The weather has really turned over the last couple of days. It has cooled off considerably from the sunny +26°C earlier in the week to about +4°C and rain.
We leave Belle Vernon and take the Interstates, tolls and all, to Mackinaw City just to mix up the return route and see some of the southern shore of Lake Superior. Coffee in the cup, GPS set, and we’re off. Within about 10 minutes, we hit our 1st toll booth. Upon leaving the toll booth the GPS is updating the directions, but the choice is right there and as I’m rushing to read the signs and hoping the GPS will come to the rescue, I make a split second 50/50 decision and of course moments later I realize we’re going the wrong direction and the GPS confirms with its oh so polite “route recalculating”.
Interstates are wonderful, except when you make this kind of mistake. There are no U-turns, no easy fix, in fact it’s 30 miles before we can turn around! Insult to injury, we have to pay yet another toll to retrace those wrong 30 miles. Not a happy camper for a few minutes here.
What can you do? Not much, so I eventually I let it go and we settle in to a day of more tolls, traffic, gas stations stops and worsening weather and road conditions, especially the last 2 hours getting into Mackinaw City. When we arrive it’s quite cold, a mix of rain/sleet and blowing hard. Our hotel for the night is a little funky but passable, defiantly more of a summer resort complex that a 4 season establishment.
Here we are, at probably the FLW highlight of the trip, Fallingwater.
How did we get here? The original plan was to do the FLW Trail as established by Wisconsin Tourism. Also, a nice review of the trail. This would have left us in Racine, Wisconsin. Well, Racine is close to Chicago where there is a lot of FLW stuff. However, both Shirley and I have seen a fair number of the Chicago sites, one trip for Shirley & two for me. But we’re so close (sort of) to the FLW Mecca and Google Maps showed us it’s just a 10hr drive on the Interstates, so lets go for it!
All along the trip we’re treated to the fall colour show around every corner. Well, not so much on the Interstates but once we were off onto the more rural roads it was quite spectacular.
Well worth the drive!
We check in to the visitor centre and get hooked up with our small 12 person tour group. They are pretty fussy about what you carry into the house. Shirley is not able to carry a fairly small purse and I’m cautioned about my camera and the need to keep it in front of my body. They really don’t want you to hit, bump or touch a lot of stuff. In fact we get a list of dos and don’ts, basically don’t touch anything unless it’s metal or stone/concrete. And oh yeah, like so many FLW sites, no indoor photography.
Other that that you are right in the house with all the furniture, antiques, and priceless art works, up close and personal. We tour a good portion of the main house & guest house, but not everywhere, and certainly not allowed to go down to the river & falls. Here is our tour group as we first approach the house.
It’s raining lightly off and on and they supply umbrellas at ever point where you go outside onto a terrace or path. It seems likely that rain is not an uncommon occurrence in this part of the country.
There is a trail down to the iconic photoshoot point where it seems you really can’t take a bad picture of the house.
Here’s a short video of our visit to Fallingwater.
After the tour we drive around a bit and see some very cool places where rivers and bike trail intersect.
However, being a rural area there are not too many restaurants, none of which work for Shirley, so we move on to Polymath Park.
At Polymath Park were shuttled through a scenic 130 acres to the Duncan House,
Balter House (my fav of the three),
and the Blum House.
Duncan is the only “true” FLW house which was build originally in Isle, Illinois and then disassembled, moved and re-assembled (over the course of a couple of yeas) at Polymath Park. The Blum & Bater houses were designed by FLW apprentice Peter Berndtson. All of these three houses are bookable for overnight stays. I think this would be great but we can’t agree on which house, besides they are booked quite a long way out. After the tour it’s back to Belle Vernon for dinner. Tomorrow we turn homeward and it’s a big driving day to Mackinaw City.
We’re in Racine, WI today and tonight so very little driving on the agenda today. We have two tours lined up with a little shopping planed in between.
The morning tour is for Wingspread, the house designed by FLW for Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr., then the president of S.C. Johnson, We arrive at about 9:45 for our 10am tour and are greeted by a closed gate and an intercom system. Apparently we’re “early” but the nice gentleman on the intercom opens up the gate for us.
We park and wander around the grounds for a few minutes and then congregate with the others on the tour in the living room.
