Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Indy Summer: Part One

This summer, I had the privilege of living in Indianapolis and exploring a new city. Though I did some exploring last year, this summer's ventures really opened my eyes to what Indy is all about and has to offer. My summer wasn't terribly earth shattering with excitement, but it was definitely something new. To recap, here is Part One of some things I did this summer while in the Circle City.

Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station: Over the summer, Allison and I went to the BRICS for some cool treats during the hot summer. I was first introduced to this Indy gem at the Alpha Sigma Tau National Convention in June but hadn't actually seen the store until later in the summer. The interior was so cute -- the mixture between historic and new, wood and metal was intriguing! It felt cozy despite the coolness of the metal. More importantly, the ice cream was delicious! I really enjoyed it and look forward to my next trip there!

The Flying Cupcake: It sure was a tasty summer! In addition to ice cream, I also enjoyed some cupcakes. I never really was exposed to the cupcake fad. It isn't a big deal around my hometown; I actually don't even know of a cupcake bakery in either my hometown or Erie. But they are everywhere in Indianapolis.  While on a cupcake tour last winter, I found my favorite Indy cupcake bakery so I didn't have to waste too much time shopping around now. I don't really have a favorite flavor because they are all so good! Plus, on your birthday, they give you a free cupcake.

Holliday Park:  This 94-acre park in Indy is definitely unique and has a little bit of everything: some hiking trails, a river to watch, a beautiful nature center, gorgeous gardens, an amphitheater, and even some city ruins. The interesting ruins come from the St. Paul Building on Broadway in New York from the 1950s. The three massive statues, also known as "the Races of Man" and made of Indiana limestone, were torn down to make room for a modern skyscraper.  When the sculptures were looking for a new home, the owner held a competition among U.S. cities. The cities had to submit plans for their display and preservation, and Indianapolis, which proposed Holliday Park (which was then an arboretum), was awarded the sculptures! It was one of the first things I did this summer and it was a great introduction to Indy's natural side.

Fort Harrison State Park: Another park I went to this summer was Fort Harrison State Park. It was a hot day outside so I didn't explore it too much, but I did go horseback riding! Inside the park, they have a stable where people can rent horses for either a half-hour or an hour. And it was only $22 for an hour's worth of riding. The trail went down through the hills of the park and through the creeks in the valleys. The horse they gave me to ride was very friendly too! The only thing that was lingering in the back of my mind was my last experience getting down from a horse.

For those who haven't heard my horseback riding humiliation story, let me fill you in; it's about time to make it public. The last time I went horseback riding, it was an interesting experience for all those involved.  A few years ago, my friend Rhonda took me to her family's farm where we rode a horse. Before heading up to the farm, I made sure I looked extra country; I wore my cowboy boots that didn't often leave my closet, Levi jeans, and this cute flowy top. Yee haw, I looked my country best! After taking a few rides around the pasture, I was getting ready to get down from the horse. I hesitantly looked down at the ground. Then to those who were watching me. Then to the ground. It looked so far away. "Am I even that flexible," I thought. I wanted to use the little step stool that all the children used to get down from their ponies, but no one would let me. "You can do it!" They all said, "Just swing your leg over!" Theoretically it was easy, so I gave it a shot. I stood up on my left leg, leaned over the horse's mane while swinging my right leg over, and then got ready to land on the solid ground with my right foot (which as you recall was rocking an authentic cowboy boot.) But then, my country flowy shirt allowed my undergarments to get caught on the Western saddle's horn! It was all such a blur, but I'm confident I flashed everyone there. I scrambled to get myself in order and was beat red by the time I had. It was humiliating, yet hilarious.

That's the reason I have a fear of getting down from horses, and I didn't want this to happen at my new place in Indy. I wanted to be able to show my unashamed face again. This time I had victory, family-friendly victory! This horseback ride was a good time for both me and those around me. All in all, it looks like I will pay more visits to this place. SUCCESS!


And Fort Harrison State Park also had a small museum which housed some old war memorabilia.

The USS Indianapolis

Eagle Creek: Lastly on my list of park exploration was Eagle Creek Park where I did some kayaking. It wasn't a very nice beach to lay out on, but kayaking was fun! They do have sailing lessons for those interested, so that may have to be for next time. This adventure made me miss Deep Creek Lake, where I spent every weekend as a child. But regardless, it felt great to be around a body of water -- it feeds my soul.

"Look, I'm going through the rapids!" - Aziz Ansari
Part Two coming soon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Marked on the Map

Every New Year's Eve, I make the same resolutions due to my lack of follow through from the previous year. That's how I feel with this blog. Each time I do something fabulous I want to document and let the world know, I get recharged to blog! And then I push it off. And push it off. And push it off. I even had an accountabili-buddy to help me in this effort, but failed, once again. But no more, my friends. No more.

