Museum Interpretation & Visitor Engagement

WAM Collective

The Weisman Art Museum offers many opportunities for students to get involved, whether through the student tour guide program, the WAM Collective, employment as student staff, or internship opportunities. This spring semester, I am rounding out my coursework with an internship at the Weisman in museum interpretation and visitor engagement. After a semester of reading and researching interpretation and engagement strategies, observing visitors to the museum, and implementing different trial strategies at WAM, I will be presenting my findings to the Weisman’s staff.

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Right now I am in the research observation phase of the project and have been reading about everything from the history of museums, to studies on the demographics of visitors, and texts on different approaches to visitor engagement and education. The best part of this process is taking everything I have learned and applying it to the galleries.

One tactic for increasing visitor engagement and creating lasting impact…

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Winter Break Reading!!

As a college student, reading for pleasure has fallen by the wayside with the stress of tests, homework and extracurriculars. Luckily for me, I have had time during this winter break to get back in the saddle and knock some books off of my TBR list. Because I am reading, and am planning to read, some pretty fantastic books, I figured I could show case my list and share it with the entire internet. For convenience sake I have bolded the books I have finished already.

NORTHANGER ABBEY – JANE AUSTEN-  I decided to kick off break with a classic. Jane Austen is a woman and writer that I admire and every once and awhile I like to read another one of her books just to keep her in mind. Northanger Abbey is a gothic parody (or said to be) about Catherine, a young lady who goes to visit friends in Bath and ends up having some excellent adventures and of course falls in love, but not without some misfortune.

CUCKOO’S CALLING – ROBERT GALBRAITH- Robert Galbraith is not who you think he is, unless you happen to think that he is J.K. Rowling in which case you are right and I shouldn’t even need to tell you why this was on my reading list. Cuckoo’s Calling is about a private detective (Cormoran Strike) and he accidental assistant (Robin). In this adventure, the duo is investigating a supermodel whose brother believes that her death was not the suicide it was classified as. Honestly this series has had me very focused for most of break, it’s a thriller I could not put down.

HOW TO BE PARISIAN WHEREVER YOU ARE – ANNE BEREST- You may recognize the name of this book from my summer reading list because I have been waiting just that long to get to it. This book was a nice little break from the high speed world of crime that Jo Rowling has gotten me so deep into. This is just a few style tips and life lesson after the influence of the French. If only I wasn’t so gosh darn bad at language classes maybe I’d be a more successful Parisian.

ASKING FOR IT – LOUISE O’NEILL- WOWIE this book was Intense. I was drawn in by the cover and the title (yes, I judge), but I stayed for the whole ride and boy was I glad I did. Asking For It follows Emma through some regular high school trials and through a party that changes her life and not for the better. The reason I liked this book was that it felt raw and real and honestly a little bit terrifying and you don’t always get that in YA Lit. Although the ending was a little ambiguous, I think this book is worth the read and I’m going to be looking out for more by Louise O’Neill in the future. TW RAPE

THE SILKWORM – ROBERT GALBRAITH- Well if I read the first one I have to read the next two, now I am invested. The Silkworm is again about Robin and Strike, but this time they are hired (well really they take this client for free) to find an author that stormed out on his family. One thing leads to another and Strike spends most of the novel trying to tie together the clues that the author left behind. I can’t say too much because no spoilies but I can tell you I went straight to the bookstore after I finished it to pick up the next one (Career of Evil) which I will be reading promptly.

THE NEW JIM CROW – MICHELLE ALEXANDER- I have never read anything by this author but I am really looking forward to this read. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sheds a light on how the racism isn’t gone, it’s just been redesigned. Looking forward to the next four years, I think education on the social issues is more important than it has ever been.

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE – JENNIFER NIVEN- As many of you know Jennifer Niven’s debut novel is one of my favorite books, All the Bright Places stole my heart. Because of All the Bright Places, Holding Up The Universe automatically made it’s way on my list. From what I understand two out of place teens are going to find themselves and each other and high school will probably suck less for both of them because of it. But Niven has taken high school scenarios to completely different levels before and I’m really counting on her to do it again.

THE STORYTELLER – JODI PICOULT – Lastly, (for this post, my TBR list is longer than my lifespan) I chose a Jodi Picoult because she is reliable and I can trust her to tell a great and emotional story. The Storyteller happens when a young woman befriends an old man and one day he asks her to kill him. Were the mistakes of his past worth ending his life as an old man? I don’t know yet but I am certainly going to find out!

