My Summer Trips

This year, for my birthday, my mom took me on a road trip. And then I got a second job which provided me with free travel. AND THEN my close friend invited me to come visit her while she was working on an Island. Here’s a list of the places I went, and what they were like.

Gettysburg, PA

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I love history, as a storyteller and a story aficionado I recognize that our longest, and oftentimes most interesting, story is that of ourselves. As such, I’ve been places that hold historical importance on many occasions. However, it isn’t often that you go to a place and the history, though often visible, is so tangible as it is in Gettysburg. You can feel it, like a weight dragging you down.

My mother and I arrived here the first night of our trip, enthusiastic to travel but also weary of the amount of time we were about to be spending in my roomy Mini Cooper.

We checked into our hotel, which felt very southern in it’s architectural design, and then decided to walk around town. We found ourselves near the battlefield (which was less than a block from our Hotel), walking on the same ground many people died on. Then we went through the The Gettysburg National Cemetery. Silence filled the air, which was also occupied by a blanket of humidity, and was occasionally broken by the sound of some children playing. The atmosphere was chill inducing, whether from the gravity of the seriousness of the events that transpired here, or the weather, I can’t entirely say.

But one thing really stuck with me here, and that’s that “no one wins a war”.

After our walk through some historical sites, we found a place for dinner, where I had what I am convinced was the best beer this side of Heaven, it’s called Yuengling, and some delicious Fish and Chips. We walked into the more modern (though still remnant of the past) downtown, and walked back to the hotel.

The next day we went on a tour through the Jennie Wade house, learning about the only civilian casualty during the battle of Gettysburg. It’s strange how moments of your life can seem so insignificant until they become signs. It was shortly before we started this trip that I had realized that there was no way for me to serve as an active member of the armed forces, due to health reasons, and that had been something that I had been considering, quite seriously, for awhile. However, in addition to the health issues, I had some reservations about being a human with anti-war sentiments and enlisting. Going to this house, and learning about Jennie, showed me in a more concrete way than I had ever experienced, that there is more than one way to serve your country, and your people.

Hershey, PA

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We drove to Hershey the day after we arrived in Gettysburg, and this was my actual birthday, so by golly I was going to make my own candy bar and I was going to enjoy it.

What I didn’t do was realize that the average age of folks at the Hershey Parks was about 9. No where close to the 22 I was turning, which made me feel even older, but after the first few moments of hesitation I didn’t care.

There is something very therapeutic about watching chocolate cascade.

Anyways, the whole experience was really cool, I got my own chocolate bar with pretzels and rice crisps, and I got to design my wrapper!

Salem, MA

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Salem just feels spoopy. This was probably helped by the fact that we arrived at about 11 at night.

Let me just say that planning when you travel is super important. My mom, not a super seasoned traveller, did not think so before we left, refused to book hotel rooms, and this resulted in us paying over 200 dollars for less than 12 hours in a hotel room. And being real cranky.

Anyway, Salem in the daytime also feels kind of spoopy, but in a way that is friendly, like Casper, and not scary. We went to the witch history museum, and learned about the Salem Witch Trials. I learned that my mom had never seen The Crucible, which I fixed IMMEDIATELY when we got back home.

Salem is somewhere that I would love to go back to. My mom didn’t really dig it, she felt uncomfortable there with her faith and the ‘witchcraft loving’ atmosphere. I understood, and just earmarked places to go on my return.

Bar Harbor, ME

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If you can’t tell already, this trip was largely decided based on food. I really really really wanted to try some Maine lobster.

I don’t know why, I had recently become a vegetarian/pescatarian, and the whole, crack-this-body-with-a-face-open-and-eat-it’s-innards thing, got to me. However the blueberry pie was to die for! And the clam chowder, mashed potatoes, and beer were pretty good too!

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Bar Harbor itself was really nice, it reminded me a lot of the U.P., and almost all other coastal towns I’ve been to. Of course, this one was on the ocean, but it still had a lot of similarities. The hotel we stayed at was really nice, and where we were staying reminded me so much of the worker’s quarters in Dirty Dancing, had I not been exhausted from the car ride, history may have been made.

Newbury, VT

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So, on a scale of 1 – Certified Organic, Gluten Free, Free Range Ice Water, Vermont (or at least the part we went to) seems very Hipster-y. Normally I’m not bothered by that (I lived in Hoxton, London for two months and I feel like I can hang), but this was sooooo annoying. When you’re hipster-dom is inspired by an interest in things, or the desire to be cool, then whatever. When it’s derivative of looking down your nose at other people, you can get over yourself.

Anyways, I had a 10 dollar bowl of mac-n-cheese for dinner, and then ate some of my mom’s pizza, which was a huge mistake because while cheese is delicious, you can’t actually eat your body weight in it. Pity.

This is important information because we went to Vermont to visit the Ben and Jerry’s factory, which we were going to the next morning.

Ben and Jerry’s is everything. And I am very passionate about free samples. But the dairy.

Had I been thinking I would have held off on the cheese the night before, but when in Vermont, yeah? Anyway the factory tour was really really cool, and the guide was SO awesome. I would definitely recommend this as a place to go, because of the attraction itself, but also because the mountains in general are just so dang beautiful. (I was/am also having a Hobbit phase, so my love for the mountains was…amplified)

I thought that it was really interesting to compare the factory tour of Ben and Jerry’s to the Hershey’s tour. One was very politically conscious, and the other wasn’t. How many guesses do you need?

