: Great Driving Vacation to South Dakota

07-03-09, 03:44 PM
My wife and I just returned from a great driving vacation of 2,300 miles. On June 22, we left SE Wisconsin for the Black Hills of South Dakota. We chose her 2007 1SE (6-speed auto & 2.73 gear) for several reasons including the softer ride and to equalize the miles between our cars. We didn't need our 2006's AWD and like the better performance.

Higher speed limits were fun. We are used to Wisconsin's 65 MPH and felt our moods improve when we saw Minnesota's 70 and South Dakota's 75. We were anxious to get to the Black Hills and took I-90 most of the way, stopping in Mitchell SD the first night. Miles click off quickly above 80 but that's also where her N* exceeds 2K RPM and mileage goes below 25MPG (if that matters to anyone).

As usual on an interstate drive, the condition of the pavement varied greatly. Intervals of very poor pavement validated our car choice. The long clear stretches gave us the chance to let loose the Northstar frequently. We began to hate the appearance of the orange signs announcing road construction.

My wife got many opportunities to voice her theory that many states increase the danger to road workers by excessively long and inactive construction zones. She contends that drivers get complascent to inactive zones and begin to exceed posted safety speed limits. We are both very cautious when workers are present but long zones with no active workers get very aggravating. We found South Dakota to be exceptional in posting reasonable speeds for work zones, slowing traffic only when prudent or necessary.

We made Rapid City our base for 3 nights before relocating within view of Mount Rushmore in Keystone. (Don't miss the inspiring lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore!) The Black Hills contain many oppotunities to explore the great performance of the STS. State Highways 87 & 89 connecting to Hill City and Custer provide many switchbacks and very good opportunities to play with the transmission in Sport Mode and shift manually. 16A contains multiple pig-tail bridge and tunnel configurations that are a joy to drive and see. Custer Park is a kick as buffalo & other wildlife come right up to the car!

On June 29, we started back through the Badlands and Pierre for even more great driving scenic roads. (Overall, the traffic was light; the economy?) It was interesting to observe that the 1SE 6-speed coasts up to about 80 in Drive but Sport Mode does provide a reasonable amount of compression braking. Since it gets snow tires in the Fall, we will be upgrading the P235/50R17 tires in the Spring as they are a weak spot.

The car performed great. I think Colorado will be our next such trip. We'll take my 2006 1SG. The 18" wheels & tires, Magnaride, ZF Steering & AWD will be interesting to compare and contrast.

c5 rv
07-03-09, 05:08 PM
Thanks for the write-up and I look forward to the comparison between the two cars. Do you feel you have enough trunk space for longer trips like this?

07-03-09, 05:12 PM
Made a similar trip a few years back. Truly beautiful scenery and driving. The flood of motorcycles caught us off guard as we hit Rapid City 3 days before the annual Sturgis Rally started just 20 miles down the road. Met some wonderful folks.

07-03-09, 06:09 PM
Thanks for the write-up and I look forward to the comparison between the two cars. Do you feel you have enough trunk space for longer trips like this?

The STS is a mid-size car. My last two cars have been full-size and I miss the space. It's adequate for four people for a weekend or roomy for two on a driving vacation by using the back seat.

Our trunk held two suitcases, a 36 quart cooler, laptop w' case, extra beverages & food, miscellaneous soft carry-on's, dirty clothes, a blanket, etc. It is bigger than it seems with the hinges not consuming any interior space.

The back seat held overflow with a garment bag, a couple pillows, a small cooler, an overnight bag, CD case & minor odds & ends. We don't travel light. Even a third person would cause us to cut back! :crowded:

c5 rv
07-03-09, 09:54 PM
I suspect the STS has more trunk space than my 5-passenger SRX with the back seat up. There is only about a 40" wide x 40" long x 13" high area for cargo if I don't want to go higher than the seatback. Once I load my wife's transport wheelchair, there isn't much room for other cargo.

07-04-09, 12:08 PM
I completely forgot to comment on South Dakota fuels! Rapid City is well into the foothills (3,247') so you typically find 85 Octane regular unleaded. It is undiluted with ethanol and averaged $2.699 for most of our visit. 87 Octane E10 (10% ethanol) must benefit from SD price supports because it averaged $0.10 cheaper. Premium unleaded (91 Octane) was $2.899 or higher. (For those interested, E85 was widely available at $2.10.) At lower elevations, the grades of unleaded were 87, 89 & 93 with similar forumlations and pricing as previously described. We predominently used Sinclair gas and had no trouble.

The few times we filled up with the lower octane high-elevation formulations, they worked well. When returning to lower elevations performance seemed OK. (When finished in the hills, I did top off with Premium for an octane boost; probably unneccessary.) We didn't see any advantage in spending more for E0 so most of the trip was run on the cheaper E10. The stock Northstar ran typically great with quiet and effortless power.

For the first time I encountered E30 gas formulations at tempting prices ($2.299 per gallon). Manufacturers of all kinds of engines warn against using these blends. We hear a lot of this in Wisconsin where many outboards, snowmobiles and other outdoor power equipment suffers from modern fuels. It was a good opportunity to caution my wife to always be alert to the type of fuel to put in her STS and what to do if a mistake happens. (As more outlets are pressured to offer experimental blends, consumers need to be wary. Only Flex Fuel vehicles should ever use blends greater than E10.)

In Pierre, we actually encountered a full service station! The price was competitive and they washed all the glass. The $0.05 cash discount was another surprise. I'm surprised people would go anywhere else!

07-04-09, 03:24 PM
Thanks for your nice writeup and report.
I like hearing about peoples trips.
All of our vacations are DRIVING VACATIONS because of wife's mobility issues, so we love hearing about places we may want to go.
She can walk a little bit but not very far or very well.
I love the big trunk on the DTS.
It holds the foldup wheelchair and all the junk we take with us. :) :)
Sometimes I put the wheelchair inside the car...between the passengers seat back and the front of the rear seat.

We will be going to Colorado for a week, a couple of weeks from now. :)
We go up there at least once a year, and just spend a few days driving around and looking at the mountains and pretty scenery.

Texas Jim

07-04-09, 06:17 PM
My wife and I just completed a 3800 mile vacation road trip in our STS.

- Albuquerque to Dayton, OH: spent an entire day at the National Museum of the USAF
- Pittsburgh, PA: dad has season tickets, so we attended the Pirates/Indians series (we're Indians fan). Also had breakfast with ZZ Top
- Cleveland, OH: spent a few days with family and friends
- Detroit, MI: 2 full days at Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
- St. Louis, MO: Gateway Arch, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Anheuser-Busch Brewery VIP tour
- Back to Albuquerque

Car performed flawlessly, and we averaged 25.5 MPG on mid-grade. Cooled seats were much appreciated, as was nav, XM, and OnStar. Plenty of trunk space too--very little in back seat.