Go BIG or Go Home
What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

BIG Stuff on the West Coast!

Sometimes, I’m a social animal, fun and carefree. When I plan trips to the world’s largest bowling pin, that’s when I know mom’s genes are there somewhere. “Serious me”– the one who recycles the tiny plastic tray in the printer ink cartridge box – is more meticulous and by-the-book. That’s my dad’s DNA.

Frank is a serious traveler. He knows everything about a destination before he ever steps foot on its soil. He’s responsible for my first trans-Atlantic voyage, at the age of seven. (More about that in The Prequel.)

San Francisco Chinatown

Credit: SanFranciscoChinatown.com

So to have him embrace this quirky little blog, and even do reconnaissance for me while on his current trip to the west coast, is very flattering. But as you can see in the e-mail he sent me this week, he’s struggling to make peace with the “Go BIG” qualifications of seeing the “world’s largest” stuff.

I channeled my mom’s relaxed whimsy as I tried to let him off the hook.

To: Traci

From: Dad
RE: Report from the field

Halfway through our trip to see really BIG things, we’ve hit a few snags. Moreover, this trip has me thinking about our English language and the way we define our words.  The word “big” is presenting me with some perplexing questions to ponder.

During our weekend in San Francisco, we visited the Chinatown deemed to contain the largest concentration of Chinese outside of Asia. Does this make it the “biggest” Chinatown? How should we measure “big”? By the number of Chinese living there? By the geographical area? By the population density? Your word “biggish,” even though I really like it, sometimes does not work.

We then visited Yosemite National Park to view the waterfall considered to be the tallest in North America. But, does the tallest waterfall still qualify as truly BIG when there is no water falling? Not a drop!

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree. Credit: National Park Service

Yesterday we visited Sequoia National Park and the General Sherman tree (in the rain), thought to be the biggest tree in the world.  However, sequoia trees are generally not as tall as California’s coastal redwoods, so height is not the criterion of bigness used here. Also troubling was the fact that the General Grant tree (the third biggest sequoia) is, at 40+feet, about five feet wider at its base than the General Sherman tree, which would make it the “biggest” tree if width was used as the qualifying criterion.  So, what makes the General Sherman tree “big” is its volume and weight, not its height or width (or its age, I might add).

Coming up, Hearst Castle. Is it the biggest private mansion ever built? If so, by what criteria?  And, why is Big Sur “big” and Little Sur “little”?  What the heck is a “SUR” anyway?

Dearest Dad;

First, let me say how flattered I am that you are taking time out of your journey to volunteer as a “Go BIG” correspondent! When this blog hits the big time, I’ll be sure to send you a magnet, or even a baseball cap with the logo on it!

Please put your mind at ease, and don’t fret about meeting the “biggest” qualifications exactly. We have a wide editorial berth here at the Go BIG or Go Home Travel Blog, and that’s why we have the “Biggish” category. Not only is it a fun word, it’s also very useful!

Here are a few pieces of info I could find in answer to your questions:

Chinatown: San Francisco has the largest, oldest, and longest continuous running Chinatown in the Western Hemisphere. It remains the longest-running Chinese community outside of Asia.

General Sherman tree:  As of 2002, the volume of its trunk measured about 1,487 cubic metres (52,513 cu ft), making it the largest known non-clonal tree by volume. Its size has been calculated using measurements of trunk volume, excluding branches.

Big Sur: The name “Big Sur” is derived from the original Spanish-language “el sur grande”, meaning “the big south”, or from “el país grande del sur”, “the big country of the south”.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls. Credit: National Park Service

Hearst Castle: The Biltmore Estate is the largest private residence in the U.S. , followed by Oheka Castle, the Otto Hermann Kahn estate, on Long Island. Making the Hearst Castle, in my humble opinion, the perfect example of “biggish!”

I’m glad you’re having a great trip!  Wish I could be there!

Love, T.


  1. Fiona said,
    October 9, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    I love the input from your dad! He raises some very interesting questions. You are both succinct, informative, and witty. Obviously your curiosity and writing style were handed down by your dad.

    Having guest bloggers is great and keeping it in the family is even better. Since you have the boy and the girl is your dad going to be the pop?

    PS what is with the waterless waterfall anyhow?

    PPS Did your parents answer the age old question: If a husband falls in the woods and his wife is in the gift shop are his credit cards still good?

  2. Margaret M said,
    October 9, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

    Aloha, you California-trotting travellers. It was so FUN to be with you and experience the trees, mansions, and SF Chinatown. Thank you Traci, for your blog, and for Frank’s intrepid reporting. It was a BIGGISH trip, indeed.

  3. Mike said,
    October 13, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    Classic! This cracked me up! Maybe he will agree to be a guest blogger again?

  4. Leanne said,
    February 13, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    Hello Traci and family,
    Might I invite you to visit El Tule and see our claim to fame? Wikipedia acknowledges our “World’s Biggest Tree” as “slightly larger than the next most stout tree known, a Giant Sequoia with a 8.98 m (29.5 ft) diameter.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbol_del_Tule Well, we have big trees in Canada too; I think everyone must either take a look and judge for themselves, or trust the scientists to take the measurements and make the official determination. If you need an “excuse” to visit Mexico, you can come and check it out for yourself, we and the tree will be here!

    • Traci Suppa said,
      February 13, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

      Hi Leanne; Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful tree! It’s the age, even more than the size, that impresses me most about these big trees. They have been here for SO long, standing through so much history.

      If we ever get there to see it, we’ll let you know!