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July Trip: Westward and back again
2004-07-14 - 3:57 p.m.

Sorry folks, if you continue reading you'll be subjected to my travel diary from our trip. It was an action packed, adventure. Okay, not really. It was a fun trip for the most part and we got to see many really cool sites, from natural formations, to architecture, to family to art. Yeah, that's the brief summary. Now here's the lengthy one...

I've broken it into parts, or you can just ignore it wholesale, I'll never know unless I quiz you:
Friday-July 2nd, Saturday-July 3rd & Fallingwater, break for a healthy back announcement, Sunday-July 4th, Monday-July 5th & more FLLW, Tuesday-July 6th & the Dells, Wednesday-July 7th & Family time, Thursday-July 8th and Taliesin, Friday-July 9th and Art, Return home... (BTW: all the pictures here are borrowed from websites, I didn't take them, don't even think it...)

In the beginning...

We started out on Friday collecting our rental car for the journey. Our trusty steed for this trek was a maroon Buick LeSabre from Avis. We got to experience the luxury of plenty of legroom and XM Radio. Our favorite channels turned out to be the comedy channels, Frank's place and one of the mix channels. Although I have to say, commercials aside, the Avis in White Oak does not try Hard-ER. sigh.

Friday night we enjoyed a lovely dinner with Wendy and Rob before getting on the road. When we arrived around midnight, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Farmington PA, which was just half an hour from Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece Fallingwater. It is called the Stone House, and was a victorian B&B We had a queen room with a private bath. Wendy, you'd be pleased to know that there was only one pattern on the walls and everything else was decorated in white, so it would pass your 3 pattern test. I giggled upon seeing the shower as it had the same mechanism as the bath in the Eldrid Drive house. At least they were kind enough to leave us directions on how to operate it.

Western PA

FallingwaterWe slept in on Saturday a bit and didn't check out until around 10 am. Then we headed to up to Fallingwater. There is a nice wooded walk of a trail to the house, that takes you over a river and some small falls, and over a bridge to the driveway. We entered through a maze to find the main entrance door off of the driveway and entered into the great room. The Great room was very horizontal, with great built in couches and shelving and lots of windows looking out to nature. There is also a hatch down to the water from the great room, that provided not only access but natural air conditioning. There is a beautiful boulder that the house is built on that extends into the great room and serves as the hearth for the fireplace. The floor is made of a similar stone, and the floor is polished to make it all blend. In the main fireplace there is a kettle for heating wine, but apparently it was more decorative than functional, not terribly efficient for use in a summer weekend home. There were terraces off of many of the rooms, including the great room, master suite, kitchen and other areas. The stairwells were very narrow, the first thought in my mind was that nothing was handicapped accessible, but that's my mom's voice in my head. The ceilings in the sleeping areas are much lower than normal. The theory was to bring the private areas down to a more personal scale. The spine of the house is the chimneys of rock built on the boulder. There is also a tower of windows going from the kitchen up two more floors to studies. From the outside it seemed like one big column that makes it difficult to differentiate the levels. They were also built with side steel supports so that the corners could open all the way up, which was really neat to expand the box. After seeing the main house we visited the guest house further up the hill with its spring fed swimming pool.

Surprising luxury

Fallingwater was very cool, but Alan's back and knee were bothering him from all the walking on uneven ground, so we ate at the small cafe, poked around the gift shop and got on the road headed towards Chicago. After we passed Cleveland and approached Toledo, the back gave out and demanded rest. So we hunted around for a hotel with a jacuzzi tub to ease Alan's back. Thankfully Michelle at the Best Western directed us down the road to a location called the Belamere Suites. This facility had little condos for the suites. You got a garage door opener with your room key and pull into the garage and enter the room with a huge king bed, three sided fireplace with a TV on top that swiveled from the bed, to the dinette for two, to the two headed shower, to the luxurious jacuzzi tub. Alan and I soaked in the tub a bit, laid down for a tad and then went out for Mexican, saw some small fireworks and went back to our little retreat.

