Big Trip 15 has begun and we kicked it off with a marathon day… almost 13 hours on the road!
(Our daily videos are back… one-two second clips to make a full day’s journey in less than 60 seconds!)
Coffee Pot building
Built in 1927, the Coffee Pot in Bedford, PA is an excellent example of novelty architecture once very popular along America’s roadways. The Coffee Pot is on the Lincoln Highway, the first road to cross the country. In fact, the Lincoln Highway includes many miles first driven by Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, the man who completed the first transcontinental road trip by automobile in 1903.
This shiny coffee pot-shaped building would hold about 51,000 gallons of coffee. What does it hold now? Memorabilia from the Bedford County Fairgrounds and a mystery.
What’s the mystery you ask? How do you get to the second floor?!? There are no stairs visible inside or outside the building. Just a door, up there next to the handle.
Flight 93 Memorial
Our second stop was much more solemn. The Flight 93 Memorial is a place I have been wanting to visit while also dreading it. I asked the kids and they wanted to see it so I added it to the list.
At the visitors center, you can follow the timeline of that day and everything that happened there. You learn about the passengers and crew of the plane. You hear stories of locals and first responders.
After the visitors center, you can drive down to the memorial wall that lists the names of the passengers.
It’s a very peaceful, quiet place. Plenty of time to reflect and honor the many losses of that day, both in Pennsylvania and everywhere.
On the way out, we stopped at the Tower of Voices. Unfortunately, it wasn’t windy enough for the chimes to blow and ring.
Big Mac Museum
Sadly the museum part of this McDonald’s was closed due to Covid and I had to stare longingly through the window at the World’s Largest Big Mac, unable to take a picture in front of it. But on the positive side, I did eat a Big Mac for lunch. And since no one else was there, I could take my time to read the exhibits that were outside the roped-off area.
Heinz History Center
When I wrote my post about Mr. Rogers I discovered that the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh has an exhibit featuring memorabilia and set items from the show. It was on the list for Big Trip 14 but didn’t make the final cut. As an added bonus to my delayed visit, I was able to see Nellie Bly at the museum too. If I had gone sooner, I would’ve missed that.
Molly Stark Park
Book club is featuring heavily in Day 1 of our trip this year. We read The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow and one of the characters was kept in a sanitarium against her will. The author was inspired by an abandoned sanitarium near where she lived. When I discovered that there was an abandoned sanitarium along our drive, in Molly Stark Park, I had to add it to the list. (And speaking of sanitariums, Nellie Bly is also well known for her undercover reporting of Blackwell Asylum in 1897 – 10 Days in a Madhouse.)
Day 2 – a bit more reasonable but still fit a lot in. Spent 95% of the day in Ohio.
First Ladies National Historic Site
We started the day in downtown Canton, Ohio, at the First Ladies National Historic Site. The site includes two buildings. The Education Center included exhibits about the role of the First Lady throughout the years and a display of inauguration ball dresses worn by some of them. There was also a very interesting exhibit about dress designer Ann Lowe. There are also tours of the Saxton-McKinley home but we didn’t have time for a tour.
McKinley Presidential Library and Museum
Also in Canton, Ohio is the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. In addition to exhibits about President McKinley, it also tells the history of Stark County, Ohio.
Harding Presidential Library
Ohio was home to several US Presidents and our next stop is all about President Harding. In just one stop you can visit the Harding Home and the Presidential Library. A couple miles away is the Harding Memorial.
Wyandot Popcorn Museum
Adding another unusual museum to our collection, the next stop was the Wyandot Popcorn Museum. They even give free popcorn on your way out!
My favorite presidential memorial that I’ve seen. I love that it has a tree inside and a view of the sky!
Day 3 – Easiest day so far.
Bob Ross museum
Ever since I wrote my post about Bob Ross, I have wanted to visit the studio where the Joy of Painting was filmed. The Bob Ross Experience at Minnetrista was great! We saw the very small filming studio and several of his paintings were also on display.
While there, we were also able to learn about the Ball family (of the Ball Blue Book and canning jar fame). Now I know why Ball University is called that.
Rotary Jail Museum
The Crawfordsville Rotary Jail was the first of just 18 rotary jails ever built. Only three remain standing and this is the only one that still rotates. The tour was excellent and as it says on their website, there’s nothing like seeing it in person!