Going to Hershey’s was fun, but difficult, knowing the very brutal reality of how chocolate is harvested at the expense of the workers doing the harvesting, for the profit of a major company. Contrast that with Ben and Jerry’s model of having fair trade ingredients, and even giving their employees three free pints of ice cream every week they work (time for a career change, right?), and I could easily see massive differences between the companies’ working cultures. Recently having been hired in a job that focuses on employee training may give me a different insight to this than I would’ve had a year ago, but you could see on the employee’s faces the differences between levels of enjoyment at their places of work.

And the best part? Ben and Jerry’s is proof that a business can be politically conscious, morally supportive, environmentally friendly, AND turn a profit, not to mention be sustainable.

Bless you all.

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(And the flavor graveyard is a thing of dreams) (and sometimes heartbreak)

Chicago, IL

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I have been to Chicago several times, but never with the complete freedom to decide what I wanted to do. This was the second out of state trip I went on with MSU’s American Semester Program this summer, and it was by far the best. My role, with ASP in general, was to help international students in there interactions with American cities, but also to socialize with them as an American.

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During my time in Chicago I went to the SkyDeck, we stayed in a really cool hostel (and this was my first time staying in a hostel), and I had the best dinner of my life at Tanta.

The first night we were in Chicago, myself and another ASP student helper, Carol, lead a group of youngin’s to the Bean, and just wandered around the city, learning about each other and what life was like in our respective countries.

The next day a group of students and I went to breakfast, mostly to cure the hangovers of those who went out dancing the night before, and then we embarked on a trip to the Art Institute. After seeing the prices of tickets, and since I’ve been there before and had less than 24 hours left in the city, Carol and I skedaddled, and went to the SkyDeck Observatory. What a trip that was, the wait time was FOREVER, but it was pretty cool to see the city like that. Afterwards we headed back to the hostle, took a small break, and got ready for dinner at Tanta.

If you pay attention to only one thing, pay attention to this: Peruvian food was sent by the Gods.

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Carol, a Peruvian, wanted to go to a restaurant that made her favorite food. I had never even heard of a traditional Peruvian dish, so I was down, and another ASP student helper joined us. IT WAS AMAZING. Also expensive, so I just had a small dish of Causita with prawns, but anything involving mashed potatoes is all I need.

I still dream about that food.

After dinner we caught a Shakespeare play on Navy Pier, where I also had a Hard Cider (after having Pisco at dinner, viva Peru), so I’m not very confident in what play we actually saw. Then, we hung out on Navy Pier, went on the Ferris Wheel and Swings, got some Churros, and took in the site of the city at night. We returned to the (now very busy) hostel, and had to show our room cards to get past the lobby. We didn’t think anything of it, but when I got back to my room one of my roommates shared with me that Carly Rae Jepson was at the bar in the hostel/hotel, after which she scurried downstairs to hopefully catch her as she exited the bar, because she’s only 18. The next day I got a full retelling of how she didn’t meet Carly, but she ran into a Victoria’s Secret model, a brand which she is by all accounts obsessed with. As she was telling me the same model came down into the lobby, where we were, and she about peed. Bless her.

That morning we left Chicago, and I was reminded of why this was once my favorite city.

   

Niagara Falls, Canada

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My grandmother lives in a tourist town, and I spent most of my childhood summers with her, so I’m familiar with the set up. However, nothing could have prepared me for the level of tourist-y cliché-ness that is Niagara Falls. The falls are so beautiful!

And then.

There’s not really a whole lot of anything else to do. Unless you’re into the regular tourist traps of wax museums, 4D movies (whatever the hell that really means), and trinket shops. I was fairly bored after we went to the falls, so I guess it was good that we were leaving the next day. I was also disappointed in the amount of chain stores/restaurants that we saw. In fact, I only ate at chain restaurants while we were there, and that made me kind of sad, but the group decides.

Anyway, the falls were awesome and worth the trip.

Until our bus broke down on the way home, turning a 6 hour trip into a 10 hour one.

Oy vey.

Mackinac Island, MI

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My first thoughts:

“I can see why someone would want to live here for a summer”

“The water is so beautiful! Look at that coast!”

“That’s a lot of bikes…”

“WOW HORSE POOP”

Mackinaw Island was an experience, and a really cool one, but I don’t think it would’ve been nearly as cool without the personal guide that was my friend Magoo. She was working on the Island over the summer, her second time doing so, and I decided (after being invited) to visit her there. I got to see some things that I know I never would have without her access to the sites, and I got to stay in an old Mission House, which was weird on a lot of levels (cue the spoops) but also as someone with Native American lineage.

I liked going through the fort, and the various old buildings converted to museums, all with the information supplemented by Magoo. While the Island was cool, I was over it pretty quickly, and I definitely wouldn’t have liked it much at all without the presence of Magoo. However, going there allows me to check another quintessentially Michigander thing to do off of my list (for clarification I don’t actually keep a list, though).

Now….

This summer was a blast, and I’m glad I took as many opportunities to get away as I could, but I’m ready to be in the same place for awhile…maybe.

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Besides, dog missed me. 🎬

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