This post contains affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a commission! Thanks! Questions? View my full disclosure.

This summer saw us hit the road in our trusty minivan (it’s the same one we started with back in 2006!) for Big Trip Lucky 13.  Here’s a quick rundown of the points of interest along the way.  As I get any corresponding posts written for various locations, a link will be added to this post as well.

big trip 13 is about to get underway
  • Save
Looking happy and well-rested as we pose for our departure photo… Big Trip Lucky 13, here we come!

Day 1

We left Virginia and passed through West Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia again before stopping for the night in Ohio.

Herrington Manor State Park

Our original destination was Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland.  Unfortunately when we arrived, we were told that dogs are not allowed in the park.  I read online before we left that dogs are allowed on a certain trail but may have been confusing this park with another one.  We turned around and went a couple miles back to Herrington Manor State Park which we had passed on our way to Swallow Falls.  Rocco was allowed in this park so we decided to stop.  The young man working the gate at Herrington Manor told us that Rocco was actually allowed on a path that led to three of the four waterfalls in the other park.  He offered to give us directions but we decided to just cut our losses and see what Herrington Manor had to offer then get back on the road.  The manor is long gone but there is a lake with boat rentals and a sandy beach for swimming.  We walked across the dam and back then hit the road to continue our journey.

Our 39-second highlight video for Day 1

Day 2

Today we drove through Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.  We are still in the midst of a heatwave which makes it tough to stop for too long.  I don’t want the dog to overheat!

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum

The Pencil Sharpener Museum is just down the street from the hotel but it isn’t open yet when we were ready to get our day started (no thanks to the dog for waking us up super early!).  To kill time we drove through the historic downtown area of Logan, Ohio.  The Washboard Music Festival is held here on Fathers Day weekend every year.  The festival had just ended the day before so the festive laundry lines were still hanging across the main road.  I thought it was a fun decoration, especially the red, white, and blue themed lines.

After we looked around downtown and took a few pictures, it was time to head back to the pencil sharpener museum.  It is a very tiny place but filled with a larger variety of pencil sharpeners than you could possibly imagine (more than 3400 of them!).  We spent a few minutes looking for a favorite then it was time to get on the road and head out to our next stop.

big trip 13 is looking at the collection at the pencil sharpener museum in logan, oh
  • Save
With over 3400 choices, how can you possibly choose a favorite pencil sharpener?

Hocking Hills State Park

Before leaving home I checked the Hocking Hills State Park online to see if dogs are allowed.  They are allowed on the Ash Cave trail so that’s the one we hiked.  I intended to walk the easy, flat, short trail to the waterfall and back but the kids wanted to hike the ridge trail to the waterfall and then the flat lower trail back to the car.  The hike was still short and fairly easy though there were a couple tricky spots along the upper ridge trail.  The kids say this was one of their favorite stops.  It definitely made for a quick, easy, stretch your legs stop.  This area of Ohio is beautiful and not what you typically think of when you envision Ohio.  I would think flat cornfields first but being closer to Kentucky and West Viriginia this is a more rocky, tree-filled area. (Click here to read about my Grandma Gatewood discovery related to the trail!)

big trip 13 hikes to ash cave at hocking hills state park ohio
  • Save
Enjoying the waterfall at Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park.

Big Bone Lick State Park

Next stop is Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky, not too far from Cincinnati. By the time we get here it is mid-day and the heatwave is in full force.  I had originally intended to walk on the short discovery trail near the visitor’s center but it was too hot.  Instead we walked down to the megafauna diorama then took turns looking through the small museum at the visitors center. Big Bone is the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology and there are a few nice fossils on display. There is also a live bison herd at the park. Lucky for us they were hanging out at the near end of their pasture that day so we decided to walk the short trail over to see them.  The hike to see the bison left us completely melted so we jumped in the car, cranked the a/c, and continued on to our final stop for the day.

big trip 13 stops to see mammoth fossils at big bone lick state park in kentucky
  • Save
A re-enactment diorama of the salt and sulfur springs of the last Ice Age at Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

