I turned into a total voyeur this week when I discovered that a family of bluebirds has taken up residence in a birdhouse in my yard! I would probably take pictures of them hourly but I have to go to work & stuff. I think there are 5 babies but it’s hard to tell for sure & the house is up too high for me to actually look into so I have to rely on the pictures. They’re already getting pretty big & looking like they could leave their nest any time!
I’ve missed the last couple of weeks when I was supposed to add more posts about last summer’s road trip but it was because I was too busy packing & moving back to Maryland! I landed a job working on a project at Historic St. Mary’s City, the same museum where I did my field school in 2017. It’s kind of surreal to be back here, it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year & a half, but I’m excited about it!
Coming from Florida to the D.C. area was the perfect opportunity to cross the Auto Train off my to-do list! The great thing about the Auto Train is that you can bring your car without having to actually drive it, it just rides along in the auto carriers behind you. The ticket cost $379 for me & my car, plus it included dinner & a continental breakfast. So that saved me gas, a night’s accommodation, wear & tear on my car, a meal, & the stress of driving 800 miles. We left Sanford, FL half an hour early at 3:30 pm & arrived in Lorton, VA an hour early at 8:00 am so altogether it was a 16 & a half hour trip that Google says would have taken about 11 hours driving on I-95 but with stops & traffic & whatnot it probably would have added up to about the same. Plus they let you pack as much as you want in your car & mine was FULL, which is no fun to drive with. Boarding is a very simple process, you just show up at the station between 11:30 & 2:30, check in at the entrance booth, drive up to the station building, grab your overnight bag (no access to cars in transit), an employee loads your car onto the train & you’re done until you pick it up the next morning in Virginia. Supposedly the Auto Train is the longest passenger train in the world, mine was 45 cars: 18 for 295 passengers & 27 for 237 vehicles, plus 2 engines. They said it was a full train but nobody was sitting next to me which was GREAT, I could curl up across both seats if I wanted to move around a bit. I saw several people with nobody next to them, I wonder if they allot 2 seats for each vehicle & if you’re traveling alone you get both?
I had the lasagna at dinner, which was very good, but for some reason they pair every entree with green beans. There’s 3 choices for desert & a variety of toppings, I chose vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. They fill all the seats at every table; if you don’t have a party of 4 they seat you with strangers so that was good & awkward. Fortunately the 3 ladies I sat with had all lived in New York City for at least part of their lives so mostly they talked about that but of course everyone loves archaeology so they were very interested as soon as I told them that’s my job. I didn’t end up eating the breakfast because I just wasn’t hungry yet when it was available. My car was the 2nd to last to be unloaded so I was waiting around in the station for almost an hour & a half but it wasn’t a big deal. I was mostly annoyed that I had yet ANOTHER person wanting to hear my life’s story while I was trying to listen to the station announcement for my car to be ready. I really have to learn that I don’t have to indulge all the obnoxious nosiness of random strangers. It’s really too bad that our society considers it perfectly OK to demand that someone satisfy unwelcome curiosity but incredibly rude to refuse to do so.
So my first week on the job is done, I’m getting settled into my new housing, & I’m excited to be back here for a while. I have a car this time so hopefully I’ll be able to get some exploring in, there’s plenty of state parks around here & Washington is just right there so I’d like to hit some of the museums & the zoo. I’m planning to be here for about a year so there’s plenty of time to see all of those things. Looking to get back on track with my road trip posts probably the week after next. It’s funny how the stress of traveling completely derails my ability to maintain a travel blog. I think I just need to plan ahead so that it’s not a thing I’m trying to figure out on the fly on top of all the other things I have to think about. Make a list of pictures to take & times to post them or something. Anyway, onward & forward!
Welp, I’m down to the home stretch of my time in Sheboygan (maybe at some point I’ll post the half-finished piece on my 3-week road trip up here…who knows, miracles do happen). It’s been a stressful, weird, wild ride & as much as I’ve come to enjoy this town, my job, & my new friends, I’m looking forward to getting back to Florida & resting up for a while. For probably like a week before I get bored.
Winter plans include trying to learn a new language (again), adding some blog posts about past travel experiences, video games, sleeping, having a real refrigerator & oven, paying down student loans, visiting family, uploading some new stock imagery, and just generally being warm & stuff. (I forgot what cold is like. Also the sun goes down at 4:30 here once daylight savings time ends.)
Some unique Sheboygan weirdness to brighten your day:
I found this under a bridge; it’s like 4 feet across so not a small undertaking & I seriously have no idea what’s going on in this image or why it’s there – graffiti? City-sponsored art project? Who are these people? Why do they have a monkey skull wearing a top hat? The world may never know.
I made it from Forsyth, Georgia to Paducah, Kentucky, with stops in Chattanooga and Nashville. Two more weeks of road tripping before I start my new job in Wisconsin!
