I'll keep this all in mind if there ever is a next time; just get the new tires for the event installed in South Bend on registration day. There's plenty of time. 

Expensive mistake, but I was glad that we'd have the tire.

We arrived at the gas stop as the sun was setting.

Fuel and bathroom; back on the road with Dad behind the wheel.

The sun set and we drove into Illinois.

Then into Chicago.

One last stop for fuel at a toll road “Oasis”, and we made the final push into South Bend.

Success! We arrived at the Waterford Lodge Estates hotel at 210a EDT on Friday morning. 

We unloaded quickly, took a team photo, and went to bed.

Registration opens at 8a. About 5 hours from the time we hit bed. Lots to do on Friday: more cleaning, stickers, technical inspection, drivers meeting, pick up a spare tire, get organized, get sleep. Final tally for the trip in: 2,154 miles in 50 hours, including stops and sleep.

Taylor would show how happy he is if he was conscious.

Taylor would show how happy he is if he was conscious.

Damen Hattori

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