This is something I came across a few years ago and have thought about it off and on ever since. After coming back from our big trip I began thinking about it again and finally decided to get to it. It’s a big old map printed in a rough home made frame.
As it had been a while since I thought about it I couldn’t find the old bookmark I had made, but found the tutorial online again pretty easily to follow along with. There were a couple adjustments, but followed this pretty close. It really was pretty straight forward to do and I’m so happy with the results. The map came from the site the tutorial suggested, Big Map Blog, and I found a birds eye view of New Orleans from 1885. We spent a week in New Orleans during the trip and it holds a special place in my heart, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
One of the adjustments I made from the tutorial is where I had the image printed. It cost a bit more than what they described but Acadia University has a print shop who has printed some large format images for me in the past and done a good job so I had them print this too. It came out really nice and was only $40 for a 3′ x 2′ colored print.
The other adjustment I made was the wood and finish I added to it. From Home Depot I picked up a couple knotty pine 1″ x 4″ x 8′ boards and cut them to size. The tutorial called for pickets and the only ones I could find when I looked close were pressure treated and seemed heavier than the pine boards. I wanted it to be as light as it could be. For the finish I used a technique my sister let me know about called the baby wipe method. It’s really easy. You put any color toll paint you want to use on a baby wipe and essentially use it to paint the wood. It’s really quick to do, and it dries quick as well. I tested on a piece of the left over wood with a couple of colors but settled on black as it better matched the picture and the other frames in my office.
It’s hardly a complex project, but I’m really happy with how it turned out!
Driving this way it allowed us to accomplish two things we had been wanting to do for a long time. For years we have said that once all the kids were old enough we would take them to Disney. Also for years we’ve wanted to take the kids to New Orleans to show them the city Jen and I were married and spent some of our honeymoon in. So we tied the two together into one long trip. Of course it has the added bonus of being along the coast for a lot of our path where there are amazing beaches which is a highlight for our family.
This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else to help ensure I remember all the highlights and use as a resource later on when I say to myself, what year did we do that?
It still amazes me at how well the whole family travels when we drive as much as we do, or are staying with everyone in a single hotel room. There were of course some moments where people were getting on each others nerves, or someone just needed a little space to themselves, but overall everyone gets along well and it helps make the trip that much more enjoyable.
Similar to last year again we spent some of our vacation just our family and some of it with close friends and family. This year the Fisher family met us for the Florida / Disney part of the trip. We shared a place to stay for the week and did just about everything together. It’s awesome to get to share these experiences and memories with them.
Hampton Beach, NH
Same as last year one of the first stops we made was at Hampton Beach. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to stop there just about every time we pass through. It’s a great beach and everyone loves it.
Madame Tussauds – Washington DC
We stayed for a couple nights at the same AirBnB we’ve stayed at a few times now. Donna is a great host and has a comfortable place that the kids even get excited about when ever we go to stay there. Taught the kids a bit about playing pool even while we were there. As we’ve been to Washington a few times now we wanted to try something different. We’ve never been to a wax museum so went and tried Madame Tussauds. The characters were pretty impressive.
When we were done we still had lots of time so we walked around a bit and found a Rita’s Italian Ice shop which is Caile’s favourite. It was really hot so it was a nice cool treat. We stopped on the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum to eat and then went in and checked out the art for a while as well. We’ve been to a number of the Smithsonian museums but this one was a first for us as well.
For July 4th we were able to get together with a friend and former co-worker Andrea Badgley. It was great to catch up and get to meet her husband and for her to meet the rest of our family. We had an awesome meal and enjoying our time together so much we decided not to go see fireworks and just stayed in and talked more. We did manage to catch a few on the car ride home though.
Discovery Place Science Center – Charlotte, NC
Jen has always wanted to visit Charlotte. I’d been once for a work trip but it was pretty packed so I didn’t get to see much of the city. What I did see was nice though. We took the kids to the Discovery Space Science Center. It’s included as part of our local Discovery Center pass but was a lot of fun.
Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta GA
Years ago when researching a different vacation Alex found the Georgia Aquarium. It has one of the biggest tanks around and they have whale sharks. It was one of the must see things on this trip.
On our way to the aquarium we were caught in a crazy rain, thunder and lightning storm. There was no way to get into the aquarium from the car without getting soaked. We had already bought the tickets and there were for that day, there was no way to change the date so we sat in the car and luckily it wasn’t too long before the rain passed and we were able to get in. We’ve been to a fair number of aquariums now but this one was really nice. It was cool seeing the whale sharks especially.
New Orleans, LA
Up until this point we were only staying one or two nights in an area on our way to New Orleans where we would stay for a week. This was one of the highlight weeks for me that I’ve been looking forward to for almost 15 years to come back to this city. We had a nice little AirBnB type place to ourselves for the week and just a short drive into the city.
We spent time exploring the French Quarter, eating beignets, visited the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, ate beignets, went through the aquarium, took the same paddle wheel river boat tour where Jen and I were married, took a swamp tour, visited city park, and ate beignets 🙂
It was cool to meet up with two co-workers while we were there as well. One day we went out to eat Po’boys with Charlie who used to be on my team and is now on Jen’s team. Then we met up with Pam and her boys. Another perk of working for a distributed company is you get to know people all over the world.
The time we spent there was great but just makes me want to go back again, and not just for the beignets. So much more food to try, we didn’t get to take in any music like I would have liked, and going on the swamp tour again in a different time of year would be on my list as well.
Pensacola Beach, FL
We love beaches, so of course we would have to stop at a Gulf Coast beach on our way. The beach was pretty crowded but we were able to find free parking right beside one of the walk ways to the beach. There was also an air show happening that same day so we were treated to a show. The Blue Angels US flight demonstration team practices there, but this was a full on show. The beach was beautiful and didn’t disappoint.
Florida Natural History Museum – Gainesville, FL
When we left Pensacola we headed towards Orlando and stopped the Florida Natural History Museum in Gainesville, FL to break up the trip. It certainly made a good stop and was also included in our local Discovery Center pass.
Universal Studios – Orlando, FL
This begins our week of theme parks. One of the main reasons we wanted to come here was Harry Potter. The Fisher family are all big Potter fans and Ella is too. It was a jam packed day as the Harry Potter portion spans across two parks and we tried to do them both in one day. It ended up being really busy and hot. There were some issues with power and so some rides weren’t working which caused us to move away from Harry Potter to other areas of the parks.
The Dr. Seuss area was pretty fun. Bright and it turned Noah’s mood around with rides he enjoyed. Earlier we were going to do Escape from Gringotts and went through the whole lineup right until we were to start the ride and it was a bit much for him so we bailed and left. He did throughly enjoy playing with the wand we bought and casting spells to have things happen.
There were a few people who really wanted to ride the Hulk roller coaster so while they waited in line there we played in an arcade for a bit. They ended up waiting 2 hours in line due to long waits and having to close for a while because of weather. It was thunder and lightening off and on throughout the day.
All said Harry Potter was really neat, and the Forbidden Journey Ride was one of the best ones I was on all week, but we didn’t do much else there. There didn’t seem to be any good places to get out of the heat for a bit or any areas where you could just sit and rest. There are likely places where we could have done that, but we didn’t find any. Out of all the parks this was everyone’s least favourite.
SeaWorld – Orlando, FL
After the day at Universal I wasn’t sure I was much of a theme park fan. Luckily SeaWorld helped change my mind. The lineups were much more reasonable which was a huge plus. This allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and try some roller coasters. Thankfully I did because I ended up enjoying them a lot.
We started with the Manta which has you essentially laying on your stomach facing straight down like a Manta Ray would and then sore around. You start out sitting in the seat as normal and get fastened in and then the seat tilts back so your in that position. This was some of the most freakiest parts. Once we started going it was really fun.
We went on the Mako which is advertised as Orlando’s tallest and fastest roller coaster and it was a wild ride. There were so many times where I was coming up right out of my seat as we made like a Mako shark chasing food.
