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Frank Lloyd Wright

2021-05-29 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 3 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today was a real thrill. Today’s drive was what Rocky Mountain National Park is all about. We drove from the RV Park (elevation 7,729) to the Alpine Visitor Center (elevation 11,796), passing the high point in the road at elevation 12,188…!

I took about 5,000 pictures. I’ll try to condense them down here…

There are several ecosystems visible from the road – forest, snow, rocks, tundra… It changes at every turn…

In the photo above we can see outside the RMNP. The entire Park is surrounded by National Forests…

At the Forest Canyon Overlook, the pathway was totally covered with snow. We decided to skip this path… We are at elevation 11,700, and we can feel the effects of the altitude…

We are now above the tree line. Nothing but tundra consisting of tiny plants, miniaturizing themselves as a way to survive…

Below are the Lava Cliffs…

Here we see the Gore Range – mountains reaching as high as 12,928′.

We have arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, elevation 11,796. My Hemoglobins are starving! There is about 14′ of snow on the ground…

Our drive back “down” was exciting! We are driving on the edge of the world!

And then it started to snow!

The rest of the drive down was uneventful. Near the park entrance we saw these funny looking animals…

We believe they are either mule deer or elk?

Quite serendipitously we stopped by the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I noticed the detailing…

Something seems familiar… I Googled it…

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, also known as Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, is the park headquarters and principal visitors center of Rocky Mountain National Park. Completed in 1967, it was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, and was one of the most significant commissions for that firm in the years immediately following the death of founder Frank Lloyd Wright. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

Who knew!

So that concluded our time in Rocky Mountain National Park…

We had a drivers’ meeting to discuss our drive to Colorado Springs on Monday – Memorial Day. There are three pages of detailed driving instructions to travel the 145 mile route… Colorado roads must be amazing! (Apparently 20-30 miles of the 70 are under construction, so we are taking back roads…!

This evening, after the meeting, we returned to Bird and Jim, a local restaurant (“Colorado Cuisine”). This time we brought friends… We enjoyed craft cocktails, Smoked Pheasant Chowder, Short Rib Sliders, Colorado Trout, Beef Tenderloin, and something they called the “Carnivore Plate” – Elk Tenderloin, Lamb T-bone, and Wild Game Sausage. And a bottle or two of wine.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-28 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 2 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today we enter Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located approximately 76 mi northwest of Denver in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park’s northwestern region.[6] The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

The Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915, establishing the park boundaries and protecting the area for future generations.[3] The Civilian Conservation Corps built the main automobile route, Trail Ridge Road, in the 1930s.  In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves. In 2018, more than 4.5 million recreational visitors entered the park.  The park is one of the most visited in the National Park System, ranking as the third most visited national park in 2015.  In 2019, the park saw record attendance yet again with 4,678,804 visitors, a 44% increase since 2012.

The park has a total of five visitor centers, with park headquarters located at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center—a National Historic Landmark designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West. National Forest lands surround the park on all sides.

Today is the beginning of the summer season in the park. To control the crowds you must make a reservation to enter the park. We had procured a 9:00 am entrance time to go to Bear Lake, an alpine lake with a lovely walking/hiking path around it. We waited in three lines of cars for over 1/2 hour before we finally arrived at the entrance station.

Once in the park we again saw these magnificent mountain peaks…

Once at Bear Lake we had friends take our picture… While the temperatures were in the mid-60s, the wind was freezing…

The lake is mostly frozen over. The path around the lake is mostly snow, slush, and ice, with rare patches of dirt, mud, and rocks.

This is what the path looked like most of the way around the lake:

After completing the Bear Lake loop we drove a short way to Sprague Lake; this is Glacier Creek, which feeds into the lake.:

Spraugue Lake is named after Abner Sprague, one of the original settlers in the Estes Park area. Sprague built a homestead in Moraine Park in 1874 that eventually grew into a hunting and fishing lodge and dude ranch. He dammed the creek to create the lake so his guests could enjoy fishing and boating. The lodge operated from 1910 to 1940, preceding the actual National Park.

