Helen Keller Birthplace
After a night of being eaten alive by insects, I figured it'd be best to buy some bug repellant and a couple of other things. So before making my way to Georgia, I plugged the closest Target into my GPS (which, by the way has been one of the smartest investments I've ever made. I should have bought one a long time ago). Little did I know the closest Target would be 2 hours away, but really didn't matter too much because it was in the general direction I was heading. After about an hour on the road, I missed a turn I was supposed to take. Instead of turning around I figured, it's a road trip, why not take the re-routed detour. As I came to a stop light I spotted it out of the corner of my eye... a sign for the Birthplace of Helen Keller. Now ever since I was a little girl, I've found Helen Keller inspirational and I knew I needed to visit. Pulling into the drive way of Ivy Green I was greeted by huge magnolia trees and I began to feel giddy. This was exactly what I wanted my summer road trip to be. Here I was on an unplanned adventure all because I missed a turn.
I got there in the early afternoon, so there really wasn't that many people. There was a couple that arrived shortly before me and after I paid I joined them for a guided tour of the house. The tour was really wonderful. It's so much more enjoyable visiting a historic place can be when you receive all the extra information.
In the one room near the back entrance, that was once Helen's mother's room, they had photos, letters, books, games, Miracle Worker movie poster and reviews.
This was the first room to the right when you come into the house, it was initially her father's.
This is another view of that first floor room. Most of the furniture, clothing and decor belonged to the Keller family.
This is one of the gardens that separate the main house from the cottage.
Helen's room when both her and Anne Sullivan moved into the cottage right next door to the main house to work more one on one.
The water pump.
"At this well Anne Sullivan Macy revealed the mystery of language to seven year old Helen Keller by spelling the work W-A-T-E-R into her hand as water flowed over the other hand"
After wondering the grounds for a bit and making a quick stop in the gift shop, I had to get back on the road so that I would get to Georgia by the time I said I would. I was on way to visit Meaghan and Austin Wieland. I hadn't seen them since their wedding and was so happy that they were able to have me come visit, even though it would only be for one night. Staying for one night just meant that I had an extra excuse to visit them again when I would be making my way back up north from Florida :)
Now, it doesn't matter how much advanced planning I do, I will always be running around like a crazy person doing last minute packing. I also always make it a rule to over pack and especially in this case of not knowing exactly what to expect over the next 2 months. But with a couple of space saving techniques I came across on Pinterest, my little red car was packed and ready go.
National Ornamental Metal Museum
The first stop on my route was the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, TN. Being a metalsmith and all this was a no brainer stop that I needed to make. I just wish my first time visiting there wasn't on a summer day in the upper 90s. Other than the sweltering heat, it was such a beautiful day and an amazing place. In addition to their incredible permanent collection they have 3 additional exhibitions; Tributaries: Stephen Yusko, Drawings of E.A. Chase: Designs of a Pioneer Modernist, and their Museum Store Gallery exhibition In the Garden. I have completely fallen in love with this place and will most definitely be encouraging a SIUe group trip to visit there this fall.
The outdoor grounds of the Metal Museum.
The outdoor grounds of the Metal Museum.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of one of the garden areas. Love me some floral inspiration.
Camping on the First Night
After going to the Metal Museum, I had an online reservation for a campsite at Big Hill Pond State Park. I felt that staying in a more organized campground setting would put me a little more at ease, at least for the first night. Once I got there I was surprised to see that no one else was around especially because when I was making the reservation it looked like there would be at least 5 other campsites in use. But with no one else being there it actually put me more at ease because I didn't want to be setting up my tent for the first time with an "audience". (Mostly, I was worried that I wouldn't look like I knew what I was doing and end up drawing more attention to myself.) Now staying at this campsite made me realize one important fact to look at when booking a campsite online...double check any fine print about the type of campsite. Yes, when booking this site it said that there was a tent pad but that it was also available for camper/RV use. So, that ended up meaning that the spot mostly consisted of gravel and wood chips. I thought, "Well this won't be too bad. I should have enough padding between the 2 sleeping bags to be alright for the night." Which was the truth, it was a stiff nights sleep but bearable. The issue I had was getting the tent stakes to stay in the ground. I fussed around with them trying to get the tent stable for quiet a bit; all the while feeling like I was dying in the humidity, heat and swarm of insects that completely made a meal of me because I forgot to bring bug repellent. So, putting up the tent took a little longer than it should have because I kept hiding in my car with the ac on trying to find refuge. Once the tent was all up and semi secure I figured I try to lay in the tent and get some reading done.
