Adventures in the Villa



2021-08-04 – The Oregon Trail caravan … Day 7 – Kearney, NE to Ogallala, NE

Another travel day. We went only about 150 miles, but there were many interesting stops along the way…

But first, we enjoyed the Nebraska scenery…

We were told by our caravan manual to stop off and see The Golden Spike. Well, the only golden spike that I knew of was at Promontory Point, Utah, where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads completed the transcontinental railroad. So we had no idea what to expect here. Our GPS took us on a wild goose chase around and through several residential neighborhoods until we finally arrived near the railroad tracks. We figured we were getting close. Then we saw the tower:

We figured this was probably worth a stop. We had no idea!

This is The Bailey Classification Yard! We learned a little history:

During the construction of the transcontinental railroad, North Platte was platted as a railroad town by Union Pacific’s Chief Engineer Grenville Dodge.  It was chosen because of its close proximity to good water and its distance from Grand Island, Nebraska. In 1866 the first train rolled through what was known at the time as “Hell on Wheels” town. General Dodge quickly moved to construct major shop facilities and winter quarters and by 1867, main line operations began.  Just two years later on May 10th, East met West at Promontory Summit in Utah, 690 miles east Sacramento and 1,087 miles west of Omaha. The railroad crossed two-thirds of the continent over some of the most difficult terrain on earth. It was called, “The Work of Giants” and it was the end of the frontier, as we knew it.

Today Bailey Yard, named for former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey, is the world’s largest train classification yard in the world. Over 3,000 cars are classified (or sorted) to make sure the cargo reaches its final destination. The yard is eight miles long, 1 1/2 miles wide, and at its widest point contains 320 sets or railroad tracks. The yard is located in the midst of key east-west and north-south corridors, on the busiest freight rail line in America, making it a critical component of Union Pacific’s rail network.

Bailey Yard has 17 receiving and 16 departure tracks handling 14,000 rail cars every 24 hours.  The railroad cars are sorted daily in the yard’s eastward and westward yards, nicknamed “hump” yards. Using a mound cresting 34 feet for eastbound trains and 20 feet for those heading west, the hump yards allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of 114 “bowl” tracks. Here they become part of trains headed for destinations in the East, West and Gulf Coasts of America, as well as the Canadian and Mexican borders. An average of 139 trains per day are comprised of raw and finished goods, such as automobiles, coal, grain, corn, sugar, chemicals, and steel along with consumer goods, including electronics, apparel and other retail products.

To keep America moving forward, the train operations and repair shops at Bailey Yard are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fueling and service center processes more than 8,500 locomotives each month, using technology like overhead cranes and elevated work bays to maintain fluid operations.

All train movement throughout Bailey Yard is handled through the on-site command center with the latest computerized control systems. The Bailey Yard command center is tied to the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, which controls hundreds of intercity trains daily throughout the company’s 23-state rail system. The Bailey Yard has over 2,500 employees, working 24 hours per day…

So we stopped to take a look… More trains than you can keep track of!

At the observation deck atop the tower we could see the operations, including the hump yards, as the incoming trains are broken up and re-combined into the various outgoing trains.

It was a fascinating opportunity to see how trains really work! We loved it!

We could even see some of our friends parked next to us down below…

So after this exhilarating tour we headed off to the Lincoln County Historical Museum. It was similar to other small county museums…

This one had a rare two story log cabin…

This barbershop was built in 1900…

Typical mercantile building you would see on Main Street in the 1890s…

Then we walked the 1/2 mile to see Scout’s Rest Ranch…

Scout’s Rest Ranch was Buffalo Bill’s retreat and retirement home. He lived here when not traveling with his Wild West shows, and then again after the shows were over…

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American soldier, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father’s hometown in modern-day Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory (now the state of Nebraska).

Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father’s death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 15. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872.

One of the most famous and well-known figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill’s legend began to spread when he was only 23. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe.

This is his house at the Scout’s Rest Ranch. It was built in the late 1880s. It is considered to be in the “Second Empire” style, with elements of Italianate and Eastlake detailing. In my opinion, it is a big mess… Look at the shutters. Why were shutters added to the windows? Either to keep the Indians out (not applicable here) or to keep the sun off and to insulate against the cold in winter. Look at these shutters: The cannot do either: they don’t even cover the entire window if they were to be closed… I hate phony stuff like this!

Inside the decoration is “authentic Victorian”… I hate Victorian interiors! It hurts my eyes! That wallpaper is abominable!

