Pigeon’s Cross Country Journal

Weekly update on our family vacation across the U.S.A!bigbob

 

~Join us for six weeks of sightseeing, local cuisine, driving, RV parks, family squabbles, more driving, audio-books, the world’s largest prairie dog and the coolest library, national parks, even more driving, Vegas Baby!, one viewing of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (and subsequent visit to find the basement of the Alamo),  bats, bourbon, endless driving, Elvis and Johnny Cash, one federal prison, minimum of two breweries, at least 3 college campuses, and a whole lot of reading!~

Week 1:  We are settled down in a campground just outside Denver, Colorado at the end of our 7th day of travel.  The good news is that we all survived the first week, with surprisingly less tears than expected!   It has been an amazing week of sight-seeing and new discoveries.  We made sure to write down each night what we’ve done and seen – but also the hilarious quotes, incredible LCoD (Local Cuisine of the Day), and even the stressful moments so we can look back on them and laugh.

My Week 1 major take-away?  People across the country-from waitresses to truck stop staff- are kinder, nicer, and more helpful than I anticipated.  Here are a few highlights.

South Bend, Indiana: Campus tour of Notre Dame,  minor panic on the morning of Day 2 when our engine light went on (arghhh! – luckily with a little trouble shooting we were on the road pretty quickly)

Chicago, Illinios: Art Institute of Chicago where we saw the Thorne Rooms, on our bucket list ever since we read 68 Rooms , a walk through Millenium Park, Grant Park, down Lake Shore Drive, past the Field Museum & Soldier Field (all total 10.5 miles that day!).  Oh, and the LCoD: Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza at Pizano’s 

Springfield, Illinois: Visit to Lincoln’s Tomb (and giftshop).  LCoD: A central Illinois dish called a “Horseshoe”.  We had the smaller breakfast version called a “Ponyshoe” – white bread topped with egg & bacon, heaped with homefries tossed in garlic butter, covered in sausage gravy (an alternate is the local cheese sauce which of course I had to try, so I ordered it “on the side”).

St. Louis, Missouri: Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour where I discovered a new favorite beer & the girls saw the Clydesdales, a walk across the Eads Street Bridge, spontaneous discovery of the Veiled Prophet parade which was SO COOL!, up the St. Louis Arch in a teeny-tiny pod (“This is a nightmare.  I hate this” – Weezy-Jean), down the arch, to the Cardinals game to see Stan Musial’s statue while we waited out a rain delay.  LCoD: Budweiser & ballpark food

Kansas City, Missouri: A flat tire outside Columbia, MO led us to the Walmart tire center – at 10am on the Sunday of a holiday weekend.  Lesson of the day: boredom shopping results in a lot of spontaneous purchasing, including another 6-pack of my new favorite beer.  We made it to KC in time to visit the Kansas City Public Library which for a book-geek like me was a dream come true. The parking garage looks like the bindings of giant classics, the kids room is beautiful, roof terrace is delightful, and the bank-vault film room is super cool.  LCoD: Arthur Bryant’s Kansas City BBQ (burnt ends were so delicious).

Salina, Kansas: Sa-Lie-Na was a lovely city in the middle of the country – literally.  We spent the day at the Kenwood Cove  waterpark complex which was a really fun break from the sight-seeing and perfect for a 95 degree day.  We did see some shocking tornado damage on our way to Salina, which according to our KOA staff happened about a month ago.   We made sure to watch The Wizard of Oz while we were there.  LCoD: Braum’s Ice Cream Banana Splits

Week 2: This week there was no way to go but up – literally!  We started in Kansas at 1227′ above sea level.  Twenty-four hours later we were overlooking the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 8920′ – and over the next few days we topped that several times.  We spent the week getting a real taste of the west and embracing the independent spirit that kept us moving across the country.

My Week 2 major take-away? The landscape of this amazing country is so diverse and stunningly beautiful. Here are the highlights!

