2018 Road Trip – Day 2

We left the hotel well rested and continued our trek north. It wasn’t long before we arrived in Petoskey, Michigan.

Petoskey State Park

Petoskey is a very busy town and the state park is just outside of town, so it was pretty busy as well. Today was a Friday in July, which probably added to the number of people there. We spent a couple hours searching the beach for the infamous Petoskey Stones.

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A Petoskey stone is a rock and a fossil, often pebble-shaped, img_3016that is composed of a fossilized rugose coral, Hexagonaria percarinata. The stones were formed as a result of glaciatio
n, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern (and some in the northeastern) portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
” – Wikipedia

We learned while there that the Petoskey stones are more commonly found in the spring, just after the ice melts. We’ll have to make plans to head back during that time I guess, but we did find a few small ones, pictured above.

After leaving Petoskey, we stopped for some cherries to snack on, since we didn’t plan to have lunch until we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. We img_3032thought about stopping and seeing Mackinac Island, but figured since it was a Friday we would save it for after we finished our tour of the Upper Peninsula. It took us a while to make it across the bridge, due to wind and weekend traffic, but we did eventually get a quick roadside lunch before journeying on.

PALMS BOOK STATE PARK

It was a bit of a haul to make it all the way to our first state park in the upper peninsula. We usually like to stop more frequently to stretch our legs and walk a bit, but the sights at Palms Book State Park were worth a bit of leg cramping. This was one of the most unique things I’ve seen in Michigan. The crystal clear water allowed an amazing view of an underwater spring (Kitchi-Iti-Kipi) and all the nature surrounding it.

There is a glass bottom boat that takes you across the spring so you can get the best views of the crystal clear underwater world. If you’re headed here, plan about 1-1.5 hours, depending on the lines for the boat. We were fortunate to get right on, but there were lines waiting when we got back.

You can’t stay overnight in Palms Book State Park, so we continued on to Fayette Historic State Park for the evening. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at Fayette, all of their campsites were full. This img_3079is the price we pay for spontaneity. Fortunately, we were prepared to camp rustic (no electric, or even toilets nearby) and they let us camp in their auxiliary field for only $15. This field is usually used for larger groups. It didn’t have facilities, but it did have a fire ring and picnic table, so we had all we needed and we drove down to the bath house in the campground to use the toilets. It was actually quite nice because we had the whole field to ourselves. After setting up camp, we had a nice supper and settled in for a rainy night. We saved the historical village part of the park for tomorrow.

 

 

2018 Road Trip – Day 1

We had planned to leave the house before noon, but a combination of sleeping in and not packing ahead of time delayed our start by a few hours. Unfortunately it also made us a bit cranky for our first day… not a good way to start an extended camping trip. Our original plan for today was to drive north to Luddington State Park for a late lunch and then to head up to Petosky State Park to set up camp. Unfortunately, or plans were going to have to change due to our late start.

LUDDINGTON STATE PARK

We sis make it to Luddington State Park. This is one of the one that was high on my list. In my third year of architecture school, I did a project in which I used the beach house lodge at Luddington Sate Park for inspiration. I loved the detail work and the way the light played off the building as the sun moved around it. I’d never seen it in person though and photos can often be deceptive. I was very excited to see it in person and had hoped to spend a little time relaxing on the beach. The beach house was everything I’d expected and was designed to be quite useful. We didn’t have much time to spend, but since we both liked it, we decide to come back again for a weekend sometime.

After Luddington, we decided to call it a night and get a hotel. It was starting to get dark and we didn’t want to make ourselves any more frustrated than we already were by trying to make it further north and set up camp in the dark. We chose a hotel about an hours drive north, stopped on the way for dinner, and spent our first night “camping” in a nice, fluffy hotel bed.

Road tripping again: The dreaded planning process

We really enjoyed our road trip last year, especially all of the amazing new sites we got to see, so we’ve been chatting about taking another road trip this year. My fiancé likes to be exceptionally spontaneous and I’m more of a planner. To make this work, he gives me a budget and a general theme or location for the trip. I then go to town researching the areas we are considering and how that will fit with our goals and budget. We don’t usually pre=book anywhere to stay along the way, so we can play it by ear as we go. This enables us to stay longer in areas we like and not waste precious time in areas that aren’t holding our interest. It also comes with some challenges though, especially when things are booked and we have to drive further than expected to find lodging for the evening.

