Every year we try to take at least one family vacation, with just our family of 5. Last year we discovered we really liked the roadtrip style of trips and less of the spend everyday at a theme park trip, more nature involved. This time, we had a few destinations/events we wanted to get to, but wanted to incorporate nature too. Back in maybe September of 2021, we started planning our 2022 vacation. Originally when we planned this trip we had it mapped out one way, but then about a month before it actually happened, we ended up changing the route and adding in some other stops along the way.
I decided to document each day every night before going to sleep. You know me and my need to have these things be remembered…
Thus I decided to share it all right here!
Day 1. Sunday March 13, 2022.
We left a day early, for no reason in particular. We left our house somewhere around 430PM and drove a little over 2 hours to Des Moines, Iowa. The drive was nice, not a lot of traffic and the weather was just beautiful. The kids were chillaxed, Harrison even fell asleep for the last half of the drive. We saw a lot of land, cows, windmills, and semi trucks.
We got to the hotel and looked up restaurants near by for dinner. Out of the few choices that were actually open, we landed on Zombie Burger and Drink Lab. It was about 15 minutes from the hotel. We only ended up having to wait maybe 15 minutes or so for a table to open. Their menu gave pleasure to the minds of our glutinous bellies, so many choices! Chris and I decided to order 2 that we both wanted to try, with the idea that we would would split them in half and swap. I ordered the Trailor Trash Zombie burger and he ordered the Walking Ched burger. The kids ordered from the kid’s menu, 2 of them got burgers and 1 got mac and cheese. Chris also ordered the 3 little pig nacho appetizer. When the food came, mine looked like a plain cheeseburger and Chris’ looked like it was going to jump off the plate any second. His was the only one that came with an appearance to write home about. The appetizer was better than my actual meal, but I ate it all anyway. Chris didn’t wind up eating all of his, the fried mac and cheese buns were a little too much. We also ordered 3 shakes off their very alluring menu. Wylan ordered a Cookies + Cake shake, Chris and Isla shared a Unicorn Zombie shake, and Harrison and I shared a Chocolate Nutella Marshmello shake. They wound up coming in to-go cups and too thick to suck out at first, but everyone seemed happy with what they got. [I can’t really taste much still].
Back to the hotel we went. We tried to get everyone settled to go to sleep. Chris fell asleep before anyone else. The kids were being looney turkies from all that ice cream I am sure. I tried to calm them down by singing songs. After about an hour of that, it changed into story time. I told the kids how Chris and I met and when they were born. They were intrigued enough to quiet down and lay still, mostly. Harrison wound up falling asleep next. I convinced Isla that my alarm would be going off “in 10 minutes” and we would be packing up to leave to the next location. Apparently that was enough convincing for her because she decided to finally try and sleep. 10 minutes later she was out. Wylan was a little harder to get to fall asleep, but finally at midnight I realized he was out too.
Word to the light sleepers out there… do not stay near an airport. I swear I slept a total of 1 hour because every 15 minutes it sounded like a storm was brewing from the planes. I didn’t know we were THAT close to the airport until 3AM when I kept checking the radar, which was clear as glass. My alarm went off at 730AM. By 8AM we had everyone up and headed down to eat breakfast. I was so happy that the hot breakfast buffet was open. During the thick of covid all the hotels we stayed in were doing lunchsack breakfasts. Granola bars, apple, and maybe a water bottle. Better than nothing for sure, but I was excited about my waffle this day, ha! After eating we packed up and headed to an unplanned, but necessary stop of Knoxville, Iowa.
Knoxville is a small town, but as a couple we have been here numerous times for the Knoxville Nationals, a dirt track event, for those who don’t know. [ P.s. you will see a trend going on with that subject. ] We have been to the track almost every year that we have been together, with the exception of covid times. However, I personally had never been to their museum! We decided to check it out since it would be on our route to the next destination anyway. Plus, it was something to get the kids out of the car to release some energy. It is neat seeing the progression of the cars throughout time. It is also a fun thing to see if you have never seen one up close before, especially the Sprint cars because they are larger than they appear from the grand stands. The kids were most excited about the one sprint car that they were allowed to sit in and the 2 car simulation “rides”. Of course they each picked out their souvenir after we were done (Isla picked an activity book, Wylan picked sunglasses, and Harrison picked a sprint car). I also got a magnet and Chris found a keychain.
For lunch, we were trying to keep from eating fast food over and over during our trip, and I remembered there was a grocery store across the street from the track. We took a little stroll through the Hyvee and grabbed some cold sandwiches, drinks, and chips. Then it was time to head to the next destination, Peoria, Illinois.
The scenery did not change much, but the drive was decent. The weather was still holding strong, 53° or so and sunny. Traffic was pretty bare for the most part. We did see a few trains, which Harrison gets excited about. The drive was a little over 3 hours. We arrived to our hotel and settled our belongings in before deciding to grab some dinner. We originally were going to go eat inside Steak and Shake, but ended up deciding to use their drive thru instead. We took an impromptu drive, about 15 or 20 minutes, to a “must see attraction”, and ate the food on the way.