On our trip last year, we saw Lincoln’s birthplace and his first childhood home in Kentucky.  This year we followed Lincoln to his second boyhood home in Indiana.  He lived with his family in this cabin from age 7 to 21.  The original cabin is gone but the foundation has been uncovered and preserved in a brass casting.  A replica cabin and farm are built nearby where the staff of the Lincoln Living Historical Farm dress in period clothing to demonstrate the daily activities at the farm for visitors to see and experience.  We arrived near closing time and it was still exceptionally hot so our visit was not lengthy.  The kids feel that we have now seen every possible Lincoln-related site there is to see except Ford Theater.  I pointed out that we haven’t really explored his time at the state capital in Illinois, Springfield.  What can I say – he was a very popular president and many parts of his history have been well-preserved for future generations to enjoy.

big trip 13 at the Lincoln boyhood home replica farm
  • Save
Does it look like they’re melting? It was very hot at the Lincoln Boyhood Home in Indiana.

Our 52-second highlight video for Day 2

Day 3

Today is spent on the backroads of Indiana and Illinois as we meander our way to Grandma’s house.


Our first stop of the day was in Vincennes, IN.  This is a college town but when school is not in session at Vincennes University (founded by President William Henry Harrison in 1801), things are pretty quiet.  Grouseland was built in 1804 and was the home of President William Henry Harrison when he was serving as the Territorial Governor of Indiana.  It is a National Historic Site and the house is architecturally important as a Federal/Georgian style home which was the first brick building built in Indiana.  Dogs are definitely not allowed inside.  The kids were more interested in seeing the Red Skelton Museum so we stopped to take a picture and look around outside (since we were there we should at least stop and look, right?) before we went to the museum.

big trip 13 stops by Grouseland home of president william henry harrison in vincennes, IN
  • Save
Grouseland – home of President William Henry Harrison. It’s supposed to be beautiful inside but we’ll never know. Dogs are not allowed…

Red Skelton Museum of Comedy

Red Skelton was an American comedy entertainer best known for his national radio and television acts between 1937 and 1971, and as host of the television program The Red Skelton Show.  He was before my time but my mom was a fan and she introduced me to his Pledge of Allegiance speech a few years ago.  The  Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy is located in Vincennes because that was his hometown.  It is a very nice museum and I think that even if you are not familiar with his work, it is an excellent look at radio and television comedy entertainment during that era.  I had originally planned different stops for today (Grouseland and another historic site in Vincennes) but saw a brochure for the museum in the hotel kiosk when we checked in last night (every hotel has a brochure stand for area attractions) and the kids decided they would prefer the museum.  Who says this isn’t a democracy?!

big trip 13 visits the red skelton museum of american comedy in vincennes, in
  • Save
He may have been before our time but Red Skelton was a very talented and influential comedic entertainer.

World’s Largest Everything in Casey, IL

World’s Largest (fill in the blank) is kind of a theme in our travels.  Over the years we’ve seen the largest ball of twine, largest easel, largest Duncan Phyfe chair, largest cedar rocking chair… you get the idea.  While planning for this year I found the world’s largest rocking chair in Casey, IL then discovered that the world’s largest windchime was also in the same town.  It was pretty much along the route so I added it to the plan.  When we arrived in town we discovered that this little town has made an industry out of having the world’s largest everything – golf tee, pitchfork, mailbox, etc.  We spent some time searching around town for the various items and found everything but the giant knitting needles but the clock was ticking and we were getting hungry so we decided we should get back on the road towards Grandma’s house.  Knitting needles – we’ll be back! (Read more about our time in Casey and the “Big Things, Small Town” here.)

big trip 13 at the world's largest windchime in casey, IL
  • Save
The world’s largest windchime! There’s a string that you can pull to make the chimes ring. Someone had just done that and Rocco was not happy about it. I wonder what it sounds like on windy days…

Our 48-second video of Day 3

Days 4 and 5

Chillaxin’ at Grandma’s house with my aunt, brother, and niece

Day 4 video

Day 5 Video

Day 6

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

First stop today is the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.  Disney moved here when he was 5 years old.  Marceline, MO was a big source of inspiration for his future designs in Disneyland including Main Street, USA and the trains.  The museum includes a lot of family history, memorabilia, and scale models of the various lands in Disneyland.

