Destination: Charleston, South Carolina

2013.05.22.038

Six years ago this week I traveled from where I was living in Tennessee to visit a friend in Charleston, South Carolina.  The drive there was the bad kind of eventful: that mysterious phenomenon peculiar to the coastal south where you’re just driving along, minding your own business, & out of nowhere it’s raining so hard that all you can see is the taillights of the vehicle in front of you.  Nothing to deluge instantaneously.  That trip was also the first time I ever saw an armadillo dead on the side of the road & I legit thought it was a dinosaur for a hot second.  My friend told me that Charleston doesn’t allow any buildings to be taller than the tallest church steeple, which gives the city a very open, down-to-earth feel since there aren’t any skyscrapers.

My first stop was to the history park at Charles Towne Landing, the site of the first English settlement in the Carolinas in 1670.  They have something for everyone – a reconstructed fort, a sailing ship, a historic home, & even a small zoo displaying native wildlife.  I was NOT expecting to see a huge alligator in the pond as I was exploring the gardens!

The next day I visited the South Carolina Aquarium and Charleston Museum, but my camera decided to completely break in between those two sites so I didn’t really get any pictures of the museum. 😦  The aquarium has this incredible ocean tank with a giant two-story window that their resident sea turtle likes to hang out in.  When I was there they had a special Madagascar exhibit with lemurs & they were really fun to watch!  Charleston Museum is packed with just about everything possible & keeps going forever, it would take multiple visits to even come close to absorbing it all.

On my last day I visited two historic forts – Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie, both of which were in use for generations & saw many changes & renovations over several wars.  Fort Sumter was where the Civil War got its official start when Confederates drove out the federal troops stationed there.  It sits on a tiny island in the harbor, accessible by ferry for a 2-ish hour tour.  Its a really great museum, they even have the original flags that were flown over the fort in the 1860s.  Fort Moultrie takes you backwards in time – they’ve restored it to various periods, starting at the World War II entrance & going back to the Revolution-era log fort.  Most places like this are set in a specific time frame, so it’s really interesting to see these two forts actively embracing the changes & innovations that occurred.

Charleston is a very pretty city, & I wish my camera hadn’t broken so I would have better pictures of it!  My phone camera just couldn’t do it justice.  I was also sad to miss the H.L. Hunley museum – it’s only open on weekends.  There’s way too much happening in Charleston for a three-day trip to cover it all anyway so I guess I’ll have to go back!

Advertisements

Road Trip 2018: End

2018.07.09.001

Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles

Sheboygan, Wisconsin, July 9th – End

Stop 1 | Stop 2 | Stop 3 | Stop 4 | Stop 5|Stop 6

On July 9th, Day 22 of my trip, 3 full weeks on the road since leaving Florida, I finally crossed the state line into Wisconsin.

Some road trip statistics:

14 Cities

10 State & National Parks

6 States

5 Museums

4 Historic Homes

3 Civil War Battlefields

2 Native American Sites

1 World Famous Aquarium

Sheboygan, a small city of ~50,000 people right on Lake Michigan, was my home for a little over 4 months while I worked on the first project of my archaeological career.  At first I was apprehensive, but I came to really enjoy my time there.  I made some great friends, learned a lot, & generally had a fantastic adventure.  Sheboygan is a really pretty town, & I explored all of it on foot.  There were days when I walked several miles, just seeing what was around the next corner or over the next hill.  I discovered weird public art, found Bigfoot, & read all the graffiti on the lighthouse (spoiler: there’s a lot!).  They also have the most incredible library – whenever I got tired of my hotel room I would just go there & hang out like it was my living room.  Ever since I left I get automated text messages about how much the library misses me & I’m always like “I miss you too!” 😥  In September I made it up to Manitowoc for Sputnikfest, the Rahr-West Art Museum that sponsors it is wonderful & has a great collection of Soviet propaganda (among many other things).  My trip up to Door County in October was stunning, the gales of November brought snow & ice, then just when it was getting to where I really didn’t want to be that cold anymore it was time to close things down for the winter & head back home to Florida.  Overall I loved my time in Wisconsin & I look forward to getting back there someday!

Road Trip 2018: Stop 6

2018.07.08.035Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles

Stop 6: Peru, Illinois, July 6th – July 9th

Stop 1 | Stop 2 | Stop 3 | Stop 4 | Stop 5 | Stop 7

I never intended to stop in Peru, but the project I was supposed to be working on had been delayed so I had some time to kill, plus the drive directly from Springfield to Sheboygan is nearly 350 miles & I just didn’t feel like doing that all in one go.  Peru was a nice halfway point with a big state park marked on the map, so I stopped for a few days & it turned out to be an incredibly beautiful area.  The campground I stayed at had some interesting patrons: a large Mongolian family who rented a large chunk of the place for the whole summer & set up a legit yurt village for weekend visits.  They must have worked hard setting it up, from little glimpses through open doors as I walked around the campground I could see that they were fully furnished with some really beautiful pieces.  I think yurt living might be fun, I’d like to try that someday.