Day 6 – Back on the road with an early start.
Do you like SPAM? I do! So of course we had to visit the SPAM Museum on our drive through Minnesota.
Jolly Green Giant Statue
“Ho, ho, ho… Green Giant!” This was another must-see in Minnesota, the Jolly Green Giant Statue. He’s very tall! There’s also a small visitor center with Green Giant memorabilia.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
The highlight of my day. We left Grandma’s at the crack of dawn so that we would be sure to arrive at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum before it closed. It was awesome!! I took so many pictures because I just didn’t want to miss a thing. After we saw the museum, we drove just outside of town to see where the dugout was on the Banks of Plum Creek. The actual site is on private property but there is a sign along the road.
Day 7 – a long day on the road, driving across North Dakota, and a BIG day for sights (get it?)
National Buffalo Museum
When you drive across North Dakota, you should be sure to stop and see the World’s Largest Buffalo and the National Buffalo Museum.
Another large item to see along the highway in North Dakota… Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow.
When we started out the day we weren’t sure how we would feel by the end. We decided to go ahead and drive The Enchanted Highway even though it would add over an hour to our drive and we are so glad we did! Such a fun drive discovering all the giant metal artwork. Geese in Flight can be seen from the interstate and is currently the World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture. From there, head south towards the Enchanted Castle and prepare to be amazed.
Day 8 – 500 miles and 2 National Parks
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Our second trip to North Dakota and our second tour of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We lucked out this year and the bison were very close to the road. The prairie dogs were also active and adorable.
Little Bighorn National Battlefield
After a long drive across eastern Montana, we arrived at Little Bighorn National Battlefield. The visitor center has a lot of information about the battle, representing both sides. There is also a National Cemetary there which I didn’t realize before we arrived.
Day 9 – a short drive and we caught up with the missing passenger as she completes another soccer ID camp.
Missouri Headwaters State Park
We’ve been to the Mississippi Headwaters, so of course we had to see the Missouri Headwaters too, right? However, this was not one to walk across like the Mississippi River. Three rivers meet here – the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin – and become the Missouri River.
Mill Town State Park Overlook
The wildfire smoke was pretty bad but it was still a nice view from the Mill Town State Park Overlook.
Day 10 & 11 – broke up our drive to Salt Lake City with an overnight stay at a friend’s house in Idaho Falls.
Did you know that Idaho Falls is a man-made falls? I had no idea! The locals are reportedly not that impressed with it but I thought it was pretty. There’s a nice park downtown along the Snake River to enjoy the falls.
Idaho Potato Museum
You can’t go to Idaho and not see the Worlds Largest Potato at the Potato Museum, right? We also saw the world’s largest potato crisp (aka pringle) inside. It’s a small museum but full of great history of the mighty potato. After your tour of the museum, you can enjoy a variety of potato snacks at the cafe.
Day 12 – Salt Lake City
We went to Red Butte Gardens while Felisa was at soccer camp then did a bit of thrift shopping.
Red Butte Garden
We were originally planning to visit the Natural History Museum but the tickets were sold out so we went to Red Butte Garden instead. I love to see the different kinds of plants when we travel and the garden overlooks Salt Lake City and you can see for miles!
Soccer + Driving
The LONGEST day…
Day 14 – another easy day planned. A quick college tour then a drive through Colorado National Monument before another short 5-hour drive to Colorado Springs.
Everything was going fine. We took our time driving around the college and through the monument then stopped for lunch before jumping on the highway. Which is when we found out the Interstate had closed overnight due to mud and rockslides.
No problem, we’ll take US50 instead. It’s a bit longer and not as easy of a drive – lots of mountains to cross and lots of 2 lane roads but very scenic. A 6-hour drive.
As it turns out, US50 is also closed due to construction (which I knew but had forgotten). We had driven 1.5 hours to Montrose when we realized we couldn’t get through. We were just 5 miles from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park at that point so decided to stop to make ourselves feel better about the detour – a bonus National Park.
The rangers gave us the detour route which required a backtrack of 30 minutes to the road that goes around the construction which adds even more time to the drive. It was a lovely scenic detour but we are starting to lose hope that we will make it across the Rocky Mountains.