big trip 13 travel mascot vacation mouse sees mickey mouse at disney hometown museum in marceline, mo
  • Save
Vacation Mouse stopped by to visit Mickey Mouse at the Walt Disney hometown museum in Missouri

Oz Museum

Next stop is Kansas.  The Oz Museum is a few miles north of the interstate in the small town of Wamego.  The staff is super friendly and even let Rocco walk around the gift shop area.  If he was smaller (ie able to be carried in our arms), he could’ve also gone through the exhibits.  He is definitely not small enough nor calm enough to be carried so he walked around town, posed on the yellow brick road, then waited in the car (the weather was cloudy and cool so no risk of heat stroke) while we went through the museum.  It was a very nice museum with memorabilia exhibits as well as large dioramas of the various characters.

big trip 13 is looking for the emerald city at the oz museum in wamego, ks
  • Save
I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore… But wait, we are! It’s the Oz Museum in Wamego, KS.

Our 62-second video of Day 6

Day 7

We’re only halfway across Kansas so we have many miles to cover today.  We have to get Rocco to the kennel in Colorado Springs before closing time!

World’s Largest Czech Egg

The first stop is quick.  The egg is outdoors in a park so no need to wait for it to “open”.  All the neighborhood dogs are barking at Rocco so we do not dawdle.  Time to get back on the road before all the residents are awake and mad at the tourists.

big trip 13 visits largest czech egg in wilson, ks
  • Save
If the egg is this big, how big was the chicken?! World’s largest Czech egg in Wilson, KS.

Barbed Wire Museum and Post Rock Museum

The Barbed Wire Museum is next on our list for the day.  As we are driving along there are many signs refering to this as post rock country.  Naturally we are curious what this means.  Luckily for us, the post rock museum is part of the same complex as the barbed wire museum so we can learn about both!  We arrive before the museums open so we check out the park next door while we wait.  Inside we see more different barbed wire sections than you can imagine.  Then we learn about the history of post rock.  It is limestone that settlers cut to make fenceposts for their barbed wire fences.  There are very few trees in the area but lots of limestone in the perfect thickness to be used as fenceposts. Such ingenuity!

big trip 13 visits barbed wire museum in kansas
  • Save
To the casual observer, all barbed wire looks the same. To an expert, there are thousands of different kinds! There’s even a barbed wire collectors’ hall of fame here.
big trip 13 visits post rock museum in kansas to learn about limestone
  • Save
How do you build a barbed wire fence if there are no trees to make fenceposts? Use limestone post rocks!

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

Many long hours of driving later we arrive at Bent’s Old Fort near La Junta, Colorado.  This was a fur-trading fort, not a military fort.  Rocco is allowed to walk around inside the courtyard but not allowed into any of the rooms.  Rocco even had his first golf cart ride from the parking lot to the fort entrance.  He was not a fan but the rest of us were happy to have a ride in the heat.  The fort is a reconstruction so in excellent condition.  Plenty of displays and even some living history interpreters dressed in period clothing.

big trip 13 is looking for furs to trade at bents old fort la junta co
  • Save
Bent’s Old Fort in southeastern Colorado was a major fur-trading fort along the mountain branch of the Santa Fe trail in the 1840s.

Our 64-second video of Day 7

Day 8

Chillaxin’ with my dad

Day 8 video

Day 9

After visiting a friend in Denver, today was spent driving across the Rocky Mountains.  Always gorgeous!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

A long beautiful drive with mostly scenery – not many cars or towns or services.  We arrived at Black Canyon a little low on gas (eek!) but it all turned out okay.  The canyon is very deep and steep.  It was hot up on the rim so after walking out to the overlook and taking it all in, we were back on the road.

big trip 13 overlooks the black canyon of the gunnison in co
  • Save
Steep, dark, and deep – that sums up the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Hard to capture on film. I can’t imagine how the early explorers must have felt.

Our 52-second video of Day 9

Day 10

Headed for Salt Lake City today.