The Kraken was another fun ride. There is a virtual reality option that you can go through the ride while wearing the headset, we didn’t realize you had to book that in advance, but the ride was very fun even without it. If we go back I’d definitely try with the VR though.
We also went on the Antartica Penguin ride which seemed was the first time in weeks that I felt relief from the heat. The employees inside all had winter coats and hats on, all bundled up. I was very comfortable in shorts for our short time in there.
The other great part out SeaWorld were the shows and other sights you could take in if you didn’t want to go on rides. The One Ocean killer whale show was really fun, and the sea lion high school show was funny and entertaining.
We came back that night and took in night show Electric Ocean with the killer whales again, and Ignite a fireworks and light show out on the water which was very well put together.
SeaWorld ended up being a lot of ours favourite park of the week and somethings we’ll do again if we are ever back there as a family.
Cocoa Beach, FL
We broke up our week of theme parks with a trip over to the coast to visit Cocoa Beach. We’ve struggled in the past with finding parking at popular beaches like this, but we must have arrived at a good time and found parking no problem. It was a really nice beach and nice to relax.
We prepared a bit ahead of time and picked up a beach umbrella, at one point I must not have it in the sand well enough as it started to blow away. Caile chased it down though and we managed to get it secure. Alex was able to use her new mermaid tail she bought at SeaWorld at a beach.
Near the end of the day we saw dolphins swim past us which was really cool to see them just swim by like it was totally normal. One of Jen’s highlights was the man walking down the beach with a bird perched on his shoulder. You know, just taking my bird for a walk.
Magic Kingdom – Orlando, FL
This was the day we were all waiting for, Disney! We arrived before the park opened, and we ended up staying all day until after the fireworks and light show on the castle.
Walking into Main Street USA with the iconic castle as a backdrop was a bit surreal. I’m not a die hard Disney fan, but there was something about seeing that castle that I used to see only on TV or in the intro to the Sunday Night Disney Movie was something else.
We were most prepared for this park which I think made it so much nicer. The FastPass system they offer paired with the MagicBands that the Fishers got for us all made so much of the day smooth. We couldn’t book fast passes for the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs mine ride but we rushed right there as soon as the park opened and didn’t have to wait a crazy long time to get on. After that we pretty much cycled through planned fast pass rides and then booked new ones as we went. This meant we never had to wait a real long time for a ride. The Fishers also bought the PhotoPass which meant we were able to all get really cool photos with the photographers at the Disney parks.
Besides the rides we took in some shows which were also really cool. The Monster’s Inc Comedy show was really funny. It was animated but they had live comedians doing the voice and involved the audience as well, really well done. The Main Street Parade was also very cool to see, all the characters going by and amazing floats.
By the time we made it to the end of the day we were all pretty tired, but the fireworks and light show at the castle was well worth the wait, pictures didn’t do it justice.
Animal Kingdom – Orlando, FL
Animal Kingdom was another fun park and as it was Disney the FastPasses helped so much. We did similar to Magic Kingdom where we arrived for opening and rushed to one of the popular rides that we couldn’t fast pass, the Avatar Flight of Passage. This was very cool and probably my top ride of the week. It was a simulation where you ride on the back of a banshee. It felt so real.
The shows we took in at Animal Kingdom were about my favourite thing though. We saw the Lion King show which was a live production as well as a live musical Nemo production. Both so well done. The fact that they were inside where we could sit didn’t hurt matters either 🙂
We tried a few times to get on the Kali River Rapids ride but struggled as it closed due to weather for a bit. Luckily when it opened we could still use our Fast Pass and made it on. The ride description was that you’d get wet, and maybe soaked. For us that was so true. Just as the ride started the rain started pouring on us like from buckets. I tried to dig out ponchos for people to put on but was only able to get one out before it was too late. I couldn’t even open it fully, Noah just held it over his head. We were so wet and it rained so hard we could barely see at points on the ride. It was a lot of fun, though I wasn’t overly sad when I could change out of my wet clothes at the end of the day. For the rest of the day every time I took a step it felt like I was stepping into a puddle my shoes were so soaked.