We enjoyed watching the ducks dive for food…

The lake offered great views all around. It was an easy 3/4 mile, with no ice and snow underfoot…

We don’t know what animal hatched out of these eggs… Maybe Elk? Moose?

After our time in the Park it was time for lunch! Bird and Jim’s serves “Colorado Cuisine”. Local ingredients, and creative recipes. We enjoyed a Smoked Pheasant Chowder and Short Rib Sliders…

After lunch came a nap; then we had our first GAM – a “Get Acquainted Meeting”. We will have five of these, giving us all an opportunity to get to know each other even better…

After the GAM we walked around the pond, and returned to the Villa.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-23 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Los Olivos to Bakersfield

It was 43 degrees at sunrise in the vineyard. As the light hit the solar panels I switched on the furnace to warm up the place. We treated ourselves to bacon and eggs for breakfast, along with coffee. After a relaxing while we hitched up, locked the vineyard gates behind us, and aimed the rig towards Bakersfield! Bakersfield? Yes. In Bakersfield there is a very large house by Frank Lloyd Wright and two smaller houses by Richard Neutra. In addition, there is some celebrated ecclesiastical architecture, the last operating Woolworth’s lunch counter, and several fine dining restaurants. Bakersfield is not to be missed!

To get to Bakersfield from Santa Maria is a 100 mile long lonely road, through the towns of New Cuyama and Cuyama. Finally we arrived at the town of Maricopa, population 1,229. This fine church stands at the center of town:

This church was built in 1908 by C.H. Hoogenboom, my grandfather. I have a snapshot of the church taken by my grandmother in 1908. It has not changed one bit!

We pulled into the River Run RV Resort, right alongside the Kern River. The Kern River has not one drop of water in it… But there is a nice pool and lots of shade. It is 80 degrees this afternoon…

We had lunch, a short dip in the pool, and a quiet dinner in the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-20 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Traveling Forestville to Redwood City

We said farewell to Forestville and the Riverbend RV Resort; we drove south, just past Petaluma, where we stopped in at The Land of Promise. We shared a few glasses of wine with this wonderful family, picked up our lasted wine shipment, and discussed our planned visit next year. This is a “must do” stop on the caravan.

Further south we stopped in at the Marin County Civic Center, the last major project designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLlW) before his death in 1959. The building was completed in 1961, with some additions coming later…

It is a remarkable building, and it will be our first stop on the caravan to see architecture. I was very pleased that the building is very well maintained, and that updates (signage, furnishings, computers) have been sensitively integrated. As you may have noticed, the theme here is circles!

Unfortunately, there were no docent-led tours, so we followed their “self-guided” tour handout. It was a great building to see and experience, and we were only denied access to one area, and kicked out of another…

After the fun of the morning we drove south for a grueling time in San Francisco Bay Area traffic. We ignored the GPS telling us to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge (we had already done that in 2011…). We drove over the Richmond Bridge and headed south through Oakland to Hayward, then across the San Mateo Bridge and on to Redwood City. The Redwood City Trailer Villa was spartan, but well-located. We will stay here if we can confirm a tour of the Hanna house (FLlW) in Palo Alto. As soon as we were set up we drove to Menlo Park and caught the CalTrain into San Francisco, another option for our caravaners. I needed to see how it worked. Once in San Francisco, there was only one place to go:

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District, Tadich Grill is the oldest (1849), continuously run restaurant in California, and third oldest in the United States. Long ago, when I was working, I visited Tadich once per week for over a year… Yes, I know – 3,000 great restaurants in San Francisco and I went here every time…

We enjoyed a few Old Fashioneds, Clam Chowder, and Ciopinno. We made the 8:09 CalTrain back to Menlo Park; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-06 thru 2019-06-11 – Traveling West – Liberal, KS and then Home…

This morning we pulled out of the RV park in Liberal, KS, and pointed the Villa southwest.  In about three minutes we were in the far western part of the Oklahoma panhandle; about 90 minutes later we were in the far western part of the Texas panhandle; by noon we were in New Mexico…