Fourth Festivities

Hancock ObservatoryIn the morning they brought us coffee, huge blueberry muffins, and cheese danishes. We didn't check out until around 11 am and then got on the road to Chicago. We had a room reserved at the Talbott Hotel downtown and after check-in we took a quick nap before continuing on. We then changed to go out to dinner and walked slowly down to the lake shore, or as far as we could get without getting run over by traffic. I always find the tall buildings rather surprising since Greensboro didn't really have many and DC doesn't. After gazing at the lake, we headed up to the Grille at the Westin Hotel for steaks. The waitress was excellent but she suggested the crab cakes and we knew that being in the midwest we should go for cow. It was damn tasty. We took another small walk and discovered that the John Hancock Building with its Observatory on the top was just across from dinner and only two blocks from our hotel. I had read about watching fireworks from the observatory, so we went and checked it out and had a couple more drinks and then went on up. We went up to the top of the building to see all of Chicago from up high. It was a bit too hazy to see all the way to Wisconsin and Indiana, but the view of the city was breathtaking. The Observatory is on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building, so you can only imagine the view we had. They have a skywalk where it is screened in so that you can feel the wind on your face and in your hair. Then little fireworks started popping up from all over the skyline for the 4th Celebrations. You could see a green burst off in one distance, and a red shower just beyond it. It was an amazing site. Eventually the Navy Pier fireworks started which were the closest. They were very impressive, but the view had become a bit crowded with people. We eventually decided that the standing around had taken its toll on both our backs so we saw great virtue in getting on one of the earlier elevators down before the crowd. We eventually made our way back to the hotel and crashed.

More FLLW...

Monday morning rolled around and they brought us breakfast while Alan battled the lack of hot water in the shower and I battled the hotel's wireless internet access to check my email. The french toast at least was very tasty. We checked out around 10 am and had the valet bring the car around. Then we were off to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in Hyde Park, and on to Oak Park for his first Home and Studio.

Robie HouseThe Robie House, finished in 1910, was undergoing reconstruction and renovations. It had been sorely abused over the years until Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust acquired it. They have completed the exterior but still have a lot of work to do on the landscaping and the interior. You could still see how glorious and cutting edge it was in its time. It has many of the same horizontal elements like Fallingwater, and built in features. The brickwork on the exterior, and where it showed inside, had white pointing on the horizontal edges and brick colored mortar for the vertical so that the brick work looked like ribbons of brick, further emphasizing the horizontal lines of the eaves. The light fixtures were beautiful, at least those that remained, and gorgeous woodwork had been restored on the walls and ceilings. They hope to have it truly renovated by 2009 for the 100th anniversary of its groundbreaking. Since we got to the Robie House early, we walked up the street to the Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. It was very elegant in the classic gothic style, and apparently is actually newer than the Robie House.

We then headed to the Oak Park suburb to see FLLWright's first home and studio from 1889 to 1909. The house was built in a more Eastern coastal shingled cottage style, rather contrasting to the tall thin Victorians in the area. Since we had an hour until the tour we went in search of some food and found this great local place with greek food called Mickey's. The owner was obviously a fan of the old movies as it was decorated in movie posters and a great mural of the classic scene of the embrace from Cassablanca. No mouse in short red pants here.

Oak Park Home and StudioBack to the home and tour, we entered to see more built in sofas. Apparently this was FLLW's idea to make the house look bigger by not having the furniture sticking out from the walls, but imbedded in the bay windows. This also illustrated the beginning of his room within a room design style. The fire nook was very small and intimate, but windows from it into the rest of the house still provided heating throughout. In some of his rooms when the plaster started to crack, he coated the walls with earth toned linen cloth instead of gaudy victorian wallpaper. Many of the furniture items he designed himself. The ceiling in the playroom was barrel-vaulted with wood features and Japanese inspired light fixtures. The Master bedroom had two murals with native american inspired designs. It was all very cool. He built his studio when Louis Sullivan fired him for taking private commissions. It comprised of an elaborate entrance, a drafting room with a vaulted ceiling and balcony for more workers, and his reception area led to his library/selling office. The library was octagonal with high windows , a skylight, and places to display books, japanese prints, and other artifacts to impress his clients. At the end of the tour we visited the gift store and bought a lovely water lily throw for the den, as well as books and other gifts.

Dude we visited the Dells...