Disney Springs – Orlando, FL
Our last real day at Disney we went to hangout in Disney Springs. We did some shopping or at least exploring the shops. The Lego store there was a big hit as well as the World of Disney.
They had a little photo studio there as well which we used to take advantage of the Photo Pass and got some nice photos as a result.
From Disney Springs we hopped on one of the boats over to one of the Disney Resorts, Port Orleans. We thought we’d see what the resorts were like. The pool area looked amazing and it really did look like New Orleans with the way the buildings were setup. There was an arcade which really interested Noah so we stopped there and played for a while.
The taste of beignets were still fresh in my mind from New Orleans, and lucky for me they serve them at this resort so we treated the Fishers to my new favourite treat. I was able to watch them being made and they of course were in the shape of Mickey.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – Ocean City, MD
After saying our good byes to the Fishers in Florida we started our drive home. Stayed the night in Charleston SC the first night where I had a bit of BBQ for dinner and then was woken up good and early in the morning by a rooster who apparently lives behind the hotel.
On our way over to Ocean City we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is pretty amazing. Its a long bridge across the bay which also has two areas which takes you down into tunnels below the Bay so that boats can cross over top.
Once we made it to Ocean City we did walk the boardwalk a bit and stepped barely onto the beach but we were racing the rain which had stayed with us most of the drive that day but had stopped at that point. We knew it called for rain so we planned to be inside and visited the Ripley’s Believe it or Not. We had never been to one before and it’s worth a visit. Lots of interesting and very weird things. Even things that seemed a bit gross.
Beardsley Zoo – Bridgeport, CT
We stayed a couple nights in Connecticut before we finished our trip and decided to visit the Beardsley Zoo on our last day. It was not very busy but was a nice little zoo with a number of endangered animals they keep to try and help preserve.
We ended up buying an annual membership for the zoo. Not so much because we might be back but it also offers big discounts at a number of other Zoo’s across Canada and the US. It didn’t cost much more than our one day admission and we’ll likely take advantage of the discount at at least one of the zoo’s on the list which will make it worth the price.
The Cat Ferry – Portland, ME to Yarmouth, NS
We hadn’t booked our last nights hotel right up until the very end. The plan was to drive somewhere into Maine book a hotel, then drive the rest of the way home the next day. We were all tired of driving and so we looked into The Cat Ferry which saves a bunch of driving, would save us a night hotel, food associated with another day on the road.
Although we were all thankful for being home a night early, the day just didn’t go well. We ran into rough traffic on the way to the ferry so it took us much longer than it should have to get us there. The ferry was then late leaving and it was a terribly rough ride. No one felt good. There were passengers throwing up pretty regularly with some not even making it to a washroom.
After we first booked we talked about taking the ferry again for future trips, but after we arrived home so late, and no one feeling good, I don’t think we’ll ever take that ferry again.
We finally made it home really late, but at least we could sleep in our own bed and had an extra day at home before we had to dive back into reality. Though reality didn’t take long to catch up with us.
Here’s a map of the rough path we took for this trip.
Monday evening we wearily rolled into our yard for the first time in a month. It was early morning July 7 when we piled into our SUV and started out on our cross country road trip covering 5 Canadian Provinces and 15 US States.
What wonderful experiences and memories we made. Spending so much time in tight quarters during the long drives, staying in hotel rooms, and a small AirBnB, I was afraid there would be fighting and us getting tired of each other. Thankfully it was the opposite, I believe we are closer as a family now. On the last night of our trip we stopped at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire for an evening walk on our favourite beach and gave some serious consideration to spontaneously extending our trip.
This type of trip just wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Jen and I both working for Automattic. While we did each take two weeks off of work throughout the month, that left two weeks while we worked from the road.