Crossed Off the Travel Map: Tennessee (mostly) Edition
I made it through Georgia in one piece, despite some pretty epic rain storms. I don’t know why the South has this weird thing about rain, one second it’s perfectly clear and the next it’s pouring so hard the road is barely visible. Anyway I’m in Chattanooga for the weekend & it’s still raining. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some stuff to do despite the weather.
Crossed Off the Travel Map: Georgia Edition
I’ve been busy packing & planning my drive up to Wisconsin – lots of fun stuff to see along the way! I have 3 weeks of road trip between here & my new job so I’ve just been adding pins to my Google map for anything that sounds remotely interesting, plus of course looking for things to do over the summer & fall on my days off. I’ve already earmarked Sputnikfest in Manitowoc in September & the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference in Chicago in October. Looking forward to getting my hands dirty as an actual working archaeologist!
Added to the Travel Map: Summer in Wisconsin Edition
House on the Rock, Spring Green – weird house with crazy stuff inside.
FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard, Sparta – giant molds laying around in a field.
American Science & Surplus, Milwaukee – crazy awesome store.
Mars Cheese Castle, Kenosha – when in Wisconsin, celebrate cheese.
Stavkirke, Washington Island – Norwegian-style church.
45 x 90 Geographical Marker, Athens – The exact geographical center of the N. Western hemisphere. Stop at the Wausau Visitor’s Center to sign the log book & get a commemorative coin!
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restuarant, Sister Bay – they have a sod roof with goats on top, who wouldn’t want to go there?
UWM American Geographical Society Library, Milwaukee – thousands of historic maps, globes, expedition photos, etc.
Circus World, Baraboo – Ringling Brothers circus museum.
Crash site of Korabl-Sputnik 1, Manitowoc- pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Sputnikfest September 7th & 8th!
Man Mound, Baraboo – human-shaped effigy mound.
Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium, Wisconsin Dells – museum of the dime museum, compounding the absurdity.
Toy Train Barn, Argyle – giant model train diorama in a barn.
Pabst Mansion, Milwaukee – historic home of Milwaukee’s beer baron.
Little Bohemia Lodge, Manitowish Waters – site of a shootout between John Dillinger & the FBI.
I got a job! I’m heading up to Wisconsin to work on an excavation for the summer & fall. Planning an epic road trip to get there so be watching for new posts!
I also bought a new inflatable kayak, so hopefully there will be some great paddling in my future!
Crossed Off the Travel List:
Well, it’s done. Two & a half years at USF & it’s all over. That doesn’t seem like something that should have snuck up on me but it’s a weird feeling to suddenly have this chapter of my life closed.
I’ve been applying for jobs but haven’t gotten anything yet. Maybe I’ll go on a road trip.
In other news, I watched a bazillion bats fly out of a huge bat house at Fort Cooper State Park. There were also two owls hanging out there obviously waiting for the bat smorgasbord to begin, which must be really stressful for the poor bats but was really interesting for me.
I finally bought a GoPro & I’ve been having so much fun with it! I’ve just been playing with it in the little pond in my apartment complex but thankfully Florida’s weird wildlife can be found even in spots like that so I’m getting some good stuff. I can’t wait to take it on some adventures!
Crossed Off the Travel Map:
First week of my last semester is in the bag! Historical Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, and an independent study working in the 3D visualization lab learning to do laser scans & stuff so it should be interesting!
I spent my Christmas break exploring small parks near where I live & doing a whole circuit of South Florida to visit family before taking a short train jaunt back to Tampa. The interior of Florida is truly a flat, flat, dull place to travel through. Not much to look at but cows and the occasional farmworker village.
Crossed off the Travel Map:
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa, Florida – sort of a combination park/zoo, this place is neat because they have the “fishbowl,” an underwater observatory with views of the fish and, when they’re out in the main pond, manatees. Aside from a resident hippo who’s been there since the 60s, all of the animals on display are native to Florida. Adults $13, children 6-12 $5, open year-round.
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park, Homosassa, Florida – a tiny roadside park that encompasses the namesake ruins with a few interpretive panels and a small picnic area across the street. Free, open year-round.
Crystal River Preserve State Park, Crystal River, Florida – hiking trails along the river, boat tours, canoeing, etc. Free, open year-round.
Fort Cooper State Park, Inverness, Florida – trails through the site of a fort used during the Second Seminole War. The fort today consists of a small section of recreated palisade. Reenactments & living history displays during Fort Cooper Days in March. $3 per vehicle, open year-round.
Morris Bridge Park, Thontosassa, Florida – hiking trails, boardwalks, & fishing on the Hillsborough River. Watch out for alligators! I don’t recall what the admission fee was & the website doesn’t say, I think it was $2 or $3 per vehicle. May close if the river floods.
Tampa Union Station, Tampa, Florida – my train back home stopped here & it was weird because the way the route is laid out it feels like you pull into town & then go backwards out of town on the same track, but it’s just because the station is at the end of the line & then the train goes back out toward Orlando.