These parts of Oklahoma and Texas look remarkably like Kansas…

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At one rest stop there were these nice little picnic shelters… Mid Century Modern!… Nice, but a little beat up…

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All day yesterday and all day today, until we entered New Mexico, we followed the railroad tracks.  About every ten miles we came to a small town dominated by these giant grain elevators or silos…

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The further we drove west the smaller and more distressed the towns were… Not being farming folk, we could not tell exactly what these facilities do, but we assume it is related to grain storage, food processing, feed production, or something like that…

By mid day we were at our campground in Tucumcari, NM.

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And, for the record, New Mexico does not look anything like Texas, Oklahoma, or Kansas:

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Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Gallup, NM.

Friday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Albuquerque and beyond…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

New Mexico looks like this…

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At one rest stop we found this Scenic Historic Marker:

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We weren’t sure what it meant… east and west looked pretty much the same to us.  Yes, western New Mexico does has more hills.  We rose to almost 7,000′ elevation before dropping down to 5280′ elevation in Albuquerque…

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Then we went uphill again to 7,275′ elevation at the Continental Divide…

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We eventually arrived in Gallup, NM, at about 6,500′ elevation…

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The sky was beautiful, the sun was hot, but the winds made the 89 degree temperature bearable.  By early evening we were able to turn off the AC, and by sunrise tomorrow it is supposed to be 48 degrees…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Kingman, AZ.

Saturday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, and Kingman…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

Arizona looks like this…

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We drove for about six hours, taking time for rest stops, fuel, and lunch… We finally pulled into Kingman, AZ by mid-afternoon…

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Interesting note is that we stayed here almost exactly two years ago as our first stop after leaving Irvine on our 4 1/2 month trip, the day after Lynda retired…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Palm Desert, CA.

Sunday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards the California border…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

We crossed over the Colorado River…

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And we entered California!

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We were met by some attentive uniformed people who asked us where we’d been, and if we were bringing in any firewood…

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The California Desert looks like this…

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For those of you who insist on calling places like eastern Oregon a “desert”, please stop!  Rivers, grass with cattle grazing, and green leafy trees do not make a desert!  See photo above for what a desert looks like!

We moved on to Palm Desert, where they have succeeded in making the desert green:

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We spent the afternoon and evening with like-minded friends, sharing happy hours and dinner.  Early Monday morning we drove the final hour…

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We arrived home in Redlands; an enjoyable time was had by all…

Tally:

Miles driven: 8,379

Days traveling and camping on our own:  40 days

Days on the Cajun Country Caravan:  16 days

Days on the Springtime in Kentucky Caravan:  22 days

Total days living in the Villa: 78 days

Total number of Airstreams seen along the road:  211

Number of nights in the Villa over the past 24 months:  375 days  (51%)

And one last photo of our girls…

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2019-06-05 – Traveling West – Wichita and Liberal, KS

This morning we pulled out of the RV park and pulled the Villa into central Wichita.  We are heading to another Frank Lloyd Wright house – the Allen house…

You remember the neighborhood of nice houses I posted yesterday as we walked near the French bistro where we had dinner.  The Allen house is in the same neighborhood, a few blocks over…

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We pulled up in front of the house and parked along the curb…

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The Allen House is a Prairie Style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915-1916 for former Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen and his wife, Elsie.  Construction was complete in 1918.

It was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Prairie Houses.  The design influence of the prairie and Japanese architecture (FLlW was working on the Imperial Palace Hotel in Japan at the time) is apparent on both the exterior and interior.

Also included in the forward-thinking house were such modern conveniences as a central vacuuming unit, an alarm system and gas fireplace logs.  Another innovation was the first firewall in a residential home.  The bricks are considered “Chicago Common Bricks”; the bricks actually are comprised of five different colors.