Mike the Headless Chicken statue

Ryan discovered Mike the Headless Chicken in a book when he was in about second grade.  We visited Fruita, Colorado, the hometown of Mike, several years ago and took his picture with the statue.  Since we were passing through again this year we just had to stop for another picture with Mike.

big trip 13 visits mike the headless chicken statue in Fruita co
  • Save
To know Mike the Headless Chicken is to love him…

World’s Largest Watermelon

Just another one of our random “world’s largest” stops…

big trip 13 stops to see the world's largest watermelon in green river, UT
  • Save
The World’s Largest Watermelon has seen better days but it still rolls out for town parades every year.

Green River State Park

A spur of the moment stop.  The watermelon was in Green River and when Bella saw that there was a river, she of course wanted to stop!  We found the park and stopped to dip our toes in the water.  There’s an interesting looking museum in town as well but we’ll have to save it for another time.

big trip 13 stops at green river state park in utah
  • Save
If this girl sees water, she wants to touch it! (definitely part mermaid). Dipping her toes in at Green River State Park in Utah.

Our 41-second video of Day 10

Day 11

We dropped Ryan off at the university for his student orientation then did some shopping for school spirit gear and some sight-seeing around town.

Utah Olympic Parks

Today we saw the torch and the stadium on campus at University of Utah.  The next day we went to the slopes in Park City to see the ski jumps, bobsled track, and museum.

big trip 13 visits olympic torch at rice eccles stadium salt lake city
  • Save
The 2002 Olympic Winter Games were hosted in Salt Lake City. The torch still stands at the University of Utah stadium.
big trip 13 visits utah olympic park in park city utah
  • Save
Come practice your ski jumps into the pool!

Rio Grande train depot

A quick stop at this old refurbished train depot to see an art exhibit. It was called Our Sacred Landscape and featured three different artists’ landscape-inspired art.

big trip 13 visits rio grande train depot in salt lake city to view art exhibit
  • Save
An old train depot in Salt Lake City has been refurbished to include, among other things, an art gallery in the main lobby.

Mormon Temple

No trip to Salt Lake City would be complete without a stop to see the large Mormon temple.  As non-members we are not allowed inside but the gardens outside are beautiful as is the architechture of the temple.

big trip 13 views the mormon temple in salt lake city ut
  • Save
Tall and white, it can be seen for miles. It’s the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City.

Our 30-second video of Day 11

Day 12

Ryan’s orientation doesn’t finish until lunchtime so we spend some time in the morning checking out the Park City Olympic site before we go pick him up.  Then it’s back on the road again.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

While planning our route I discovered this National Monument.  I had never heard of it before but it is not far off the interstate so decided we should go.  It was a beautiful park!  Cedar Breaks features red rocks at a high elevation (about 10,000 feet).  We entered the park from the north entrance after a steady climb (one part of the road had a 13% incline!) and lots of worries about “how close is that forest fire anyway?” (not as close as it looked thankfully).  There are several overlooks along the road that goes from north to south through the length of the park.  We took lots of pictures and made plans to return again to this great little park.

big trip 13 at cedar breaks national monument in utah
  • Save
Forest fire smoke drifts across the horizon at Cedar Breaks National Monument. The park is small but the views are large!

Our 62-second video of Day 12

Day 13

Today is the long haul across the Mojave desert from St. George, Utah to the Pacific Ocean.  (Wait, we drove across the desert on Day 13 of Big Trip 13?  Good thing we’re not superstitious!)

Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car

First stop is at Whiskey Pete’s Casino at the Nevada/California state line.  Inside the casino is the car Bonnie and Clyde were driving when they were ambushed and killed by police in Louisiana.  We visited the ambush site (a deserted country road in Louisiana) a couple trips ago and now we’ve seen the car.

big trip 13 at whiskey pete casino to see bonnie and clyde's death car
  • Save
We’ve seen the ambush site and now we’ve seen the car… Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car

World’s Tallest Thermometer

The world’s tallest thermometer was recently refurbished and is back in the business of displaying the painfully hot desert temperatures for all to see.  We stopped early in the day so the temperature was only 96 degrees.  The thermometer is 134 feet tall so we had to go across the street to be able to get it all in the picture.

big trip 13 is at worlds tallest thermometer in baker ca
  • Save
It’s 96 degrees before noon at the world’s tallest thermometer in Baker, CA.