The outbuildings were interesting…

The Ice House:

The Spring House: (It would also make a good wine cellar…)

The Cob House: Corn cobs were stored here to burn in the stoves in the house…

Lakes are always nice:

So we set off again, heading west to Ogallala…

We arrived at the RV Park and we were soon set up…

We had our last GAM.

This afternoon as we crossed over to the western-most counties of Nebraska we moved from Central time to Mountain time. But our phones, watches, and the truck GPS have a hard time handling the change. So our clocks have been flipping back and forth between the two zones; we never know what time it is…

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-13 Westbound; Leaving Thunder Bay!

Today is the day!  We are finally leaving Thunder Bay, a full two weeks after we arrived…

2017-09-13 Thunder Bay Leaving

Our destination today is Shorewood RV, just outside Minneapolis; we are scheduled to get out refrigerator replaced.  (You recall our refer failed in PEI about one month ago…)

It was an uneventful trip, traveling southwest from Thunder Bay, continuing southwest to Minneapolis, then west to Anoka and Shorewood RV.

We stopped about every 1 1/2 hours or so to break up the trip.  We try to walk a bit and keep out Apple watches happy.  This rest stop was about one hour south of Duluth:

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The truck once again performed flawlessly, and we easily rolled along.  We arrived at Shorewood RV at about 3:30, and checked in to the Service department to make sure everything was on schedule.  They told us where to park, so we pulled in and set up for the night:

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A few minutes later they called to tell us the refer was here and they would be picking up the Villa at 6:00 am tomorrow morning…

We have good power, good internet access, good satellite TV, and air conditioning – it is 88 degrees and very humid!  We did add a sticker to our map:

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Happy Hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…











2017-09-12 Westbound; Released from Thunder Bay on Day 12…!

We have been released!  Almost 24 hours after the arrival of the parts, the truck is finished.  They replaced all sorts of things on one side of the engine: push rods, injectors, just about everything they had – GM sent a giant box of parts…

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They did an oil change, then a test drive; we took back the rental car, then headed out on a long drive to see that everything is OK.  I have no doubt about the engine, but it always seems like  other things go wacky when major work is performed.  We checked the radio, the navigation system, the trip odometers, the clock, the tire pressure monitoring system, the front and side cameras, everything we could think of.  Everything seemed fine.

We drove about 50 miles, then we went for a celebratory lunch:

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Lynda went shopping to try to spend our last Canadian cash; I returned to the GMC waiting room to catch up on computer work; we will hitch up the rig tonight or tomorrow morning and leave before 9:00.

We walked over to Bistro One for our standing every Tuesday reservation:

2017-09-05 Bistro One

We had to tell them we will not be returning… unfortunately, Jean, the owner, and Brittany, best waitress ever, were both off sick.  But I still had a great Old Fashioned, we enjoyed a nice bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, the Duck Confit was as good as ever, and braised short ribs were a real treat.  We left at about 8:30 and it was still light, making our walk home easy.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…







2017-09-11 Westbound; Stranded in Thunder Bay, Day 11…

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Monday; the GMC dealer is open again, so we get great internet access.

I was able to catch up on the blog; Lynda could read the paper and her book; the waiting room inside the GMC dealer is comfortable, and the stock market is up.  What more could we want?

At noon we received the news:  The parts necessary to repair the truck have arrived!  If nothing goes wrong it should be complete tomorrow!

I immediately started finalizing our itinerary; we will have our refrigerator replaced on Thursday in Minneapolis; we plan to be at Mt. Rushmore on Saturday…

We hung out for awhile, and then we went for an early dinner at Thunder Bay’s newest Sports Bar: Shoeless Joe’s:

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It was very nice.  It was opening day, so everyone was super friendly and happy.  Food was even good.  Happy Hours were many and an enjoyable time was had by all…






2017-09-10 Westbound; Stranded in Thunder Bay, Day 10…

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Sunday in Thunder Bay; we attend another Christian Reformed Church; in fact, there are three CRCs in Thunder Bay, a town of only about 108,000 people.  Today we went to the suburban church, about 15 miles out of town…  (Around the corner, within 1/2 mile, is a United Reformed Church, an ultra-conservative spin-off of the CRC.)

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2017-09-10 First CRC

It appears to be a fairly new building; it looks like it was built in conjunction with Thunder Bay Christian School.

It was the most conservative, traditional CRC we’ve ever been to… An old CRC tradition was for the members of the Council or Consistory (The governing body of Elders) to walk into the church together, along with the minister.  I remember that tradition from days of my youth.  I just haven’t seen it in 30 years or so.  But another even older tradition was for the President of the Council to shake hands in front of church with the minister before and after the service. I have never seen that… until today.