Enough — WAM Collective

Last year the WAM Collective had the privilege to work with local dance collective Kelvin Wailey for our performance intermission at the 2016 Design Showcase. One of Kelvin Wailey’s members Leila Awadallah created the following video piece this week in response to the violent islamophobic and racist vandalism that occurred across the University of Minnesota campus last week. […]

via Enough — WAM Collective

On Wisconsin

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Because I do, in fact live in Wisconsin, and have my entire life (up until going to college) I consider myself a bit of an expert on what to do while you are in the land of cheese. For me, August has been full of all sort of fun Wisconsin things making the best of my last month before going back to Minnesota. These adventures include but aren’t limited to races, festivals, fairs, state parks, and campgrounds. Not a bad way to spend the summer and everyone knows I love sharing adventures and tips to anyone who will read them.

If hiking is your jam then you’re going to want to grab your favorite wilderness explorer and head over to Devil’s Lake State Park like Steph and I did. It’s located near the Dells and if we can find it so can you. It only took us two and a half hours to drive there, but it took us almost twice that time to figure out where the lake was and how to hike there. One thing we would have done differently is parking, I suggest you take a good long look at a map before you follow your GPS because it would have been more beneficial for us to park by the lake and then hike up the bluffs, instead of having to find our way to the lake from a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Also remember to by a state park sticker so you don’t get a parking ticket. I think it would have saved us a lot of trouble.

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If paddling is more your style you’re not out of luck. On August 6th, the second annual Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival was held in Eau Claire, and boy was it a good time, most of my family participated and we picked up a few last minute team members. The Dragon Boat race was a great way to spend some time in the sun, get some exercise and work on some team building. If you aren’t into being so competitive, but still want to hit the water, the Wisconsin River (also located near the dells) is always there for you. When the Gengler family embarked on that journey we put in at Sauk City and picked a campsite on one of the many sand bars to have a nice fire and enjoy each other’s company. It was not quite the same pace as the Dragon Boat race but still a nice was to get some sun.

Of course, Wisconsin has a lot to offer that isn’t so much work to do. Throughout the summer there are tons of music festivals, including: Summerfest in Milwaukee, Rockfest and Countryfest in Cadott, Country Jam in Eau Claire, and of course Eaux Claires, which I am still mourning even though I’m in Europe right now.

If you’re in the Milwaukee area you can always go cheer on the Brew Crew, even though we lost Lucroy we still have Scooter and that is equally fun to say. The State Fair in August is also a great way to kill some time, this year a group of adolescents were singing Hamilton and I don’t think I’ve run to a stage so fast in my life. What I’m saying is that even if Wisconsin isn’t the coolest place in the world, it doesn’t have to be the worst. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have some good company.

Adventures in Milwaukee and Chicago

I am super duper late on this post but what can I say, I’ve been pretty busy. I spent a good portion of time in Southern Wisconsin for the Fourth of July and as the week went on I was able to make it as far as Chicago. As you can imagine, it was a long trip and there is lots to talk about so I’ll try to cover everything or at least the really stand out moments so I don’t end up writing you a novel about my four day long trip.

I kicked off the week by driving down to Milwaukee after work on Sunday, and as far as the fourth goes, it was pretty uneventful. We wandering the beach, watched some fireworks, met up with ShawnPoirier (one of my favorite partners in crime). I ate a bunch of corn and that was that, it is always good to spend some time with the family. You know, just your average Fourth of July.

The real excitement began on July 5th. That was the day I picked up my favorite adventure pal from Kenosha and braved the Summerfest crowds. The day began well as seems to be the trend for this particular adventure.It was a peaceful and warm day we spent just hopping from band to band and eating the ice out of the lemonade cup. After a couple of hours of moseying around with Chris, my friend Ally joined us. Ally and I started off the night strong by walking directly into the men’s bathroom, only really realizing it when some man said “wrong bathroom ladies”. So far, that is the second time in my life that I have walked in to a men’s room unintentionally. We wasted a lot of time just walking around and catching up. It was then we realized that the ferris wheel was the only thing worth our attention at that moment. We boarded only after every one of us failed to guess the correct color of the seat we would be in. Chris took some A1 pictures at the top and Ally got a video of me sounding extremely whiney a win-win really.

