Cross-Country Road Trip – Adventures

State Signs

State signs I took photos of during our six-day road trip across 14 states! (The sign for Washington is missing since it was our starting point.)

August 19 – 24, 2012

Day 1 (Seattle, WA to Butte, MT) First day of the cross-country road trip. Stopped at…

  • Pioneer Coffee Roasting for a quick coffee and hot cocoa (Cle Elum, WA)
  • Wild Stallion Sculptures — metal silhouettes of wild horses in stampede formation on a ridge top (Vantage, WA)
  • Wolffy’s Diner for lunch (Spokane, WA)
  • Benwah Milk Bottle — world’s largest milk bottle (Spokane, WA)
  • Elmer’s Fountain — named for man who built it out of old mining equipment (Mullan, ID)
  • Finlen Hotel for sleep. The hotel is listed in the national register of historic places. (Butte, MT)

Day 2 (Butte, MT to Rapid City, SD) Montana is the Pennsylvania of the west … looooong. Stopped at…

  • Continental Divide – a quick stop, it was very tricky to see because the signage appeared on the opposite side of the road. (Butte, MT)
  • Wheat Montana Bakery for coffee and hot cocoa. This place has incredible fresh baked goods — their cinnamon rolls are so big they cut them into four smaller pieces. The people are very down-home. (Three Forks, MT)
  • Staggering Ox for lunch. Fun place. The sandwiches were tasty and the bread was in the shape of a cylinder can. (Billings, MT)
  • The Battle of the Little Bighorn formerly Custer’s Last Stand. It was renamed in honor of the fact that it’s a memorial for not only the white man, but also the Indians who perished. (Big Horn County, MT)
  • Innocently driving along and BAM! A bird hits Melissa’s window. We’re not sure where it went, but we think it didn’t make it. RIP birdie. (MT)
  • We’re in Wyoming and like a scene out of a movie all of a sudden a real cowboy comes down a hill on his galloping horse towards the cattle grazing below. A very cool site! (WY)
  • Humphrey’s Bar & Grill for dinner. Very gimmicky — wouldn’t return. (Gillette, WY)
  • Grand Gateway Hotel for sleep. (Rapid City, SD)

Day 3 (Rapid City, SD to Albert Lea, MN) Stopped at …

  • Black Hills Bagels for morning caffeine ritual. (Rapid City, SD)
  • Mount Rushmore – beautiful grounds and massive mountains, but the President’s faces looked like masks glued to the mountain due to the contrast in color. Met a very sweet old guy named Nick Clifford who was in the store signing copies of his book ‘Mount Rushmore Q&A’. Nick worked as one of the stone carvers on the mountain from 1938 through 1940. It was an honor to meet him. I bought a copy of his book that he signed for me. (Keystone, SD)
  • Badlands National Park — it’s more than 244,000 acres! While exploring the park we saw antelope, prairie dogs, a bison and a bighorn sheep – none of which I had ever seen before in natural surroundings! Taking pictures of the landscape was challenging because the size and depth didn’t translate. (Interior, SD)
  • 1880 Town – uick stop. They had a cool 1950s Santa Fe Train that was converted into a diner that you can eat at (we arrived after it closed), movie props and a skeleton man with an ax in hand walking a dinosaur that attracts many visitors. (Murdo, SD)
  • Prairie Pizza for lunch/dinner. This was an unplanned gem of a find tucked in a super small town. The pizza is made from scratch and deeeeelicious. (Murdo, SD)
  • The Corn Palace is a building that’s front and side are murals that are completely made out of corn as a tribute to the agricultural heritage of South Dakota. It’s wild! Each year there is a new theme and the old murals are taken down and replaced with new ones by local artists. The theme during our visit was youth activities. (Mitchell, SD)
  • Americas Best Value Inn for much-needed sleep. (Albert Lea, MN)