Every song sung here was from one of the Hymnals.  No repetitive, upbeat praise songs here.  On the other hand, unlike the Bethleham CRC  last week, there were many families, lots of kids, and a good size congregation – I’d estimate 200 people.

But it was a nice service; the minister is the same one who had pre-recordrd the video sermon we heard last week.  (Same minister, different sermon…)

One more CRC tradition: They hold two services on Sunday, and they expect you to be at BOTH!  (We were oncers…)

After Church we had a restful day, catching up after our trip to Wisconsin.  We needed to do laundry, and find some internet; we found both within one block in downtown Thunder Bay:

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Once we were back in the Villa we relaxed until dinner time; tonight we tried Caribou:

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We walked to and from the restaurant; it was nice to get out after all the driving we have done over the past several days.  The weather was nice.  An enjoyabe time was had by all…
















2017-09-09 Westbound; Stranded, but escaped from, Thunder Bay, Day 9…

Today we return to Thunder Bay; we had a great time in Wisconsin, even though we were living in cheap motels and not the Villa; we were also driving a cheap rental car, not the Silverado, so no satellite radio, no navigation system, no wifi, and no 110v electrical outlet to charge our devices.  On the other hand, we could park in regular parking stalls like normal human beings…

We left early, stopped at Starbucks, headed northwest.  It was an uneventful drive. Eventually we passed through Duluth, into Minnesota. Finally we stopped for lunch at the Ledge Rock Grill:

2017-09-09 Ledge Rock Grill

This is a nice full-service lodge, right on the shore of Lake Superior; after lunch I needed a little nap:

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We drove on; we stopped at Brighten Beach and once again walked along the shore:

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A few miles short of the border is the little town of Temperance; of course we had to stop at the liquor store:

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We crossed the border with no hassles, and returned to the Villa in Thunder Bay;

We unpacked and cleaned the Villa; then, because it is Saturday, we went looking for a Sports Bar to watch the USC-Stanfurd football game.

We failed.  Apparently Sports Bars in Canada only show hockey and curling.  No college football.  We returned to the Villa and powered up my iPad with Sling Box. We were able to watch the first quarter of the game before Verizon cut off my band width…

Never the less, Happy Hours ensued; an enjoyable time was had by all…

(PS:  Stanfurd lost.  Yay!)




2017-09-08 Westbound; Stranded, but escaped from, Thunder Bay, Day 8…

Today we move to Racine, WI.  We left early again, in the dark, traveling down small, dark, country roads; the only light was the occasional milk truck stopping by a dairy to pick up its load…

We reached Racine in time for a quick Starbucks, then we were at the headquarters of the SC Johnson Company – the Johnson Wax people…

At the 1967 World’s Fair they constructed a pavilion they called the Golden Rondelle; after the fair they moved it to their Headquarters in Racine; it is used as the Visitor Center, and as a conference center and theater:

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Our tour is of the Research Tower and the Administration Building.  Unfortunately, interior photography is strictly forbidden… The Administration Building interiors are spectacular.  I was able to steal some images off the internet…

The Johnson Wax Headquarters, completed in 1939, was set in an industrial zone; Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to relocate the headquarters out to the countryside to give all the employees more contact with nature.  Johnson say, “No way.”  So Wright decided to create a sealed environment lit from above, as he had done with the Larkin Administration Building.  (See my earlier blog about the Martin House.)   The building features FLW’s interpretation of the streamlined Art Moderne style popular in the 1930s. In a break with FLW’s earlier Prairie School structures, the building features many curvilinear forms and subsequently required over 200 different curved “Cherokee red” bricks to create the sweeping curves of the interior and exterior.  The mortar between the bricks is raked  to accentuate the horizontality of the building (like he did at the Martin House).  The warm, reddish hue of the bricks was used in the polished concrete floor slab as well; the white stone trim and white “lily pad” columns create a subtle yet striking contrast.  All of the furniture, manufactured by Steelcase, was designed for the building by FLW and it mirrored many of the building’s unique design features – see photos and story below…

The entrance is within the structure, penetrating the building on one side with a covered carport on the other.  The carport is supported by short versions of the steel-reinforced lily-pad concrete columns that appear in the “Great Workroom”.  The low carport ceiling creates a compression of space that later expands when entering the main building where the lily-pad columns rise over two stories tall.  This rise in height as one enters the administration building creates a release of spatial compression making the space seem much larger than it is. Compression and release of space were concepts that Wright used in many of his designs, as I have noted in my earlier blogs.