Originally we were only going to have a three week trip out to Alberta to visit my sister, her husband, and my new nephew. When Jen, Caile, and Ella, received tickets to the NKOTB concert in Boston the weekend before we were going to leave, and with Jen starting the new job, we changed plans and booked an extra week at an AirBnB in Philadelphia. During this week Jen and I both got up extra early and worked, then spent the afternoons exploring the area with the kids, to come home and do a bit more work at night.
Jen took the next week off and did all the driving so I could work from the passengers seat while we made our way our Alberta. Jen then did the same type of schedule from my sisters house working early and late, and I started two weeks vacation. For the first time since I started at Automattic I removed my email and slack from my phone and completely disconnected from work, I didn’t even blog about the adventures as we went.
Thought I’d take the time now to highlight some of the fun adventures we had, I also kept a map showing the rough path we took and some of the main places we visited.
Hampton Beach, NH
We both started and finished our trip at this amazing beach. On day 2 we spent the early afternoon there and on our way home on day 31 we went for an evening walk before coming home.
NKOTB Concert – Fenway Park, Boston
Jen, Caile and Ella went on the night of day 2 to Fenway park and in the rain watched Boyz II Men, Paula Abdul, and the New Kids On The Block.
The Liberty Bell – Philadelphia, PA
On day 4 we explored some of the downtown Philadelphia area. We went through Spruce Street Harbor Park, walked up to the Liberty Bell, and then took the kids to The Franklin Institute.
The Jersey Shore
Jen found us an amazing beach at Strathmere, it was huge, beautiful, free, and not busy at all. We spent hours there and ate a picnic on the beach. We then on our way home I surprised Jen by mapping her to Atlantic City where we could walk the board walk and explore.
Fairmount Park – Philadelphia, PA
We spent a few days visiting the Delaware Museum of Natural History, Legoland Philadelphia, and the Academy of Natural Science.
Then on day 9 we explored Fairmount Park. We started out by going to to a community pool but it was crowded and the water was pretty cold. Instead we found Wheel Fun Rentals and rented a bike which fit us all and peddled around the park that way some.
Letchworth State Park, NY
As we started our driving again we stopped at the amazing Letchworth State at the advice of my friend and co-worker Chrissie! We met up with her, her husband, her mother in law, and our other co-worker Sam for some visit and a pizza lunch picnic. I’d never heard of the park before but it’s called the Grand Canyon of the East. It had some amazing views and beautiful water falls.
Niagara Falls, ON
Before we headed to our hotel for the night we stopped to check out Niagara Falls. We had been here when the kids were little but before Noah was born. It was like a water falls day for us, first at Letchworth then these powerful falls.
Marineland – Niagara Falls, ON
We met up with Tiffany and her family, and our friends from New Brunswick on day 11 to go to Marineland! Our plan was to explore the sea life, but the kids ended up having the most fun on all the rides.
African Lion Safari – Cambridge, ON
One of our favourite things last time we were in this area was the African Lion Safari. So on day 12 we got together with Tiffany and her family again and took everyone here. Driving through so close to these animals is really neat. Monkeys climb all over cars, giraffes cross the road right in front of you, rhinos graze on the grass right beside you. This was one of the main highlights of the whole trip.
Air Zoo Aerospace Museum – Portage, MI
Day 13 was a mainly driving day but we stopped to break at the Air Zoo Aerospace Museum. We didn’t get to spend much time here but there were many different old aircraft on display and lots of interactive exhibits to explore. Caile and Ella took a ride in a flight simulator and ended upside down for most of their flight 🙂
Mall of America – Minneapolis, MN
What vacation wouldn’t be complete without some shopping. This I could have passed on but we did get to play some mini golf and had a good time doing that.
Worlds Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, ND
A quick stop on our driving day. I get a kick out of these Worlds Largest type roadside attractions. All I can picture is a town council meeting with a bunch of people sitting around. “What can we do to bring people to our town? I know”, one would exclaim, “let’s build the Worlds Largest Buffalo!”
