Home Sweet Home
It would stand to reason that my husband and I, avid readers and road trip fanatics, might bring these two loves together and plan an epic journey–an odyssey, really–to visit famous literary sights across the country. We wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find places to visit; the homes of many famous American authors are now turning tidy profits as museums.
But this inspired idea didn’t strike me until today.
In 2008, instead of visiting the home of Mark Twain (adulthood home in Hartford, CT, childhood home in Hannibal, MO–both are museums), we lined up to pay homage at the home of another famous American…Elvis Presley. Neither of us are Elvis fans–I was 3 when he died–but a strange Elvis-fever afflicts all visitors to Memphis, and we were not immune.
Which is how we found ourselves parting with obscene amounts of cash to tour Graceland. Elvis-fever was particularly strong with me, bestowing powers of coercion that a Svengali might envy. I sweet-talked Anthony into upgrading our paltry Mansion Tour tickets to the Graceland Platinum Tour. Sadly, he balked at the Elvis Presley Entourage VIP tickets ($69 plus tax).
It’s lamentable that after leaving Memphis, we drove south to New Orleans without stopping in Oxford, MS to see Rowan Oak, home of author William Faulkner.
Last year’s trip borders on negligence when you consider that we meandered south from Vermont through Massachusetts on Route 91, a stone’s throw from the homes-turned-museums of Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, and Edith Wharton. At home, we’re only three hours from Baltimore, an easy drive to a house-turned-museum where Edgar Allan Poe lived while in his 20s.
So why don’t we try to absorb some literary culture by visiting these museums?
To be honest, I’m afraid they’ll be reminiscent of the “museums” my dad used to drag my sister and me to when we were kids. Dad had two requirements for these outings: they had to be educational and free. We were often the only visitors to the musty, one-room exhibits and my father would prattle away with the museum employee while my sister and I reconnoitered for rusty forks or sharp implements to poke into our eyeballs.
We grew up less than an hour from New York City and Philadelphia, so it wasn’t that world-class museums and art galleries were out of driving distance, they were just out of my miserly dad’s budget.
Based on the beautifully designed websites, it would seem that homes of famous authors pull in serious money. Have you ever visited a literary landmark or author’s home? If so, I’m eager to hear if it’s worth the time and money. Summer’s almost here and I wouldn’t want to squander my vacation fund on another trip to Dollywood if Rowan Oak is all that the website promises!