Another summer, another Big Trip… Here’s a brief rundown of where we went this year and a return of the daily videos. (Don’t worry – each video is less than a minute long!)
We didn’t even leave the state of Virginia on Day 1. The beauty of a shorter distance to cover in a day means you have more time to stop at places along the way.
Giant Roller Skate
The first stop was just a quickie photo opportunity at this large concrete roller skate. The building used to be a roller rink but is now some sort of warehouse.
A visit to the lovely country home of President James Madison. We ended up on the Constitution Tour due to the timing of our arrival so we learned a lot about his contributions to the US Constitution but not as much about his life other than that.
Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum
Just down the road from Montpelier is a Civil War medicine museum. It is located inside The Exchange Hotel which prior to the Civil War served railroad passengers. In 1862 it became the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. During Reconstruction the building served as a hospital and education site of the Freedmen’s Bureau then returned to business as a private hotel in 1877. Side note – it is also apparently the 2nd Most Haunted place in Virginia. Glad I didn’t know that before our visit!
National D-Day Memorial
If you’re ever tasked with designing a large monument full of meaning and symbolism, use the National D-Day Memorial as an example. Every part of this memorial is purposeful and relevant. Not an inch is wasted. I enjoyed this memorial so much that I’ve already written up our stop in a separate post. (Click here to read about the National D-Day Memorial and see more pictures). It is unfathomable what our brave soldiers faced that day and the huge sacrifices. Taking a moment to reflect and honor them is important.
The Roanoke Star, also known as the Mill Mountain Star, sits high above the city on Mill Mountain. Constructed in 1949, it is the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. We saw it during the day so we missed the lights but happy that my friend Julie was nice enough to drive us up for quick photo op before dinner.
Day 1 video
Day 2 takes us out of Virginia and across the state of Tennessee. Not as many stops today since our main goal was to get to our friend’s house in Memphis before dark.
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
Checking off my first National Park System property for the trip and learning about another president. Coincidentally, we learned even more about the US Constitution at this stop. As the first US president to be impeached, learning about President Johnson is an excellent opportunity to learn more about impeachment and the constitution. He was born poor and eventually owned his own tailor shop which you can see here at the site.
Museum of Appalachia
This museum was great! It far exceeded my expectations based on minimal pre-trip research. It was raining and we were pressed for time so we didn’t get to walk around to all the buildings they have on display and would definitely go back again if we had a chance. The Hall of Fame is very cool too. As Felisa said, it’s like a guy decided to make a museum about all his friends and neighbors. Which is pretty much what it is. There are some well-known people from this region of Appalachia included in the museum as well as all the everyday people, extraordinary in their own way, that lived here. (Click here to read more about our visit to Museum of Appalachia.)
Day 2 video
Today we are driving from Tennessee through Arkansas and into Texas. Did you know that Arkansas is closed on Sundays? A couple of our planned stops were closed so we ended up driving a little further into Texas instead of stopping at the border as we had originally planned.
Little Rock High School National Historic Site
School is great – you learn all kinds of history there. But you can learn more and understand more deeply when you go to the place in real life and imagine how it must have been. It was pretty quiet here on a Sunday afternoon but the visitor center is very well done with lots of information, stories, and video to help you try to understand and imagine how the world was and how we can make it better. Civil rights still have a long way to go.
Texarkana State Line Post Office
The rain let up just long enough for us to get a couple good photos here. This Post Office and Federal building is built across the state line between Texas and Arkansas.
Technically it’s just a gas station but the immense size and overwhelming selection of goods inside elevate it to “point of interest” status. It’s not our first Buc-ee’s stop and it won’t be our last! My bag of glazed pecan pralines kept me happy for several miles.
Day 3 video
We start our day in Waco, Texas. The skies are dark and the thunder is rumbling when we leave the hotel so our visit to the cattle drive sculptures and to the silos of Magnolia are completed post-haste. Once we get on the highway, the skies open up and it pours rain for our entire drive to the ranch. We arrive just in the nick of time to watch the US Women’s team playing in the World Cup.
The bakery was open early so we stopped here first. Delicious cupcakes and cookies for breakfast then a quick spin around the courtyard before we dash away from the impending storm. The Market isn’t open yet so we peek through the window and call it good enough for this trip. Coming early is definitely the secret to getting a parking spot and minimizing your wait time at the bakery and the market but you’ll miss the food trucks that serve lunch.
Day 4 video
Time to relax and enjoy our time at the ranch. We drove to San Antonio one day to look at colleges and ate lunch at La Panaderia (so yum!).
Day 5 video
Day 6 video
Day 7 video
On the road again. Our goal is to make it to Lubbock, TX in time to catch the next US Women’s World Cup match. We made it perfectly in time. After the game we stopped by Buddy Holly’s place for pictures. Farther down the road we stop for a photo op at the National Mule Memorial. Finally we make it just across the New Mexico state line to our hotel in Clovis.