Day 4 (Albert Lea, MN to Galesburg, IL) This was a lighter day. Stopped at…

  • Spam Museum — This visit was more fun than I expected It included a mix of history on Spam and Hormel, entertainment, and interactive games. Melissa did the Spam production line challenge. She completed assembling six cans of Spam in less than a minute! My favorite part was the Spam radio station. (Austin, MN)
  • Coffee House on Main — a super quick stop before our drive to Iowa. (Austin, MN)
  • National Czech & Slovak Museum (and Library) for the ‘Alphonse Mucha: Inspirations of Art Nouveau’ exhibit featuring works direct from the Mucha Foundation in Prague and London. This is the only time his complete exhibit will be in the U.S., which is a main reason why Melissa was looking forward to this stop. She’s an Art History grad student and wrote a paper on Mucha’s Historiography last year. (Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • Dublin City Pub for lunch/dinner. (Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • Country Inn & Suites for sleep. We were very excited to arrive at a hotel while it was still light out! (Galesburg, IL)

Day 5 (Galesburg, IL to Cambridge, OH) We are wearing out! Stopped at…

  • Eysal’s for caffeine. BEST frap drink I have ever had – made from scratch with Kahlua. (East Peoria, IL)
  • We reached the Eastern Time Zone. It was very cool to pass through all four time zones via automobile. Our cell phone clocks changed instantly each time. My body is completely off – between flying from Dulles to San Fran, Seattle and then the drive back to the East Coast my brain is like what day and time is it?!
  • Pit stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to check out the track and museum. We arrived an hour before closing, so we did a speed tour of the grounds and facility. The track is huge. I could only fit a tiny section of it in a photo. (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Dawson’s on Main for lunch/dinner. (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Topiary Park is seven-acres and located in Old Deaf School Park with a historic past dating back to the early 19th century. It’s a topiary interpretation of Georges Seurat’s famous Post-Impressionist painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte’. Due to traffic we arrived at night. Unfortunately, the photos I took didn’t run out well. (Columbus, OH)
  • Baymont Inn … sleepy time. (Cambridge, OH)

Tomorrow is the last leg of our cross-country adventure. It seems to have gone by very quickly!

Day 6 (Cambridge, OH to Manassas, VA) Stopped at …

  • Starbucks because there weren’t any non-chain coffee shops nearby. (Cambridge, OH)
  • Fallingwater, a National Historic Landmark, is a home built over a waterfall by Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1930s for the Kaufmann family. The grounds and home are beautiful. The water areas were very low due to the hot and dry summer weather. (Mill Run, PA)
  • D’Atri Restaurant for lunch/dinner. (LaVale, MD)
  • Pin Oak Fountain, blink and you will miss this roadside site. Built in 1932, the crystal quartz and stone used to build it are from local sources. The fountain’s spring water is gravity fed from the hill above and continues to supply area residents. (Paw Paw, WVA)
  • The World’s Largest Apple, there are actually two versions in the area … one on the front lawn of a local retail store called Kimberly’s (bizarro!) and a decorated version at the entrance of White House Foods. (Winchester, VA)
  • Home for sleep in my own bed!

Pre Road Trip Adventures

Before embarking on my road trip from Seattle to Northern Virginia I visited San Francisco, Big Sur, and Seattle for a few days…

Day 1 (San Francisco, CA) Packed A LOT in today. I had some wild encounters with some great people…

  • Helped a couple from Italy who I met in the rental parking lot learn the mechanisms of driving a Mustang.
  • A music fanatic — I made a quick stop at a local record store called Aquarius Records, an independent record store and the oldest record store in San Francisco. It’s known for carrying an obscure selection of psychedelia, metal, and world music — I bought a few cool CDs to expand my music horizons.
  • Woman on a mission, I headed to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” at the de Young Museum — I met two older women while waiting in line for more than an hour to get inside the parking garage. We walked to the museum together and then parted ways at the entrance. Next thing I know one of them comes up to me at the counter and says, “I bought your ticket dear come with us.” They turned out to be museum members. They took me in the VIP entrance with no wait!
  • Arrived at Post Ranch Inn and was greeted with a glass of chilled wine!