(An interesting side note here is that in 1916 Wright started designing the Hollyhock House in Hollywood, where I am a docent.   It was mostly completed in 1921.  Hollyhock House is definitely NOT a Prairie style house; Hollyhock House is definitely FLlW’s first non-Prairie style house…)

Anyway, the house is about 4,000 sq. ft., and it cost $30,000 to build, including Wright-designed furniture and full landscaping.  This seems like a very low price for such a fine house.

(Unfortunately, interior photos were not allowed…)

The porte cochere.  Where is the front door?  It’s around the corner to the right…

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That man is at the front door…

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The door itself is VERY crooked.  There is about a three inch settlement of the foundation near here…

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These repetitive windows are in the Living Room…

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These spherical planters are made from concrete using crushed oyster shells in lieu of gravel and sand… They are over 100 years old and there are no cracks…

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This is the rear of the house.  This parking lot was originally a kitchen garden and a cutting garden of red roses…

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This projection is oddly not symmetrical – it really bothers me…

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The classic feature of all Prairie houses is their horizontality.  This is reinforced by mortar joints, a plynth row of limestone, and a water-table of limestone…

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The square motif is repeated in light fixtures throughout the house…

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The kitchen windows feature “pie-cooling” iron grates…

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The ice goes here for the large kitchen ice box…

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Beautiful planters…

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Many of the house’s eaves contain these hidden rain gutters…

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The built-in downspouts for the hidden gutters;  also note the security alarm…

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The terrace and courtyard was used for entertaining as often as two-three times per week…

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The tea house beyond…

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We had a great tour.  I only caught the docent in one error – she was talking about how Wright had invented the casement window for the Hollyhock House, and then used it again here.  Really?  The casement window was “invented” thousands of years ago… Wright used them almost exclusively in his houses; in fact, what he did say was, “If they had not already been invented I would have invented them…”.  Also, the Hollyhock House was designed and built AFTER the Allen house…

So we drove off, pulling the Villa; Allen house was our last “tourist” stop.  From now on we are streaking straight home…

We left Wichita on Hwy 54, heading southwest, towards New Mexico…

Kansas looks like this:

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And this:

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Hwy 54 parallels the railroad tracks, build in the late 19th century as the prairie lands were homesteaded…

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They grow dandelions big around here…

img_9229 We stopped in Liberal, KS, at about 5:00 pm, at a very basic campground.  We were tired.  Happy Hours and a light supper ensued, an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-02 – Traveling West – Eureka Springs and Bentonville, AR

We attended Sunday Services at Thorncrown Chapel.  Worshiping in such a beautiful place is a very special experience…

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An interesting point was that the preacher was the son of the founder and of the chapel… And there was some good old hymn singing going on…

A mystery occurred behind the blue pilaster on the right.  The minister suddenly appeared from behind the pilaster, then he went back again during some of the singing.  Is he just sitting on a chair back there, and had he been there since before we arrived?  Or is there a hidden back door there that he can slip in  and out of?  Or is there a stair to a basement with an exterior entrance?  Any ideas?

After the service we drove to Bentonville; along the way we found, quite by accident, Hoss’s RV Repair.  The place was littered with old Airstreams (23), in various stages of repair and restoration…

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We traveled on…

Bentonville is home of Sam Walton and his family.  And his family’s store:

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The town Square is very nice…

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We had brunch at a very nice modern diner…

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We were very impressed with the center of this town of 70,000 people.  (In 1960 when the first WalMart was built the town had about 3,000 people…)

We wondered, as we looked around at these downtown buildings, how much of this was built, rebuilt, and/or owned by WalMart?  Did the first WalMart, built outside of town on the highway, kill the town?  Did WalMart buy up the deserted buildings and create this Disneyesque town square?  I don’t know…

(By the way, the original Walton’s 5 and dime is just a facade for the WalMart Museum.  There is a WalMart Neighborhood Market just a block away…)

In any case, the reason we were here was to see Crystal Bridges, the Museum of American Art built by the Walton Family Foundation… It is about 3/4 mile from the heart of town…

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The museum was designed by Moshe Safdie, world famous architect…

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The museum sits atop a small creek that has been dammed to form several ponds at several levels.  The weirs (dams) are under the buildings, so the surfaces of the ponds are kept mirror-still…

The vaulted roofs are supported by suspension cables.  Remarkable!