It was called, The World’s Most Beautiful Drive, on google. I am sure it may be up there on the scale when it’s in it’s blooming glory. It’s basically a 3 mile drive uphill next to the Mississippi river. Coming out of Winter, the trees and everything was still pretty brown and asleep. Which we expected, but hey, we are here so why not? Also, all of the houses are huge! These giant houses on the hill were making us feel like we don’t know what we are doing in life. 😂 Though at the same time, I don’t want to know what it takes to manage a home of that magnitude without help.
After that small venture, we headed back to the hotel, scoped out the breakfast room, and came back to our room for bath time. The older 2 kids were having minor issues going to sleep yet again, but luckily they were both asleep by 1015PM.
Also, incase you are interested… gas here in Peoria is 4.59 for unleaded. I believe it was 3.59 back in Omaha before we left.
Woke up at 730AM to my alarm. Got everyone up and headed down for breakfast. Does anyone else’s kids want everything and then not want it after they sit down? 🤔 🤣 After we ate, we headed back up to get ready for the day and pack up our stuff. We checked out of the hotel and set out for our fun activity. We went to the Caterpillar Visitors Center in downtown Peoria. THIS. PLACE. WAS. SO COOL! Especially if you have kiddos obsessed with construction vehicles like one of mine is. Not only was the place itself cool to see, but the staff was incredible! They taught the kids how to use the joysticks for the simulations. A woman taught them how to manuever an old fashioned tractor. They really enjoyed the experience and seeing the 3 story mining truck!
After we browsed the gift shop and purchased our souvenirs we headed outside. Next door to the Caterpillar building is another museum. Next to that museum on the side outside of the building, is a walking path that goes through a holocaust memorial. We took a walk through it and talked about what it was for.
We walked back to the car and got everyone ready to go. We got gas and hit the road to our next destination of Indianapolis, Indiana. The drive was nice, still looking similar to every state we had been through, just a little flatter. It is a good feeling to know not all of the land has been taken over by corporations. When we got into Indianapolis, traffic was getting heavier. But, we made it to the hotel. Not long after we arrived we heard that one of the events we had planned for and already had our tickets for, was moved to a different day. While we stewed on that new information, we went to pickup our target groceries. We came back to the hotel, unloaded the groceries, and we ate dinner around a table just like we do at home. After we ate, the kids wanted to go swimming. We got them ready to go and headed down to the pool. I can’t get my tattoos in the water, so I sat on the side. They really love swimming. Sometimes I think we produce fish instead of humans😅. We did have a minor scare when Harrison fell backwards and hit his head on the ground, but he perked back up and kept on swimming.
They swam for about an hour or so. We headed back to the room, got everyone showered and into their pajamas, and then we grabbed our laundry and took it down to wash it. We shared a small container of these ice cream bites while we waited. The kids were being too rowdy and the desk people were less than amused by it. I took the kids back to the room to lay down and get settled. We did have a small snack and then Wylan said, “mama, Harrison is asleep.” One down, two to go. Chris came back with the laundry and by that point Wylan was sleeping, too. By midnight or so, everyone [except me] was asleep. And, now we are having to switch plans around and extend our trip a little bit in order to make it to the event that was rescheduled.
Gas here was 4.19.
In Chris’ mind we overslept until almost 9AM. We made it down in time for breakfast though. We came back up and got ready for the day. I made our lunches and we packed them in the cooler. Then we headed out for the day!
Our first stop was about an hour and a half away to Huntington Indiana. We stopped at the Sunken Gardens and had a picnic lunch. Within walking distance was a Veterans Memorial and a playground, so we went to check those out too.
We fueled up down the road and the kids got some slushies. Back on the road again! We drove about 2 and half hours north to Michigan City, Indiana. I had to checkoff one of my bucketlist items – Seeing a lighthouse. We parked and walked to the beach area. We also walked all the way to the lighthouse.
We were there for over an hour. It started to get windy and we were getting hungry. We found somewhere to eat dinner. I forgot to get pictures, but we ate at Swingbellys. From the outside it didn’t quite seem like an appealing restaurant, but the reviews were all outstanding so we meandered in. Inside was a totally different vibe than the outside. It was filled with pictures of the beach, the lighthouse, and some city drone shots. The staff was awesome and the food, from what I can taste and what Chris said, was really good.
In hopes of seeing the sunset over the beach, we drove to another location to hike a trail and watch the sunset. We hiked the beach trail by Mount Baldy. Incase you’re wondering, Mt Baldy is this giant sand dune, but it is roped off and marked as dangerous for having unstable grounds. After hiking what we did though, there is no way we would have safely made it up Mt Baldy’s steep hill, especially with little feet in tow.