Sikome Lake – Calgary, AB
On our first full day with my sister Melissa and her family we headed to the lake in a part near their home. It was a warm day and was nice to get to spend some time in the water and just hang out with everyone.
Prince’s Island Park – Calgary, AB
By accident we ended up finding this park right downtown Calgary. We were going to head into the mountains this day but we ran behind and saw there was bad traffic on our way there which wouldn’t give us much time so we changed plans last minute looking for something to do closer. We made our way here and also walked around downtown for a bit to find a bit of an ice cream treat.
Telus Spark Science Center – Calgary, AB
On our way home we stopped in for a quick trip to this Science Center. It was close to closing time so we spent most of our time playing on a pretty impressive outdoor playground they had built.
Calgary Zoo – Calgary, AB
With Melissa and my nephew we spent the day at the zoo. So many cool animals to see. Zoo’s are one of our kids favourite things and counting the African Lion Safari this was our second of three zoos on the trip. The gorillas and penguins ended up being most everyones top pick from here.
Rotary Park – Whitecourt, AB
For day 20 and 21 we drove up north so we could meet with Jen’s Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin, along with her family. My mother in law had been visiting her brother in British Columbia and they drove over here to meet us. We spent a couple days in this park visiting with them with the kids playing on the playground and splash pad. This was the end of my mother in laws trip so we brought her back to Calgary with us and got her to the airport for her flight home.
Heritage Park – Calgary, AB
I had never heard of this place before this trip and Melissa and her family had never been. We could have spent a lot more time here as there was lots to see. It is like an old town with shops, a train, a farm, and even carnival rides which the kids loved. Our next visit out here this will be on the list for sure.
Parks – Calgary, AB
The last couple days we took it pretty easy. We did explore a couple parks, one huge off leash dog park where we could let my fur nephew run and cool off in the river. The other is the same park which had Sikome Lake in it which we went to early on in our visit. But this time we sent it walking along the river.
Worlds Largest Booming Prairie Chicken – Rothsay MN
We had some long drive days making our way back east and didn’t take much in the way of breaks. I had found this place on the map on the way to Alberta but we missed the exit, so we decided to indulge me and on day 26 we stopped here for a quick break to stretch our legs.
Chicago White Sox – Chicago, IL
Noah has badly wanted to see a baseball game for some time. I started looking for our time in Ontario to see if I could find a Blue Jays game we could attend there. Tickets were pretty expensive and nothing really worked time wise. I tried a few other cities we were in along the way as well. As luck would have it though the Blue Jays were playing the White Sox on our first day in Chicago and we were able to get there!
Navy Pier – Chicago, IL
On day 28 we went down to Navy Pier and started out our day with an Architectural River Boat Tour of the city. It was a really great way to see a bit of it and learn some of the history in a very relaxed way. Once we were done with the tour we went to get a different view from the Centennial Wheel. From almost 200 feet in the air you do get a pretty good view!
For dinner we tried some Chicago Style pizza, and this was certainly some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. It certainly beats NYC style pizza with no contest in my books.
Brookfield Zoo – Chicago, IL
One last zoo visit for our trip. It was a pretty chilly day and some of the family even wore jackets and sweaters for the first time since we left home. It was pretty nice though as the animals were fairly active. The kids also all decided to have caricatures of themselves drawn as a souvenir.
Huntington Beach – Bay Village, OH
Making our way back home we broke up our drive on day 30 by stopping at a beach just outside Cleveland. Unfortunately the water was off limits the day we were there, but we still had fun walking the beach and seeing the Cleveland skyline in the background.
This was an amazing trip and I only touched on some of the main things we did or places we saw. The only part that I wish I could maybe skip was the drive days through Saskatchewan and some of North Dakota. The running joke was about all the hay bales which were about the only things we could see.
Honestly the best part of it for me was getting to spend so much time without the everyday things getting in the way. There was no dance class, basketball practice, or any of the other things which breaks us up in a regular week. We spent time together. We spent time with family. We spent time with friends. We made many memories and so I just wanted to document some of it here to help job my memory if I ever start to forget.