Strasburg, Colorado: Our stopover on our way into Denver.  (Which didn’t happen, more on that next).  It was HOT!  So our early afternoon arrival gave us time for a dip in the pool, a quick dinner and family game-night.  We wanted to make sure that Big Bob (that’s the name of our motorhome) was running well before we went to Yellowstone so it was an early night for all, since we had a 7am service appointment in Golden, CO.

Golden, Colorado: Our plan was to visit my cousin & his family in Denver, but Big Bob had different plans.  Sadly, we had to switch it up and spend the day in Golden after an extended morning in the service center.  The girls discovered what Chuck Woolery is up to – as they enjoyed LINGO on the Game Show Network while we waited.  Late lunch in Golden, a delightful walk through the town, we dipped our toes in Clear Creek (so cold), and enjoyed ice cream.  We planned to stay outside Golden in Central City – when I made the reservation it sounded like an ideal location in the Rockies.  Had I known how harrowing the drive UP would be, there is NO WAY I would have chosen this KOA.  That said, we were so glad we did.  The views were spectacular!  Enjoyed an afternoon hike, campfire and star watching.  LCoD: Woody’s Pizza & Boulder Ice Cream Company.

Cheyenne, Wyoming: Visited the Wyoming State Museum which was free and fantastic!  We learned all about Wyoming and its people.  Then we made our way to Terry Bison Ranch where we went on a 1 hour horseback trail ride across the Wyoming countryside.  Some of us loved it and some of us may never go near a horse again.  Dinner at the ranch restaurant, Senator’s Steakhouse was the LCoD: Bison burgers

Yellowstone, Wyoming: After a long drive, and a detour to Independence Rock, we arrived in Yellowstone National Park late in the evening and were treated to a giant Elk crossing directly in front of Big Bob and a Bison hanging out at the corner of the campground.  Our first day we attended a ranger program at the Mud Volcano, hiked the North Rim of the Canyon, enjoyed animal watching at Hayden & Lamar Canyons, had a picnic dinner near Soda Butte (the area where they began wolf reintroduction in 1995).  That night we attended an outdoor program about Bison – and had a bonus lighting storm creep up on us.  The walk back to the camper was nerve-racking.  Day two was cold and rainy but we enjoyed Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring and Norris Geyser Basin.  That night was a ranger program about….GROUND SQUIRRELS!  We couldn’t pass that up!  The walk back was equally nerve-racking even though the night was cool and clear, due to the fact that the ranger shared with us that a momma grizzly walked right through the visitor center area that morning!  LCoD: Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream

West Yellowstone, Montana: Enjoyed time at the Grizzly & Wolf  Discovery Center.  We didn’t see these bears or wolves in the wild, so this was a great way to get up close and learn more about these amazing animals.

Missoula, Montana: Stop over to re-charge at a Staybridge Suites.  Wow!  Maybe we’ve lowered our standards in 13 days of camper living, but this hotel rocked!  Great price for a 2 room suite.  FREE laundry (I had 7 loads), FREE dinner (it was tacos & southwest salad – and the LCoD), and FREE breakfast!  Plus parking for Big Bob.  Definitely needed the return to civilization – and real showers!  Perfect way to end week 2!

Week 3: Our week started by picking up some additional travelers – my parents, aka Nana & Papa, flew out to Seattle to join us for the West Coast portion of the trip.  Now we love Big Bob, but adding two more adults makes for some tight quarters.  However, the benefit of having my kids enjoy this trip with their grandparents is worth stepping on each other’s toes once in a while (literally and figuratively).

My week 3 major take-away? You can prepare for almost anything, but the weather is unpredictable.  Unfortunately, it has been unseasonably cool in this area of the country and we weren’t expecting extended days of sweatshirts and jeans.  At least there hasn’t been rain!  Here are the highlights.