After some shopping and lunch we’re off to the next tour of the SC Johnson Administration building and Research Tower. Sadly, they too don’t allow photography inside the buildings and there are lots of security folks keeping an eye on things so, just outside shots.
We have dinner down on the waterfront at a marina overlooking the lake.
and take in a nice sunset.
Back to the hotel in downtown Racine to rest up for the all day drive to Fallingwater in Bear Run, Pennsylvania.
What city is this today? Oh yeah, we’re in Madison WI. (yesterday) 1st stop is the First Unitarian Society, of course another FLW design. Again, their tour schedule doesn’t exactly work for us so we just “drop in” and the nice lady at reception lets us look around a bit and tells us a little bit about the building and Unitarianism. We scout around the outside of the building and have a look at the newer expansion across the parking lot. All in all an impressive complex.
Stop number two is back downtown at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. We park and roam around a bit but we’re quite early for the tour and have some time to kill. We head up the street a couple of blocks away from the lakeshore and locate a Starbucks. Across the street is the State Capitol building (boring government site) . It looks quite interesting, so we wander over and on a whim decide to go in side. OMG! What an impressive building!
We explore a bit but sadly we’re running out of time and need to return to Monona for the tour. We could have spent sever more hours here, perhaps next time. Back at the Monona Terrace our guide conducts an excellent tour, with a fair bit of walking, it’s a very big building. Designed by FLW in 1938 and never built in his lifetime. However, persistence payed off and construction started in 1994 on the $67.1M structure and was completed in 1997, 57 years after it’s inception. Spectacular views and setting right on the Monona lakeshore.
As we leave Madison for Racine we’ll be driving right by Milwaukee, home of the Harley Davidson Museum! I appear to be the only one interested and we seem to have run out of time for this one. Again, perhaps another day. So much to see. But, we did stop by to see the American System Build houses by FLW. Again, no tour was possible so we looked from the sidewalk for most of them and peeped in the windows of the one that was set up for tours.
By nightfall we’re tucked in at the Fairfield Inn in Racine and tomorrow is the SC Johnson tours.
Day 3 has us in Spring Green, WI and after checking out of the Spring Valley Inn, a very FLW styled motel, it’s a short 10 minute drive to Taliesin for our tour. We check in at the Visitor Center and do a little shopping in the gift shop prior to the start of the tour. At 10am we board the shuttle bus for the ride over to the estate for our Highlight Tour.
One hour at the Hillside Studio and Theatre
and then another short shuttle ride over to the Taliesin home for the second hour of the tour.
The grounds and buildings are quite spectacular and our guide is very knowledgeable and presents the material well and can answer almost every question that comes up.
A shuttle ride back to the visitor centre has us on our way to our next destination, the Unity Chapel. This was not in the original plan but our tour guide pointed it out and Frank Lloyd Wright is “sort of” buried there, along with many Lloyd Jones relatives and wife #2. Wife #3 had him dug up, cremated and scattered at Taliesin West in Arizona, but the grave marker is still there.
A bit down the road is the Wyoming Valley School. Tours don’t fit into our schedule so we just park and walk around the outside of the building and look in the windows.
A little further down the road is another unplanned stop, the House on the Rock. This is a vast and eclectic house/display which involves a lot of walking and many, may stairs. Apparently, just to quickly walk through and glance at stuff is a 3 hour effort. We’re tired and skip this tour, perhaps another day.
We drive on to Madison WI, and settle in at the downtown Comfort Inn. Dinner is complimentary snacks & drinks in the lobby lounge.
Two more tours tomorrow, a surprise discovery & more driving over to Racine awaits on Day 4.
This road trip will take us across Minnesota & Wisconsin, thru Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and on into Pennsylvania to see several of the Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) buildings both commercial and private homes. The trip was inspired by an interest in FLW from previous trips to Chicago, FLW150 & the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail.
The 1st day was pretty uneventful. We were under way around 9am and the drive to Minneapolis was very smooth on a clear sunny and warm day.
We stopped in Grand Forks briefly at the Best Buy to pick up the DJI Osmo Mobile. I put it on the charger and we kept on driving. More on the toy a little later.
Our first hotel room was a little on the small side and a bit noisy from time to time as trained passes right behind the hotel, and as we were close to the lobby, there was some late evening and early morning coming and going noises. Also, it was cosy as I clicked the wrong button making the reservation and ended up with a single queen bed instead of a king or two queens. The cameras stayed in the bag so no pictures today.
