Saturday, October 13, 2012

We finally made our way home two weeks ago Saturday from the three-week North Country trip of Savanna Traveling Studio. I have felt nothing but discombobulated since my return home.  Trying not to settle in, I have been focusing solely on taking care of business here on the homefront and in the classroom.  But come October 22nd, we will be climbing back into our five silver, 15-passenger vans and heading down the road...this time to the South Country. We will make stops in Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

During the past several weeks that I have been home, I have spent a good deal of time preparing for our South Country trip reading about both the urban and not-so-urban landscapes that we will be visiting. One of our first stops will be St. Louis, where we will be taking in the designed landscapes of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (The Arch), the incredible Citygarden, and Tower Grove Park/Missouri Botanical Garden, which was Henry Shaw's gift to the city of St. Louis.

After several days in STL, we will travel into southern Missouri with a stop at the historic Missouri Mines to capture the beauty of this post-industrial site through drawing/watercolor exercises. We will eventually set up camp at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park where we'll spend several days of exploration through the geologic study of this park as well as Elephant Rocks State Park. On our way to Memphis, TN, we will travel through Missouri's earthquake country down in that part of the state called the Bootheel.

Upon our arrival in Memphis, our students will study the rich history of the city and its relationship with the Mississippi River. Given this opportunity, they will analyze past and present flooding issues that affect the waterfront along Beale Street. Giving up the luxury of the hotel's warm beds and hot showers, we will travel into Mississippi where we will be settling in for a couple days of camping at Homochito National Forest.  Day visits will take us to prehistoric burial mounds and the Natchez Trace.

New Orleans is the next stop on our itinerary with so many urban landscapes to explore-cemeteries, gardens, parks and squares, and neighborhoods. Our last destination of the South Country trip will be Horn Island, one of several islands that comprise the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We will be camping on this sand bar barrier island 12 miles off the Mississippi coast in the Gulf of Mexico. That should be an interesting experience for one and all. Everything packed in must be packed out. Everything!  There are no public restrooms or outhouses. Figure that one out....

Never one to turn down an opportunity to "road trip", I actually look forward to this south country trip. I have the North Country leg under my belt, so I feel immersed in the culture of the ISU Landscape Architecture department's Savanna Traveling Studio. Living on the road and in close quarters with 36 people for a dedicated three-week stint and whose only tie is a professional relationship has been, at best, awkward for me.  However, it has certainly had its rewards.  We are no longer the strangers that we were when we set out on this adventure. "Up close and personal" has also offered me the opportunity to see our 34 new people as more than just students on the class roster. Listening to their conversations during the long legs of travel, as well as my individual conversations with them, I have new insights into this amazing group of young people with an incredible set of skills, talents, and interests.  I have no doubt that these attributes will serve them well not only in their study of landscape architecture, but also in their professional and personal lives.

I have set three goals for this next trip. First, I will travel lighter. Too much baggage is a drag on so many levels. I learned that I don't have to take along all the stuff for boo-boos and owies for everyone else. No one wants or expects anything from me. I go with the flow, stay flexible, and drive.  Second, I will find someplace for a pedi-manicure along about Day 10. This pampering not only washes away the grime that follows days of camping, but it also clears the stress that builds. The third goal is to get plenty of sleep. Surprisingly, some of the most sound sleep was in my little tent in the great outdoors, but I won't discount the amenities of the hotel room.  I will take a good night's sleep whenever and wherever I can find it.

Come 8 A.M. Monday, October 22nd, I will take command of SaVANna #35 for the South Trip. Keep us in your thoughts, read our blog, and wish us a safe and industrious journey.

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