This road trip proves to be exciting and challenging at the same time. We plan to road trip for 10-13 days around the perimeter of the state of Michigan, visiting state parks along the great lakes. We have thrown in an added challenge in that we will be camping for most of the trip. This means that every time we want to move locations (almost daily), we will need to tear down camp and then make sure we arrive at our next location early enough in the day to have light to set up camp again. It also means planning our food ahead of time. Our diet since the juice fast has been drastically different than our previous camping adventures have been and I need to rethink our camping food choices to find something that works with our new diet. Our entire budget for the 10-13 days is only $1500-1750.

I began by trying to find out which state parks in Michigan might have something interesting to offer that we can’t see elsewhere. There are over 100 state parks in Michigan, so we obviously can’t visit them all. We live in Southwest Michigan, so we have already decided we won’t spend a lot of time on the western side of the state, since we can get to most of those parks as a day or weekend trip. The same is true of the southeastern corner of the state, below Detroit. So, we will focus the bulk of our time in the upper peninsula and the northeastern corner of the state. I have compiled a map of 36 state parks, plus other attractions, that we might be interested in visiting.

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Next step is budgeting. I’ve calculated basic driving distance between select points in the state and determined we will probably drive about 1500-2000 miles and our vehicle gets about 20 mpg; this means we will need about $300 for gas alone. Our basic admission to the state parks is free because of the license plate I mentioned, but we still have ot pay to stay overnight. Camping fees in the state parks vary from $17-35/night, so I’ve budgeted $30/night for 13 nights, totaling $360. Our menu is pretty simple also. I’ll make rice and quinoa ahead of time and bring canned beans for dinner. Since it’s summer, we will stop at farmers markets along the road and pick up fruits and veggies to supplement. For lunch we’ll have rice cakes and peanut butter with fruit on top. Since I’m a BeachBody coach, we’ll have Vanilla Vegan Shakeology for breakfast each day. The powder is easy to mix with water and keeps you full for a few hours. Our grocery budget for all of this (minus Shakeology, because I already have it) is $260. We also have 2 meat days each week. I don’t really like taking steak in the cooler, so I’ve budgeted $180 for us to eat in restaurants on our meat days. This leaves us $400-650 for miscellaneous spending like hotels (if it’s cold or rainy), extra restaurant nights, admission to other attractions, etc. I don’t count souvenirs in the budget; if we decide to buy them, they are extras.

BUDGET $1500-1750

  • $300 – fuel
  • $360 – camping fees
  • $260 – groceries
  • $180 – restaurants
  • $400-650 misc.

After all of my planning, I can see that our trip is actually doable and looks like it will be fun and full of new sights and adventures. When I told my fiancé it was a go, he decided we should leave in 4 days! I already have a camping packing list to work from (I’m a planner), so it won’t be too hard to get things ready in time. Fortunately for my fiancée, my obsessive planning allows him to be as free and spontaneous as he wants to be. This is why we work so well together.

Bucket List Item: Write a Novel

The first bucket list item I want to focus on for my Tuesday posts is very timely. The month of November begins tomorrow. Every year, I have wanted to participate in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which takes place every year in November. The idea is that you write about 1700 words of a novel every day throughout the month of November and at the end of the month, you have approximately a 50,000 word novel… actually, probably more of a novella, but it’s a manageable task with a huge outcome.

Back in September, I mentioned that I have a novel running around in the back of my mind, just waiting to get out. This is why my daily wring goal, and this blog, are so important to me. One day, I want to get that novel out of my head. You may be thinking that that is what I will be writing this November, but it isn’t. I need to test my hand at this novel writing thing first. I need to work on developing a story arc and creating dynamic characters that people want to read about; I need to come up with compelling obstacles and interesting ways for characters to overcome them; and most of all, I need to know that I am even capable of writing anything resembling a novel before I take on the great story in my mind. The NaNoWriMo program structure helps me break novel writing down into a manageable task… a SMART goal.

I first heard of NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I have friends who write a lot and have participated in the past. They seemed to enjoy the challenge and many wrote novellas that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. None of my friends actually published their NaNoWriMo work, which actually seems less threatening to me than the thought of trying to write a book that is intended to go out into the world and be read by millions, or even dozens, of people. I think that type of work needs more planning than the structure and timeline of the program allows. This means that I can simply work on writing a story with a beginning, middle and end. While, 50,000 words in a month seems overwhelming, I have learned through this blog that 1-2 thousand words a day isn’t. It’s given me the confidence to sign up for my first ever NaNoWriMo. I’ve finally realized that life isn’t just going to pause and open up a perfect window long enough for me to write. If I want a novel written, I need to make the time and do it, so here goes.

