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

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 week: the end of the journey!

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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

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 Week: nature & Superman in Paducah, Kentucky!

Road Trip 2018: Stop 1

2018.06.20.034Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles

Forsyth, Georgia, June 18th – June 22nd

Stop 2 | Stop 3Stop 4 | Stop 5

About 6 weeks after I graduated from USF I was offered my first job on an archaeological project & headed out on a cross-country adventure from my home in Florida to the job site in Wisconsin.  On Day 1 I drove a little over 350 miles from Hernando, FL to Forsyth, GA, with a stop in Thomasville, home of the Big Oak.  The Big Oak is just that, a 300+ year old live oak tree which has grown to a height of 68 feet & a trunk circumference of 27.5 feet.  I really developed my obsession with KOA cabins on this trip – I bought a membership & it really paid off, 10% off each night plus I earned enough points to get a discount on my way back to Florida & even another whole year of membership for free!  The one in Forsyth is pretty nice, & the location halfway between Atlanta & Macon was great for visiting sites in both cities & the surrounding area.

On Day 2 I visited the beautiful historic downtown area of Macon, which has several historic homes open for tours.  This time through I visited The Cannonball House, which is named after the projectile that came through the living room wall during the Civil War (even though it wasn’t actually a cannonball!).  A few miles away is the prehistoric mound site at Ocmulgee National Monument, which has a museum and recreated earth lodge built around an original 1,000-year-old floor.

On Day 3 I finally made it to Georgia Aquarium!  After years of driving back & forth, each time thinking I’ll go see the whale sharks & then deciding I didn’t feel like dealing with Atlanta, this time I finally went.  It was AMAZING, I could seriously sit there & watch the whale sharks swim around all day, it’s very calming in the dark theater with the blue water & these super chill animals just drifting slowly around their tank.  Apparently they were shipped in from Thailand via UPS, just like all the junk I buy on Amazon.  They have tons of other stuff to see as well, including a dolphin show (avoid the first 10 rows if you don’t want to get wet), sea lions, penguins, & thousands of fish from a variety of ecosystems.

On the way back to Forsyth I stopped at High Falls State Park, which has some nice trails along a river as well as an abandoned ruin of a power plant.  It’s fenced off but the profusion of graffiti says that a lot of people ignore said fence.  It’s still really cool to see though.  On Day 4 I had lunch in Juliette (where parts of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed at the Whistle Stop Cafe & they never let you forget it) & stopped by the historic Jarrell Plantation, where all of the original buildings are open for visiting.  It was owned by the same family for 140 years before the founder’s descendants donated the property to the state.  Also they have goats to pet, & it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Next week: trains & battlefields in Chattanooga!