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But the REAL reason we are here is to see a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house.  The Bachman-Wilson House was originally built in New Jersey in the mid 1950s.  Over the years it was lived in by a variety of families.  In 1980 it was restored; unfortunately, the adjacent river took up a bad habit of overflowing its banks on a regular basis.  By 2004 the owners appealed to the Walton family and convinced them that there is no greater American Art than a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house.  The house was disassembled and moved here, and it was reassembled on a site adjacent to the museum…

It is a classic Usonian, which typically turns a blank face to the street for privacy.  FLlW also typically hides the front door…

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There’s the door…

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(Sorry, no interior photos…)

The house bears remarkable similarities to the Spring house in Tallahassee and the Rosenbaum house in Florence, AL.  The board and batten siding, the views out to the forest, the horizontal lines, the cantilevered carports, and the stenciled cut-outs applied to the glass…

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The house has been beautifully restored and preserved… It is, indeed, a piece of American Art…!

But we move on!

In the little town of Bella Vista, in the far northwest corner on Arkansas, within a mile or two of the Missouri and Oklahoma borders, is another Fay Jones chapel…

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In contrast to Thorncrown Chapel, this chapel is built of steel.  Again, the details are beautiful…

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Built to honor Mildred Borum Cooper, wife of John A. Cooper, Sr., founder of Cooper Communities, Inc, the Chapel is a fitting memorial.  Besides being a devoted wife, mother, and member of the community, Mrs. Cooper had a deep spirituality and a love for nature.  Her family commissioned the Chapel in her honor to celebrate her life and her dedication to God and his creations.

We returned to Eureka Springs and enjoyed a dinner in a fine French bistro: Le Stick Nouveau:

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We enjoyed five courses of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres… and a bottle of fine Pinot Noir from Oregon…

As is our custom, we returned to the Villa for Happy Hours and a light supper; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-01 – Traveling West – Eureka Springs, AR

We left Little Rock about 8:00 am.  Arkansas is green…

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We were driving through the Ozarks National Forest…

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We stopped for a respite along the way… driving through windy, steep mountain roads is taxing, and relief was required…

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We arrived in Eureka Springs, and set up at the Green Tree Lodge and RV Park, a nice but basic RV park…

Then we drove one mile down the road to see the work of E. Fay Jones, an early apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, and a prolific architect and educator during his long career.  This is the Thorncrown Chapel:

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The interior is as spectacular as the exterior…

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The light fixtures along the “walls” are exquisite; the light is in the shape of the cross…

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As a true student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Fay’s chair designs are great, too!

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The rear is as great as the front…

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The attention to detail is astounding…

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The front door, repeating the diamond shape…

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The Thorncrown Chapel has won every architectural award imaginable… Just recently it was honored by leading the list of “40 under 40”, great architecture that has become iconic in less (fewer?) than 40 years…

The chapel is the dream of a man named Jim Reed, an Arkansas native, who bought this land in 1971 to build his retirement home.  Over the years he continually found strangers walking through the property enjoying the beautiful Ozarks hills.  Rather than fence them out, he decided to invite them in.  He and his wife decided to build a glass chapel as a place for visitors to relax in an inspiring way.  I think they have met their goal…

After such a beautiful place we drove to Eureka Springs and found the opposite:

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Eureka Springs was hot, noisy, crowded, and full of bikers and tourists.  There was some festival going on, although we never quite determined what it was.  The town is very historical, much like Bisbee, AZ, but the tourist factor rivaled Fredericksburg, TX, (and Graceland…)

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Eureka Springs was a late 19th century boom town which grew rapidly based on the water from their many springs.  All the quacks and snake oil salesmen came to town to sell magic water to cure everyone’s ills… The town suffered a bit when the Great Fire of 1888 burned it to the ground, but it was quickly rebuilt and grew to a population of over 4,000.  Today it has a population of about 2,000, but the historic downtown itself is nothing but biker bars and trinket shops… We did enjoy a good walk and we hope to return tomorrow for dinner at a highly rated French bistro…

As is our custom, we returned to the Villa for Happy Hours and a light supper; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-06 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Frankfurt, KY – Day #12

We carpooled together this morning to Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky.  I’m always surprised when I see a state capital that is such a small town.  The population of Frankfort is only about 28,000… It is so small you could hardly see it because of the trees…

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But before we could park at the capitol building we found:  The Zeigler Residence!

