Southern Interlude

At this stage in my life, I’m calling myself a “semi-adult.” I guess you can say that I “stunted” the process of flourishing into a “full adult” this past year after graduating from college and didn’t heavily pursue the job market because 1) I simply freaked out and did not feel ready, 2) I wasn’t committed to the idea of settling down in West Michigan permanently, and 3) Mobility = freedom; I wanted to give myself the freedom to do something crazy, such as live and work abroad for a while. Why start to ingrain myself in a new job or career when I knew I wanted to leave within a year? So I kept my job as a sales associate at a local hotel furniture liquidations business and took all the steps necessary to make sure that I could leave Michigan/the United States by the end of summer 2014.

Boom. End of summer 2014 has come and my departure for Azerbaijan as a Fulbrighter is right around the corner. My portion of the lease on my house ended, the utilities are transferred to a roommate, my student loans are deferred for the next nine months, my car’s registration and insurance is all figured out….I am “free as a bird” as my father put it, and that’s pretty freaking awesome.

But, where is a girl supposed to put all of her stuff? Where can she keep her little, trusty, red Toyota Corolla?

That’s what parents are for! Mine moved to Jackson, TN about a month after I graduated college last year. They were extremely gracious in offering their spare spaces to house my belongings during my stint abroad and I took them up on their offer.

So a few weeks ago I said heart-wrenching goodbyes to co-workers, friends, skating peers, house pets, and favorite places. I squeezed what I could in my Corolla and trekked some 650 miles in 11 hours. Thank God for good music because I would have gone insane otherwise!

And basically I’ve been bumming around south for the past 2 weeks. And now I’m going to post pictures below because I can do what I want. And if you’re wondering when I’m going to start posting photos from Baku/Azerbaijan, you have to wait just a little longer!

Cypress Grove National Park, TN

According to my mother, I needed to get acclimated to the weather in Tennessee (my sinuses were in shock jumping from mild-summer Michigan to 90+ degree Jackson), so we went to Cypress Grove National Park, which is stuffed with bayou-like vegetation. Apparently this is one of the furthest points north in which bayou flora is found.

Really leafy, really dense.

Really leafy, really dense.

The park also serves as a rehabilitation habitat for injured birds of prey. Here is a bald eagle!

The park also serves as a rehabilitation habitat for injured birds of prey. Here is a bald eagle!

Peek-a-boo owl

Peek-a-boo owl.

Cypress tree roots don't dig very deep into the ground, and they topple over on a regular basis.

Cypress tree roots don’t dig very deep into the ground, and they topple over on a regular basis.

Approaching direct sunlight. Nooooo!!

Approaching direct sunlight. Nooooo!!

Ugh, so hot. So humid.

Ugh, so hot. So humid.

"The water was clear the last time we were here." I'm sure it was, mom.

“The water was clear the last time we were here.” I’m sure it was, mom.

But it was pretty; is probably more so when it's not 96 degrees outside with 90% humidity.

But it was pretty; is probably more so when it’s not 96 degrees outside with 90% humidity.

Space and Rocket Center, AL

Of course, there’s always time for skating and mom and I went to Huntsville, AL to officiate at a competition. It was even HOTTER and MORE HUMID than in Tennessee but at least I was in a rink for the majority of the weekend. On our way home, we stopped at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. The iMax movie was amazing, and to be honest, a lot of this stuff went way over my head, but it’s totally worth the time!

The exhibits were cool; space suits!

The exhibits were cool; space suits!

Good words to live by!

Good words to live by!

Big rocket thing; imagine designing a building to store this!

Big rocket thing; imagine designing a building to store this!

"It's not rocket science!" Oh yes, yes it is.

“It’s not rocket science!” Oh yes, yes it is.

For as God-awfully hot as it was outside, the most impressive structures were outdoors.

For as God-awfully hot as it was outside, the most impressive structures were outdoors.

Things were BIG....

Things were BIG….

Freakishly big.

Freakishly big.

Like a sci-fi jungle of technology.

Like a sci-fi jungle of technology.

Patti’s Settlement and Land Between the Lakes, KY

On a different day, we ventured to the land of Kentucky to meet up with a family friend for lunch at Patti’s Settlement. After that we took a scenic route through “The Land Between the Lakes.” First, Patti’s….

SO HOT. But the flowers were pretty.

SO HOT. But the flowers were pretty.

Pasture in the settlement.

Pasture in the settlement.

Quite quaint.  (:

Quite quaint. (:

There was a petting zoo-type-thing. It's a llama!

There was a petting zoo-type-thing. It’s a llama!

I tried to make friends with the emu; I'm not sure if it liked me or wanted to bite my face...

I tried to make friends with the emu; I’m not sure if it liked me or wanted to bite my face…

Cute gift shop in the restaurant

Cute gift shop in the restaurant

Patti's is famous for their Mile-High Meringue pies. Actually, all of their food is to die for, so you're in for a treat regardless!

Patti’s is famous for their Mile-High Meringue pies. Actually, all of their food is to die for, so you’re in for a treat regardless!

Patti’s Settlement is at the northern-most point of the “Land Between the Lakes,” which is a huge swath of land dedicated as national parks, camping grounds, and animal sanctuaries. The lakes were created by man-made dams several decades ago located near Patti’s. The locals pride themselves on the marina and lighthouse. As a person who lived no more than 30-some miles from Lake Michigan for the past 14 years, I wanted to see what “marina” and “lighthouse” meant in the south.

Sure, it's nice.

Sure, it’s nice.

"I mean, it's a small lake - does it warrant the need of any lighthouse?"

“I mean, it’s a small lake – does it warrant the need of any lighthouse?” I had asked incredulously at lunch. Turns out, that’s the wrong question to ask!

Mom and I.

Mom and I.

My mother, being my mother, insisted we walk TOWARD a storm that was heading our way....

My mother – being my mother – insisted we walk TOWARD a storm that was heading our way….

Luckily we beat the rain back to the car and proceeded to drive along the Land Between the Lakes. Our big stop that we decided to do was the Elk and Bison Prairie, a fully-enclosed/gated habitat. I almost freaked out when the gate automatically opened up; it reminded me of a certain movie….

"Wasn't something like this posted in 'Jurassic Park'? Are we going into Jurassic Park?" I incredulously asked aloud.

“Wasn’t something like this posted in ‘Jurassic Park’? Are we going into Jurassic Park?” I incredulously asked aloud.

We drove around a few minutes, I was feeling grateful that I wasn’t driving – can you imagine a huge elk running in front of you? But, we soon came upon the other huge mammals of the prairie.

There they are!

There they are!

Grazing, chilling, moving at a leisurely pace.

Grazing, chilling, moving at a leisurely pace.

But holy mercy did they get close!

But holy mercy did they get close!

We slowly moved with them; it was almost like we were a part of the herd!

We slowly moved with them; it was almost like we were a part of the herd!

A baby! And I don't want to hear ANY comments about how "tasty" bison burgers are....I feel a kindred spirit to these guys...  ;)

A baby! And I don’t want to hear ANY comments about how “tasty” bison burgers are….I feel a kindred spirit to these guys… 😉

And that, dear friends, are some of the highlights about my time in the south. I’m finishing this post up less than 2 days before I leave. Believe it or not, I might just have a post for tomorrow since I’m ahead on packing!

Until next time…  (:

Advertisements

4 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s