Throughout the Great Workroom, a series of the thin, white lily-pad columns rise to spread out at the top, forming a ceiling, the spaces in between the circles are set with skylights made of Pyrex glass tubing (see below for more of the story of the glass tubes…) At the corners, where the walls usually meet the ceiling, the glass tubes continue up, over and connect to the skylights creating a clerestory effect and letting in a pleasant soft light. The Great Workroom is the largest expanse of space in the Johnson Wax Building, and it features no internal walls.  It was designed for the secretaries of the Johnson Wax company.  The Great Workroom is intended to celebrate the work of these important people and the work they do.  A mezzanine holds the offices of the administrators.  We did not get to see the mezzanine.

The Great Workroom:

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The desks:

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The desk with the three-legged chair:

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The construction of the Johnson Wax Administration building created controversies for the architect.  In the Great Workroom, the lily pad columns are 9 inches in diameter at the bottom and 18 feet in diameter at the top.  This difference in diameter between the bottom and top of the column did not sit well with building officials in Racine; they deemed the pillar’s dimensions too slender at the base to support the weight.  Building officials were also not impressed that FLW held no license as an Architect…  So they required that a test column be built and loaded with twelve tons of material. The test column, once it was built, was not only tough enough to support the requested weight but FLW insisted that it be loaded with five-fold the weight. It took sixty tons of materials before the “calyx,” the part of the column that meets the lily pad, cracked.  The crashing of the 60 tons of materials to the ground damaged a water main 30 feet underground. After this demonstration, a vindicated FLW was given his building permit. (But not a license…)

Additionally, it was very difficult to properly seal the glass tubing of the clerestories and roof, thus causing leaks.  This problem was not solved until the company replaced the top layers of tubes with skylights of angled sheets of fiberglass and specially molded sheets of Plexiglas with painted dark lines to resemble in a ‘trompe l’oeil‘ of the original joints when viewed from the ground.  The glass tubes are still performing well today as “windows”, both in the Administration Building and in the Research Tower.

Finally, FLW’s chair design for Johnson Wax originally had only three legs, supposedly to encourage better posture (because one would have to keep both feet on the ground at all times to sit in it).  However, the chair design proved too unstable, tipping very easily. Herbert Johnson, wanting to keep the secretaries from falling out of their chairs, purportedly asked FLW to sit in one of the three-legged chairs and, after FLW fell from the chair, the architect agreed to design new chairs for with four legs; these chairs, and the other office furniture designed by Wright, are still in use to this day.

We were able to sit in the chairs, both the three- and four-legged versions.  We could also see the eight different versions of the desks, including swinging (not sliding) drawers, and built-in trash cans.

The ceiling between the lily pad columns are amazing, illuminating the space beautifully. The glass tubes are also used as “windows”, diffusing the light and offering a wonderful texture.  The caulking between the tubes failed early on, and it took 20 years of experimenting before they finally found a water-tight solution:  silicon sealants.

The curved glass tube “windows”:

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Next on the tour is the Research Tower:

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The Research Tower was a later addition to the complex, completed in 1950, and provides a vertical counterpoint to the horizontal administration building.  It is one of only 2 existing high rise buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Cantilevered from a deep foundation and a small central core, the tower’s floor slabs spread out like tree branches, providing for the segmentation of departments vertically.  Elevator and stairway channels run up the core of the building.  The single reinforced central core, termed by Wright as a tap root, was based on an idea proposed by Wright for the (unbuilt) St. Mark’s Tower in 1929.  Wright recycled the tap root foundation in the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1952 (see my blog on the Price Tower).  Freed from peripheral supporting elements, the tower rises gracefully from a garden and three fountain pools that surround its base, while a spacious court on three sides provides ample parking for employees.

The tower has twice as many floors as it appears; every other floor in the square tower is circular, and these are mezzanines that do not contact the exterior walls.  You can see it in this photo during construction, and you can see the mezzanine levels through the glass tube “windows”.

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The Research Tower is no longer in use because of the change in fire safety codes (it has only one 29-inch wide twisting staircase), although the company is committed to preserving the tower as a symbol of its history.  In 2013, an extensive 12-month restoration was completed.  The research labs shown on the tour have been set up to appear frozen in time, including beakers, scales, centrifuges, archival photographs and letters about the building.

The final building on the tour was the Fortaleza Hall:

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Fortaleza Hall’s construction marked the first major new construction at the company’s international headquarters since Frank Lloyd Wright first designed and developed the Administration Building and Great Workroom which opened in 1939 and the Research Tower which opened in 1950.  (The last new building to be brought to the campus was the Golden Rondelle in 1967.)