PF Changs for diner and I get the Osmo Mobile setup & operational for Day 2 tomorrow.
Today we’re driving the famous Road to Hana. In hindsight to really do this justice, we should have planned to say a day or two in Hana instead of just driving there and returning to the condo in one day, perhaps next time.
We start of by crossing the middle of the island and stoping in at our old friend Paia, or more correctly the near by Ho’okipa Beach Park to watch some surfers and check up the wave action. From there it’s a leisurely drive along the Hana Highway and we’re taking in the sights as we move through farm land towards the rain forest. First major stop is to check out the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. We might have driven right by, but there were quite a number f cars stopped so we did too and then we noticed what all the excitement was about.
Next up is a short 1/4 mile hike through the rain forrest, and yes it’s raining, and the whole area is quite damp. The road is starting to live up to it’s billing as it narrows and gets even more twisty. All the bridges, of which there are many, are one car wide and you need to negotiate who will cross 1st if you meet some oncoming traffic.
Now the road is closer to the coast line and we’re enjoying the view from Kaumahina State Wayside park, and a short distance later Honomanu Park where a solo surfer is working the waves.
Speaking of waves, we detour off the highway and out onto Ke’anae Peninsula for some spectacular shore line and pounding surf. The Ke’anae Peninsula is a dramatic half-mile long finger of newer lava sticking out from the cliff line of the Hana Highway where there is a historic old Hawaiian village. After taking a lot of photos, we stop at the snack shack for smoothies, banana bread, and coconut candy, all locally produced.
One of the best side trips of the day is when we head down the Nahiku Road to a park which overlooks the Kipakaon and Honolulu Nui Bays. It’s several miles off the Hana Highway and just as we’re getting close to the park there road is blocked off with a traffic cone and a truck is doing some sort of work on the road. The two cars in front of us turn around and head back. I think about it for a bit and turn around as well, but then I reconsider. There is no sign saying the road is closed, and I turn back just in time to see a car coming out from behind where the road work activity is happening. That’s it, we’re going in. As we edge around this truck a guy is cutting some branches that are overhanging the road, and the road is totally passable. A short distance later we arrive at this beautiful park, and have the whole area to ourselves. The park has a short easy to remember and pronounce name, “Malama keia Aino o Nahiku”
From there we drive on without too many stops until we get to Hana. As I said earlier, we really didn’t give the Hana areas it’s due. By now it’s about 4pm and we’re interested in getting a little further down the road to see the Seven Pools and a couple of the bigger waterfalls before the sun goes down. We drive through downtown Hana and out onto the pier for a quick look at the Hana Beach Park, and then we off, heading down the road.
Next stop is the Haleakala National Park, not up on the crater, but down at the ocean shore where the Palikea Stream flows off the mountain forming the Seven Pools. Apparently, there are more but for the tourist it’s seven. We hike over to a couple of the lower pools and take a refreshing dip. I even swim over to one end of the pool and go under the waterfall, very cool, literally and figuratively.
Now it’s about 6 p.m. and the sun is about to go down. I’d been planning to head back the way we came, but overhear a conversation in the parking lot where a local says the road ahead, which the car rental company and severe tourist magazines say is quite rough and almost impassible, is actually pretty OK and we won’t have any trouble, not to mention its shorter that going back the way we came. I’d really wanted to drive that part of the road and that’s all the encouragement I needed, and we forge ahead for a real adventure.
Sure enough, the farther we head down the highway, the narrower and twistier it gets. It also goes from fairly nice asphalt to crummy asphalt, to gravel, and then dirt and then dirt with some pretty big pothole, but no worse that many Winnipeg streets. By now it’s dark, very dark. After winding along the coast line we head up higher on the mountain and are soon rewarded with a spectacular view from up high of the Kihei beach areas light up like Christmas along the shoreline.
We finish our drive by picking up some dinner and heading home to the condo and another full and rich day is done, good night Maui.
Today is the day to ride up Haleakala, all 10,023 vertical feet from the ocean to the top of the crater.
The plan was to drive over to Paia and get underway by 7a.m. but the days are full and we’ve slept in a bit and then of course getting all the gear together, having breakfast etc. takes a little longer that expected. From the condo, the weather isn’t exactly great either, it’s raining. But, with the bike rented I’m committed so we set out for the close to 1 hour drive over to the stating point.
