We’re on the run for home now. You know how it is when the road trip is coming to and end and your looking forward to returning to the comforts of home. It’s a 7hr drive with a few gas, restaurant and shopping stops, but basically “boogie to the border”. Crossing back to Canada is uneventful, and it’s good to be home.
It’s still rainy and windy as we leave Mackinaw City over the bridge and on to the southern shore of Lake Superior. As we cross the bridge you can see Mackinaw Island in the distance and I’m remembering the trip my parents took me on to New York, NY & Washington DC, via a stop on the island and a stay at the Grand Hotel. That was a great trip with lots of good times and memories.
It’s a driving day with a few stops for some brief sightseeing and we enjoyed the views of Lake Superior and some of the huge rollers that were crashing on the southern beaches.
I’ve been to Duluth a few times before, many years ago, and I’m surprised by the layers of freeway as we approach the city and navigate through to our hotel. We settle in and then find some dinner at a near by restaurant. A little relaxing in the hot tub and we call it a day.
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.