A Military Move and the "Great American Road-trip"
Time was coming up on my assignment in Tampa Florida. My new wife and my two stepchildren knew it was coming. But where? After many months of waiting for a final decision it was time. Time to head west. With the moving dates set and the movers scheduled to two weeks later in California we set off on a very carefully coordinated "Great American Road-trip".
We sat down one night (several months prior) on RoadTrippers.com and got started with all of the planning. Over the course of several evenings we finally worked out all of our sights along the way. With a family of four it was quite an effort getting everyone to agree on what to do, where to go, and where to stay. Follow along as I take you through our journey across America.
First Stop... Pensacola Florida. Naval Aviation Museum and Fort Barrancas
Our first stop was Fort Barrancas and the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola Naval Air Station. This is the place where the Blue Angels live and train. At the museum you can watch them practice on days that they fly. Unfortunately, they were not flying that day.
For most of this trip we had planned to visit only one site each day. However, we started this day at the Naval Air Museum in Florida and ended it in Mississippi. I had been to the USS Alabama before and thought it was an amazing historic site that was a must visit. They literally let you crawl all over this ship... so awesome!
Another rare event on this trip was a full day of driving. As you can see from the map posted above the only part of the trip we did not plan a stop was on the Mississippi to Texas leg. However, after a long day of driving we discovered (by accident) Gruene, TX. Home to the oldest dance hall in the state. There is a really great historic district and we got some great food at The Historic Gristmill Restaurant.
The Alamo and The Caverns of Sonora
As we continued across Texas we had one more stop which happened to be a gift from my mother and ended up being my wife's favorite stop of the trip. It was the Crystal Cave tour at the Caverns of Sonora.
The kids are reading the rules and preparing to head in. This is a highly protected spot in Texas and vandalism is penalized by a VERY large fine as well as potential jail time. We told the boy to keep his hands in his pockets.
It is hard to capture images that really portray how amazing this cave is. Places like this is the whole reason we bought our Sony A6000. My wife tried to take photos with her phone but none of them turned out. The A6000 was really able to create a good image in the low light but I really needed some long exposures and a tripod to do this place justice. I have been in a lot of caves over the course of my travels and this cave is by far the most amazing.
Back in the truck we jog to the north to visit a last minute addition that I threw onto the trip. This turned out to be hands down the family's favorite site in the whole trip. It was so awesome that despite the over 100 degree weather we stayed the entire day.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
You can purchase snow discs and wax in the visitor center and have a ball sliding down the dunes.
The sand is made of Quartz from nearby mountains and blown in on the wind. The natural shape of the valley causes the quartz sand to deposit in this very specific area. Also, the water table in this area is super high (if you dig down you will start to feel moisture). This and the fact that the sand is Quartz keeps the sand incredibly cool underfoot even though the temps outside were in the 110 - 120 degree range.
It was such an awesome place and the kids had a ton of fun playing in the sand. We took over 700 photos on just this stop and was by far the easiest place to take amazing shots.
We stayed at White Sands from morning until sunset. None of us wanted to leave but we were ill-prepared for the day and really hadn't had a proper meal and with over 100 degree temps we were in need of a good meal and some rest.
Next Stop: The Titan Missile Museum and Montezuma Castle in Arizona
A relic from the Cold War and although scary, nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction kept the world safe during some very tough times.
Montezuma Castle was a small stop but so awesome to see what the ancient Native Americans were able to create to make a seemingly inhospitable land their home.
Time for some R&R... Two nights in Sedona!
Two nights in one place! What will we do with all of our time? Don't worry we had hiking and a Pink Jeep Tour planned. This was the first stop in which we stayed for more than one night so we were stoked to have a day without driving. We checked into our AirBnB then decided on some dinner...
With a Jeep tour scheduled for later on in the afternoon we took a morning hike up to Devil's Bridge.
It was so easy to grab an awesome shot while hiking in Sedona!
You can't call it an American road trip vacation without visiting the Grand Canyon...
The Dam Tour
Similar to the Grand Canyon no American "Go West" trip is complete without a stop at the Hoover Dam.
The history and effort behind the Hoover Dam is amazing. There were many projects across the country that occurred in those days that absolutely boggle the mind. The technology wasn't what it is today and even based on today's standards these were tough projects. I can't help but to think that some of these projects would be impossible today. Either tied up in political red tape, considered too costly, or even potentially too risky. There is some truth to the statement. "They don't make things like they used to".
Viva Las Vegas and the kid's last stop.
It was on the way to Vegas that we hit the 3000 mile mark. We were all pretty tired and and the kids were getting cramped in the back of the F-150. It was time for a couple days in Vegas! This was to be the kids last stop. They had a flight booked for them to visit some relatives for a couple weeks giving us time to get the house cleaned, painted and somewhat unpacked prior to their arrival.
My wife and I have been to Vegas before but the kids have always wanted to see the lights and the excitement for themselves (and eat a giant dessert at Serendipity ). While we were there we also got to see "O" at the Cirque and I think after an evening of walking around they realized that there is more for adults to do in Vegas than there is for kids.
I hope that you have enjoyed following along in our cross country adventure. We are a very active family and always doing something. You can follow me on Instagram (@ksalling53) to keep up with the latest adventures and get a peek the beautiful places we visit.