After our lovely visit to those houses we got back on the road this time head to the Wisconsin Dells. I had visited these once with my family when I was very young, so I was hoping that the lived up to my nostalgic remembrances. We arrived at our hotel around 6 pm and checked into the Sherman House. This house was built by one of FLLW's partners in the Prairie Style, instead of the other Victorian style B&B's. Although not as detailed as most of FLLW's designs, it was still quite lovely especially the fireplaces tucked into the corners of two adjacent rooms. Our room was very cozy with a bit of a view to the Wisconsin River. After resting a bit (do you see a check-in theme?) we walked over to the Riverwalk Pub to have a dinner of cheesy bread and elk burgers. I also had a glass of fresh from the tap root beer. I'm not a fan of normal root beer, but if it comes from a tap, somehow it is like veritable nectar. We walked back along the Riverwalk, but didn't tarry too long since the mosquitoes were out in force. I soaked in the little whirlpool tub for a bit before retiring to bed.

HH Bennet on the DellsTuesday morning we went to breakfast at the Secret Garden Cafe, that was associated with the B&B company, and got a good meal before tackling the river. After poking around a few tacky shops, we went to join a boat for a tour of the Upper Dells. Wisconsin is a native american word for rushing water and dalles is a french word for layered or stacked rock. So the Wisconsin Dells is a rushing river through layered rock. This is the largest single deposit or Potsdam Sandstone. We got to see many attractions such as Witch's Gulch and the Standing Rock where H.H. Bennett took his first stop action photo of his son jumping the 5 ft gap between a cliff and the Standing Rock. There were many very gorgeous rock formations, which makes it easy to see why it has been a tourist attraction for over 100 years.

Afterwards we broke for lunch at Monk's Bar and Grill for burgers and fries before catching a bus down to the Lower Dells. On the way to lunch I saw a store with Monkey Business stuff in it that I stopped at on the way out. Alan went to the Big Dog store next door to find a wind breaker since it was chillier than we'd originally planned for. Actually we were both pretty lame and forgot jackets (in july, no wonder), but at least I did pack a zip hoodie. After our purchases were made we caught the bus to the Lower Dells, and waited. Eventually, ~45 minutes, we boarded the boat for the 3:15 tour. This tour was only an hour, where the Upper Dells was two, and our guide wasn't as sharp as the first guide. She was rather blonde, and I don't mean that in the cute adorable way. I believe Alan's remark was something to the effect of spending more time practicing tying knots and less on her make-up. We did get to see many cool rock formations such as Elsie the cow and her old fashioned milk bottle, the pulpit and the baby grand piano, hawk's beak, and the rocky islands. It was neat but it would have been much more so if we had taken the Duck Tour for the Lower Dells. (By the way, the reason there is an Upper and Lower Dells is that there is a dam and no lock to get boats through. I know you were dying to know.) Continuing our path of patience, we took a potty break after the boat and missed the bus back to our car. So we waited on the next one, and sat on that one for 30 mins. Mind you if they had told us that there was going to be a 30 minute wait or more, we would have gotten up, stretched, walked around, perhaps even have spent money on cheap souvenirs- bastards. After all that waiting we eventually became fed up and actually exited the bus early to get away from the annoyingly loud child's toy. Finally I took some pictures of the Sherman House before our final westward stretch to Rochester MN.

Family Time

We arrived safe, if suffering a bit from the exciting exit from the highway, and met up with the family for dinner in the hotel restaurant. The steak, corn and mashed taters were all tasty, and my family continued to exasperate and entertain me. The redundancy of the conversation would no doubt be humorous to anyone, not just me. But thanks to the frustrations of the afternoon at the Lower Dells, I was tapped out on patience and restraint. I then went to hang out by the pool with the family and shoot some pool with Clint while Alan rested his back thanks to drugs from Mom. We got to bed around midnight after my little sister and I talked for quite some time first. It is always good to see the family again.

Wednesday morning dawned and Alan had finally had enough of his pinched nerve so I found a Yellow Pages add for a chiropractor nearby who opened at 7 am. After getting a bit misdirected initially, we got there, got examined, and got adjusted much to our own relief. It was wonderful. Dr. Buchanan really knows his stuff and his articulated table allowed for flexibility in adjusting the patient, namely me. I was lucky to find a good doc from the yellow pages, and one who fit our schedule. It was totally worth the added expense.