Seattle, Washington: Cruised into Seattle after an exhausting day of driving across Washington State.  First stop – the Sea-Tac airport to pick up our tagalongs.  The next morning we tackled Seattle public transportation – bus and light rail – to make it into the city.  Enjoyed a morning browsing Pike Place Market, and stopped in at the very first Starbucks.  On the advice of a good friend we took the Underground Seattle Tour – which was universally enjoyed by everyone.  Walked to the Panama Hotel, which inspired the novel Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet– a PBP beloved book, and then had an AMAZING dinner in Chinatown.  We added monorail to our list of transportation for the day and visited the Space Needle. LCoD: Chinese at Fortune Garden

Tacoma, Washington: Spent the morning  enjoying a visit to the LeMay Car Collection – over 500 vintage cars on display!  Stopped to check out the High School featured in 10 Things I Hate About You.  A Tacoma Public HS, Stadium High School looks exactly like it does in the movie.  Especially cool is the sunken athletic field and front courtyard.

Olympia, Washington: Dinner at Fish Tale Brew Pub and then a walk through town to grab ice cream.  Discovered a carnival on the State Capitol grounds.  Enjoyed people-watching and taking in the local vibe.  LCoD: Fish Tale Ale & Olympic Mountain Ice Cream

Portland, Oregon: Walked around downtown Portland and visited Powell’s City of Books, the largest new and used independent bookstore in the world.  I could have spent all day in there!  We followed up our intellectual pursuits with a trip to VooDoo Doughnuts for some of the most delectable delights ever sampled- I highly recommend the Memphis Mafia.  A visit to Portland wouldn’t be complete without a beer tour – so we stopped in at Widmer Bros. Brewery for lunch followed by a tour and tasting. LCoD: Original VooDoo Doughnut (complete with pretzel stake through the raspberry jelly filled heart)

Eugene, Oregon: Visited the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) to see Hayward Field.  For runner-geeks this is a pretty big deal – and just last week the US Track & Field Olympic Trials were held here.  This was both good and bad for our visit – good because that’s really cool to see the track where our Olympians just ran, bad because they were in the process of taking down the extra 10,000 seats and had the sidewalks blocked off and security routing pedestrians away from the field.  We did make our way to the warm-up track and a pretty decent view.  For lunch we visited the Eugene Saturday Market – a farmer’s market, craft show, food truck rodeo all in one.  And it happens every weekend!  This was definitely a place to get a feel for the local flavor. LCoD: Local blueberries

Crescent City, California: Redwoods!  Really, really big trees!  Pictures can not possibly do it justice!  Our drive along the Avenue of the Giants was so beautiful and awe inspiring.  We also took a short hike through the groves and had a close up look at these wonders.

Sonoma/Napa, California:  Learned about the history of Sonoma and the Spanish/Mexican/US influence in this area during the 1800’s.  Sampled some delicious cheese, bread, and pastries.   Then we decided to do a “tour & tasting” that was kid centered.  Jelly Belly Factory!  The self-guided tour was interesting – but a bit of a bummer as the production floor is on hiatus for the month of July – and the tasting bar was fantastic (Tabasco? Skunk Spray? Draft Beer?).  LCoD: Sonoma Cheese Factory

San Francisco, California: Arrived late in the day and checked into a hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf.  Glad to be ending this week in a hotel!  Took a walk to the wharf and had a seafood dinner and did some souvenir shopping to end the day.  LCoD: Clam Chowder Sourdough Bread Bowls at Sabella & LaTorre

Week 4: This week was bookended by big city living.  We started in San Francisco and ended in Las Vegas – with a stop at one of the most beautiful National Parks, Yosemite.   The end of this week also means we say goodbye to Nana & Papa, but hello to Nana (the former is pronounce Nah-Nuh which rhymes with Donna, which also happens to be her name so that’s helpful, the later is Na-Nuh like the dog in Peter Pan.  The same spelling/different pronunciation has never once confused our children).  We are looking forward to leaving Las Vegas as Week 5 promises not one, not two, but FOUR National Parks.   Ready to leave glitz and glitter for the awe and wonder of the natural world.  I will however really, really miss the King sized bed and hot showers.

My week 4 major take-away?  Some roads are better than others.  I loved driving the 7+ hours across Wyoming. The hour on highway 168 cutting across from Yosemite to Nevada was a unique kind of torture.  Highlights below!