So in order to summarize my entire past 10 months without putting a cramp in my recent drive, here are the top highlights from some of the universities/cities/towns/areas I visited last spring:

  • Detroit, Michigan: I drove past some signs for 8 Mile, where Eminem grew up. While I was listening to Detroit radio stations, I did hear a lot of Kid Rock, Eminem and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," which I assume to be due to their connections to Motor City. It was touching, but after a while, I was relieved my car has a CD player.
  • Ypsilanti, Michigan: It was pretty fabulous to be in the same location where, intelligent and daring female students of Michigan State Normal College founded my organization in 1899. This visit definitely reminded me of my passion and gave me the energy I needed to get through the rest of the semester. Also, I learned that it's pronounced "ip-sil-ant-ee" and not "yip-sil-ant-ee." One of my favorite eateries I've been to this whole year is in Ypsi. Beezy's Cafe is locally owned and has delicious and great customer service -- a perfect place for some tasty brunch, a good book and a strong cup of coffee.
  • Buffalo, New York: A consultant from another sorority and I hung out a few times while I was in Buffalo and we went to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens during a light show! It was really neat to see the different colors of light shining on the different textures of plants, flowers and waterfalls in the dark. It was unlike anything I've ever seen; it makes me want to visit while it's daylight to see all the beautiful flora!

  • Buffalo: While I was in Buffalo, Gretchen and I discovered some delicious, locally made ice cream, Lake Effect Ice Cream. Their flavors are so fun; it's like Ben and Jerry's for we non-Vermonters. Would you like a scoop of Salty Caramel, Chocolate Therapy or Banana Pancakes? I would go back for some ice cream.

Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream

Gretchen and I took a trip to Niagara Falls

We would have gone to Canada...

But I forgot my passport.

  • Clearfield County, Pennsylvania: As I was driving from Lock Haven, PA to Altoona, PA, I hit the highest altitude east of the Mississippi River along Interstate 80, which travels from San Francisco to Teaneck, New Jersey. There are other interstates in other states east of the Mississippi River which have higher elevations, but Clearfield County holds the title for highest point on I-80. 

Back in Pennsylvania!

  • Altoona, Pennsylvania: This town is the birthplace of one of the most amazing convenience stores ever, Sheetz! Unfortunately, after some internet research and asking around, the original Sheetz location could not be determined; however, I did stop at a HUGE Sheetz. Combining that experience and the fact I was in the hometown of this magical store, my craving was satisfied. (I can't help but to think it would have been nice to see some history or something about Sheetz though.)
  • Altoona: One of the women took me to the famous Horseshoe Curve, which is a famous railroad curve on Norfolk Southern's railway. The curve was created in 1854 to help decrease the grade of the tracks through Allegheny Mountains by increasing the distance (kind of like cutting in and out to slow down when downhill skiing or snowboarding.) There is a visitor center and a museum in conjunction with the landmark, but we just saw it from the road. I had no clue about this before I arrived at Altoona, so it was neat to be able to learn more about this piece of history.
  • Altoona: The school I visited was Penn State Altoona, so naturally I had to get a picture with Altoona's Nittany Lion. 
PSU Altoona's Nittany Lion

  • State College, Pennsylvania: On my way from Altoona to home, I stopped at Penn State, University Park for a Bittersweet Mint milkshake from the Berkey Creamery. It wasn't that much out of the way, and I was craving some delicious ice cream and a breath of Penn State. 
 Bittersweet Mint at Berkey Creamery, PSU

  • Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania: While I was making my way up I-79 in western Pennsylvania, the women at Slippery Rock University made accommodations for me at a bed and breakfast in town, the Apple Butter Inn. It was the first time I have ever stayed in a bed and breakfast, and I would definitely go that route again. After this experience, I want to stay in bed and breakfasts everywhere I travel! 

Apple Butter Inn

Slippery Rock, PA

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: I took the Megabus to Philadelphia and it dropped me off at 30th Street Station. It was the first time I had ever ridden the Megabus (sidenote: I recommend it. It was convenient once you know where the bus is waiting. And there is WiFi on the bus so it's easy to do work or surf the net.)  Downtown Philadelphia was NUTS but I really enjoyed my time in West Chester and Bethlehem. The towns in eastern Pennsylvania were cute -- quaint and welcoming. And I  was even able to spend some time with my friend who lived in the area at the time! It was refreshing and just what I needed to finish up the semester.
Inside 30th Street Station

It was a good few months. It definitely had its ups and downs, but by the end of all my chapter visits and 10,000 or so miles, I was definitely ready to call it a semester. My life was just so hectic at the time, but as I was driving home from my last visit, I felt a sense of accomplishment, self satisfaction, sense of relief, and also disbelief. I made it! I made it through the entire duration of the year without falling to pieces, without being stranded on some Pennsylvania interstate, without missing a flight. By the end of the year, I had more travel smarts and confidence than I did when entering this position. I had more skills and closer relationships. It was a good year and as I look back, it's easy to realize how lucky I am.