On the way we see numerous rainbows. In fact on the vacation we see one or more rainbows every day. it’s surprising how much rain we’re getting but it usually doesn’t last long or you drive a few miles and you’re back in the sunshine.
It’s still early when we arrive in Paia so there is lots of street and free parking still available. Shirley will spend the day investigating the many shops in town and relaxing on the miles of beaches. I unload the bike and gear up for the start.
As I leave the parking lot Shirley has already explained to some other tourists what I’m up to and I can hear them shouting “Go Garry, you can do it!” as I roll onto the street at 8:30 a.m..
The first few miles are exciting as I get used to the new bike, adjust to the roads and begin to figure out the gearing and what kind of pace I’m going to hold. It’s tempting to go hard early on with the excitement of the challenge ahead, but I’ve had some first hand advice about pacing and there is a long way to go. Already I’m taking note of the constant climbing.
From Paia it’s up Baldwin Ave. to Makawao and the first of many challenges on the ride. Just as you leave the town, there is a straight climb that jumps to a 10.4% grade for 0.4km (according to Strava). Now for a prairie rider this is a bit of a hill and while it only takes me just under 2 minutes, I’m out of the saddle and the heart is pounding by the time I crest the hill. A little easy peddling for a while on a more manageable grade and I’m good to go again.
The next interesting point of the ride is a corner that everyone warns you about. Miss the turn and you can do 1,700′ of needless climbing to a dead end. In fact when we drove up on Saturday to check out the route we missed this turn even though we knew what to look for and more or less where is was. This is not to be repeated today for sure. Just to document the location, my first stop of many on the ride is to capture a few photos at 9:24 am.
With “the turn” successfully negotiated, it’s onward and upward, ever upward, just more and more up.
I’m still feeling quite good and enjoying looking around taking in the beautiful scenery of the uplands farming and ranching areas. At 9:44 I’ve arrived at 2500′ vertical, just a little over one hour of riding. So far, it’s just been me and a few cars, I’ve not seen any other cyclists. The road quality is good and I think I’m beginning to stabilize my pace and efforts with a heart rate holding fairly steady at 163 BPM.
Over the next few miles I see a couple of other riders going up including a couple in matching kits that I chat with for a bit. At one point a rider passes me and we greet each other briefly, and then I begin to think “I can keep pace with that guy.”. He seems to be just slightly faster that my current speed. Then I remember the advice to ride a your own pace and I suppress the competitive urge to get on his wheel. Turns out this was a really good idea. A short while later I see the same guy coming down and realize he was not going all the way to the top and could afford to expend more energy on that section of the climb.
The next stop is at about 10:18 and I snap the directional sign to the national park. While I’m stopped, the matching kit couple that I passed a while back pass me. We’ll leap-frog each other for the next few miles.
Did I mention the unrelenting nature of the climb yet? It’s really starting to test my psychological resolve. Around every corner, there is just more “up”. I think over the whole climb there are only three very brief sections, each a few hundred feet, that are flat.
The stops are getting closer and closer together. It’s not 10:42 and the legs are saying “We need a rest!”. At this corner there is a Lavender Garden display also some zipline, ATV and horseback riding services.
While I’m resting a bit the BMC rider hammers by at quite a pace. I don’t see him again.
On the road outside the National Park somebody has nicely painted some signs on the road surface. Here I am at the half way point at 11:12am. In addition to elevation markers every 500′ vertical, there are encouraging reminders like “Breathe” and “Feed”. I have no problem with the breathe advice and at this point “feed” is just something I know I need to do, the desire to eat left some time ago, but I continue to force down some Power Bars.
Somewhere after 5,000′ things begin to get really tough. I’m feeling tired and I’m starting to wonder if I can really keep this up and get all the way to the top. The stops are becoming increasingly closer together and I’m starting to think about how I can explain to everyone who knows I’m doing this why I didn’t make it. The explaining seems more difficult that carrying on, so I just keep turning this cranks and setting short-term goals. In my head I’m telling myself “Keep going to that next corner”, “Another 10 minutes”, “to that sign over there”, and slowly progress is being made.