San Francisco, CA: Our visit to Alcatraz was amazing!  Another Jr. Park Ranger badge was awarded and the cell-block audio tour was so interesting.  All ages enjoyed this visit.  I was so happy we were able to meet my dear, beloved, old friend and her delightful children for lunch at Pier 39!  Our afternoon was spent browsing Ghirardelli Square and enjoying the free samples of chocolate.  In the evening we tackled the hills to Lombard Street and climbed all the steps up, and then back down again!  LCoD: Boudin Bakery & Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe

In the morning we hopped on the cable car – the girls stood on the running boards and loved the climbs up the hills.  We wandered around Union Square and Chinatown picking up souvenirs.  Our final stop was the San Francisco Maritime Park where another Jr. Ranger badge was awarded and we learned about the history of Fisherman’s Wharf.  LCoD: Breakfast at EightAM

Monterey, CA: Woke up in Monterey to the sounds of sea lions barking on the docks at the marina next to the RV Park.  We enjoyed watching them and the otters, too!  Toes were dipped in the Pacific Ocean!  Visited Cannery Row to shop and Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch – each restaurant was offering samples of their clam chowder so of course we tried them all!  LCoD: So many varieties of clam chowder!

Yosemite, CA: The majesty of this National Park defies description.  Awoke in the valley to the most amazing views.  At the visitor center we learned about the park history.  A highlight was the Native American Museum where Ben, an interpreter, taught us about the uses of obsidian in the native culture and also played amazing musical instruments.  We could have listened all day, but the trails were calling so we headed to the Lower Falls hike where we saw birds, baby ducks, two fawns and a doe, and ground squirrels (our new favorite since Yellowstone).  The falls were incredible!  We rock scrambled at the foot of the falls – although the water was icy it felt great in the 98 degree heat.  We returned to the Visitor Center so that all the girls could get their Jr. Ranger badges.  They also signed the Jr. Ranger Log Book – joining hundreds of kids that have become Jr. Rangers at the park over the years. A long, winding, treacherous drive through the park was rewarded with a stop at the lake.

Beatty, NV: Our journey to Las Vegas, was a long one so we stopped over at the Motel 6 in Beatty.  This tiny town of 3,000 was about 2 hours from Vegas and a good place to catch rest, a shower, and take care of laundry.  While there we drove 5 miles to Rhyolite, NV a real-life ghost-town.  In the early 1900’s gold was discovered and the boom town of Rhyolite sprouted in the middle of the desert.  At one time there were more than 5,000 residents, a 3 story bank, a railroad depot, a school for 250 students, and a dance hall.  In less than 10 years the town was a bust and the last business left town just 15 years after it was settled.  All that remains are shells of the buildings.  It was hot, desolate and eerie.  LCoD: Beef Jerky

Las Vegas, NV:  Took the long route to the Vegas Strip through the old town and glimpsed Fremont Street and lots of wedding chapels.   We had an amazing 2-room suite at the MGM Grand, thanks to some sweet talking by Nana, and it was glorious!  I spun around with my arms out chanting “I’m not touching anyone”.  After constantly bumping into each other in Big Bob this feels like paradise.  Had dinner at the hotel and then crashed for the night to watch Ocean’s Eleven and get in a Vegas mood.  LCoD: Pub 1842

Woke up and tried a quick run on the strip – which was painful in 91 degree heat at 7:30 in the morning.  We followed that torture with some well deserved pool time.  Nana’s flight arrived and after lunch visited casinos – Excalibur, Luxor & Mandalay Bay.  Met up with Nana & Papa for dinner at the Bellagio.   After dinner we caught the Atlantis show at Caesar’s Palace and then split up.  Older girls and I walked to Bellagio to see the dancing fountains (we stayed for two shows) and then made the long, hot walk back to MGM.  LCoD: Bellagio Buffet