The new building offers visitors a chance to come together to learn more about the SC Johnson company and provides employees with a central place for company amenities.  The 60,000 square foot facility, which broke ground in September 2007, has two distinct sections: Fortaleza Hall, which provides historical context for the company and the advances that continue to take place through displays, memorabilia, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Library and Legacy Gallery; and a second part, The Commons, which offers employee services like dining, concierge services, company store, bank and fitness center in a comfortable environment.  Fortaleza Hall houses a full-size twin-engine S-38 amphibious plane suspended to simulate it in flight which can be viewed by all passers-by.

The building is a nice counterpoint to the FLW buildings. The brick matches the color of the grout in the bricks in the Research Tower and Administration Building.  The curves pay homage as well:

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Inside are galleries telling of the five generations of Johnson family Presidents, the history of many of the Johnson Wax products, and, of special interest to us, a gallery full of models of FLW buildings.

It was a great experience to see these icons of 20th century architecture.  An interesting side note:  The “Great Workroom” contains restrooms only for women; the upper levels contain restrooms primarily for men, with a few small token restrooms for women.  The Research Tower has restrooms only for men…

So we move on: Lunch!  We drove to downtown Racine and parked near the marina; we headed to the Reef Point Brew House.  But wait!  There is a Classic and Antique Boat Show going on!  We love old boats:

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We saw several boats displaying this symbol for Glen L.  Glen L was a Naval Architect and small boat designer who, for over 60 years, operated from a really cool mid-century modern building in Bellflower, CA, where we used to live.  In fact, it is located directly behind out favorite Airstream Service Center, C&G.

I spoke with a man who was sitting on his Glen L boat.  He spoke highly of his designs; the Glen L boat pictured above was Glen’s last design; Glen died a few months ago, and his wife and daughter currently run the business.

When I was a kid, I loved Glen L boats, and I poured through his catalogs of plans and kits for hours on end.  I still have some of those catalogs today.  This is the boat I always wanted to build and own:

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After lunch we checked out the views of Lake Michigan; we now have seen all five Great Lakes on this Odyssey!

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We continued on our journey; we drove a few miles north to see Wingspread:

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Wingspread was built in 1939 and was designed by, of course, Frank Lloyd Wright for Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr., then the president of S.C. Johnson.  It was considered by FLK to be one of his most elaborate house designs. If fact, it is the largest home designed by FLW.  The property is now a conference center operated by The Johnson Foundation.  Note that it was designed and built at the same time as Fallingwater.

Wingspread is located near the center of the Wind Point peninsula, a triangular protrusion into Lake Michigan north of the city of Racine.  The approximately 12 acres of landscaped grounds form an integral part of the architectural experience, having a landscaping plan also developed by FLW in emulation of a prairie setting.  The house is approached from the north by a long winding drive.  The house consists of a central hub, from which four long arms radiate.  Each of the wings house a different function: parents’ wing, children’s wing, service wing, and guest wing, with the public spaces in the center.  The hub appears as a domed structure, with clerestory windows on the sides, and a viewing platform (“Crow’s Nest”) at the top.

The tour was mostly self-directed; we were given a floor plan and we were free to wander at will.  (We were not allowed into the kitchen area or into the guest and servants’ wings…)

The approach to the entry:

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The entry:

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The central core contains lounging areas, office areas, and the dining area:

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See the dining table above: it was designed to slide back into the butler pantry, so that dishes could be cleared and new courses of food could be placed, then it would slide back out to where the people were sitting… They used it this way once.  Apparently it was was awkward for the dinner guests to be sitting there in their chairs without the dining table between them…

More living spaces:

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The Study:

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The spiral staircase to the “Crow’s Nest”:

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I was able to climb to the top:

Lynda took a picture from below:

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The Master Bedroom wing:

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More FLW barrel chairs:

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The mezzanine:

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The vertical fireplace (above) is a neat feature; apparently, when these 8′ logs burn, and the bottom ends burn away, the burning logs fall into the room.  It was used once…

Looking down at the staircase:

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The pergola and terrace:

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The wood on the exterior is cypress; it was left unfinished to age naturally.  It has. Maybe it is time to reconsider that decision…

The construction was overseen by a young John Lautner.  John Lautner subsequently moved to southern California and built many extraordinary houses there.  The house was the last of Wright’s Prairie School inspired designs.