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It is not open to the public… Sad…

So we moved on to a perfect example of Beaux-Arts/Greek Revival Architecture…

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Statue of Abe Lincoln…

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The rotunda dome… LED lights subtly change colors…

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EVERYTHING in this building follows the golden rule – what you do to one side you must do to the other.  True in algebra and true in the symmetry of classical buildings…

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The other president born in Kentucky – Jefferson Davis…

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The State Supreme Court…

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The legislative floor…

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The Assembly Chamber…

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The Senate chamber…

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I’m not a fan of these neo-classical building.  I do appreciate the attention to detail, beautifully executed by the stone masons…

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What annoys me is when designers, who often do not know how materials and buildings go together, try to duplicate these details in a studs and stucco construction… Sorry – you can’t do these details in stucco!

All in all it was a nicely detailed building but a little over-scaled.  It seemed too heavy for my taste, and the proportions seemed a little “off”…

We had a great tour, then we moved on to the Kentucky VietNam Veterans Memorial…

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The design is unique in that it is a sundial with the names of the dead located on the granite floor such that the shadow of the point of the sundial falls on the name on the day of the year that he or she died…

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It is a little confusing, but a moving memorial in any case…

Time for a break.  We drove into downtown Frankfort; we walked the (small) town and  enjoyed a nice lunch at Serafini…

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During lunch we saw a commotion of people gathering just outside the restaurant and across the street, on the lawn of the “old” state capitol building…

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Today was an all-state peace officers memorial ceremony for officers killed in the line of duty…

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Bagpipes were playing…

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It looked like a nice, small town parade and gathering of like-minded people.  Very nice…

After lunch we walked around the town; we especially liked the buildings overhanging the Kentucky River…

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We soon arrived at our next tour:

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Rebecca Ruth was in business making candy for over 60 years; as a women this was unheard of… In Kentucky in the 19th and early 20th century women without a father or a husband simply didn’t exist – they could not own property, have a bank  account, or do much of anything… She confounded all these ideas…

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Rebecca Ruth is credited with inventing the famous bourbon balls, although the claim is disputed…  There was a nice tour and many folks bought lots of chocolate…

But we were moving on to our final tour of the day:  Buffalo Trace!

Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite “go to” daily drinking bourbons, along with Makers Mark.  But I knew little about it; I was looking forward to this tour!  Boy! Was I surprised!

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The distillery is very old, and is listed on the National Listing of Historic Places…

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Here is the buffalo… I’m not sure what they are trying to tell us about the water they use here…

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We had the standard tour, seeing the barrel houses, the fermentation tanks, and the bottling line…

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Wait!  This is Buffalo Trace?

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When we toured Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and others, we heard all about the original family’s dedication to making a high quality whiskey (or whisky), how they developed their brand, their distinction in the marketplace, and their unique flavor profile.  And, yes, we learned that the family eventually sold out to one of the multinational conglomerates that own the vast majority of makers of wine, beer, and spirits…  Here at Buffalo Trace I learned something different.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a corporate “made up” brand, and is part of a corporate conglomerate that buys up smaller brands and farms out their services and distilleries to brands owned by others.  Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company, which is privately owned by a billionaire (William Goldring and his family) in New Orleans.  The corporate office is in Louisville, Kentucky.  As of 2017, it operated nine distilleries, had 2,000 employees, and operated in 112 countries.  It is one of the two largest spirits companies in the U.S., with annual revenue of about $1 billion made from selling about 300 mostly discount brands.  They claim it is the largest and privately held distillery, but Heaven Hill disputes that point… They also claim it’s the oldest continuously operating distillery, built in 1812.  However, Burks’ distillery, now used for production of Maker’s Mark, disputes this.  According to its citation in the registry of National Historic Landmarks, Burks’ Distillery’s origins extend to 1805, and Burks’ Distillery is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operating bourbon distillery.  So we know that Buffalo Trace claims things that may just be apocryphal…