As it turned out, the stop at McD's on the way to Galesville WI for caffeine and sustenance made us just late enough to miss the quick graveside service for my grandmother. We did get to see my grandparents final resting spots with the great view out over the lake my dad used to skate on in the wintertime. We then proceeded onto the church where the memorial service was held. My Great Uncle Bob, Aunt Mary, and my Dad eulogized my grandmother and shared many new stories with us. Then the pastor, who was nice enough to fill in while the regular one was away, read the 23rd Psalm in the best William Shatner impersonation. Sadly it was unintentional. (The Lord IS.. my shepherd! ishallnotwant...) I appreciate his attempt to divert from monotonous and boring, but really, he needs to back away from the dramatic speaking classes. But it was nice of him to fill in. We then retired to the fellowship hall downstairs for lunch and socializing with long lost family members. My grandmother is the 4th of 7 children. While my Great Aunt Silvia and Great Uncle Knute (whom I never knew) have long since passed, my Great Aunts Barbara, Juliet, Naomi, and my Great Uncle Bob survive my grandmother and are still going fairly strong. We also got to see and meet cousins from nearby.

Lake Marinuka, Galesville WIUpon leaving we got my Mom and Dad as passengers for the ride from Galesville WI back to Rochester MN. But first we drove around and saw the former mayor's house (he happens to be buried on a hill facing my grandparents, which is fitting since they were fast friends) whose backyard pool we played in those few times we visited. The house my dad grew up in is right next door and the first house my grandparents ever owned was behind it facing the opposite side of the block. We also drove by the movie theater, now a library, that my grandfather ran the projectors in during the depression in trade for room and board. Finally we took a turn by the swinging bridge over Beaver creek that comes out of Lake Marinuka. Dad told us that we loved playing on the swinging bridge when we visited, and that the cliffs on the other side of the bridge were where he used to climb, explore and play as a boy. The nieces loved the bouncing swinging bridge- so we played there with them for a while before really heading back for good.

We rested in the hotel room a bit before continuing on to family time at Aunt Julie's place. Alan got to meet more of my family and chat a bit with the others. My Aunt Mary, Uncle Pete and Cousin Robin made it up from Texas. It was great to see Robin again, since the cousins have so few opportunities to meet up anymore. After we ate and drank to our hearts content and well past the setting sun, we returned again to the hotel and hung out in Pete and Mary's room until late and we slid down a floor to our room and beds.

Southwest Wisconsin and yet more FLLW

I bribed Alan with a flexeril before bed if we could see FLLW's Taliesin on our way back. We had a good protein breakfast with Mom, Dad, Clint, Jodi and the girls which was fun. I put Trin's zip hoodie on her backwards and put the hood up over her face and spun her around like the thrill seeker she is. Hee hee hee, evil Anti-Gen got to spin up the nieces quite a bit. Eventually we showered and checked out and got on the road.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin in Spring Green WITaliesin in about 3 hours east of Rochester in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The drive there was slow going on country roads, but quite pleasant. I even saw a red winged blackbird fly and land on the side of the road on the way there, which was way cool. We had a light lunch at the cafe before our 2 hour tour of the house. I wonder now if the onions I had in my lunch made the mosquitoes avoid me as I had none of the problems with bugs that others did. We took a bus to the property and got a brief tour of the grounds looking onto his family chapel in the woods, up the hill to the school and windmill he built for his aunts and other nearby works of his. We got to see Taliesin from all sides outside. It is built as an Italian villa in layout so had the many buildings in a rough square more or less connected by breezeways and paths. The farmhouses and work areas now house students of the FLLW Fellowship who continue to study architecture, and renovate and operate the house.

We did get to see the remaining studio which had grand ceilings and a painting over the fireplace of his mother. The studio was apparently enlarged at one time to accommodate a Japanese screen he had acquired, and the addition mirrored the screen as much as possible. There were six panels in the screen, and six tall windows in the wall perpendicular to it. Where the screen had a cedar tree painted in one corner, Wright had the screen flow into the first window panel that had a real cedar tree growing by it as well. Very cool and detail oriented. We then saw the entrance to the house with movable benches in the foyer to adjust for traffic flow. The dining room was grand with a great view out over the valley. Since Taliesin had burnt down twice, this version had artifacts and stones from the previous houses, found in the rubble, implanted in the walls. We then saw the guest bedroom where such notable guests as Marilyn Monroe and Guggenheim had stayed. His bedroom included a place he could work as well and see out in all directions, including a garden with a pool for dipping in. It was a gorgeous house with many of the decorations he designed as well as many of the artifacts he had collected. It was well worth extending the trip for.