There are several interesting stories about this house.  Sadly, Mrs. Johnson died unexpectedly during the early stages of construction.  Mr. Johnson, however, did carry forward and complete the house.  Mr. Johnson subsequently remarried and the new wife did not like the house.  She added floral draperies throughout the house, and removed the FLW-designed furniture and brought in her own overstuffed furniture. She removed the modern art and brought in her own traditional artworks.

OA few years later, Frank Lloyd Wright was an overnight guest.  Always an early riser, he removed all of the offending furniture, draperies, and artwork, and re-installed his own, which he found in the storage rooms of the house.  When Mrs. Johnson came down and saw what he had done, she ordered him to leave the house, which he did in a haughty manner.  He never returned.

The Johnsons built a new house on the property more to Mrs Johnson’s liking:

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The other story, which, while it may be apocryphal, just might not be true:  The skylights leaked.  From day one.  (This part is true…)  One evening, when the Johnsons were entertaining several influential people from the area, it started to rain.  The skylights leaked.  The water dripped directly onto Mr. Johnson’s bald head.  Obviously annoyed, he asked the maid to bring the telephone to the table.  He called FLW at Taliesin.  He said, “Mr. Wright, your skylights are leaking again, right on top of me where I sit at dinner. What do you propose I do?”  FLW is purported to have said, “Well, why don’t you move your chair?”

The Johnson family donated the property to The Johnson Foundation in 1959 as an international educational conference facility.

It is quite a house, but obviously it has its flaws.  It is certainly a glimpse of how the upper classes lived in those days, at least the upper classes who did not want to live in a gilded age mansion…

We headed back towards Madison, with one more FLW building to see:  The Unity Temple (officially known as the First Unitarian Meeting House.

We were unable to see inside; but the outside is pretty impressive:

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The First Unitarian Meeting House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of its members and the son of two of its founders.  FLW was commissioned to design the Meeting House in 1946.  Construction began in 1949 and was completed in 1951.  The FLW design is characterized by its prow-like roof, covered with a blue-green standing seam copper, set with a combination of vertical and horizontal seams to emphasize the roof’s shape. 

The church building is recognized as one of the most innovative examples of church architecture.  In 1960, the American Institute of Architects designated it one of 17 buildings to be retained as an example of FLW’s contribution to American culture.  The Meeting House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, before the traditional 50-year minimum age for historic buildings. 

So we were sated, for the day.  We stay in a cheap motel tonight, and head back “home” to Thunder Bay tomorrow.  An enjoyable time was had by all…










2017-09-07 Westbound; Stranded, but escaped from, Thunder Bay, Day 7…

We relaxed a bit this morning… We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, the Break of Day.  We readied ourselves for a day of the ridiculous and the sublime: we will see House on the Rock and Taliesin.  The House on the Rock is an absurd tourist attraction; Taliesin is the home and studio and school of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The House on the Rock’s “Infinity Room”, as seen from the road:

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The House on the Rock was the first on our schedule.  It was started in 1945 as a house built atop a 70′ x 200′ rock that was 60′ tall, set in the Wisconsin countryside.  The house was the idea of one man, Alex Jordan, who clearly had a mind of his own.  The house contains many extremely awkward spaces, with bad lighting, too low ceilings, and uneven floors and steps.  It is not so much a house as it is a series of spaces left over after he built stone walls, windows, and doors.  Later, Jordan added a Gate House and a Mill House.  Then he added a giant cantilevered “Infinity Room” for no apparent reason.  The Infinity Room spans about 60′ to the adjacent rock, then cantilevers another 140′, all about 250 feet above the forest floor below…   After that things got weird.  Today there is a HUGE metal box of a warehouse that contains acres and acres of crap, plus a few interesting antiques and music machines.  It is an absurd collection of collections that serve no purpose whatsoever.  Spending three hours here was a giant waste of time.

The Infinity Room:

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The “Glass Coffee table” at the end of the Infinity Room:

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The Infinity Room creaks and groans when two – three people walk out there; I would not want to be there with 200 people…

There were a few things that were of moderate interest…

A beautiful pipe organ console:

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A music machine:

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There are several (many?) music machines, some large, like this one, and some smaller. These are mechanical devises that play musical instruments much like a player piano. This one is a complete orchestra.  It is amazing to watch and listen to, but I have to ask, “Why?”