Really fantastic book, but unfortunately I didn't get very far. I was extremely distracted by the stifling heat and to add to things, the far distant rumble of thunder. Naturally, at this point I was a nervous wreck. Not only was I camping by myself for the first time but there was also a massive thunder and lightning storm heading my way. I made multiple phone calls and sent out the obligatory SnapChats sharing my predicament looking for some reassurance and encouragement, which I thankfully received. I took everyone's advice encouraging me to think of the rain as a soothing way to fall asleep. In the end that approached worked, even though I still had in the back of my brain the fear of lightning hitting a tree and falling on me in the middle of the night. I only woke up 3 times throughout the course of the night, and for the most part was able to fall right back to sleep.
Now, I am in no way shape or form a morning person, I'm way more of a night owl. But with ending up falling asleep around 8:30pm, my body decided to wake up at 5:50am. Which was surprisingly refreshing. Getting up that early gave me a chance to take my time getting packed up and get prepared to head to my next destination, Georgia.
So I wanted to first and foremost say that I've been kinda, really procrastinating on getting this summer blog up and going. For one, I'm surprised at how none stop things have been and haven't had a chunk of time to get started. Secondly, I'm a tad nervous about not having things proof read before they go out and into the world (so it will probably be a lot of pictures with captions). And third, I don't even know how to blog. I don't typically read blogs (occasionally I'll read a post or two here and there) and I should have probably done a little bit of preliminary research. So here it goes...I'm starting it now and hey who knows, maybe I'll like doing it.
Before I jump into the here and now, I want to do a couple of posts recapping of how things have been going.
How it All Started...
A couple months ago I was beginning to plan what I would be doing this summer. I knew that I definitely wanted to attend summer workshops because up until now I haven't had a open summer to go to one. Once I found out that I would be attending a workshop at Peters Valley and one at Haystack, I decided they were both at the tail end of the summer so why not go on a road trip before hand. At first I thought that it was just a fun thing to plan for that wouldn't actually happen. But then I realized that it was more than just wanting to go on a trip like this, it was that I needed to go on a trip like this. This is the summer before my final year of grad school and I don't know when another opportunity to freely travel will be possible. With that being said, I also wanted to take this summer to do a little in person research for the next step; whether it's applying for residencies, jobs, whatever the case may be. You can do all of the online research in the world, but nothing compares to visiting in person. In addition to the pragmatic reasonings, I also have never really traveled too much on my own. Sure, I've driven back and forth from Illinois to Pennsylvania plenty of times by myself and have traveled to conferences alone, but to make plans and travel solo for approximately 2 months...I have never experienced anything like that before. The whole idea of traveling solo and making all of the decisions and plans was both exhilarating and terrifying. A lot of times I find it difficult to do things on my own, I prefer to enjoy places and events with other people. But I can say now with being about half way through my trip, it's been one of the most empowering things I've ever done. And while this trip is about me and my decisions, I am so blessed to have the support system of my friends and family encouraging me every step of the way.
So once it was decided that this was going to be a reality and now just a fun make believe trip, I began to set out a general route of different place and people I wanted to visit. Initially I compiled a list of approximately 27 stops and created a general itinerary to follow. Shortly into the trip I realized that best approach was to check in with people a couple days in advance to see if they would be willing and able for me to come visit. By doing this, it keeps my trip flexible and somewhat spontaneous.
In addition to staying with friends and family, I also wanted to camp. Now, I can count on one hand how many times I've gone camping or have camped in someone's yard, and none of those times have been by myself. So I'm not exactly sure what inspired that idea but I'm really happy I decided to.
Getting on the Road...
Let's just say, the official date I wanted to leave changed a couple of times for multiple reasons.
Before I made any kinds of plans for my trip, I needed to finish this wedding band set of 3 for a beautiful couple, Evan and Miranda.
Photo curtesy of the couple
But sadly, that wasn't the only reason for delaying the start of my trip. Not gonna lie, the official date was hanging in balance due to Pittsburgh Penguins and the outcome Stanley Cup Finals. (Yes, hockey plays that much of a determining factor in my life.) So keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it wouldn't go to a game 7, I set the date for Wednesday June 15th. (But kinda forgot to send a message to the first friends that I was going to stay with...oops. Again, I'm sorry guys.)
With the date set, my car packed with camping gear, supplies for the 2 workshops, a cooler and anything else that I could possibly need for 2 months...I got on the road.