When we got off the Ferris Wheel we realized we had about five minutes to get to the concert we went to Summerfest for. Jason DeRulo was the main event at the Miller Lite Oasis and let me tell you, his fans are animals. It was packed when we rolled up to the scene. Ally and I wanted to get closer because it’s hardly an experience to listen from the back, Chris would have been content anywhere else I’m pretty sure. Deciding to go closer was either the worst idea I have ever had or the best. It’s hard to say. Trying to get up to the screen was such a  difficult task, and that’s as far as we got we fought our way through and didn’t even see Jason. Throughout our journey to the jumbotron, Ally got a joint dropped on her, the same guy spilled three drinks on us, a very sweaty guy told me he was on ecstasy, and a girl passed out on top of us. We all were elbowed in the head and pushed into people, I even got a cut on my leg from the bleachers. It was not a child friendly environment. The concert in itself I really didn’t love. It was fine, but not great. I think it was really the experience. When we went to meet up with my family afterwords, my sisters who had a spot on the bleachers were still pretty and happy, meanwhile Ally, Chris, and I emerged bruised and sweaty, looking like we had just fought for our lives. Actually, that might not be too far off. Like I said, it’s the experience.

It was the day after that that my family headed for home and Chris and I headed for Chicago. We were expecting to encounter a lot of traffic because of Taste of Chicago and whatnot, but the drive was great and short. We got in a little after noon and we were able to begin adventuring right away. The whole day was like that, super easy and wonderful. Thanks to Chris’s aunt and uncle we got free parking and got into the museum for free, it was the nicest thing. The first thing we got to was Millennium Park because how could we not see The Bean? We listened to some sweet orchestra jams and looked on to the silent movie they were showing before making our way to the art museum. I was in heaven with their special exhibit, as it featured Georgia O’Keeffe who is my favorite everything. Chris let me wonder around babbling about all the pieces while he was busy finding new subjects for his snapchat masterpieces. It was a good time for both of us. After that we walked the Mag Mile like a couple of dumb tourists and Chris found a neat little record store. We ate dinner at a cute Chinese restaurant with Chris’s relatives, who were very kind and funny. The last thing on our list for the day was Navy Pier. It was a beautiful night on the pier, the weather was perfect. We sat and listened to some nice Chicago jazz as others danced. The last thing we did in Chicago was the Centennial Wheel, we were going to stay for the fireworks but we were just so darn tired from the concert that we decided to go back and spend the night watching It’s Always Sunny.

It was when we got to the hotel that we realized the day had gone just a little to perfectly. As I went to check into the room I booked, the clerk brought something to my attention that had not been an issue a few years previously, Illinois does not allow anyone under age 21 to check into a hotel. So it goes. Chris and I went back to Wisconsin, forfeited our second day in Chicago, and the Shea family was nice enough to let me stay in their house and cuddle Fenway.

Even though our last adventure day was not spent in Chicago, I still had a lot of fun. As we have done every time I have gone to Kenosha, Chris and I went to the lake. We had a lovely breakfast of Dunkin Donuts at the beach and watched the birds. Then we took on the Kenosha Public museum, there was a ton of cool art as well as a wooly mammoth. After I met Chris’s other friends, unfortunately I had to head home and say goodbye to my adventure pal.

I carpooled with my dad on the way back to Milwaukee and it took me almost no time to fall asleep in the passenger side.

Summer Reading

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If you’re looking for a fun summer pastime you have come to the right place. Reading is something I will never get sick of, and like many other people out there, I have a summer reading list. Because June is over, meaning that summer is quite underway, I have already gotten through a couple of the books and I will hopefully get through the rest before I move into my new apartment in August.

The list is as follows:

  1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  2. The Knockoff
  3. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are
  4. Summer Days and Summer Nights
  5. The Unexpected Everything
  6. The Cuckoo’s Calling

I know, I know, this list doesn’t seem unattainable. It probably isn’t but I would like you to keep in mind some books are series (The Girl Who Played With Fire / The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), sometimes I add books as soon as I find out they exist (The Unexpected Everything ), and sometimes books I feel like I need to read to get better at something in life (The Photographer’s Eye / Unofficial Guide to GoPro).