Getting to Peru on Day 19 was a 160-mile drive up from Springfield.  I made a lunchtime stop in Washington, where I found not only one last Lincoln connection but also one to Father Jacques Marquette.  Marquette was a 17th-century French Jesuit missionary whom I’ve been partial to ever since my time on Mackinac Island, where there’s a statue of him in the middle of town.  He was quite a prolific traveler so I see references to him all over the Midwest.

On Day 20 I went to Starved Rock State Park, which is right on the Illinois River & has some incredible hiking along a cliff line with lots of waterfalls to visit.  I started off my day by climbing the park’s namesake rock, where legend has it that people of the Illinois tribe starved in their efforts to escape a battle with the Ottawa.  After a stop at the Visitor’s Center (where I found Father Marquette again) I headed out onto the red trail, which winds along the bottom of the cliff to several side canyons.  Wildcat Canyon has the largest waterfall in the park after a good rain.  In the afternoon I went for a tour of the Illinois & Michigan Canal on a boat pulled by a mule, which was something I didn’t even know I needed to cross off my to-do list.  I never realized how important canals were in the transit systems of the past.  The I&M runs 100 miles, all the way from Peru to Chicago.  I also definitely snuck my dog into a movie that day.  Looking to escape the heat, can’t leave her alone in the tent, certainly can’t leave her alone in the car, so I took her to see Ant-Man and the Wasp.  She’s tiny & ancient & deaf so she just slept on my lap & nobody even knew she was there.

On Day 21 I went to a different section of Starved Rock for a hike out to more waterfalls in Tonti & LaSalle Canyons.  It really is a beautiful park, I highly recommend it.

Next stop: the end of the journey in Sheboygan, Wisconsin!

Road Trip 2018: Stop 5

2018.07.05.002
Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles

Stop 5: Springfield, Illinois, July 3rd – July 6th

Stop 1 | Stop 2 | Stop 3 | Stop 4 | Stop 6 | Stop 7

I heard you like Lincoln so I put some Lincoln on your Lincoln.

I mean I get why Springfield is totally obsessed with Abraham Lincoln but like…dang.

Day 16 was just getting to Springfield from Kentucky, about a 250-mile drive.

On Day 17 I went to 2 Lincoln-related things – the Presidential Museum & the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.  The museum is AMAZING, they chronicle the lives of Lincoln, his family, & the people around them in such a vivid way that you can’t help but feel like you understand them all better as human beings & not just as historical figures that you read about in school.  The tour is a series of rooms with mannequins telling Lincoln’s life story with exhibits of other objects & events in between.  Apparently the 2 youngest Lincoln boys were total brats, there’s a whole room that just shows them destroying their dad’s office while he’s reading the newspaper without a care in the world.  Some displays are real tear-jerkers, like the one of a slave auction & another of Abraham at 12-year-old Willie Lincoln’s deathbed.  They’ve also got the most epic theater presentation EVER at the holographic “Ghosts of the Library” show – seriously, don’t miss it!  The Lincoln Home site preserves not only Abe’s house but his whole neighborhood.  There’s a guided tour through the house & then you’re free to wander through the surrounding couple of blocks for some displays in front of the neighbor’s houses.  Make sure your phone is charged, I missed out on at least one augmented reality experience because mine was too dead to download the app. 😦

 

On Day 18 I rounded off my tour of Abe’s life with a visit to the Lincoln family tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery.  The inside of the tomb is beautiful & the whole Lincoln family rests there except the oldest son, Robert, the only one to live into his adulthood.  Poor Mary Todd Lincoln buried her husband & 3 of her 4 children.  I spent the afternoon at the only non-Lincoln related site of my visit to Springfield, the Washington Park Botanical Garden.  The grounds are beautiful & there’s a domed greenhouse to visit with lots of tropical plants.  They also have a carillon, a musical instrument that’s actually a tower with bells.  Sadly it only gets played a couple of time each week & none of them were when I was around to hear it.

 

Next stop: nature & history in Peru, Illinois!

 

Recently in Awkwardness: Auto Train Adventure to my New Job!

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!