West Texas Walk of Fame
This park just across the street from the Buddy Holly Center in downtown Lubbock features a statue of Buddy Holly and several plaques recognizing other noteworthy people from West Texas.
National Mule Memorial
Here in Muleshoe, TX you will find a mule statue and a plaque recognizing the contribution of the mule to American history and industry.
Day 8 video
A visit to the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner then we’re off to see the cousins.
It’s a small town but the museum covers more ground than you initially think. This museum has several artifacts from Billy the Kid as well as local history and a replica of Billy the Kid’s gravestone.
Day 9 video
The next few days are spent enjoying time with the grandparents and the cousins. Ryan flies down to celebrate the 4th of July and Bella is off for a college tour of the Northwest with Grandma. We managed a couple field trips while we’re here- to the Coronado Historic Site and the balloon museum – and an afternoon at the movies.
Historic Coronado Site
We drive past the sign for this every time we come to town. We finally make it over for an early morning visit before it gets too hot. The site has information about the Native Americans who lived here and the Spanish (and other) explorers who also passed through as well as replicas of the original kivas. When the site was first excavated, archaeologists found large colorful artwork in a kiva which is now on display in the building.
Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum
We visited this museum many years ago when the kids were little. They barely remember it so we decided to go again. It’s a very interesting museum that covers the history of hot air balloons from the earliest days to current times. Several trans-oceanic voyages are featured in the displays. I find it amazing that anyone would willingly cross an ocean in this way.
Day 10 video
Day 11 video
Day 12 video
Day 13 video
Day 14 video
Day 15 video
Time to get back on the road once more. A friend of ours from Virginia is working at Philmont Scout Ranch for the summer so our first stop is here to say hello and also to visit the Scouting Museum. After that it’s a long drive across northern New Mexico, the southwestern corner of Colorado, and just across the state line into Utah where we stop for the night.
This museum is newly constructed here at Philmont. It used to be in Texas. The museum has great displays about the history of scouting in general and the history of the Philmont Scout Ranch.
Day 16 video
Start the day with some Women’s World Cup before we leave the hotel. Then we drive to Salt Lake City and return Ryan to his dorm.
Day 17 video
Day 18 – 21
Spending a few days in Salt Lake City. We get to see Ryan when he’s not in class and Ron flies out to join the trip. Bella returns from her college tour and we’re all together for one evening. While here we made it out to Camp Floyd, Golden Spike National Historic Park, Olympic Park, and This Is the Place Heritage Park.
Camp Floyd is a former army post, Pony Express stop, and stagecoach stop with an inn. At one point more than a third of the US Army was stationed here but all that remains now is a tiny town with the commissary building (which acts as the visitor’s center/museum) and the stagecoach inn.
Emmigration Canyon and East Canyon State Park
A fun drive through the canyon and over the pass. We stopped at East Canyon State Park to dip our toes in the lake. I may have slipped on the stairs and fallen into the lake…
On our way back to Salt Lake City we stopped at Olympic Park in Park City. There is a small museum which you can go through for free and lots of fun activities you can pay to try. It’s always fun to watch the kids learning to ski jump land in the pool.
Golden Spike National Historic Park
North of the Great Salt Lake, out in the middle of nowhere, is the place where the east and west tracks of the trans-continental railroad met in 1869. There are two replicas of the train that participated in the Golden Spike ceremony and if you time it right, you can see a live demonstration of the historic meeting.
This Is the Place Heritage Park
Not too far from the University of Utah is This Is The Place Heritage Park. This is the place where Brigham Young, overlooking the valley below in 1847, declared that this is the place that the Mormons would settle. There is a large monument at the top of the hill and a couple other smaller monuments honoring the Pony Express and Mormon soldiers farther down.
Day 18 video
Day 19 video
Day 20 video
Day 21 video
We have driven 4,167 miles so far and now it’s time to head back towards the East coast. Today we are driving across Wyoming and down to Denver. We stopped at Fort Bridger Historic Site and also drove past the infamous Wyoming campground, scene of the dramatic thunderstorm 6 years ago. Ah, memories…
Fort Bridger Historic Site
A nice quiet park where you can tour former Army base buildings, look out across the prairie, and visit a replica of Jim Bridger’s original trading post on the Oregon Trail. A museum gives history of the many groups who have lived or passed through here from the mountain men to the army to early automobile travelers.
Day 22 video
Our shortest day on the road – driving from Denver down to Colorado Springs. Felisa has a soccer camp here this weekend.
Day 23 video
A late start to our drive. Felisa has soccer in the morning then we’re back on the road at 3 p.m. Our goal is to get a few hours closer to South Dakota. The drive is very stormy with hail and lightning. Luckily we beat the biggest storm to the hotel. We stop for the night in Chadron, Nebraska.