 

I have made a bit of progress in my list so far. I’ve finished Stieg Larson’s first of the trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and I’m halfway through the second book. I actually tried to read this series once before in high school but couldn’t get into it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This time around I finished the first book in two days. I get why they were so popular a few years ago, these books are intelligent and well written. I can’t read them fast enough. Larson is a genius.

Also in my done pile is Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza’s book, The Knockoff. There were a couple reasons I didn’t love this book. I think number one might just be that I read it in the wake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and may have been suffering a bit of a book hangover. The other reason I had kind of a qualm with this one was it seemed to demonize technology and make millennials out to be a little bit crazy. I might be biased though because of my millennial tendencies. Needless to say, this was no Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I’m about half way through How to Be Parisian…, it kind of took a back seat once I started the Millennium Trilogy.

The other three books I picked based on past reading material. Summer Days and Summer Nights seemed like a great summer read, first of all. Secondly, I really loved the My True L0ve Gave to Me Christmas short stories put together by the same person, the lovely Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss. I chose The Unexpected Everything because Morgan Matson is the bomb.com. She has never once disappointed me, even when I doubted the future of YA literature. If you pick up Second Chance Summer, Amy and Rodger’s Epic Detour, or Since You’ve Been Gone you will not be disappointed. I am very excited to read this one. My last pick is Cuckoo’s Calling simply because J.K. Rowling. I don’t feel as though I need to say more.

So, whether you are just trying to squeeze in some reading on break at work or looking for something to take with you while you sunbathe, I stand by my list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSA WE FOUND A GREAT SCARY MOVIE ON NETFLIX

Have you ever just really been in the mood to watch a scary movie? If you are anything like myself or my little sister the answer to that is absolutely. Many, many times Netflix has disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix. It fills all my comedy sitcom needs but there is a lack of quality scary movies to stream. It’s a serious downfall, but it just may be that the scary movie draught is over.

My dear friend Tessa and I were presented with this conundrum on a rainy Saturday night. Like many deep thinkers, we did not discover the solution right away. We first tried streaming a movie called Stonehearst Asylum but a half an hour in we could tell it wasn’t our cup of tea. It wasn’t freaking us out or holding our attention and those are important factors in a movie. If it doesn’t catch my attention in the first half hour it doesn’t deserve my attention for the rest of the time. When we returned back to the browse horror section our eyes caught on something we previously missed. Hush (2016) was the first movie recommendation and it had good ratings on Netflix. We decided to give it a shot and prayed that we could last more than a half hour with this one.

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This story is about an author who is blind, deaf, beautiful, and alone, the perfect equation for a scary movie. The movie starts with a visit by the author (Maddie’s) friend. But it really picks up after the friend has left when the friend runs back to the home pounding on Maddie’s door. From then on the Maddie, played by Kate Siegel, fights to find a way to survive the man in the mask outside of her house.

Of course there are many scary movies about being trapped in a house, but this is one of the first that I felt was different. A definite extra element was added because of Maddie’s inability to hear or speak. It made the movie much more complicated and suspenseful and interesting. This movie held my attention the entire time. Another nice thing, if you’re one of the scary movie commentators like Tessa or I, is that while we were working things out out loud, everything made sense. It wasn’t one of those where the characters do something that is almost certain to get them killed. It also has amazing special effects, there is one moment where her hand gets injured and boy is that a sight to see. I was so impressed.

Although the special effects were great and the whole movie wasn’t predictable, my absolute favorite part was Kate Siegel’s character, Maddie. I have never cared so much about a character in a horror movie, mostly because a majority of them die. But I would even consider this fictional character a role model, I was hardcore rooting for this woman. She was also #relatable. When her text message popped up on my computer I thought it was mine. I just really loved her.

The next time you have an evening you want to spend with Netflix, I suggest Hush. It was interesting, scary, and fun. I hope you have as good of a time as Tessa and I had last night watching it.