20 Mule Team Museum

We have been driving past this museum in Boron for years and as an occasional borax user I was curious.  The town is small and the museum is tinier.  The staff member was very friendly and Rocco was allowed to come through the museum with us so he didn’t have to wait outside in the desert heat.  Now that I’ve been I can say that I would stop if I was passing by anyway but wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.  There is also a visitor center at the borax mining site but we did not go there on this trip.  I bought a bag of borax samples for $1.50 and satisfied my curiousity. A successful stop, right?

big trip 13 at 20 mule team museum in boron ca
  • Save
Are you a borax user? After driving by many times in the past we finally stopped to see the 20 Mule Team Museum in Boron, CA

Our 65-second video of Day 13

Days 14 through 16

Reliving the good ol’ days of our life in California’s central coast area

Montana de Oro State Park

We spent most of our time here enjoying friends and food but we did take one morning to visit Montana de Oro.  This state park is along the ocean and always a beautiful place to hike.

big trip 13 hiking along the bluff at montana de oro state park ca
  • Save
The morning fog is still hanging around but a trip to see the ocean is never a bad idea.

Day 14 video

Day 15 video

Day 16 video

Days 17 and 18

Driving back across the Mojave Desert.  Spent the night in a KOA cabin in Williams, AZ.  This year is the 5th anniversary of our first (and only other so far) stay in a KOA campground.  That night in Wyoming was quite memorable and will be part of the family lore forever.   A severe thunderstorm passed over us in our tent at the campground.  We seriously considered abandoning the tent (which would then blow all the way to Kansas we’re sure!) at one point but we all (tent included!) survived.

Day 17 video

Day 18 video

Day 19 through 21

Mostly just chillaxin’ with the cousins but took one daytrip to Pecos to see Pecos National Historic Site.

Pecos National Historic Site

We’ve driven by the signs for this park several times.  We decided it was time to take a day trip up to see what it’s all about.  Pecos National Historic Site is situated in the Glorieta Pass, a key transportation route throughout history.  The park has Pueblo Indian village ruins and ruins of an old mission church.

big trip 13 visits the indian pueblo and mission church ruins at pecos historic park in new mexico
  • Save
Bright blue skies and red rocks at the Pecos National Historic Site in New Mexico.

Day 19 video

Day 20 video

Day 21 video

Day 22

A long day on the road from Albuqueque, New Mexico, to Van Horn, Texas.

Smokey the Bear Museum

Another spur of the moment stop.  It was only a 20-mile detour from where we were.  When you’re already in the middle of nowhere, what’s another 20 miles?  We learned all about the history of Smokey the Bear and forest fires.

big trip 13 visits smokey the bear's grave in new mexico
  • Save
Vacation Mouse is getting fire prevention tips from Smokey the Bear.

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Farm

We had planned to stop here on a previous trip but rainy weather and flooded roads made us change the route.  We have now seen the World’s Largest Pistachio and a pistachio orchard.

big trip 13 stop in alamogordo, nm to see largest pistachio
  • Save
Hungry? We found the world’s largest pistachio at McGinn’s Pistachio Farm in Alamogordo, NM.

El Capitan Hotel

There is not much to see in Van Horn, Texas but the historic El Capitan Hotel is here so we walked through the lobby on our way to dinner.

big trip 13 visits el capitan hotel in van horn, TX
  • Save
Classic architecture at the El Capitan Hotel in Van Horn, TX.

Our 54-second video of Day 22

Day 23

Driving across West Texas today on our way to the ranch.

