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.

img_3013

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.

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 2

On the second day of our road trip, we woke up in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch. It’s an iconic piece of architecture that defines not only the St. Louis skyline, but also the city itself. References to the Arch can be seen throughout the city and are almost impossible to escape. We saw photos, paintings and graphics of the arch in every nook and cranny of every restaurant, hotel, bathroom, and even in the casino carpet design. It is amazing to see such a seemingly simple piece of architecture being so thoroughly embraced by an entire community as a piece of their cultural identity. Hats off to architect, Eero Saarinen for creating such an iconic structure.

22196215_10213938207596494_7938003580632017465_n

It was only a 10-minute walk from our hotel to the base of the Arch. We purchased our tram tickets and waited in line to head to the top. Tickets to the top of Arch currently cost $13 per adult and can be purchased ahead of time online. We were doing this road trip on the fly and purchased them onsite. Fortunately it’s not the height of tourist season and it’s during the week, so we were able to get tickets on a tram right away, with no waiting necessary. If you head there on a weekend or in the summer, I’d suggest planning ahead and reserving tickets online. The journey to the top takes 4 minutes. It involves very tight quarters and some stairs, without accessible options… ADA requirements weren’t as strict when it was built in the 1960’s. There are windows at the top on both sides of the Arch, giving you a great view of the city of St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and southern Illinois. The whole journey to the top experience takes about 45 minutes, so plan accordingly.

After the Arch, we headed back to the hotel, hopped in the car and headed to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a tour. The basic tour (which we took) is free and includes about 18 ounces of free beer per person (over age 21) during and at the end of the tour.  The factory is amazing and the architecture geek in me was on high alert the whole time. The stables have Tiffany stained glass windows, the brewing rooms look like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate factory and the brickwork on the outside of the buildings is more detailed and beautiful than you would expect to find in a typical factory. The tour itself takes about 45 minutes, and is quite enjoyable even if you aren’t a beer enthusiast, but plan a little extra time to enjoy your free beverage in the Biergarten, where there is often live music to enhance your experience. We happened to conclude our tour in the Beirgarten just before 3pm. Every day at 3pm, they have a Bud Light toast to the beer-masters, so we received an additional free small Bud Light to participate in the toast.

Note: Little people can come with you on the tour, but won’t receive any adult beverages. They do check ID’s carefully, so make sure to bring yours even if you aren’t normally carded.

Our next stop was the Hard Rock Café. My fiancée has a collection of Hard Rock Café shot glasses that needs to be expanded and he doesn’t yet have St. Louis. The Hard Rock Café is located in the back of the old Union Station complex. There is a pond out back full of very entertaining koi fish. For a quarter, you can get a handful of fish food and watch the fish go nuts! We had just started feeing the fish when there was a train whistle over the loud speaker, followed by music and a light-fire-steam show from the fountain elements in the pond. It was quite entertaining and apparently happens every hour. The grand hall in Union Station was closed for renovations, but I imagine when it reopens this will be a key destination for families.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to look at the outside of the City Museum. This is a crazy place to visit, and one of THE top attractions if you are visiting St. Louis with kids. We could have done the City Museum instead of the Brewery tour, but every time I’ve been in St. Louis before, I’ve either been a kid of been with kids, so I wanted to do something different this trip. I have been before, it was late in the day, and the museum was already closed, so we didn’t go inside, but if you have more time than we did, I highly recommend it.

22195356_10213940790901075_3512903611065171631_n

After a nap (geez, I’m getting old), we had a late supper at Joey B’s in Laclede’s Landing. Joey B’s has an extensive shot menu (but again, I’m getting old) and surprisingly yummy food. Their kitchen is open late, so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a late night meal. We headed back to the hotel under Spiderman’s watchful gaze, on a cloudy full moon night, to rest up for the next leg of our journey.

22308673_10213942871233082_4594113808153092886_n

Tomorrow we hit the road again… stay tuned…

2017 Road Trip – Day 1

The road trip was a lot of fun. I feel like we accomplished quite a bit in a very short amount of time. Here are the final 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)

In addition, we stayed pretty close to our $1000 budget for the whole thing.

So you may be wondering what all we did. I’ll touch a little on the first leg, day one, here.

We left Michigan and travelled about 2 hours before getting out to stretch our legs at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. We did a short (about an hour) hike to St. Louis Canyon. It was beautiful, even though they’ve had a bit of a dry spell and the water fountain was actually more of a trickle. Starved Rock is easily a day, weekend or even week-long trip on its own, but we have both been before and the purpose of our stop was just to stretch our legs a bit.