Our final day in Las Vegas we struck out early in an attempt to beat the heat.  Ha!  Should have known better.  Had breakfast at a little cafe at the Venetian and then enjoyed the Siegfried & Roy Secret Garden at the Mirage.  The dolphins were really cool and the white tiger was amazing.  We returned to the Venetian to walk around and grab lunch.  Headed to the LINQ where we split up again, some returning to the hotel and the others going on the High Roller.  We had our own private car and loved the view of Vegas (and had a dance party, too!)   After a walk through the Flamingo, and a stop to see the flamingos, we took the monorail back for an afternoon rest and pool time.  Met up with Nana & Papa again for dinner, checked out the memorabilia at the Hard Rock Las Vegas, and shopped.  Some of us made the trek back to Bellagio to see the fountains – again two shows!   LCoD: Fat Tuesday’s

Week 5:  This week was all about the natural wonders of the American Southwest.  We endured the desert heat in order to see beautiful vistas, hike scenic trails, and cool off in waterfalls.  My favorite was the discovery of the incredible “Harvey Houses” built across the landscape by Fred Harvey, a pioneer of tourism for the Santa Fe Railroad.  He changed the accessibility of the land by developing “luxury” accommodations for travelers – utilizing female architect Mary Coulter and employing (and therefore empowering) women in his establishments during the beginning of the 20th century.  Yes, books were purchased and Coulter buildings visited. The final count this week was 5 National Parks in 6 days!

My Week 5 major take-away?  Extended travel goes surprisingly fast, and sadly it all begins to blur.  Luckily we’re journaling and keeping memorabilia.  Here is the best of the West!

Zion National Park, Utah:  We drove from Las Vegas to Zion and arrived early afternoon.  After checking in to the Watchman Campground we took the shuttle to the Zion Lodge and hiked to the lower falls.  After dipping our toes in the Virgin River we toured the park stopping at Big Bend and the Patriarchs.  That evening we attended a phenomenal Park Ranger Program with Ranger Taylor – he sang “Weird Al” style re-mixes of classic rock songs with lyrics about the park.  It was entertaining, informative, and promoted audience participation.  I admit, I teared up when he closed with “This Land Is Your Land” and had the entire audience singing along.   We awoke in Zion – a park with no showers – and took a swim in the Virgin River to make up for it.  It was freezing, but an incredible experience.  What a way to wake up!  LCoD: Backerei Forscher (an authentic German bakery in the middle of Utah?!?! – what a find – everything was delicious!)

Bryce Canyon, Utah: Our early afternoon arrival was timed just right to catch the Rainbow Point tour – which was unfortunately in a brutally hot bus.  We did get to see many of the highlights of the park – hoodoos, natural bridge, the grand staircase.  Some of us hiked Navajo Loop, the rest returned to Ruby’s Inn Campground for dinner and swimming before a family game of scattergories.  Park hopping is exhausting!  LCoD: Shiner Prickly Pear Pilsner

Grand Canyon, Arizona: The drive to the Grand Canyon was simply beautiful.  It was incredible to travel down the Grand Staircase and see the cliffs of different colors.  Our first view of the canyon was absolutely breathtaking – especially to those of us not comfortable with heights!  We checked into Trailer Village and went to see the park movie at the Visitors Center.  After a short shuttle ride to Bright Angel Lodge we enjoyed a stroll on the South Rim and learned about Mary Coulter and her work with Fred Harvey to construct lodging and dining locations to entice visitors to the southwest.  To round out our trip we took the shuttle to Hermit’s Rest for more astounding views.  Several of us returned to the campsite, while the rest of us hiked the South Rim for a mile or so to see the sunset.  We barely made it back to the Visitor’s Center in time, but thanks to Ranger Chuck we got our Jr. Ranger badges.  A quick shopping trip and walk in the dark back to the campsite ended our day. LCoD: Bright Angel Lodge Restaurant

Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park, Arizona: This stop was one I recall fondly from my family trip 30 years ago – so I wanted to make sure we took a little time to see it.   It was unbelievably hot so we took a short hike past the Giant Logs.  We also visited the ancient Puerco Pueblo – a 650 year old “apartment” complex – where you can still see the outlines of the rooms and petroglyphs in the rocks.  The Painted Desert Inn, a Harvey establishment, was restored and felt like stepping into the past.  We really enjoyed the vistas of the Painted Desert. Unfortunately we spent two hours stuck in a traffic jam so our plans for Santa Fe were put off a bit, but we did enjoy dinner in Albuquerque on the way.  LCoD: Mariscos Altamar, Albuquerque

Santa Fe, New Mexico: We found local culture at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, picking up pastries for breakfast, crusty artisan bread for dinner, peaches, cherries and cheese!  It was a fun & festive start to our day.  Then we headed to the tourist area, The Plaza.  We walked through the streets, browsed souvenir shops and visited the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.  The cathedral was remarkably beautiful, especially the chapel and stations of the cross.  LCoD: Old Windmill Dairy White Chocolate Chevre Lemon Lavender

Roswell, New Mexico: This was a quick stop on the way to Carlsbad Caverns.  The most harrowing drive yet – not for the terrain, but because we passed Vaughn, NM with almost 1/2 a tank of gas and didn’t realize it was more than 90 miles to Roswell with NO gas in-between.  When the gas light went on with 48 miles to go we were sure that running out of gas in the desert with no cell reception was inevitable.  By some miracle we rolled into Roswell an hour later and yes, I literally cried.  Once we recovered from that scare we spent about an hour diversion at the International UFO Museum and Research Center.  This “museum” was fun and worth the stop for the kitch factor.  All across Roswell there are little green men outside shops and restaurants.  They definitely play it up!

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico: Our 5th National Park, this was one stop we’d all been looking forward to.  We started our journey with an exploration of the Natural Entrance to the cave.  It was a stunning mile long walk with more than a dozen switchbacks deep under the earth. The additional mile walk of the Big Room was indescribable.  There is no way to do this natural wonder justice, and photos don’t suffice either.  It was remarkable.  We took a break during the day for some shopping and dinner.  Then we returned to the park for the Bat Flight – at 7:30 the Park Ranger shared information about the colony of 400,000 Brazilian Free-tailed bats that summer at Carlsbad.  About 8pm the bats came out – for almost an hour we sat transfixed as they swarmed out of the cave to hunt for the night.   It was so remarkable that we roused ourselves at 4:15 the following morning to make it back to the park by 5:30 to see the bats come home before sunrise.  If we thought the night flight was amazing, we were blown away by the morning flight. LCoD: Hatch Green Chili Wine

San Antonio, Texas: We made it to Texas!  We explored the Riverwalk and took a scenic cruise to learn a little about the area.  A visit to San Antonio isn’t complete without a pilgrimage to The Alamo. We gained a much more in-depth picture of the building’s history and it’s importance in Texas history.  Lots of enjoyable shopping  and a chance to take in some of the culture rounded out our visit.   LCoD: Maria Mia’s

Week 6: Our journey continued to the American South -from Bourbon to Beale to Broadway – we made sure to savor the culture, food, and music that are unique to this region.  This week was all about cities and strangely this portion of the trip included the most visits to final resting places of the famous, and infamous.  It also was the hottest portion of the trip – with heat indexes above 110 degrees for many of the days.  This puts quite a damper on sightseeing, but we pushed through the misery (and yes, we were miserable) and made sure to enjoy our time in these remarkable cities.

My week 6 major take-away? Every city has it’s own unique “feel” and it is much easier to navigate urban areas than we expected! I also learned I love  good mid-size city, when I look back over the trip these are some of my favorite spots.

New Orleans, Louisiana: We began our discovery of the Big Easy with a walking tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.  It was so incredibly cool!  Learning all about the history of this unique cemetery was a highlight.   We grabbed lunch at Cafe Beignet in the French Quarter and then hopped on the street car to visit the Garden District.  After a walk through Lafayette Cemetery, past the Manning house, and Anne Rice’s former residence we returned to the French Quarter where we ducked into a Starbucks for a cooling drink and luckily were safe, cool, and dry when a violent thunderstorm hit – which we found out later had a small tornado associated with it that struck the Treme district.  Once the rain let up it was off to the French Market for shopping, dinner at Belle’s Diner, dessert from Cafe du Monde, a walk past Jackson Square and down Bourbon Street.  LCoD: Beignets!