The distillery has historically been known by several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  The company says the name “Buffalo Trace” refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, Kentucky.  The Sazerac Company purchased the distillery in 1992, and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was “invented” in 1999.  So, as you see, Buffalo Trace was no small Mom and Pop brand that did well…

Records indicate that distilling started on the site that is now the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1775 by Hancock Lee and his brother Willis Lee, who died in 1776.  The first distillery was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton.  In 1870 the distillery was purchased by Edmund H. Taylor and given its first name, the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  Taylor sold the distillery eight years later to George T. Stagg along with the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery.  This second distillery was sold within the year to James Graham, in order to add more land to the O.F.C. Distillery.  In 1886, Stagg installed steam heating in the storage warehouses, the first climate controlled warehouse for aging whiskey in the nation.  This is another unique feature of Buffalo Trace… Most other brands brag that their barrel houses are NOT climate controlled… (Except for Woodford Reserve…)

While Buffalo Trace Distillery is mainly known for its bourbon, it also produces other spirits such as rye whiskey and vodka, plus quasi-bourbon such are Bourbon Cream.  (More of Bourbon Cream later…).

Buffalo Trace is HUGE!  The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery:

  • Self-produced brands
    • Buffalo Trace – straight bourbon
    • Col. E. H. Taylor – small batch, single-barrel, and barrel proof straight bourbon and rye
    • Eagle Rare – straight bourbon and 17 year antique collection
    • George T. Stagg – barrel-proof straight bourbon
    • Stagg Jr.- barrel proof straight bourbon
    • McAfee’s Benchmark – straight bourbon
    • O.F.C. – straight bourbon (with a prior name for the distillery)
    • Old Charter – straight bourbon
    • Old Taylor – straight bourbon
    • Sazerac – straight rye and Sazerac antique collection
    • Thomas H. Handy – barrel-proof straight rye
    • W. L. Weller – special reserve, antique 107, and barrel proof William Larue Weller antique collection straight bourbon (with a wheated mash bill very similar or identical to that for the Van Winkle brands)
    • Wheatley Vodka
  • Brands produced in partnership with Age International (a former owner of the distillery, now part of the Japanese company Takara Holdings):
    • Ancient Age – straight bourbon
    • Blanton’s single-barrel – straight bourbon
    • Hancock’s President’s Reserve – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Elmer T. Lee – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Rock Hill Farms – single-barrel straight bourbon
  • Brands produced in partnership with the Van Winkle family (under an agreement established in June 2002):
    • Old Rip Van Winkle – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Special Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Family Reserve – straight rye

So, rather than having a great family story, Buffalo Trace is a product of a giant corporate conglomerate.  Nothing romantic, no great family story, nothing to write home about.  However, it is a VERY good bourbon!

Finally we moved on to the tasting…

We tasted some white lightning and some vodka that they make.  Nothing special, although the vodka is rated to be very good and is at a price point far below other premium vodkas…

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We tasted Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.  Same mash bill, but Eagle Rare is a higher proof and it has been aged longer… It was marginally better than Buffalo Trace, which, of course, was quite good.

Then we tasted the bourbon cream.  It is a bourbon liqueur, 30 proof; It is made with bourbon and real cream.  A special process enables these two dissimilar products to blend nicely without curdling.  It was spectacular!  (And I don’t like Harvey’s or Bristol Cream…)

Then we added a little root beer to the bourbon cream.  Root beer float!  Add a little ice cream for a real treat!

And, of course, we were given bourbon balls to enjoy!

So the tasting was fun, but the back story was disappointing…

We returned to the Villa and turned in early.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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