As you may know, my two daughters and I left on a family road trip on the 6th of July. We had huge plans for a 6,300 mile road trip, headed from coast to coast.
I know a lot of you asked me questions about our road trip last year and lots of you have expressed interest in seeing and hearing about what we are doing this year. I thought I would write a post for each week of our 5.5 week trip. I'm hoping that you will enjoy reading about our journey and that it may inspire you to take your own family road trip or that you may gain ideas for your own trip.
It looked like a monster of a trip and I really wasn't sure I could do it. Nor was I sure if we would be successful and have fun again. I was nervous to say the least. Then my parents announced that their 50th Anniversary celebration would be in San Diego this summer. We looked at adding that to our trip. It made our trip over 7,000 miles! When I looked at the calendar and the budget, there was no way to make that work. So, we had to modify our trip. We decided that this year we would drive from Virginia to Seattle and down to Portland. We would then fly from Portland to L.A. and San Diego. After the week in CA, we would fly back to Portland and head home from there.
Let me show you all the fun we found in our first week on the road. This week we covered from Virginia to just barely over the border of Montana.
You may as well know now, that we love our state line pictures. We didn't know it yet, but there would be precious few on our trip. What is it with all these states that don't have a welcome center?
Our first state line was Maryland and they had a welcome center. Yay!
It makes a great memory of the trip to have all the state line pictures.
Next up on day 1 we hit Pennsylvania.
We found the Giant Quarter in Everett Pennsylvania. We made it out of the car for a quick pic in the rain. Pretty neat statue…even in the rain.
After that we found this huge Elephant Statue in Somerset, Pennsylvania. It is just in a parking lot, but we still had fun and my girls like taking selfies with the elephant. There may or may not have been some elephant butt selfies. Not sure…or not telling. 😉
We then met up with a friend of my from high school and her son. We went go carting at Caddie Shak in Donegal, PA. That was fun!
On our way from Donegal to our hotel just over the border in Ohio, we stopped to get my first Starbucks mug. It was a late night for sure!
If you are interested, this site lists all of the mugs. It is where I figure out if I should be looking in that state or not worry about it.
The following morning, I hit up 3 Starbucks…yes 3, in order to find the Ohio mug. I really like the mug, so I'm glad I stuck with it to find it.
There was no Ohio welcome center, so I ended up taking a picture of my girls with this mug which I posted on Instagram.
Day 2 our plan was to make it from Ohio to Chicago. We first crossed into Indiana…again no welcome center. This time we found an Indiana magazine at a rest stop and used that for our Indiana state line picture.
Day 2 we were all tired and punchy. We all felt like “What are we doing…maybe we should go home.” But we pressed on.
Illinois had no welcome center either. We entered almost directly into Chicago, which revived us all as we enjoyed seeing the skyline views.
Day 3 we spent sightseeing in Chicago. We had only one day. We selected three things we wanted to do.
First was to see the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). We had been told to just go to the Hancock building and go to the top there, but we decided to do the touristy thing and go to the Willis Tower. We are all glad we did.
The lines are long and the views are spectacular. We spent about an hour up on the Sky Deck.
I hadn't been to the Tower since I was a kid. They have added these. If you aren't afraid of heights, you can step out on to the glass floor and look all the way down(103 floors) and take selfies, etc.
None of us could do it. Oh Well.
Right across the street from the Willis Tower is Giordano's. We were tired of standing and didn't mind the 45 minute wait for a true Chicago style deep dish pizza. Yum!
After the nice break for pizza, we took the ‘L' over to a stop near Millennium park. If you visit Chicago, I highly recommend you visit this park. It is a beautiful place right in the heart of downtown Chicago.
Our first stop in the park was Cloud Gate.
It is a really neat sculpture/statue in the park. We have all kinds of silly selfies in the mirror of Cloud Gate. 🙂
I really wanted to walk this neat winding bridge. It leads over a road and to Maggie Daley park, which has miniature golf as well as rock climbing and a few other fun things.
We ended up walking to the edge of the park and realized just across the street was the Lake Michigan shore.
We had to walk and see Lake Michigan. It was on my youngest daughter's summer bucket list.
Then more walking back to the ‘L.' We were all getting really tired, but we had one more important place to see on our day in Chicago.
We had to see American Girl Place. It is the flagship American Girl Doll store and was worth the additional walking and time. They have spectacular displays for every historical doll and all kinds of great things on display. The store is huge and we really enjoyed the hour that we spent there. We were also exhausted and still had another hour ride on the ‘L' to get back to our hotel. We slept well after almost 7 miles of walking according to my fitbit.
Day 4 we planned to make it from Chicago to Minneapolis. Along the route, we found Volcano Falls and played a round of miniature golf…another item on a summer bucket list. It was a fun course.
