The US National Park System has 417 official units throughout the country including 59 National Parks, 87 National Monuments, 19 National Preserves, 51 National Historic Parks, 78 National Historic Sites, 4 National Battlefield Parks, 9 National Military Parks, 9 National Battlefields, 30 National Memorials and a number of other National sites including National Rivers, National Seashores, National Lakeshores, National Parkways and National Trails.
Officially, the National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.
The NPS is a great blessing to the citizens of this country and all others that may visit. They have some amazing offerings and a road trip that passes by these is not a worthy roadtrip. These sites are the gems of our country!
Though I have visited all 50 states in the US, I have not been able to get to many of the sites. Of the 59 National Parks, for instance, I have only visited 28 of them and some of those were way before my travel blogging and photography days. Of all of the others, I have been to 77 of the nearly 350 sites. So, I still have a long way to go.
That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to many of the National Parks, Monuments and other NPS sites. My personal favorites are Glacier National Park (Montana), Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) and Yellowstone National Park (WY) — OK…I love the mountains!!
Following are some photos of some of the other NPS Sites that I have visited over the years. More are sure to come soon!! (In fact, just this past weekend — Easter weekend 2017 — I drove the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and got photos of the Easter Sunrise!!)
One cannot travel any road in America or Canada without running into some sort of historical site, monument or building. That is part of the fun of a back road adventure. Our country of 2017 is defined in great part by the history of the country dating back to the 1600s (and earlier if you count the Native Americans).
Dotting the roads of America are historical markers that tell about events that occurred in that exact location or nearby. There are literally 1000s of these. In the eastern US many of them are about Civil War incidents while in the west many are related to Indian Wars, Lewis and Clark or pioneers. They are often interesting to stop and read. As a History/Geography major in college, I have found these to be a sort of “roadside wikipedia.”
When traveling through the heart of the country, one can come across a myriad of monuments and historical sites dedicated to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark…better known as just Lewis Clark. From May 1804 to September 1806, these two, accompanied by 29 or 30 others, in what was named by then President Thomas Jefferson as the “Corps of Discovery.” They left Camp Dubois (near St. Louis) and ventured westward to the Pacific Coast. In my travels I have come across dozens of monuments, plaques, museums and other places all dedicated to or referencing this amazing expedition. Their pioneer spirit has always amazed me.
Of course, after them went the pioneers. There were those who followed the Oregon Trail. Others, chiefly the Mormons, forged their own trail, now called the Mormon trail. In the south there was the famed Santa Fe Trail. Then, along the way there were other smaller, lesser known trails, such as the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, and others. Travel the roads that follow these trails and an abundance of unique history can be seen. As a member of the LDS Church (Mormon) I have been able to visit many church historical sites.
Across a good portion of the southeast and all the way into Ohio and Pennsylvania, one will come across a plethora of Civil War related monuments, historical sites and otherwise. Many sites have annual Civil War reenactments.
The big parks such as Vicksburg and Gettysburg are huge and have a ton of history. But there are smaller ones, such as Perryville Battlefield in Kentucky that are unique in their historic perspective.
In the far eastern parts of the United States one comes across places like the Jamestown Settlement and Williamsburg. There are many others.
For fun, many cities have the “Birthplace of …” signs when you enter their small towns. These could be famous actors, historical figures or athletes. Typically there are monuments or statues. I have come across many of these. They are always a fun little side adventure.
I have come across many of these over the years. Its always fun to “discover” the birthplaces. (Ironically, Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, NY…not the same as Jamestown, VA which I posted above.) Some of the “birthplaces” are a bit on the corny side.
Then, of course, there are the historical buildings. Hundreds of unique courthouses and their fascinating architecture can be seen in diverse little towns and counties. There are old churches large and small. And many long forgotten dilapidated old buildings. All of them tell some sort of story about the place.
I have visited dozens of courthouses around the country. I love the old architecture. I have some favorites. Some are more interesting than others. I have added a few below.
Finally, there are the many “oddball” or “quirky” historical sites and objects. One never knows what they will run into in a small town. A quaint historical museum? An oddball monument? A unique cemetery?
I have had fun discovering historical sites, quirky museums and other fun stuff. Here are a few below.
This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them. You can see Part 1 here.
During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.
The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more. This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world. She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)
The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other. It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.
Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998. This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe. Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed. At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France. Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris. Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)
We took three trips to the east during 1998. The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility. While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail. Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us. In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.
From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit). It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.
So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.). This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off. But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents. It was pretty “in-tents”!!
We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one. However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.
We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……
Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip. But, it was not the last trip east. A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa. Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background. Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.
Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!
In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University. While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia. We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…
A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff. In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky. I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.
During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio. Giant picnic basket!
The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us. Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips. We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.
On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum. We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.
Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!
Travel continued that year with a couple more trips. Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites. Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.
In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana. This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory. The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.
From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument. This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.
Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites. Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.
From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy. Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln). We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.
There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.
On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum. This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).
On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds. When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…
The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan. Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved. Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.
In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents. It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.
With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things. Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.
Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).
We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005. I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters. By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings. In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.
After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana. This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way. Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!! We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)
Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously. It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.
Roadside guidance provided by……
Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days. We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province. We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well. We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well. But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun. Here are a few of the better shots. So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!! Many memories were made…
Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN. The second day was another doozy….
We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest. The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…
The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004). We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….
After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.
After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways. We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area. After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest. We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip… then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.
And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz. The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!