Day 24 video
Today we are driving through South Dakota and North Dakota. Our main goal is to arrive in Medora in time for the Medora Musical at 7 p.m. We stopped at Wind Cave National Park, passed Crazy Horse Memorial, ate lunch in Deadwood, SD, and passed through the geographic center of the nation.
Wind Cave National Park
The elevator is broken so there are no tours of the cave today. We drove through the park and enjoyed bison and prairie dog sightings along the way.
Pringle, SD Bike Sculpture
Happened across this along the side of the road so pulled over for a picture. Very interesting creation – looks like a cave made out of bicycles.
Crazy Horse Memorial
We visited here in 2008. We didn’t stop this time but it was fun to see it again from the highway on our way by.
Lunch and shopping in the historic downtown area.
Geographic Center of the Nation
Several years ago we visited the geographic center of the continental US (it’s in Kansas) and now we’ve been to the geographic center of the nation (all 50 states!). The town of Belle Fourche has a lovely monument where you can take pictures and a nice museum of local history.
Made a quick stop to celebrate Ron’s 50th state. This makes 49 for me – I’ll pick up 50 when we get to Minnesota.
We made it to town in time to eat dinner and check into the hotel before the show. It was a fun family show – live band, dancers, singers, live horses on stage, and fireworks at the end!
Day 25 video
Starting the morning at Theodore Roosevelt National Park then driving east to Minnesota. This was one of our longest days on the road for this trip.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
It’s a rainy morning and part of the scenic road is closed for construction. We do see a few bison but most of the prairie dogs are hiding from the weather. It’s a beautiful park and hopefully we’ll be able to visit again someday.
North Dakota State Capitol
Have you ever seen a capitol building without a dome? Well now we have!
Largest Sandhill Crane
You have to stop for a photo with the world’s largest Sandhill crane…
Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center
This visitors’ center features a fun sign for anyone who checks off North Dakota as the 50th state as well as the wood chipper from the movie, Fargo.
Not even a “Welcome to Minnesota” sign… but even without the sign, I’ve still been to all 50 states now!
Itasca State Park – Mississippi Headwaters
Hard to pinpoint on a map but if you can find your way here, you can wade across the mighty Mississippi River. You also have to fight off the gigantic flies but it’s worth it to say you walked across the Mississippi!
Paul Bunyan Park
Photo op with Babe and his pal, Paul Bunyan
Day 26 video
Despite our midnight arrival at the hotel last night, we’ve got to get up and going today. We have to make it to Grandma’s house in time for dinner! Driving through Iowa and Illinois today. College tours and the Buddy Holly crash site are on the list.
Buddy Holly Crash Site
It’s been raining for a lot of the trip this year and today is no different. We stopped alongside the cornfield in Iowa where Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. These glasses are at the side of the road and you can walk into the field to see the actual site. Since there was thunder and lightning nearby, we just did our picture at the roadside then got back on the highway.
Day 27 video
A nice relaxing day at Grandma’s house watching Game Show Network and just hanging out together. Ron and the girls went to town to stock up on our favorite potato chips which is very important.
Day 28 video
Hanging out at Grandma’s for part of the day then on the road to Chicago in the afternoon. We enjoyed a sunset tour at Northwestern University on our way to the hotel.
Day 29 video
Today featured many college tours and a drive through Chicago. A hot summer Saturday means lots of people around town so we enjoyed the sights through the window as we drove down the lakefront on our way to Indiana. We managed a quick visit of Indiana Dunes National Park (lots of people here on a hot summer Saturday!) as well.
Indiana Dunes National Park
This was a nice park. We decided it would be nice to visit in the fall when it’s less crowded. We drove by Mt Baldy and would love to see more when the weather is cooler.
Day 30 video
Another soccer camp for Felisa today. The rest of us went to Prophetstown State Park and the Tippecanoe Battlefield. After camp and dinner, we all went to see The Lion King.
The Farm at Prophetstown State Park
It’s very hot and humid but I didn’t care because oh my goodness – so many cute farm animals! (I love the mountains but there’s also a bit of midwest farm girl in me too!)
The museum covers the history of the area and the battle between the Native Americans (led by Tecumseh and his brother) and the US Army (led by Governor William Henry Harrison).
Day 31 video
Getting closer to home! Today we drive through Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We stopped at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and visited a few more colleges along the way.
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
This park has a very nice visitors center and museum about the Wright Brothers as well as another noteable former resident, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Wright Brothers’ cycle shop is also here and tours are available.
Day 32 video
Homeward bound! Driving from West Virginia, through Maryland, and finally back across the Potomac River to Virginia. We made it home before dinner!
Day 33 video
Daily Video Playlist
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Big Trip Lucky 13
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