What happens when a Miami family of five spends 46 summer days, 12,000 miles and 33 states on the road driving through America together? They become geography experts and blog about their adventures on their creative parenting web site PapiBlogger.com.
Just days after completing the epic road trip with his wife Angela and kids Briani (1), Elena (6) and Jonathan (10), Miami-based parenting blogger Manny Ruiz has released his “Best of PapiBlogger Family Road Trip” report. The report spotlights many of the best, biggest and most entertaining things the family blogged about during their cross-country journey on their Chevrolet Traverse (the “PapiMobile”).
Best Scenic Drive
The Wyoming to South Dakota leg of the trip was both surprising and dazzling, especially because at one stretch just off the road we drove the PapiMobile (aka Chevrolet Traverse) alongside a major stampede of horses. The second most scenic drive was the day we went from Seaside, Oregon to Mount St. Helens and then Seattle.
Most Touching Moment of the Trip
Our family visit to the Ronald McDonald House in Orange County, California really touched our family. After volunteering to help prepare food and hang out with families that are staying at the house because their kids are being treated for grave illnesses, our own children told us they wanted to stay active with the Ronald McDonald House.
Most Unbelievably Cool Moment
Despite flying helicopters over Mount St. Helens and the Grand Canyon and taking a boat ride right near the fury of the Niagara Falls the top votes for best moment of the trip were given to:
- Whale watching in Gloucester, Massachusetts
- Watching “Mary Poppins” in Broadway
- The moment the kids first saw and played with snow in the Timberline Lodge of Mt. Hood, Oregon
Quirkiest Place We Visited
Deadwood, South Dakota. This town looks like the template for every Old West town you see in movies and thrives on the pre-Las Vegas notoriety it’s enjoyed for being the original haven of outlaw gunslingers, thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and every other hell raiser you can dream of.
Best Technology Moment of the Trip
The tech moment of the trip was watching the LeBron James “decision” live on our Sprint Nextel EVO 4G phone. How we saw this announcement so crisply clear on the phone in the midst of Mt. Hood, Oregon was truly stunning and a tribute to the network Sprint provided us to post stories, photos and videos to our blog.
Best Restaurants We Dined At
We estimate we ate more than 140 meals during our road trip. The top three local restaurants we dined at were:
- Santa Fe: Café Pasqual
- Boston: Legal Seafood
- Savannah: The Pirate’s House
Coolest Fast Food Restaurant
With the help of our sponsor, McDonald’s, we created a route that took us through some of the most interesting McDonald’s restaurants in the nation. The category for coolest fast food restaurant we visited is a tie between the original, 1955 McDonald’s that today is a museum and the ultra chic Broadway one that hosted us in New York City.
Best Hotel Stay
We stayed at some fine places nationwide but our complimentary stay at the fabulous Hotel Rio in Las Vegas was the best, most comfortable and most needed one of the trip. It was also the setting for the best family bonding time as we spent a lot of time watching TV and introducing the kids to a new classic favorite show, “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Best Hollywood Movie-set Visit
Visiting the original home and neighborhood where the 80’s classic film “The Goonies” was shot was a major thrill for our family of young movie buffs.
Longest Drive of the Trip
The 13-hour drive from San Francisco to Mount Hood. It actually would have taken us three hours more to get to Mt. Hood so we stopped driving at 1 a.m. that day and completed the last three hours of the 16-hour drive the next day.
Our family could not arrive at an unanimous choice. The adults voted for Oregon and Wyoming because of each state’s outstanding beauty, mountains and hospitality. The kids voted for California and New York. Jonathan and Elena voted for California because of their experience at Disneyland and the Ronald McDonald House and they chose New York because of they were thrilled to see the Broadway play “Mary Poppins” and they visited the Museum of Natural History.
Best National Park/National Monument
Even though we didn’t spend enough time there Yellowstone National Park wins this category. In close second place, especially for the kids who say it’s a tie, is Niagara Falls.
Most Surprisingly Beautiful State
We were stunned to see that Wyoming’s unbelievable beauty extends far outside its share of Yellowstone National Park. In fact, parts of Wyoming are prettier than what you see inside Yellowstone.
Best Haunted City Tour
This was a tough category because we really enjoyed the four top quality haunted tours we took on the trip in St. Augustine, Salem, Boston and Savannah. The adults voted Salem’s Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour as their favorite followed by Savannah’s Scary Ghost Tour, offered by Savannah Movie Tours. The kids voted for Boston’s Ghosts & Gravestones Tour followed by St. Augustine’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not Ghost Train Adventure Tour.
Hottest Place We Visited
Las Vegas was at a scorching 105 F when we stayed there. It was so hot that when dipping into the “coldest” pool of the fabulous Hotel Rio we almost instantly dried up every time we got out of the water.
Coldest Place We Visited
At 47 F Seattle was actually colder than the top of snow-covered Mt. Hood, Oregon where we took the kids to play with snow and watch people ski.
Coolest Roadside Oddity
The accordion-style barn house we found in Tensleep, Wyoming was the oddest sighting we found on the road. The second oddest thing was a potential ghost woman that spooked us walking near Mount Rushmore.
Best Toy for the Trip
The U.S.A. License Plate game by Melissa & Doug. This game helped us teach all of the states and their capitals to the kids. Even Briani loves the game because the game has state license plates that make noise as they snap in place.
Best Road Tripper We Met
Jim Marx, age 61, biked for 65 days and more than 3,600 miles on his way from Seattle to Plymouth, Massachusetts. He did it as a challenge to himself. He gets our award for Road Tripper of the Road Trip.
Biggest Out of Fuel Scare
We nearly ran out of gas five times during our trip but the time we almost ran out of gas in the Mojave Dessert was terrifying because it would have meant waiting for OnStar to help us refuel in 110 F weather.
Most Boring Drive
The drive from South Dakota to Illinois was so torturously boring that all we were able to photograph were bales of hay along the way.
Biggest Tech Gadget We Didn’t Miss
Our iPods. Thanks to our Chevrolet Traverse’s incredible satellite radio we only used one of our iPods for music ONCE.
OTHER ROAD TRIP CURIOSITIES
New Hobbies We Took Up During the Trip
PapiBlogger discovered that he would like to start collecting vintage lunch boxes. Jonathan and Elena took up photography during the trip and Briani discovered how to consistently make cute faces when she smiles for photos.
Times the Road Trip Almost Suffered Postponement
Two times we thought we would need to either postpone or possibly cut short the family road trip. The first time was in Austin, when Briani developed a very bad cough that forced us to take her to a pediatrician. The second time was in Philadelphia when Elena developed a very bad earache and cough, almost prompting us to take her to the.
Percentage of the Time PapiBlogger Actually Drove
About 5% of the time. In order for him to faithfully photograph, videotape and write for the blog, PapiBlogger’s wife drove 90% of the time. Her sister Melissa, who joined the family for the Seattle to Buffalo leg of the trip, drove the other 5%.