Wisconsin greeted us with a great welcome sign! Thank you Wisconsin for the welcome!
I had heard from my cousin, who used to live in Wisconsin, that the Wisconsin mug can be difficult to find. I stopped at the first Starbucks I saw and got really lucky! Yay!
Why yes, we love goofy roadside statues and attractions! We found this pink elephant in DeForest Wisconsin. Perfect place for some cute pics and to stretch our legs. This site lists all the additional places you can find a pink elephant.
My daughter took this picture of me. Since I am the only driver and still working while on this road trip, this is what they see of me when we stop. Nose in my phone. I feel kind of bad, but then again, it is the only time I'm on my phone. They have my attention the rest of the time…which is a lot of time.
We met my Aunt and Uncle for dinner in Eau Claire. Right in Eau Claire was another goofy statue we wanted to see. My uncle knew where it was, so they came with us. Now they know of our goofy love of offbeat roadside attractions. My girls may or may not have climbed on the bull (with my help). It may have been fun… until the mosquitoes came out in full force. It was already 9pm and we still had another 1.5 hours to go to our hotel. Time to go.
Day 5 we started with breakfast at Starbucks since we had missed the free breakfast at our hotel. I got to add mug #4 to my collection from this road trip. Yay!
The rest of the day was spent at the Mall of America. If you haven't been, it is a huge mall with an amusement park in the center. It is a neat place to visit and see.
We are not huge shoppers so we spent 5 or 6 hours there. We each picked out a store we really wanted to see and made sure to go to those. We found some extra fun along the way.
The Lego store is AMAZING! They have all these sculptures made out of Legos that are on top of the store. So cool!
I want this car! It is supposed to be like Barbie's car and is promoting the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience, which is really expensive in my opinion. The car had gems embedded in it and the steering wheel. It has the cutest upholstery. Someday… I want my own!
We ended with a splurge of dinner at the American Girl store. Fun times with my girls!
Day 6 we started by visiting Minnehaha Falls. It is beautiful.
That morning, my daughter had asked me if there was anything we were doing that wearing white shorts would be a bad idea. Duh! I had no idea that there was a place at the falls that the kids could wade in the water. Those white shorts didn't stay white. 🙁
If you visit the falls, take a swimsuit or an extra pair of clothes and enjoy splashing around in the water. Of course if you are visiting in the winter…not so much, though I have heard it is really pretty frozen over in the winter.
The kids had fun splashing in the water. We stayed at the falls for about 1 hour. The only issue I can tell you about these falls is that on the weekend, parking is hard to find. We had a really hard time finding parking and almost left without seeing the falls because we couldn't find a place to park.
We were headed from Minneapolis to Jamestown, North Dakota. Along the way we found Otto the Big Otter in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Of course we had to stop and see Otto!
Yay! North Dakota welcomes visitors!!
Day 7 we started by checking out the World's Largest Buffalo Monument in Jamestown, North Dakota. There is a whole frontier village and a Buffalo Museum right there as well. They have bison that are naturally roaming within their large enclosed area. They even have a very rare white bison, which was out roaming and we got to see.
Next up in Steele, North Dakota, is the World's Largest Sand Hill Crane. It is a metal sculpture created all by a man who lives in the area.
I have to say that North Dakota surprised me the most of any state on our journey thus far. I did not expect all of the green and the little lakes and waterways. It was surprisingly pretty.
The biggest surprise that North Dakota had to offer was from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is amazing and I would say a must visit place!
I had no idea that North Dakota had such beauty and that they had their own Badlands (as they call them).
We spend about 3 hours driving the loop in the park.
The park has wild horses in addition to other wildlife. We got to see the wild horses on multiple occasions.
It was so beautiful!
We got out and walked on 4 of the shorter trails that the ranger pointed out to us.
The views just never got tiring.
Toward the end of our drive on another walk out to a vista. We saw a deer walking around in this area. Not too far from here we saw another type of animal with antlers…I don't remember what it was called.
On our way out of the park, here was this bison happily munching on grass. It was about 10 feet from our car. Amazing!
The park is also home to a huge prairie dog population. We saw those many times as well, including here in this field with the elk.
If you visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I highly recommend that you visit Badlands Pizza and Saloon in Medora, ND. They are open late, which when you daughter talks you into staying at the park until 9:30 pm so she can complete her Jr. Ranger Badge, you will appreciate. They also have a taco pizza, which is A.Maz.ing!
Our day ended with yet another really late night arrival at our hotel. Why can't we ever seem to get there early? Oh well! We have fun along the way.
Next week, I'll be back with our second week of travel, which includes. Montana, sort of Idaho (because we just drove through 60 miles of it) and Washington.
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