Sunset was a beauty. Phone cameras don’t get the full affect, but that’s okay. By time we hiked back down it was around 8PM. We made the 2.5 hour trek back to the hotel. Traffic was a doozy for me, but we safely arrived around 1030PM.
What a day, what a day! My alarm went off at 730AM as usual and I said “NOPE” and went back to sleep. Chris tried to get me and the 2 older kids up, but we weren’t ready. I heard him get Harrison and take him down to bring breakfast up to the room. We ate and got ready for the day. Chris prepared the cooler with our lunches and around 10AM we headed out. First we stopped at an ATM, then Chris stopped by BK to grab me a coffee (what a guy), and then we were off to our first destination of the day.
The Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Apparently it is the World’s Largest Children’s museum. It has 5 levels and each corner on each level has it’s own exhibit. We explored tombs of ancient Egypt, Captain Kidd’s sunken ship, and the terracotta soldier statues of China on the first level. Another level explored The Power of Children which was an exhibit on Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, Ryan White, and Malala Yousafzai. There was a Barbie exhibit, a Doc Mcstuffins exhibit, an astronaut exhibit, an agricultural exibit, train exhibit, cultural Greece exhibit, “mini masterpiece” exhibit, American pop culture exhibit, and a few others that weren’t included in the regular admission price. It was too busy to fully enjoy everything for a long period of time, but we were pretty worn out by the end of it.
We ate lunch in the car around 1PM and then set out for the next destination, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. We were able to get a bus tour on the track, Chris even “kissed the bricks” on the start/finish line, and we walked through all of the museum. The kids especially get a thrill out of sitting in the cars.
We headed back to the hotel afterwards and just hung out for a bit. My feet were throbbing! We ate dinner and then took the kids swimming. Harrison has figured out he can swim in his vest on his own and put his face in the water. They all really enjoy jumping in. Finally it was nearing bed time and we came back to the room. Everyone had a snack, showered, and got cozy for the night.
Zoo day! We went to the Indianapolis Zoo. Some of my favorite things to see were the dolphins, the fighting grizzly bear siblings, and a beautiful arctic fox. We also touched stingrays and sharks!
We spent about 3.5 hours there, trying to finish before the rain hit. We made it out in time to get to Target and it started pouring on us on our way inside. We decided to grab what we needed and then walk around for a bit for the heavy rain to move past the area. I think we were there for about an hour. We fueled up and headed back to the hotel. We hung out for a bit and started cleaning and packing up. We made fajitas for dinner and then the kids had some snacks.
235AM insomnia gave me problems. Scrolling facebook and saw that one of the races we had tickets for, for tonight, was canceled. We had to change hotels because the one we were in didn’t have the availability for us to stay an extra 2 days. It was a very rainy day, all day. We had already done everything we could find to do, indoors. We just wound up sitting around the hotel, watching movies, and hanging out. Hoping tomorrow the other races we have tickets for are still on 🤞.
Hooray the races were still going green!
We woke up sometime after 9AM and headed down for breakfast. It was a very “meh” breakfast, but free is free. We came back to the room, got dressed, chris packed the cooler and snack bag, and we headed out. We took a 3.5 hour drive to Chillicothe Ohio for the races at the Atomic Speedway. Luckily the weather was nice! We put our stuff down on the seats we wanted to hold and then we walked around so Chris could buy some merch. We also took the kids to their small playground area, which wound up being muddy and wet. Poor Harrison, first he got his butt covered in mud from the slide and then he was on the merry go round and was spinning so fast that he just flew right off of it and face first into a muddy water puddle. I decided that was enough play time after that and we went and grabbed some grub and headed to our seats.
The races went on as planned. We were lovingly pelted by chunks of dirt constantly as the cars went round and round.
Harrison fell asleep on me during the Late Model feature. After the Late Model feature, Chris decided he just HAD to go to the pits and get a couple autographs. Isla thought it was thee coolest thing to do and decided she needed to participate too. She wound up getting Jimmy Owens, who was the winner tonight. Immediately afterwards she said, “okay who else can I get!?” She ended up getting Hudson O’Neil’s autograph on her shirt too.
We drove the 3.5 hours back to Indianapolis at the hotel, arriving around 1AM. Showered and then went to sleep.
Time to start heading home. We checked out of the hotel around 10AM. We went through BK’s drive thru for breakfast and hit the road to home. My brain is getting mushy when trying to recall every detail. We stopped at least 5 times to use the bathroom and stretch. We stopped in Davenport Iowa to eat at the Machine Shed. Yuuuum! It was about a 9.5 hour drive in total. Towards the end, maybe the last 2 hours, we delt with the rain. Luckily it was just rain and nothing crazy. The only picture I have is of my meatloaf from Machine Shed. Gas here was $3.59.
We arrived home around 830PM. We unpacked everything, showered, and I put up my newly acquired magnet collection. Though, the one I got from Ohio is nowhere to be found.
The kids were excited to be home again. It is sort of bitter sweet; back to reality again, but also comforting to be home. We are ready to plan the next adventure!