Day 2 (Big Sur, CA) Today was all about relaxation. I had a blast playing inside and outside of my tree house. I didn’t care what the highbrow guests thought of me. After breakfast I went on a long hike and came across wild turkey and deer. I got an in-room massage that was a true indulgence. After dinner (the best overall meal I had in my life) I wandered around and explored the property one last time.

Day 3 (CA to WA) Today was all about travel. I enjoyed one last hike at Post Ranch. I drove my rental car 2.75 hours from Big Sur back to San Fran…stopping a few times along the way to take more pictures of the beautiful coastline. I got on a plane for Seattle and was greeted at the airport by my friend Melissa who drove me to her home located in the Magnolia neighborhood. We walked to a local pub for a drink and to catch up.

Day 4 (Seattle, WA) Today was all about soaking up Seattle culture. Melissa and I hopped on a bus at a stop 20 feet from her home. Love the convenience!

  • Started the morning at the first Starbucks located in Pike Place and then explored all the vendors in the marketplace.
  • Went to the famous gum wall — cool yet GROSS!
  • Stopped for breakfast at Forte to fuel up.
  • Went to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). I had VIP access thanks to Melissa being a volunteer for the museum. Next we stopped for a quick sweet treat at Top Pot Doughnuts.
  • Went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term exhibit of spectacular, vivid and MASSIVE glass sculptures.
  • Walked next door to the Space Needle. The views were amazing, but it was hooooot. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Needle. The top is currently painted “Galaxy Orange” in honor of the original color of the top. It will only be this color for a limited time and then it will be painted white again.
  • Walked to the Olympic Sculpture Park (OSP) to view the ‘Encounter of Waters’ exhibit. This was a very special experience for me because Melissa was part of the team that painted the art installation. I was super PROUD to have the opportunity to see the sections she painted.
  • Exhausted, we headed back to her home, but made one more stop for a photo op she swore I would enjoy … she was correct! A neighborhood gem called Ella Bailey Park revealed incredible views of downtown Seattle and faint views of Mount Rainier.

Day 5 (Seattle, WA) Today was all about taking in a few last Seattle spots. The area reminds me a lot of Vancouver. The people here are very kind and chill – whenever I was off-course walking around, someone would enthusiastically help me navigate.

  • Ate breakfast in Ballard at Hattie’s Hat — there is a strong Swedish influence in the design and menu from the maritime hay days.
  • Made a quick stop to see the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge. The large troll is made from rebar steel and two tons of ferroconcrete with a sand base on the ground. He is gripping a VW in his left hand (I’m not sure why). You can climb the giant troll, which is fun. Unfortunately, some people have defaced him. Historically, trolls are part of Scandinavian folklore. The Fremont Troll was inspired by the folk tale ‘Billy Goat’s Gruff’.
  • Walked around Pioneer Square, Seattle’s original downtown, dating back to 1852. I got some nice pics of the “century-old pergola” (a pergola is an archway in a park consisting of a framework covered with trained climbing or trailing plants – thanks Google).
  • Went on the Bill Speidel Underground Tour – a 75-minute guided walking tour beneath Seattle’s sidewalks and streets. It was very informative, loaded with local history and the guides were entertaining. The tour began inside Doc Maynard’s Public House, a restored 1890s saloon, covered more than three blocks and ended in Rogues Gallery.
  • Took a bus to Fremont and had dinner at revel with Melissa and her husband. The food was “Urban-style Korean comfort food”.
  • Went on a 45-minute walk back to Melissa’s house — it was fun checking out the neighborhoods along the way and the exercise was a bonus. The homes throughout Seattle are cool because they are a mix of all different styles of architecture.

Next, the road trip portion of the adventure …

Cross-Country Road Trip


“Come along and ride on a fantastic voyage…” Follow me on a 12-day journey that begins in San Fran, goes to a tree house in Big Sur, then Seattle to meet up with my friend Melissa for a cross-country road trip back to Va. The adventure begins at the BCD tomorrow…