After the grand tour we did some shopping before getting on the road to the Chicago area. We called up Rob and Valerie (SCA Hyrim and Anastasia) and had dinner and crashed with them on Thursday night. We stayed up until way too late chatting and catching up, and telling travel stories. It was so good to see them again, and great of them to feed and house us for the night. I also got to play with their pup, Rune, for quite a bit, which was very relaxing and soothing. He's such a cute fluffy doggie, and didn't bother my allergies, and he loved me, but then again I did scratch him behind his ears...

Chicago and ArtArt Institute of Chicago facade

Friday morning they fed us breakfast and gave us directions to the Art Institute of Chicago. We arrived there around 11 am and I sent Alan onto the armor collection while I hunted down the elusive textile section. Little was I to know how elusive it was. I was sadly thwarted as the normal textile collection was put away in lieu of a quilt exhibit. This might have been cool if I was a quilter, but instead if just irritated me. But the Halloweenslut would probably love it. Instead I poked around some 18th and 19th century decorative objects and then found the early 1900's decorative arts wing. I gawked at a Mackintosh chair and table, an original Barcelona chair from the 30's, some groovy Art Nouveau furnishing and glass bowls and vases as well as great pottery. It was so cool I decided to bring Alan back to it. I then scoped out the decorative arts section from 1100-1700 and viewed it in reverse chronological order. I ogled some gorgeous glass, including a prunted tumbler, and approximately 10 or so majolica plates and drug jars from the 15th and 16th centuries. Those were really cool, even the later period french examples of painted pottery in really dark black tones with delicate shading. Sadly we skipped the ancient exhibits so we didn't see any mosaics Giuli, since Valerie said they only had a few Roman pieces.

We then went up to see some Georgia O'Keefe's, the real American Gothic, some impressionistic works, and then onto the European paintings from 1350-1650, again looked at in reverse. El Greco's the Assumption of the Virgin is an enormous work and had to be viewed from the other side of the room. I then saw a few of the lesser known Titans, Reubens, and a Van der Weyden. There was also a painting of the Sorrowing Madonna by Bouts that you could feel her grief and the tears on her cheeks looked so real. Oh, and the detail of her veil and the ruffled edge was superb too. :) It was truly astonishing. We did have to skip the fabulous and famous Asian art exhibit since we were tight on time and really needed to boogie.

Final stretch

We finally made a few purchases in the museum shop, including a book on the textiles I missed-bastards, and then got back on the road to rainy Chicago Friday afternoon traffic. Bleh! Of course once we realized there was no quick escape and only the long slow one with all the other people on the road, we just sucked it up and made out way out of town. We made it Friday night to a hotel in Youngstown OH and crashed hard. We made it home by 2 pm on Saturday, in time to turn in the rental. Around South Bend Indiana Alan wondered aloud if we could have turned the car in part way and flown back. While a tempting idea with hours left of road ahead of us, it would have taken away some of the flexibility in our plans. Not knowing exactly what our return plans were didn't help, and one way tickets aren't cost efficient.

So, we are home, and even got to relax and unpack on Saturday and relax and do laundry on Sunday. It was antisocial, but lovely to be in one place for a change. Again, sorry we missed Assessment and all the wonderful goings on and peoples, but we had a lovely trip just the same. Okay, I had a lovely trip, and Alan seemed to enjoy himself when he wasn't uncomfortable in the car and walking around... sigh...

On a completely unrelated note, I had inspiration for a name for one of the fish, but it's not one of the babies, it's an adult that is mostly black and white with red coloring right in front of the gills. It looks like rouge so I decided to call it Bashful. Mel and Gryth, be proud. Of course I can't figure out an appropriate dwarf name for the fish who is very similar but has red splotches all over it's face. Calling it Eczema would perhaps be apropos, but cruel...

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