 

 

One Day in Music City

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One of the last days of our road trip was spent in Nashville, Tennessee, and boy, did we have a great time. We rolled into Nashville from Gatlinburg around noon and headed straight for the Grand Ole Opry House to get tickets to the show. It was hot and muggy but we were glad to get out of the car and wander around a bit. It didn’t take us very long to secure tickets and a hotel room for the night. Once we got all the boring, technical stuff out of the way we moseyed on downtown to pay tribute to some of the biggest stars of music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Looking at the roots of country music was such an experience. I took tons of pictures of different artist names and songs so I could put together a playlist to accompany this historic stop. What better way to talk about Music City than with music? I was intending to only do one playlist but as I began to chip away at the task at hand, I realized that one singular playlist maybe was not going to cut it. I had to split it into two. Everyone who knows me knows I am a diehard Swifty, so I have a hard time not including her in the playlists. But there isn’t anything I can do about her taking her music off of Spotify. Speaking of Taylor Swift (like I usually am), it was amazing to see some of the pieces of hers they had on display. I just about died when I saw the lyrics to Tim McGraw scrawled on a piece of notebook paper and the sparkling guitar from her first tour brought back memories of my first summers of CountryFest and Jam. I did more than just drool over Taylor, I promise. I tried to look at the artists I didn’t know as much about to diversify my country music knowledge. I really, really enjoyed the Bob Dylan exhibit: Dylan, Cash, and The Nashville Cats. It was amazing to see the influence that Dylan and Cash had on Nashville, they brought in a lot of people to Music City. I had no idea they were so influential in this scene. That particular exhibit is where I drew a lot of the songs for what was supposed to be the first half of the Country Music Hall of Fame playlist. It turned into this playlist. I personally believe that Cash and Dylan are a dream team and I wish I had more than just “Girl from the North Country” to prove it. But I’ve always had a soft spot for Johnny Cash, so maybe I’m biased.

The Country Music Hall of Fame is home to many talents, both new and old. I’m so happy I got to explore it even though country music isn’t necessarily the first station I check on my way to work.  To represent this lovely experience, I made a playlist. I know, I know. You’re all thinking ‘Lauren, cool it with the playlists, this is why it takes you seven years to talk about one day’. If you are thinking that you are absolutely right, it is why I took so long but I thought it would enhance the reader experience.

You might also believe that my musical experience peaked at the Hall of Fame, but that’s not how Music City works! After the Hall of Fame we went to the mall so I could find a sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Unfortunately, the mall did not have a bookstore or electricity! Okay, so parts of it had electricity but it made it hard to purchase food (they could only take cash). I still haven’t gotten that book.

After that we rolled on over to The Grand Ole Opry House where I was more than pleasantly surprised with the show. Going in, I didn’t recognize a whole lot of the names and I wasn’t sure sure how long it would take to get through all those artists on the line-up but the Opry has quite the system. It was three songs per artist with an announcer and a couple miscellaneous activities to break it up. It was an excellent show with some very engaging acts. My absolute favorite was Flatt Lonesome, a lovely bluegrass band. I tweeted at them (and everyone else at the Opry) but that wasn’t the end of Flatt Lonesome for my night. Another amazing act was Drew Baldridge, who played at CountryFest the same day we returned. Baldridge was making his Opry debut that Wednesday night and for his final song on stage he covered a personal favorite by Josh Turner. What do you know, Josh Turner himself walked right on stage to sing with him. I was amazed. After the show wrapped up and we were headed out the door, Mr. Baldridge himself was right behind us. He shook my grandparents’ hands! It was crazytown.

Even though it was late, our night didn’t end there. Grandpa and I were hungry after the Opry because we had become accustomed to have to search for hours after a regular meal time because we can never find a restaurant. Our initial choice was Bob Evan’s, but that was closed, and thank goodness it was. We turned our attention to The Cracker Barrel. After I ordered corn and sweet potatoes, Grandpa returned from the restroom and pointed out the table on the other side of the restaurant. It was the band. In that moment I knew what I had to do. I went out to the car to retrieve the program and a pen, then went right up to their table and asked Flatt Lonesome if they would autograph it for me. They were super sweet and very funny. They claimed the only thing they have ever been asked to sign was a speeding ticket. Between their catchy tunes and pleasant attitudes, I was very happy to try and find another venue to see them at and I’m already looking forward to seeing them in East Troy in the fall. If you want to check out their music, my grandpa really likes “You’re the One”.

All in all, I had an amazing time in Tennessee. I am happy that I was able to make these memories with my grandparents. It was an experience I will never forget.

Days Three and Four: Holy Smokes!