Outside New Orleans we visited the famed River Road, which still contains plantation homes from the 1800’s.  We toured Laura Plantation, a Creole sugar cane plantation owned by the same family from 1805-1891.  We learned a lot about the lives of the people that lived here.

Memphis, Tennessee : The King!  Our first dog was named Elvis and we own a large Velvet Elvis painting so it is no surprise that a trip to Graceland was definitely going to happen on this trip.  We took the mansion tour and paid our respects at his grave.  It was monumental for the adults and informative for the kids – they really liked the Jungle Room.  In early June we were lucky enough to gain a new cousin-in-law who, it turns out, went to college in Memphis.  His recommendation for Memphis BBQ was spot-on!  After a quick drive past Sun Records and Beale Street we crossed the river to Arkansas for gas (and to say we visited Arkansas).   LCoD: Central BBQ

Nashville, Tennessee: We drove past the Grand Ole Opry, but skipped the tour in favor of The Hermitage, home of the 7th President Andrew Jackson.  It was our 3rd historic house tour in 3 days – but they were all so different!  The Hermitage had a great audio tour with “Rachel’s Tour” which gave more information on the life of Jackson’s wife and the other women on the plantation.  Afternoon shopping on Broadway resulted in several new pairs of cowboy boots and we enjoyed hearing the music pouring out of the Honky Tonks – even on a Sunday afternoon.  As a transplanted local, Cousin Jackie showed us the great 12-South neighborhood for dinner, dessert, and local brews!  LCoD: Goo Goo Clusters

Louisville, Kentucky: Our first stop was Churchill Downs where we had a tour of the site, and spent lots of time in the museum.  It was definitely one of our favorite places of the entire trip – you could feel the history and the interactive exhibits made the learning really fun!  We also enjoyed one of the best meals of the entire trip at the Troll Under the Bridge Pub – in the basement of the block where the historic Whiskey Row was originally located.  We took in a ballgame at Louisville Slugger Field.  Unfortunately the Louisville Bats lost this one, but we enjoyed the night at the park all the same.  LCoD: Kentucky Hot Brown

In the morning we visited Cave Hill Cemetery to see the graves of famed boxer Muhammad Ali, founder of Louisville George Rogers Clark, and Kentucky Friend Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders.  Of course, we had to have fried chicken for lunch!  We returned to downtown Louisville for the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience – where we learned about the history of distilling, Evan Williams the man, the bourbon making process, and the revitalization of distilling since prohibition.  Oh, and we sampled, too!  After a walk down the Louisville Slugger Walk of Fame we returned to the Indiana side of the river for ice cream and a great view of Louisville.   An early night, after a trip to the pool, so that we could catch some more of the Olympics!  LCoD: JoElla’s Hot Chicken, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mint Julep

Cleveland, Ohio: Our drive home from Louisville was more than 10 hours so we decided to get a very early start and then break it up with a visit to Cleveland.  We got in about 2:15 and headed straight for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We planned for a couple hours, spent 4, and could have stayed for at least 2 more!  This place was an endless mix of memorabilia, history, and music.  We listened, learned, and paid homage to some of the greatest musicians ever.  It was also a great way to end the trip – as so much of our journey, from Seattle grunge, to San Francisco Folk, to Elvis and Johnny Cash at Sun Studios, was present here.  We took time to listen to “This Land Is Your Land” and enjoyed good memories of Ranger Taylor at Zion.  After dinner we returned to the waterfront and witnessed the most incredible sunset of our entire trip!  It was the perfect end to more than 6 weeks of travel.

PBP Note: This post was originally published in real time as we traveled the US in the summer of 2016. It has been reorganized in chronological order for easier reading.  Hopefully it will inspire you to plan your own family road trip!