That’s right, I start writing a novel tomorrow and , if all goes according to plan, should be 50,000+ words in by the end of November. I’ve brainstormed a few ideas and may post a few excerpts here for review from time to time. I’m hoping this will give me the push I need to get moving on my main novel again. Architecture school was a big distraction, but if I cross writing a novel off my bucket list, I’ll be halfway there. Publishing and selling a novel is the other half of this bucket list item, but I’m now realizing they don’t necessarily have to come together. Maybe I have more than one story to tell and my biggest challenge is simply to get started and get one out of my head. The fast structure of the program won’t allow me to get hung up on any one little element, I just have to keep writing. I’ll definitely keep you up to date on how it’s going in my Monday morning check-ins, so stay tuned.

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The Bucket List Job

It’s been a few days since I’ve written here. It’s not that I’m not sticking to my writing goals… I’m actually exceeding them. I’ve been hard at work 6+ hours per day writing complete project descriptions for all the items in my architecture portfolio. Unfortunately, I did not get in the habit of doing this as I worked on and completed projects; so I have to go back and write them now. It’s not as easy of a task when some of the projects happened five years ago.

One of my bucket list items involves working for the top architecture company in the world. That doesn’t happen easily. I need a tightly wrapped up and polished portfolio and a killer resume. I’m working on ensuring I have that right now. Instead of going to work, I go to “work” on my job credentials. I try to spend at least 6 hours a day on this process, as well as increasing my knowledge base by learning a new skill. I am hoping all of this extra work will help me get in the door and get that coveted interview. I usually do well once I hit the interview stage, and have never not been offered a job after an interview (knock on wood).

I don’t write this to brag. I write it because many people have a specific job or employer in their bucket list and that doesn’t happen by just sitting around and waiting for it. If you want that job, you need to prepare for it and be the absolute best candidate for it. Depending on the job, that could take days, weeks, or months. In my case it is taking quite a bit of writing and editing. I am finding myself often stretched to my mental limit by the end of the day and just unable to write another sentence. Today I took it a bit easier and went for a nature walk in the afternoon to refresh my mind and found that helped me be able to write more here. I’ll try to keep up that process so we can stay in touch, but please be patient with me if I miss a few days during the writing period.

The architecture portfolio is a unique process. Once the project descriptions are complete and edited to perfection (or as close as I can get), I will begin working on the creative layout for the portfolio and collecting all the necessary pictures and scans. Things get moved around and blended with the project descriptions until it all looks like a slick magazine that someone would actually be interested in reading. A lot of architecture students just create boards of each project, but a compelling narrative enhances the overall appeal of the portfolio and encourages people to take more than just a cursory glance… hopefully.

Living the bucket list isn’t just about buying things and experiences, because some of those experiences can’t be bought. Sometimes you have to put your nose to the grind and do the work required to reach the goal. I’m hoping all my work will pay off and I can soon check this item off the list as accomplished.

2017 Road Trip – Day 5

Today is the big travel day home. We aren’t even stopping much along the way. We’ve decided to take a short detour east so we can go through Indiana and miss most of the horrible traffic that exists between Chicago and Michigan.

We began the day driving through massive downpours almost all the way through Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. We stopped at a Perkins somewhere in Arkansas because I’ve never been in the state and I can’t count it as having been there if we simply drive through and never set feet on the ground.  Now I can say I’ve been there, although we didn’t see much through the rain. We did count our blessings that the rain had held off for all of our earlier adventures though, because we had pretty darn good weather for most of our trip.

We headed north through Missouri then southern Illinois, where we found Casey, Illinois. I have always loved the idea of road trips because of those fun roadside attractions that you can spend 5-10 minutes at. These are often unplanned finds and, for us, Casey was one of those places. Casey is home to some of the World’s Largest Stuff… a lot of it actually. With 8-1/2 hours of driving this day, we didn’t opt to drive around Casey and see them all, but we did see the World’s Largest Wind Chimes, World’s Largest Rocking Chair and World’s Largest Mailbox. There were giant pencils, rulers, and other items scattered around town as well. It was a fun break and something that we had been missing the rest of the road trip.

We stopped for dinner in Terre Haute, Indiana. It wasn’t too far past Casey, but we were getting hungry at this point and wanted to see the city. Terre Haute is a nice size city and we found Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant and had very yummy supper.