Stopped again at 11:41, good excuse to take a few more photos, which don’t do the elevation, grade or switchbacks any justice at all. This is one crazy road!. While I’m at and climbing through the cloud level, it’s not on the road and I’ve enjoyed sunshine the whole way. The temperatures have dropped significantly at this point. The refreshing coolness is nice, but the work of the climb is keeping me plenty warm with just a short sleeve jersey and shorts.
It’s 11:55 and the legs are screaming. It’s only been 14 minutes since the last stop. This section is really difficult for me, I’m tired, losing motivation but still pressing on.
Somewhere over the next few miles I get a second wind, and the riding is getting easier. I stop on one corner under some trees for a brief rest only to find that the Park entrance was literally around the corner, where I need to stop again to show my park pass. The entrance is at about 7,000′ and I’m finding that the roads inside that park are easier to ride. There is still a good grade going up, but it seems to be more consistent where as the road outside the park had a more variable grade making for short hard sections. Either that or the altitude and exhaustion factors are kicking in and I’m hallucinating. Either way I’m feeling good and push on to 8,000′ without stopping.
It’s 1:13pm and the confidence has returned, I’m going all the way to the top, and there is no stopping me now. Strangely, the riding is actually easier at this point, but there is a known hard section ahead, but no worries for now! After a good solid push, the frequent stops are returning.
OK, I’m going to start blaming all these stops on the altitude. I’m at about 8,700′ and this stop at 1:48pm is only 14 minutes from the last one! I am going to make it all the way, right?
Wow, an amazing push for 13 minutes before another stop at 2:01 pm, time for more photos.
Another short-haul and the top is visible at 2:25pm! The visitor center on the left, the summit in the centre and Science City on the right. The end is near! Notice that the road conditions have deteriorated at this elevation.
At short while later I’m at the corner that make the final turn from the visitor area to the summit. I should have stopped there for a photo, but I was feeling good and excited about the push to the top so I just motored around the corner and began what is probably the steepest section of the climb. I’ll learn later via Strava, that this segment is referred to as “The Last Brutal Effort”, and brutal it is. Despite being so close to the top, I’m forced to stop two times in this section. Getting re-started on this grade and being so tired is a challenge in itself. Then at 2:30pm, 6 hours after leaving Paia I ride across the last parking lot, up the path and top out at the summit!
At the top I met a guy from Calgary who encouraged me up the last section and took those last two photos. It felt awesome to make it to the top and I actually did a fist pump coming up the path at the end of the parking lot.
It was about 80°F at the bottom and at the summit 50°F, the predicted 30° cooler. For the ride down I’d been warned about this temperature shift. Going up and working hard in 50°F was no problem, but coasting down at up to 84km/hr was going to be a little cool, in more ways that one! After putting on leg warmers, a second long sleeve jersey, and a jacket, I’m ready for the decent, let the speed begin! BTW, no more pictures from this point on, no need to stop and having too much fun!
The first 3,000′ vertical feet literally flew by and seemingly all of a sudden I’m at the Park entrance, what a rush! The brakes really got a workout on the hairpin turns and more that a few times the rims heated up so much as to cause some brake chatter. I didn’t touch them but suspect they were smokin’ hot at some points. I’m using the full lane on the way down and at some points I’m closing up on some cars and need to back off. I’m being careful to stay on my side so as not to make a sudden discovery of a car coning up around a blind corner.
Coming up I should have taken better note of intersection where 377 joins Hanamu Road. As I get close to the turn I make a split second decision and end up turning too soon onto Kealaloa Ave. Shortly, I realize I’m going the wrong way and I’m a bit lost. To correct this mistake would mean more climbing, which at this point is out of the question. Without a map or GPS, it’s line of sight navigation. I can see the ocean and it should be all down hill so all further navigation choices are influenced by “going down” and “towards the ocean”. This results in me getting on Hwy 37, the Haleakala Highway, a very long, very straight decent. I think this is where Strava indicates I hit 84.4 km/hr! I think this might be a little fast, or at the very lease a brief spike, for sure there were some good runs at 60+ km/hr. All the speed your nerves can handle. In the end this works out, but adds somewhere between 6-8 extra miles to the ride, including 4 miles on the flat in the rain back to Paia.
It was an awesome day, a great personal accomplishment, and the climb can be summarized in one word, unrelenting.
From the Strava analysis (click on picture for full size):