22195703_10213930276638225_8919624267046469941_n

We continued on for about another 2 hours before stopping for lunch and a quick drive through Springfield, IL. It’s the capital of the state and worth a look if you’re driving nearby. We found the beautiful capital building… architecture geek moment.

22196254_10213931142219864_1119033164377404545_n

About 45 minutes after leaving Springfield, we arrived at Cahokia Mounds. It’s the site of a native American city that was actually larger than London in the 1200’s. Unfortunately the interpretive center had closed just before we arrived, so we didn’t get to learn as much about it as we’d hoped; but the park was still open and we were able to climb the insane amount of stairs up the top of 10-story tall Monk’s Mound.

22221765_10213931836757227_2003135864457876178_n

It was from the top of this mound that we got our first glimpse of our destination for the day… St. Louis., Missouri. Even though it was pretty cloudy at this point, the skyline was definitely visible; we knew we were close.

22221603_10213931838517271_6921433625513524769_n

Before we left the Cahokia Mounds, I hopped online quickly to book us a hotel. We only had about 15 minute left to drive, so the Cahokia site would be easily accessible to anyone on a visit to St. Louis. Our last minute hotel, Hotel Lumiere, turned out to be quite beautiful with a large indoor courtyard and attached to a casino.

22154680_10213932281848354_2298206271535071306_n

We arrived in the city, checked into our hotel and walked out into the historic Laclede’s Landing neighborhood to find some supper. There aren’t a lot of options there right now (although there is a lot of construction), but Morgan Street Brewery turned out to be a good choice… lucky for us, because not much was open.

22141059_10213932739699800_1257342622822925746_n

After a nice supper, we tucked in for the night, ready for a full day of sight-seeing in St. Louis the next day. We saw the Arch from a distance this evening, but in the morning we will be going up inside… stay tuned…

Working Through Unexpected Obstacles

My goal was to write five blog posts this week and I was off to a great start…. three in a row. So of course, the universe decided to throw me for a loop. I had a nice part-time job at a small, local architecture firm for the past 2 years of school. It provided me with real-world experience and flexible hours during school and the people I worked with were nice. Unfortunately, the salary was about half what I should be making and the job offered no benefits. In addition, I’d kind of peaked and was simply doing the same thing over and over again. As an architectural intern, it’s important for my education to continue at my job, so that one day I will be a better architect. So, I left the job in July.

Tuesday I got a frantic text from a former co-worker. She is pregnant and was suddenly put on bed rest and wondered if I could come back in to work this week to finish up a project she was working on that is due Friday. I checked my schedule and let her know that, yes, I could help her. I’m now worried that I might regret that decision.

You see, I’d gotten away. I have been looking for one of those jobs out there that I know is a better fit. It’s uncomfortable and scary to be out of work and searching, but I was doing it. Going back was too easy. They love me there, and they miss me and they have repeatedly asked me to come back. It would be an easy thing to do. They offered to keep my hours down to 20/week so I could still look for work. I’d have a few more funds coming in, which would definitely help right now. They even offered me a raise. But I’m not going to do it. I can’t.

I need to value myself before others will see that value. I graduated top of my class. My skills are worth those big firm jobs with competitive salaries, seemingly endless benefits, exciting work culture and a clear pathway to licensure. I am worthy of a job that will move my career forward instead of pigeon-holing me into a role that doesn’t allow me to grow as a future architect. I need to say no. Despite the fact that I think my co-workers are fantastic people, despite the fact that it is comfortable and easy there; and despite the fact that I know they really need my help for more than just this week. So I will help them meet this deadline, because I made that commitment and I am a woman of my word. But then, I will say goodbye and I will walk away. They will find someone else to fill my position, as they should have done when I left the first time. They may struggle for a few weeks, but it will be better for all of us in the long term.

I will continue on the path towards the job I need and want to move me forward. These past few days back at my old job have been busy (but not necessarily productive) and I’ve found myself too busy to meet my own goals and deadlines; and that can no longer continue. I have to keep telling myself, “It’s ok to walk away from things not meant for you. It’s also ok if not everyone understands your path as you do so. Many people take what life gives them and don’t understand someone who is actively looking for something better. That’s ok. Wish them well on their journey and continue on yours, without worrying about their criticism. If you know it’s right, you owe it to yourself to go for it.”

With that in mind, I’m going to continue to value myself and follow my path; and I know someday soon the right company will value me as well.