We still had about 3 hours of driving left and arrived back in Michigan shortly after 10pm… not too shabby for a 600+ mile drive in a single day. Looking back, I think if we were to do it over, I would have stayed in Indianapolis for the night and stopped a few more times along the way. Spending almost the entire day in the car was a bit of a challenge. In the end, we came pretty close to our $1000 budget and Indianapolis would have pushed us too far over, so it was the right choice at the time and we made it just fine.

As I mentioned in Day 1, here are our final Road Trip stats:

  • Elapsed time: 5 days, 4 nights
  • States visited: 7 (Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana)
  • Major Cities visited: 2 (St. Louis, Memphis)
  • Miles driven: 1430
  • Steps taken: 34,438 (we did really well the first couple days, then fizzled out)
  • Attractions/Sites visited: over 20
  • Hard Rock Shot Glasses added to collection: 2 (St. Louis & Memphis)

I hope you enjoyed following along, but more importantly; I hope this brief road trip, planned on the fly, has inspired you to get out and start living your bucket list. I’ve added as many links to these 5 blog posts as I could, to give you more information if you want to see any of the places we did, so no more excuses.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to start… somewhere.

 

 

2017 Road Trip – Day 4

Hello Memphis! Well, we actually woke up and had breakfast in Mississippi before heading into Memphis for the day, but it’s a short drive into the city.

We started our day with a visit to the Lorraine Motel, the site where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. They have turned the old motel into an incredibly moving National Civil Rights Museum that takes you through the struggles African Americans have faced throughout the history of the USA, beginning with slavery and continuing beyond the grim day in which the beloved MLK Jr. was taken too soon. The tone of the museum focuses on the civil rights movement and culminates with the viewing of the rooms where MLK Jr. was shot and the spot on the balcony where he was killed.

The other side of the street contains the second half of the museum. Here you can learn about the crime and the events of the day and leading up to it. You can see the location the killer shot from, the weapon used, and view the balcony from the sniper’s location. The whole experience is moving and almost had us in tears quite a few times. This is not a museum you will want to move quickly through, so plan at least half a day and plan to be challenged, disturbed, and at many times disgusted with the lows to which humanity has sunk, not only centuries ago, but within the last 50 years.

The Blues Music Hall of Fame is directly across the street from the museum exit and, although we didn’t go in this time, provided a much needed uplifting of the spirit and reminded us that, although we learned a lot that morning, we were also in Memphis to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.

We headed out towards Beale Street to hear some live blues and eat a late lunch. Beale street is a very interesting place with the sounds of all different varieties of music coming from every direction and mixing into a wild, neon-lit cocktail of fun. The photos will never do it justice because it simply something that must be experienced and felt to truly understand it. It feels vibrant, creative and alive here, but also has a slightly sad and unpleasant undertone of dirty exploitation with a hint of alcoholism. We still thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was and planned to go back again after supper to catch the night-life.

My fiancée was thrilled to find another Hard Rock Café located at the head of Beale Street and we stopped in to grab another addition to the shot glass collection before heading over to the Peabody Hotel. If you visit Memphis you must plan to be in the Peabody Hotel either at 11am or at 5pm, and plan to arrive early because their will be crowds. You see, the Peabody Hotel roof is home to a flock of 5 ducks. A duck master leads the ducks down from the roof, by elevator and red carpet, to the hotel lobby fountain, where they happily swim all day until it time to reverse the process and head back to the roof for the night. This is all done with extreme pomp and circumstance and there is even musical accompaniment. The best viewing spot is on the balcony opposite the elevator and slightly to one side, so you can see most of the march. However, children are permitted to sit right up next to the red carpet and pet the ducks as they march past. My fiancée rolled his eyes at me quite a bit for even suggesting this, but was a good sport about it and managed to enjoy himself as well. It was a bit of silliness that helped balance out the seriousness of the morning.

Finally, we drove out to see Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. Neither of us are big Elvis fans, so we didn’t want to do the tour, but it was on the way back to the hotel, so we took a few minutes to see what all the hype was about. The wall full of signatures and messages was the most surprising to me… they seemed to go on forever. Of course, we added our names as well and now become part of the history of the place. If you ever visit, bring a Sharpie so you too can join us in this history.

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We arrived back at our hotel planning to nap, and head back to Memphis for supper and more Beale Street fun. Instead, we ended up having a nice prime rib supper at O’Charley’s in the Suburban sprawl near our hotel and getting to bed. Apparently we are getting too old to manage such full days and still have enough energy to enjoy the night-life too.  We had fun there earlier in the day anyway, so we didn’t feel we were missing much.

Tomorrow we head home…