“I can’t believe we slept so late!” was one of the first things I heard on the morning of our third day. It was only 8:30 a.m. After our “late” start, we went right to the visitor center for Smoky Mountains National Park, Sugarland. Since then, I think we have been back three times in the two days? Anyways, Grandpa poked around to find out what we needed see, while Grandma went to the museum section and I headed straight for the stickers. I just really love stickers. After we watched a short informational film on the parks, we headed back to the truck to get to Clingman’s Dome. Our first visit to the visitor center was fairly short.

Clingman’s Dome was an essential stop and I’m so glad we did it. How could we not go to the highest point in Smoky Mountain National Park? However, trying to park was an adventure in itself (this happened many times during our stay in the Smoky Mountains, it is a busy place). Once we got there we started the hike to the observatory, it was only half a mile, but it was pretty steep so Grandma and her knee surgery had a hard time with it. We all made it up to the observatory. The view was fantastic, it might have been a little bit better without all the fog. But hey, that’s what makes the Smokies the Smokies and after I hike like that I don’t want to complain about anything. I was really happy I got to see some of the Appalachian Trail because someday I would like to hike the whole thing.

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After our first hike of the day, we headed over to the New Found Gap, which wasn’t really a place to hike, it was a place to look. It was a great view, which resulted in some great pictures. Also, this guy had a 16 year old, bald chihuahua! The man said it was mean though so he held it’s head while I pet it so it wouldn’t bite me. I’m glad I got to pet it even though it was mean.

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The Grotto was the next destination on our agenda, we put the pick up in at the Trillium Trail trail head by Rainbow Falls. Grandma, Grandpa, and I set out with our backpacks and water ready for our next hike. We had little mix up trying to figure out which direction we were supposed to go to get to the Grotto, but we were optimistic. After 15 minutes of up and down and stepping over exposed roots, Grandma decided her newly operated on knee wasn’t ready for this kind of nonsense. She turned around and Grandpa and I forged on. It wasn’t until Grandpa thought he heard a deer that we realized that we had been paralleling the road almost the entire time and what he saw was a car. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that meant there was another trail head farther up the road. We both tried to call Grandma to tell her to meet us and hike the rest of the way with us, or at least pick us up after but cell reception in the mountains is spotty at best. By that time we had realized that we had gone more than the 1.3 mile estimated hike, but we had to go farther to get to the falls so on we went. On our way, we only saw two other people and one cool looking snake. We also saw a whole lot of bear poop, but no bear. I am happy we didn’t get attacked by a bear but after all that poop I felt like I deserved to see one.

This hike actually turned out to be a great opportunity to see some wildlife and to practice some wildlife photography, a hobby of mine. Anyway, Grandpa and I reached the trail head we were supposed to put in at 2.5 miles after we started. We were sweaty and thirsty and a little worried that Grandma would never find us so we turned around and walked back down the road to where we had originally parked. We vowed to return the next day to conquer the 1.3 miles we didn’t do to reach the grotto. It was while we were walking back that I was able to get roughly 5 feet away from a beautiful doe. She didn’t seem to be very frightened by me or any of the noise of traffic. After I got some good pictures we went on our way, eventually returning to the truck, hungry and tired, but very excited to come back.

Day four started with us making our way right back to where we should have started the day before. We followed the exact same path up until the road closed sign. It was a disappointment to say the least. After getting over it and some new navigation, we went on to the road to Cade’s Cove. On the way we stopped to hike Laurel Falls, which ended up being better for Grandma anyway because it was paved. I also got to do a couple easy climbs which was nice because I have not had much practice since getting out of school and, boy, do I love to climb things just to do it.

Up next on our agenda was Cade’s Cove. Our original plan was to check out the village around Cade’s Cove and reserve bikes for the next day. But it didn’t exactly happen that way, the cove was very out of our way as it was, and the weather was looking like rain. So the executive decision was made to not bike the loop in the morning. I actually really did want to do that, but somethings you have to set aside for the next time you come back. Next time, I will bike the loop. We did drive the loop, though, or at least part of it. It was so crowded that we were at a standstill for a very long time. Apparently, everyone in front of us got to see a bear, but we still weren’t lucky enough. We were bored and tired and we cut out of the loop as soon as we could. You win some you lose some.

