U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Weeks Four, Five & Six (Illinois to South Dakota)

North to South U.S. road trip recap weeks four, five and six

After completing our third week on the road in the U.S. this summer, we decided it was time for a little breather. We departed St. Louis at the beginning of week four and then pressed the pause button when we reached Chicago. And there we stayed, visiting my twin brother, for the first two and a half weeks of June.

Despite growing up in St. Louis, I’d never visited the nearby Windy City ’til now. And what an awesome place it turned out to be! So much so that we decided we’d return to Chicago for an even longer break after our upcoming national park loop. We finished off this three-week period in Badlands National Park, where we found unique erosion-formed landscapes, plentiful prairie dogs, and the craziest (and unexpected) storm we’ve ever experienced! (You don’t want to miss that video.)

Note: Since we paused for so long in Chicago, this recap covers weeks four through six of our U.S. road trip. And I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers May 30 – June 19.

Diana Southern at viewpoint in Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Diana looking out over Badlands National Park in South Dakota

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You can get an overview of our trip each week here on the blog, but we’re posting more frequent updates of our cross-country U.S. road trip on Facebook and Instagram.

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A photo posted by Diana Southern – NorthToSouth (@dianasouth) on

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Beautiful scenery at Badlands National Park in South Dakota

States Visited These Weeks

  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin*
  • Iowa*
  • Nebraska*
  • South Dakota

*just passing through

States Visited in Previous Weeks

Total States Visited So Far: 15

California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota

Diana Southern and the new Kristen Russell (Patterson)
Week four was off to an exciting start with my friend Kristen’s wedding in St. Louis!
Michigan Ave and Chicago Ave intersection
Walking along the famous Michigan Ave in downtown Chicago


  • St. Louis, MO
  • Chicago, IL
  • The Bean (Cloud Gate) in Chicago, IL
  • Giordano’s Pizza in Chicago, IL
  • Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Diana Southern selfie with Priscilla pig
Diana’s selfie with Priscilla the pig in Chicago
Ian Norman landscape photography at Badlands National Park
Ian capturing the landscape at Badlands National Park
Giordano's deep dish pizza in Chicago
Giordano’s: the best deep dish pizza in Chicago (seriously — the crust is SO delicious!)


  • Diana’s friend Kristen’s wedding in St. Louis (Congrats again, Kristen and Derek!)
  • Visiting Daniel, Diana’s twin brother, in Chicago
team run finish in Chicago
My twin brother finishing up a team running race in Chicago
  • Meeting Priscilla the pig, a house pet owned by Daniel’s friend Nestor (Did you see my selfie with the pig?)
  • Loads of scenic farmland beauty from Illinois to South Dakota
Wisconsin farmland scenery
Driving through Wisconsin on the way to Badlands National Park
  • Prairie dogs! And lots of ’em in Badlands National Park.
  • The craziest lightning storm ever… followed by a tornado which resulted in us spending the evening in the basement of the campground’s lodge at Badlands National Park instead of our REI Half Dome 2 Plus for the duration of the storm (see the video below).

Notes and Insights

  • Having a weather radio would have been extremely helpful during our stay in Badlands National Park. I’ll be adding that one to our road trip packing checklist. Also, don’t trust someone else to be responsible for your safety during a natural disaster — even in a U.S. National Park. Before you leave on a road trip, research what you should do if you ever encounter a tornado. More about the storm we endured in our shot of the week.
  • Rent the Runway is a pretty awesome service, especially for an event like a wedding where the bridesmaids need matching dresses that they’ll likely never wear again. I wrote a review of our whole Rent the Runway bridesmaid dress rental experience on Stylish Travel Girl, if you want to check it out.
Welcome to Iowa sign
“Fields of opportunities” – Crossing into Iowa!
S Sioux City, Nebraska
We took a short detour through the corner of Nebraska before entering South Dakota.
prairie dog in Badlands National Park
A prairie dog in Badlands National Park (The animals are always the best part!)

Photo Gallery

Badlands National Park infrared photo in black and white Badlands National Park hike Priscilla the pig Diana Southern at Badlands National Park wine flight in Chicago Badlands National Park scenery Diana and Ian in Chicago Badlands National Park scenery Diana eating Giordano's deep dish pizza Daniel Southern running donut truck in Chicago Ian Norman at Badlands National Park Badlands National Park ram Diana Southern hiking at Badlands National Park Badlands National Park scenery climbing the log ladder on a hike at Badlands National Park

All photos were taken by Ian and Diana with the Sony a7 II (Ian’s camera), Sony RX100 III (Diana’s camera — review here) and our smartphones.

Week Seven Preview

  • Yellowstone National Park — bison, bears, chilly sunrises, and the Northern Lights
  • Grand Teton National Park — mountains, meadows and the Milky Way
  • Glacier National Park

I hope you enjoyed this U.S. road trip re-cap! In case you missed them, check out our other weekly recaps from our road trip. Have you road-tripped to any of these U.S. locations? Tell us about your trips in the comments.

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