Road Trip 2018: Stop 4

2018.07.02.005
Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles

Stop 4: Paducah, Kentucky, June 30th – July 3rd

Stop 1 | Stop 2 | Stop 3 | Stop 5 | Stop 6 | Stop 7

On Day 13 I left Nashville & made a quick drive into western Kentucky so that I could spend Day 14 exploring in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.  Unfortunately by the time I got there I’d been on the road for two weeks in weather roughly the same temperature as the surface of the sun so although it’s a huge park with lots of trails & stuff I was running out of energy for outdoor activities & didn’t stay long.  I’d like to go back though, maybe in the fall when it’s cooler & the leaves are turning.  The name is pretty literal – it’s a big weird peninsula trapped between two forks of a dammed river, so there’s lots of water for boating, kayaking, swimming, etc.  There’s also a wildlife lab zoo thing, drive-through bison safari, living history farm, a really nice museum at the visitor’s center, & some ruins of iron smelting furnaces.

 

On Day 15 I went wandering around in Paducah, where I found a tugboat with the same name as my dad, an art gallery, & a tree on the sidewalk where the roots somehow grew into a square (the square root, lol).  Then a short hop over the Ohio river to Metropolis, Illinois to take a picture with the Superman statue in the middle of town & walk across the street to the Super Museum, which is basically a warehouse jammed floor to ceiling with some guy’s Superman obsession.  If you’re around in early June they have a Superman Celebration every year!

 

Next stop: all of the Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois!

Road Trip 2018: Stop 3

2018.06.27.004
Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles

Nashville, Tennessee, June 26nd – June 30th

Stop 1 | Stop 2Stop 4 | Stop 5 | Stop 6 | Stop 7

On Day 9 I headed out from Chattanooga & drove 150 miles or so northwest to Nashville, with a stop about halfway through at Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester.  The park is home to a Native American ceremonial enclosure which was long abandoned by the time Europeans arrived & mistook it for a fort.  I didn’t really see much of the earthworks because I got so hung up on the beautiful waterfalls!  Enclosure Trail is a 1.4-mile loop leading from the visitor’s center along the Duck & Little Duck rivers, as well as to some other trails.  Near Big Falls the trail passes through the ruins of the Stone Fort Paper Company mill, the last of several factories that were built here to take advantage of power supplied by the river.  I only had a couple of hours to spend there but there’s a lot to see & I would love to get back there to hike some more.

Day 10 was just wandering around seeing what the place had to offer.  Downtown Nashville was OK except for having to get after some guy in the middle of a gift shop to get him to stop dancing all up in my personal space.  I think he was part of a scavenger hunt or something, he was in a group all wearing the same t-shirts & headbands, & I kept seeing people all over town wearing the same t-shirts with different colored headbands.  What was the challenge – get a stranger to dance with you?  If it was get a stranger to yell at you they definitely got to check that one off the list.  Anyway I walked down Broadway to the river & it was mostly just bars & kitschy shops so I didn’t hang around long.  I went over to the Parthenon at Centennial Park.  It’s a full-scale replica built for the 1897 Centennial Exposition, complete with 42-foot statue of Athena.  The building also houses an art museum & plaster casts of the original Parthenon Marbles (sometimes referred to as the Elgin Marbles but that’s a whole rant I won’t get into today).  I ended my day at Belle Meade Plantation, which started off as a single cabin on 250 acres purchased by John Harding in 1807.  The property was right on the Natchez Trace, the main trading route between Tennessee & Mississippi.  The farm eventually became a successful thoroughbred breeding & racing operation that allowed Harding to build a large brick house.  John’s son William expanded the house & property before being one of just a few Confederate prisoners sent to the fort where I used to work on Mackinac Island!  The mansion & grounds were very cool & in the middle of a fancy-pants part of town so when I was done with my tour I basically just drove around staring at rich people’s houses.

On Day 11 it rained.  It rained alllll day.  So I headed down the road from my campground to do some indoor exploring.  Gaylord Opryland is a resort & convention center but it’s also basically a jungle inside a building.  There’s 3 sections of garden, complete with waterfalls & a river, all protected from the elements by giant glass domes.  It’s amazing & beautiful & free as long as you park at the shopping mall next door & walk over because parking on site costs a bajillion dollars ($27 – seriously) unless you want to eat at one of the expensive restaurants or stay in the expensive rooms.

On Day 12 I did what I do at least once on every single trip I ever take & went to the zoo.  The Nashville Zoo isn’t huge but has plenty to see, including an aviary with a sloth & a whole pen of guinea pigs that are pretty darn cute.  Plus of course lots of large African animals, monkeys, reptiles, & big cats (I didn’t take many pictures there.  I have no idea why.).  In one corner is the Grassmere Historic Home, which offers tours & a chance to pet heritage breeds of farm animals.

Next stop: nature & Superman in Paducah, Kentucky!