There was even a Rockefeller moment:  In one of the maritime displays there is a note about this whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan.  As you can see by reading the notes, the whaling industry was put out of business by John D. Rockefeller and the petroleum industry…

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By the time we left the House on the Rock my eyes hurt.  The green countryside of Wisconsin was very soothing.  We found the Wyoming Valley Cultural Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a memorial to his mother:

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2017-09-07 FLW Wyoming Valley Cultural Center 01

We eventually found “downtown” Spring Green and we found a lovely bookstore with its own cafe.  After lunch we walked through the town; note that I am standing in the middle of the street at about 1:00 pm:

2017-09-07 Spring Green

We walked around and found several buildings that had been designed by William Wesley Peters, a Taliesin associate and past student of FLW.  They were very interesting:

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church:

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Originally a drive-through bank, this is now a private residence:

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2017-09-07 Bank-turned Residence 101

BMO Bank Building:

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Originally a medical office, this is now a private residence:

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Another Taliesin Associate, James Charles Montooth, designed the Spring Green Community Library:

2017-09-07 Library

After this fun walk it was time for the main event; we drove to the Taliesin Visitors Center:

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This building was originally designed by FLW as a restaurant and conference center. Today it is the visitor’s center, but it still includes the restaurant, plus the offices of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns the building and Taliesin itself.

Taliesin has quite a storied past.  FLW’s maternal grandparents and many aunts and uncles farmed in this valley near Spring Green; FLW spent most of the summers of his youth here, working along side his cousins on the various farms.  So it was only natural that he kept returning to this area throughout his life.

FLW had a successful and thriving practice in Oak Park, IL, having built over 50 buildings there.  But in 1909 he abandoned his wife and six children and fled with his mistress to Germany.  When he returned two years later he found he was not welcomed back to Oak Park, so he retreated to the family property near Spring Green.  Here FLW designed and built Taliesin I.  The design of the original building was consistent with the design principles of the Prairie School, emulating the flatness of the plains and the natural limestone outcroppings of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.  The structure included his home, an agricultural wing containing stables, chicken coops, and a pig shelter, plus his architectural studio.

In 1914, while FLW was away, a disgruntled employee set fire to the living quarters and murdered FLW’s mistress, her two children, and three others.  FLW rebuilt the residential wing  and remodeled the other areas.

Taliesin II was used only sparingly by FLW as he worked on projects abroad.  He returned to the house in 1922 following completion of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.  A fire caused by electrical problems destroyed the living quarters again in April, 1925. Taliesin III was constructed by Wright by late 1925.  During the late 1920s and the 1930s FLW turned the agricultural wing into studios, a large drafting room, and dormitories, as he began the Taliesin School of Architecture.

Taliesin III was FLW’s home for the rest of his life, although he began to winter at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, upon its completion in 1937. Many of Wright’s acclaimed buildings were designed here, including Fallingwater“Jacobs I”  the Johnson Wax Headquarters, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.  Wright was also an avid collector of Asian art and used Taliesin as a storehouse and private museum.

So it is Taliesin III that we tour today.  A shuttle bus takes us from the visitor’s center. We follow roughly the path taken by horse-drawn carriages when the house was first built. We walk through the meadow, past the orchard and the vineyards and arrive at the courtyard surrounded by the residence, the studio, and the former agricultural wing.

As seen from the highway below:

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From the top of the hill, into which the house is nestled:

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The prominent hip-roofed wing seen above was originally the porte cochere in the days of horses and carriages… In Taliesin III the entry was moved to the opposite side of the house to accommodate automobiles, and the porte cochere was enclosed:

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The carports – formerly horse stalls:

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Courtyard and path to the agricultural wings, now used by the school:

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Part of the agricultural wing:

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Conference Room in the Studio:

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Architectural Studio:

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My favorite floor lamp:

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Automobile approach to the house today:

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Approach to the hidden front door:

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Dining Room, with the famous barrel chairs:

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Informal Living Room:

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X-back chair FLW designed for his son, David:

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The “Bird Walk”, added for FLW’s 3rd wife:

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Master Bedroom Suite:

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FLW’s study:

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FLW’s bed, in his study; like many creative geniuses, FLK only slept about 4 hours per night and often worked late and arose early and went back to work again:

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The waterfall at the approach to the house, below the hill; I was here in March about 10 years ago.  Of course, Taliesin was closed for the winter – everyone goes to Scottsdale to Taliesin West in the winter.  It was about 15 degrees, everything was covered with snow, and the lake and the waterfall were frozen solid.  But, back about 15′ from the edge of the waterfall, there was a guy sitting on a chair, on the ice, fishing…

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The property today appears to be in need of major repairs.  However, the design and detailing and thought that FLW put into these rooms and spaces is awe inspiring.  FLW never thought of Taliesin as a permanent structure, but a “sketch” for his ideas.  Keeping the house “pristine” is a monumental task, because it wasn’t built perfectly in the first place.  FLW would get an idea, say, to enclose a covered porch into a sun room, and he would call his students, tell them what he wanted, send a few sketches, and they would build it.  It was not built to museum standards, and will probably always suffer for it.

