Category Archives: Travel

A South Carolinian Debutante Ball

At the invitation of a friend of mine, I traveled to South Carolina to attend a debutante ball, a grand tradition in which young women are presented in society. Because I had only recently learned about this tradition, I jumped at the chance to experience this unique coming-of-age celebration.

South Carolina Debutante BallDonning a floor-length gown and opera-length, white gloves, I stood at the front of the crowd and marveled at the cherub-like debutantes entering the ballroom. With their anachronistic white dresses, bouquet of red roses, delicately placed hands, and pleasant smiles, the debutantes were escorted by their fathers to the center of the floor to perform a grand curtsy under the chandelier.

South Carolina Debutante BallThey were then handed off to their escort and shuffled across the floor once more.

South Carolina Debutante BallFor the finale, the fathers and daughters danced a waltz.

South Carolina Debutante BallThen the real party began with party-goers dancing the Carolina Shag and contemporary dance styles.

Carolina Shag

South Carolina Debutante BallAlthough the presentation was perfectly executed and the party was fun, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the rationale behind this antiquated event in today’s society. I also couldn’t imagine how these young women were coping with the varied messages the ball conveyed as well as the impossible expectations that were set upon them. I found myself questioning the entire event – Why does this tradition continue today? What purpose does it serve? Is there a more meaningful way to spend an evening? Is there a better way to showcase the strengths and talents of young women?

South Carolina Debutante BallAll in all, the debutante ball was an intriguing cultural experience that somehow transcended time and provided me with some additional perspective.

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My day in Wallace, Idaho

Road TripThis summer, I spent a week traveling across the northwestern part of the United States. My brother, his fiancée, and I rented a car and drove from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Occidental, California, stopping along the way in Grand Teton National Park; Yellowstone National Park; Butte, Montana; Anaconda, Montana; Wallace, Idaho; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Walla Walla, Washington; and Portland, Oregon. Of all those amazing and distinctly unique places, our favorite was Wallace, Idaho.

IdahoOur journey in Wallace began with a bike tour on the Hiawatha Trail. We crossed the border from Montana into Idaho, picked up our mountain bikes, hitched them to the back of our Volkswagon, Passat, and then drove back over the border into Montana. We parked at the entrance to the trail, tested our brakes, flashlights, and then entered into the tunnel. It was absolutely pitch black, cold, damp, windy, and with no sign of when it would end. Pedaling slowly and clutching the handlebars with my frozen hands, I finally emerged from the tunnel two miles later, grateful to see the sun.

Hiawatha TrailThe trail then wound through the mountains on the states’ border. We rode over train trellises and through smaller tunnels, making our way 13 miles to the valley floor. After the fear of being forever lost in a tunnel or sliding down the side of the mountain wore off, I felt the exhilaration of riding through this historic trail. After an hour and a half of riding, a shuttle bus brought us back to the car and we once again crossed back into Idaho to find the town of Wallace.

Wallace IdahoThe tiny Wallace used to be a major silver mining hub located in what is known as “Silver Valley.” Now it is mostly a tourist destination.

Lola Red Light GarageWe arrived in time for happy hour, grabbing a flight of beers at Wallace Brewing. Then we had dinner at Red Light Garage – a restaurant with a unique decor and the perfect amount of charm. Lola served us an amazing meal topped off with a huckleberry shake.

Wallace Brewing CompanyLola recommended that we then go to the Wallace Brewing Company on the “outskirts” of town, just on the other side of the highway which passed overhead. We headed over there and grabbed another flight of beers as well as some huckleberry lemonade. The owner of the brewery invited us to take a look at the tanks in the back. Everyone in Wallace was so friendly.

Metals BarWe ended the night at Metals Bar where we encountered the heart of America and were presented with the most moving rendition of God Bless the USA sung on the karaoke stage in the back.

The next morning, crunched for time, we learned about three different industries in the span of two hours.

Wallace Train StationThe first business was the railroad. We visited the railroad museum located near the highway overpass. The station had to be moved 200 feet to make room for the highway. Wallace, once a center of industry and prosperity, depended on the railroad to transport goods. It was also a hub for businessmen. The main claim to fame of Wallace (aside from being featured in Dante’s Peak) is that President Teddy Roosevelt visited for one day in 1903. He came by railroad.

Bordello Museum Wallace IdahoThe second enterprise was prostitution. There was a bordello that successfully operated until 1987 when the madame got word that the state police were coming to investigate. The women fled and never returned, leaving the building in exactly the state they had left it. It remains in that state today.

Maria Kucinski Silver MineThe third industry was mining. We hopped on a trolley that took us to a nearby silver mine located in the mountains. A former miner took us into the mine showing us the quartz veins that indicate silver, the tools, the methods, and the way of life for a miner. We learned that the science of mining and the physical demands were not for the weak of heart or mind.

Wallace accordion paradeIn addition to these planned excursions, we also happened upon an accordion parade. It was the icing on the cake of our stay in Wallace.

Wallace IdahoAll in all, Wallace was a beautiful and quaint town full of history and culture. I definitely recommend visiting. Tell them Lola sent you.

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My escape to the American Southwest

I flew out to Arizona for my first time and I fell in love.

Route 8The purpose of my trip was to see Alois Kronschlaeger’s awe-inspiring Untitled (Basin and Range) at MOCA Tucson. His installation, his largest and most ambitious to-date, was stunning. It was over a year in the making, took seven weeks to install with a crew of people, and one night to celebrate his accomplishment.

Alois Kronschlaeger Maria KucinskiI also ventured into the desert. I took in the landscape and the culture.

Tucson Arizona

Tucson ArizonaAt dawn, I bid adieu to Tucson and headed to Yuma, Arizona in a red convertible Chevy Camaro. I got the grand tour of Yuma by the city’s own spokesperson, seeing the Colorado River and the Ocean to Ocean Highway.

Martha GuzmanI hopped back in my Camaro and continued my journey to San Diego. I traveled through the desert, the sand dunes, the turbines, the mountains, and finally through paradise.

View from the CamaroI drove over 400 miles to the coast, basking in the sun upon my arrival.

Maria Kucinski Red Chevrolet Camaro Convertible 2013I ate Mexican food while talking aviation with my old pal and Marine pilot.

Brad PanasitiThe next day, I traded in the Camaro for a new set of wheels, a beautiful bicycle with red rims. I rode all along Mission Beach, envisioning my life in this paradise.

Maria Kucinski Bicycle in Paradise

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