Fort Davis National Historic Site

Fort Davis is one the best surviving Indian Wars military outposts. There are several buildings still standing and people are allowed to walk through a few of them.  We were very glad for a cloudy morning to keep the temperatures down while we walked through the park.  The drive from the park back up to the Interstate was also quite scenic.

big trip 13 visits fort davis national historic site in texas
  • Save
A cloudy day in West Texas but that was a blessing as we wandered the grounds of Fort Davis National Historic Site. Looks like we’ve got about another 400 miles to drive today…

Days 24 and 25

Chillaxin’ at the ranch

Day 24 video

Day 25 video

Day 26

Leaving the ranch today and driving across the second half of Texas.

World’s Largest Spur

Our tour of “world’s largest” everything continues…

big trip 13 at world's largest spur in lampasas, tx
  • Save
I drove right by and didn’t even see it at first if you can believe that! World’s Largest Spur in Lampasas, TX.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Another stamp for my National Park System Passport! Waco Mammoth is the newest site in the park system.  It has been run by Baylor University and the State of Texas for many years.  It is an active archeological site and has lots of nice in-situ fossils in an air-conditioned dig site. (Yay for air-conditioning in the Texas summer heat!).  Rocco was allowed on the trail down to the building but had to wait outside while we looked at the fossils.

big trip 13 learning about the waco mammoth in waco texas
  • Save
The Waco Mammoth was not a woolly mammoth – it’s a Columbian Mammoth and it’s bigger than the woolly mammoth. Come to the park to learn more about the mammoth and the ice age in Texas.

Our 59-second video of Day 26

Day 27

Aliceville Museum

When you think of World War II POW camps, do you think of Alabama?  Me neither. There actually were a few POW camps here in America.  German POWs were brought from North Africa and other locations to several camps in America.  Aliceville was the largest of eleven camps in the southeastern US.  The camp is no longer here but there is a nice exhibit at the museum in town.  The man who was working at the museum today was super nice.  He allowed us to bring Rocco to the outdoor courtyard behind the gate to wait and even gave us a sneak peek of the traveling exhibit about Alabama that won’t open until tomorrow.

big trip 13 stops to learn more about camp aliceville and the german pow camp
  • Save
Camp Aliceville hosted up to 6,000 German prisoners-of-war during World War II.

Our 33-second video of Day 27

Day 28

The journey across the south continues…

World’s Largest Mattress

We first visited the World’s Largest Mattress a couple years ago.  The kids really liked it – I mean, what’s not to like about a giant mattress you can jump and play on? – and they requested a return visit this year. The mattress is 38 feet wide by 80 feet long and is inside the Cotton Mill Interiors furniture store.  The staff is very friendly and Rocco was even allowed to come inside with us (but not allowed on the mattress).  Who knows – maybe we’ll be visiting the mattress again one day.

big trip 13 jumps on the worlds largest mattress located in GA
  • Save
You can jump on the bed all day long here at the world’s largest mattress.

Our 42-second video of Day 28

Day 29

Finally – our last day!

Danville Riverwalk

The kids are wondering why we are making a stop when we’re this close to home… I told them Rocco needs a walk and it won’t kill them to walk down to the river.  We’ve driven through Danville, Virginia, before but haven’t stopped.  The downtown area along the river is very nice.  There is an 11-mile path that goes along the river.  We walked across the bridge and back and then got back on the road.

big trip 13 crossing an old bridge on the dan river in danville, VA
  • Save
Love an old bridge! Crossing the Dan River in Danville, Virginia

Our 40-second video of Day 29

Home Sweet Home!

After 29 days on the road, we are home again.  The minivan did awesome this year!  The check engine light came on but it wasn’t anything serious and we were able to keep going.  We covered 8,322 miles across 22 states.

big trip 13 luggage has been dumped in the living room
  • Save
We’re home! Everything that was in the minivan is now covering the living room. I always wonder how it all fit in the van with us this whole time.
What about you?  Have you been to any of these places?  Did any of them pique your interest to visit yourself?  Want to hear more about a particular stop?
  • Save

Similar Posts


  1. This is beautiful Sheila! Well done! I love how you and family do this every year then share. I had an awesome time going on your trip this morning! You are so generous to share this with us! Love it!

  2. Sheila, what a fun trip!! Thank you for sharing your adventure and photos/videos with us.

Comments are closed.