After the tour we drove to the nearby Lloyd-Jones family chapel and cemetery. The chapel was not designed by FLW, but by his early employer,  Joseph Lyman Silsbee.  FLW was assigned to “supervise” the construction as part of his duties for Silsbee.

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There is a gravestone for FLW and his six children from his first marriage, although none of them is buried here…

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Lloyd Wright, actually Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. became an architect and was a fine architect in his own “Wright”… (A little architectural humor…)  I met him at his house in 1972 in West Hollywood.  His son, Eric Wright, is also an architect in SoCal; he tends to specialize in historic structures and environmental issues…

John Wright invented Lincoln Logs.  ‘Nuff said…

David was the recipient of FLW’s design of the X-back chair, seen above…

Catherine was the mother of the actress Anne Baxter…

So after a long day we headed back to the Red Barn Lodge for a short rest, then we went into Spring Green again for dinner at Freddy Valentines.

It’s a good thing we opted NOT to go to The Shed: They have live music in their courtyard on Thursdays… but tonight it rained…

2017-09-07 Spring Green The Shed 01

We love to try local foods and wines; we’ve had Maine wine, Nova Scotia wine, Prince Edward Island wine, Niagara Falls wine, and Ontario wine.  But tonight we spotted a California Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley on the menu.  We were in heaven!

And an enjoyable time was had by all.












2017-09-05 Westbound; Stranded in Thunder Bay, Day 5…

Stranded, Day 5:

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Tuesday; Labor Day is over and the world resumes its normal activities.  The happy merry workers at Dominion Motors GMC return to work and we get to sit in their waiting room, drink their coffee, watch their TV, use their internet, and use their restrooms (washrooms here in Canada…).

There is no word on the truck.  They have run their diagnostics and sent the data to technical support in Detroit.  Maybe they will hear back today or tomorrow; for now it looks like a blown engine; the normal fix for this is a complete engine replacement.  We might be here for awhile…

So we did some sight-seeing and checked out the local artisans; first, we went to Thunder Oak Cheese Farm:

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The Thunder Oak Cheese Farm specializes in Gouda cheese, and all things Dutch:

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We tasted their cheeses and even cheese curds; Lynda wanted some Komijne Kaas, and they have it!  Also some dropjes…

Around mid-day we visited The Persian Man; “he” or “it” is located within Bennett’s Bakery.  Apparently Persians are a “Thunder Bay Specialty”.  But I’m all, “What’s a Persian?”

A Persian is an oval-shaped, cinnamon-bun-like sweet roll with a sweet, pink icing made of either raspberries or strawberries.  It is credited to have originated at Bennett’s Bakery in, and remains particular to, Thunder Bay.  It is sometimes confused with a Pershing or a Persian bun which are regional items in parts of the United States but are a completely different baked good made with doughnut batter as opposed to being a sweet roll.  So there!

2017-09-05 Persian Man

It happens that we are “camped” right around the corner from Bennett’s Bakery; also, Syd, an employee of the GMC dealer where we are camped, stopped by on Saturday and gave us a gift certificate to have Persians at The Persian Man at Bennett’s Bakery. Around the corner.

So we  walked around the corner to The Persian Man at Bennett’s Bakery, and had coffee and Persians.  It was interesting…

2017-09-05 Persian 01

Later in the afternoon we walked around the corner to Dawson Trail Craft Brewery. We tasted 4 very nice craft beers and chatted with the owner about what it’s like to be a craft brewery in Thunder Bay.  While it is a small town (108,000), there is only one other brewery, no distilleries, and there are no wineries or wine tasting rooms… So while this sort of craft/artisanal business hasn’t really caught on here on the north shore, it is an up and coming thing, and they are optimistic…

2017-09-05 Dawson Trail

Since we still haven’t heard anything about the truck’s prognosis, and since our time here is seemingly endless, we did two things:

  1. We planned to go to Wisconsin in our rental car to see the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings that had always been on our itinerary for this week…
  2. We went to dinner at our favorite Thunder Bay restaurant, Bistro One. The fact that we have a favorite restaurant tells us we have already been here way too long; we have a standing reservation for every Tuesday night…

2017-09-05 Bistro One

After dinner we turned in early; tomorrow is a 10 hour drive across the border and through Minnesota, into Wisconsin, down to the town of Spring Green.

And a not too awful time was had by all.













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