As much as was packed into days three and four, the evening of day four felt like a vacation. We wandered around Gatlinburg and really just got to do what we wanted. I bought some vegan ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, we went over to the aquarium, and did some shopping. Aquariums make me sad because of captivity and whatnot, but I do enjoy spending time with my grandparents so I pet the jellyfish like every other tourist. When we got out of the aquarium, Gatlinburg was experiencing what one would call a downpour, so we bought rain ponchos, and ran from store to store until we reached Ol’ Smoky Moonshine Distillery. Don’t judge, they had a super cute coffee mug I wanted to bring home.

Once we reached the distillery the rain was letting up. Grandma and Grandpa went to sit outside while I searched for the coffee mug of my dreams. When I found my grandparents after my purchase, they were sitting in rocking chairs listening to a family band. The evening was peaceful and relaxing. I left the mountains with a few new stickers and only one blister.

Days One and Two

Days one and two were spent mostly in the car, with the exception of sleeping and bathroom breaks (thank goodness for that). Since I worked until four on Saturday, we were planning to roll out of Bloomer, WI, at five o’clock sharp. Fortunately, we made it out at 5:15, which is about half an hour earlier than my family usually manages to leave. I set up camp in the back seat, which happens to be roomy enough for me to lay down in, Grandpa took the wheel, and Grandma was in the passenger seat. We listened to This American Life on WPR for what felt like forever. I tried my best to work on my cactus cross stitch to the sound of the narrator’s lispy voice, and some kind of stringed instrument, but the road was pretty bumpy and I kept poking myself so I had to stop. I wish I could provide you with my roadtrip music but my headphones broke earlier on so This American Life it isOur only goal that night was to make it to Madison, but by the time we hit it we still had more miles left in us. We aren’t quitters. We knew the farther we made it on Saturday, the less would have to drive on Sunday and the earlier we would make it to Gatlinburg, TN. That was incentive enough to keep going.

Before we talk more about the drive, or the rest of the trip for that matter, I think you should know a little bit about my grandparents. My grandma loves art and violent movies and my grandpa likes wildlife and knowing a lot about space. Both of them are amazing people but in very different ways, they love each other, but they disagree on quite a bit and like everyone else, they have their things. For instance, there was one point of the trip where we had directions pulled up on all three cell phones and a huge paper map. Grandpa just likes to know where he is going, so it’s obviously going to be pretty hard to navigate up to par. They never really get angry, but it isn’t hard to tell when they are a little stuck on something.

The first time I noticed this on the trip was when we were trying to figure out where we wanted to spend the first night. Grandma wanted Elgin and Grandpa wanted Schaumburg. I was a little partial to Schaumburg just because it was a little bit closer to the destination. Both of them said they didn’t care, but Grandpa kept inquiring about hotels in Schaumburg and Grandma kept looking up hotels in Elgin. To each their own, I guess. Anyway, Elgin came and went and we had to really concentrate on finding a place to sleep in Schaumburg. There seemed to be some deals online, but Grandpa was sure that the rooms were probably too small. We decided to try the DoubleTree first and if that was full, just wander around until we found something. The DoubleTree was a little off the highway (I think it was three miles?) and by mile one Grandpa had said, “I don’t see any hotels anywhere, do you?” about three times. Once we found the DoubleTree it didn’t have a room with more than one bed so we moved on. We tried the next hotel and when Grandma went in to haggle down the price for a room, Grandpa got on the horn with another hotel. It was late and we were all ready for bed. We finally landed in a Garden Inn, with a pull out couch and breakfast. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

That first night I made a rookie mistake, I forgot my earplugs in the car. Between my grandma’s snoring and my grandpa’s sleeping machine, I was grateful when we woke up at 6:30 to get going (I never thought I’d say that). After I stocked up on the hotel’s fresh fruit we hit the road.

Day two was astonishingly like day one, but longer. I stretched out in the backseat and read the entirety of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while we drove through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and finally, Tennessee. We rolled into Gatlinburg around seven and stumbled through the directions to find Country Inn & Suites, our home for the next three days. Gatlinburg is like Wisconsin Dells on steroids, my grandparents were appalled by the crowds. But it hasn’t been that bad. After we found a place to eat, Grandma and I went up on the skylift up the mountain. It was a touristy little ski lift but the view was worth it, even if I wasn’t looking when they took the picture.

After ten hours in the car I needed to move around a little. So I worked out a little bit, and after a good shower I fell asleep promptly after putting my earplugs in.

Watch out for my next post, Days Two and Three!