Overcome-Business-Obstacles

I’m writing, again!

franz-kafka-quotes-sayings-non-writing-writer-insanity

So one day doesn’t make a habit, and neither does two… but two days is twice as many on the way to starting a habit and I am on day two of my daily writing habit. Yesterday I talked about how I worked through a Level 10 Life assessment and generated 3 SMART goals in each of the 10 categories (read that post here). Well, one of my goals in the career category was to start writing daily again. It’s something that scares me and that I sometimes drift away from every now and then, and therefore it’s actually one of the more important habits I want to get back into.

They say that everyone has a book inside them waiting to come out. I know that to be true because mine started to come out and I shoved it right back up in there and tried to ignore it. In 2009, I found my career in marketing (like so many others) to be a victim of the recession. I had quite a bit of time on my hands and I’d always wanted to write. My marketing background made me decide to start a blog. I figured I would use it to learn about social media marketing, which was the latest buzzword in the marketing world, by signing up for a couple mentorships and promoting my blog writing. Turns out, people enjoyed it. I soon had a nice group of readers, we got on well, and they supported me as I entered and won contests on other websites for my writing. It was a great feeling. Writing the blog every day was easy; there were few other obligations to get in the way. I was a divorced stay-at-home mom writing online and I loved it.

After a year, I decided to get a little more ambitious and write a novel. I had an idea running around in my head that was dying to get out on paper. So I dug in. I created character charts, working hard on developing characters that weren’t black and white, but varying shades of gray to make them more believable. I outlined my plot arc and found it to be sufficient to probably write a trilogy instead of a single story. I worked through where those arcs would end, so that if you finished a book it felt like you had read a complete story and yet still wanted to know what happened next. I edited other authors’ works so that I could gain experience on how the story would progress and how the books would ultimately be structured. I worked on my book every day for at least an hour, but often more. It began to kind of take over my life and sometimes my blog writing suffered for the sake of the book, but it was all writing, so that was ok.

It was an amazing experience, and then something happened. I had to create the environment in which the characters interact. The story takes place in a semi-fictional location (but still on earth), giving me the opportunity to create it any way I wanted within the framework of basic physics. I started planning a city. I thought about the way the streets were formed; were there cars or carriages or another form of transportation that hasn’t been invented yet? What was their technology, and how would that effect the design of buildings. Were people comfortable enough to have their homes infused with technology? At the time, the idea of a device eavesdropping on your home (Alexa), waiting for you to order a pizza, or request a song be played, or to remind you to call your mother in an hour was still pretty scary stuff. Most people were still skeptical of who or what would be listening and how that information might be used against them. Many people still are. I thought that might make a “utopia” with advanced technology somewhere that an average person might find a little creepy, to say the least. An excellent place for more character development.

I spent so much time envisioning the design of the buildings that I started to look at the buildings around me and wonder why we couldn’t have buildings like I was envisioning. I wondered if what I was thinking was impossible to build. I started to become obsessed with architecture. The more I tried to write, the more I questioned the architectural environment I was putting my characters in. I would take out paper and sketch instead of writing. Even if I wanted to write a description of the environment, I would sketch out the basics of it in order to properly describe it. I found that I liked working on the architecture more than writing the story. I was beyond distracted.

By this point it was 2011. I started to look at the possibility of going back to architecture school. I had been out of work for 2 years at this point and thought I must clearly have flipped my lid if I thought I was going to incur mountains of debt to obtain a fancy degree halfway through life, but the idea persisted; it just wouldn’t let go. I enrolled in a community college first and spent a year in art classes, loving every minute of it. I went on to architecture school and felt like I’d finally found what I was meant to be doing. It’s not that it wasn’t hard, or frustrating, or full of moments where I just wanted to quit; but it just felt like it was where I was meant to be.

Now architecture school leaves little time for anything else and writing was quick to fall to the wayside. To be honest, I was so busy that I hardly even missed it. When I really needed a writing fix, I found a way to argue with one of my unfortunately unlucky friends on Facebook; not the good friends, because I happen to be really good at arguing and often find myself blocked when the poor soul can no longer come up with replies to my arguments. Yet for the most part, writing had become a thing of the past.

It wasn’t until I graduated and started to look at how mono-focused I had become that I realized how much I really enjoyed writing… it’s part of who I am. That story is still stuck inside me, wanting to get out; the blog is still in me, wanting to be written; and most importantly, I’m running out of casual friends to argue with (and potentially lose) on Facebook. So when I looked at the career spoke of the Level 10 life wheel, I just couldn’t envision that area ever becoming a Level 10 unless writing was part of it. I set the SMART goal to write for at least 15 minutes a day… so here I am today, ready to finish up my second blog post and make it through one more day of rebuilding my daily writing habit. It feels cathartic. It feels good. It feels like coming home, and I thank you for following along with me.