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.