The longest solo drive I'd ever done brought me from Philly to Richmond (around 250 miles) at 6pm on Thursday 9/21 in a little over 5 hours with only one stop for gas. I'm building up my driving stamina, because I have much longer ones coming up. 

The most beautiful wall of ukes at Fan Guitar & Ukulele

The most beautiful wall of ukes at Fan Guitar & Ukulele

On my first night, I met a couch surfer named Julia from Vienna, and it turns out she's going to be in New Orleans at the same time as me! I taught her ukulele and she taught me and other guests Hungarian folk dancing (lots of twirling and stomping was involved). 

Natalie at the shop showing off her amazing skills on a pocket uke

Natalie at the shop showing off her amazing skills on a pocket uke

The next morning I went on my first run since starting the trip. It's hard to keep up an exercise regimen when you're driving a lot and trying to eat as cheaply as possible. My college friend Courtney is now studying to be an art teacher at Virginia Commonwealth University and showed me a good place in the center of campus to bring my wagon of ukes. When I packed up that wagon and started walking, I felt like Matilda wheeling around her red wagon of library books (90's kids you know what I mean).

I stopped at an amazing ukulele store, Fan Guitar & Ukulele, I had seen the night before and ended up have to force myself out the door so I didn't buy any more instruments. The Guilele (guitar + ukulele) was really calling to me. John Gonzalez, the owner of the store, gave me 3 free books to teach people with. I'm learning that the ukulele community is so supportive and I can't wait to meet more people who play along they way. 

As I walked through campus pulling my wagon of ukes, I started having doubts. What if the students think I'm really weird? What if no one wants to learn? What if I hit a pothole in the middle of the street and all the ukes spill out and cars and people run over them? But all my worries were unfounded. After I mustered up the courage to ask one group of students if they wanted to learn, tons of people kept coming over! I ended up teaching 52 students over the course of the three hours I was there. One student even left, bought a ukulele from Fan (which is down the road from campus), and came back with it! 

My Uber driver's aunt and uncle are ukulele builders! It's a small world.

My Uber driver's aunt and uncle are ukulele builders! It's a small world.

I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of people there, especially at the college, since I've been in a few cities in VA before and they were pretty homogeneous. It seems like there is some divide in Richmond in the city between the more affluent and progressive college area and others, but it's hard to really understand all of the complexities of an area when you're only there for 2 days.

I got a little freaked out because after my first night, I went to my car to get my ukes and saw a young man on the phone standing near his car that had been robbed the night before. A window was smashed with glass all over the street. It had been parked mere feet away from mine. It could have easily been my car that was broken into.

I'm sharing this because I think it's important to think about the fact that I am a woman traveling alone and as fun as it is, I'm fairly vulnerable and need to stay vigilant. That being said, I've been having an amazing time and am excited to keep going on my journey, meeting and teaching more people!

These students talked about starting a Ukulele club on campus next semester. As I watched them exchange information to stay in touch I thought about the ukulele club I started in college called The Suny Plattsburgh Uke A Dooks. That experience had an immeasurable impact on my life and is one of the reasons I'm traveling and teaching today. 

Total # of People Taught: 59

Next stop: Gloucester, North Carolina to stay with family members I've never met before! Check out the rest of the photos from Richmond at the Yes Uke Can Project FB page.