Finally, 13 hours after leaving our hotel, we arrived at my dad’s house in the dark and in the rain.
What a day.
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument is conveniently located off of I-70 between Grand Junction and Fruita. The views are fantastic and it’s always worth the drive through the park.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The Black Canyon is gorgeous. While somewhat remote – it’s in the southwest corner of Colorado – the park entrance is only about 8 miles from US 50. When we realized that we weren’t going to make it through the road closure ahead, we decided to stop at the park for detour directions from the rangers and to let Felisa see it. (She missed this part of the trip when we stopped here two years ago.)
Still hard to photograph but just as awesome as I remembered it.
Hermit’s Rest Overlook
The detour around the construction took us along Highway 92 and at the top we were treated to a spectacular view at the Hermit’s Rest Overlook. Now this is Colorado! Past the overlook, we continued on and eventually ended up back on US50 through Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Day 15-20 – Time to slow the pace and hang out with family. Oh and also go to more soccer camps.
US Olympic and Paralympic Museum
Colorado Springs has a brand-new Olympic museum – The United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum – downtown. The summer Olympics were underway so it seemed like the perfect time to visit. It is very fancy and high-tech with lots of interactive exhibits.
One last day with Grandpa plus more soccer.
Driving to NM
Day 21-24 More family time. On the road to Texas tomorrow afternoon.
Day 25 – Short drive to El Paso today. Drove through 2 colleges and saw the World’s Largest Chili Pepper.
Largest Chili Pepper
New Mexico is known for its chiles so of course we had to stop by to see the World’s Largest Chili Pepper.
Day 26-29 A lovely visit at the ranch. Saw the 2nd largest roadrunner on the way across west Texas.
Paisano Pete stands proudly in the center of town in Fort Stockton, Texas. He was the world’s largest roadrunner until he was unseated by a larger bird in New Mexico and now holds the title of World’s Second-Largest Roadrunner.
Historic Fort Stockton
Fort Stockton was an important fort during the Indian Wars and was staffed by the Buffalo Soldiers. It was also home to the US Army’s Camel Corps for ten years. There are a couple buildings still standing and the Guard House has a few exhibits about the fort’s history.
Relaxing at the ranch…
Day 30… The cows and sheep came out to say goodbye. Wasn’t that nice of them?
13 hours on the road. Why does Texas have to be so big? Drove through 3 college campuses (UT Austin, Texas A&M, Rice), one rainstorm, and several traffic jams and construction zones. We are in Louisiana tonight and continue eastward tomorrow.
Lone Star Kolaches
Texas Hill Country has a history of German and other European settlers. The Czechs brought kolaches to the area and this summer, on our 15th trip, we finally tried them. They are SO good! There are tons of bakeries around but we stopped at Lone Star Kolaches.
Tabasco Factory and Jungle Gardens
Sometimes it can be tricky to find a good place to stop when driving across the south. The weather is so miserably hot and humid, we don’t want to stick around any longer than necessary. However, I wholeheartedly recommend stopping at the Tabasco Factory and Jungle Gardens. Tabasco is a family-owned business with a great history of civic participation and it was interesting to see how the sauce is made.
On the day we were there, we could only buy combo tickets. We were originally going to skip the Jungle Gardens even though we bought tickets but we decided to do a quick drive through and it was great! We saw alligators and beautiful old trees.
The Biloxi Lighthouse was one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the south. We missed the open hours but stopped to take a picture and dip our toes in the Gulf waters.
Day 32 – A quick detour to the beach then a drive across the Florida panhandle. Dropped Bella off to stay with a friend in Jacksonville and the rest of us continued to Savannah for the night.
Gulf Islands National Seashore – Opal Beach
After a less-than fabulous beach experience in Biloxi, we were super happy to see the pristine white beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Opal Beach had bathrooms and plenty of parking so that’s why we chose it but the whole park is beautiful and it was very quiet when we stopped by early in the morning.
Day 33 – almost there. Today’s fun find is the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
Driving on I-95 in North Carolina is never fun so I was on the lookout for a backroads route and things to do. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park did not disappoint! I could have stayed there much longer watching these amazing creations spin in the breeze but when we’re this close to home, there’s no time for dilly-dally. Haha!
Big Trip 15 is complete! Our stats for this year:
- 34 days
- 23 states
- 8500 miles
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