Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Lady Abroad (or, a springtime roadtrip)

Spring is when (to paraphrase Pa Ingalls from the Little House books) my wandering foot starts itching. Without intending it, I turned traveling into a spring tradition. It started in college, when I would take the opportunity over spring break to go visit my twin sister at her college in Wisconsin, continued through my study abroad in Ireland the spring of my senior year, and then through some springtime trips in my adulthood. I have come to interpret melting snow, chirping birds, and longer sunsets as a cue to hit the highway. This year was no different, and while plans for a trip abroad fell through, I quickly regrouped and decided to make an epic Civil War road trip to Missouri and back with my good friend Sarah last week.

Sarah and I took off in a little rental car that we christened Stephen Douglas. Our first stop on the way was the Amana Colonies. While it snowed in Minnesota, it rained the whole way down. Yuck. The cozy bed and breakfast we stayed in was a welcome respite - and since it dated back to the 1850s, it definitely fit into the road trip. I wish we would have had more time in the Amana Colonies - so many lovely things to see and shops to visit and antiquing to do, it will definitely be a return trip.

We made our way down to St. Louis, and did all the St. Louis things - we went up the arch (terrifying for a claustrophobe like yours truly), visited the City Museum, and saw the exhibit on the Civil War at the Missouri History Museum. We also spent a sunny afternoon at the botanical gardens, if only to prove to ourselves that green grass DOES exist, despite what our snowy winter has insisted.

And of course, one of the big highlights was the ball.

"And we were so admired!" Sarah (left) and self

The ball was held at a beautiful ballroom near Forest Park. Sarah and I are a bit spoiled for balls; at the balls we usually attend, all the gentlemen dance with all the ladies and take their duties seriously. We were a bit wary about what the experience would be at this ball, where we didn't know anyone. However, we were pleasantly surprised to be asked to dance many times. We made many new friends, and everyone was so delightful and friendly.

One thing I was not anticipating was that people would recognize me, either from here or discussion forums or Facebook. - I felt a little bit like a celebrity, with several people seeking me out to tell me they follow my sewing adventures. I do things because I think they are fun or I get enjoyment out of them, and I never stop to contemplate that someone might be watching - which, upon further reflection, is a bit of an ironic statement to put on a blog. Nevertheless, it was fun to meet people who also get enjoyment out of the things I do, and it was very encouraging to me.

After St. Louis, we hit the road and headed to Kansas City. All reenactors know what we were looking for there: The Steamboat Arabia Museum. The Arabia was a paddleboat which sank on the Missouri River in 1856. Long story short, the ship sank into the mud, the river changed course, and all its cargo (basically a warehouse's worth of goods) was buried under a cornfield until the 1980s when some adventurers dug it up. They continue to preserve and display all the goods that the ship was holding. As our guide pointed out, it was full of the kinds of things you throw away - pins, matches, nails, buttons - and thus they are things that you maybe wouldn't see in a museum. There were plenty of luxuries too - we got to smell some perfume (spicy floral with a hint of musk) and there was beautiful china and fabrics. Not only that, these things were in bulk - there wasn't just one pair of shoes, they had the same pair of shoes in every single size, forks and spoons and knives by the dozen, whole bolts of fabric and thousands of buttons. To say it was amazing would not accurately describe it.

Buttons, buttons, buttons!

Tinware on display
We also got plenty of antiquing done, and we visited Lawrence, Kansas, site of the famous Lawrence Massacre by Quantrill's Raiders. We did a self-guided tour of Lawrence that I highly recommend; it is always fascinating to learn about history right where it happened. And, since the Oregon Trail went through Lawrence, we got a glimpse of that, too.

And now I am home, working on sewing projects and plotting and scheming further adventures - adventures that hopefully don't leave me with a bad case of tendinitis like the one I'm nursing in my right foot at the moment. Major ouch, but totally worth it.

Me at the City Museum, a decidedly modern adventure

1 comment:

Ada Igoe said...

So glad you got some time away. Sounds like a fun whirlwind of a trip!