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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…

2019-04-23 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Traveling from Huntsville to Florence to Tuscumbia, AL, and Frank Lloyd Wright…

We pulled out of the RV park at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and drove to Florence, AL.  We are here to see the Rosenbaum House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLlW)…

First, another bridge; I think this is the one millionth time we have crossed the Tennessee River…img_8002img_8005

We arrived in Florence and parked the Villa in the office complex across the street from the house, where the Visitor Center is…

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We walked across the street for our tour to begin…

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The cantilevered carport roof…

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They have the same “sprite” in their front yard that I have in mine…

Rosenbaum House:

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Terhorst House:

Sprite

These Sprites are 1/2 size reproductions of similar Sprites (hundreds of them) originally designed and built for the FLlW-designed Midway Gardens complex in Chicago.  Midway Gardens was a restaurant, beer-hall and event venue complex; the business failed after prohibition was voted in, and the complex was demolished; all the ruble, including hundreds of Sprites, was bulldozed into Lake Michigan as land-fill…

We were greeted by our tour guide, and we heard the history of the house…

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The owner of this house across the street gifted this lot to his son, along with some of the money to build the house.

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The son and his wife had three sons at the time, and this was the perfect place to raise a family; the lot (at that time) had a fine view of the Tennessee River, but the trees have now grown up to obscure it…

Frank Lloyd Wright was hired for $1,100 to design the house. It was 1,500 sq. ft., and it included three bedrooms and two bathrooms, Living Room, Dining area with built-in table for five, Study, and a tiny “Workroom” – what we would call a kitchen, if we could conceive of such a tiny space being a kitchen.

The house is a classic “Usonian”, a concept named by FLlW to designate the houses that were simple in design, and suited to middle class Americans.

Usonian houses were characterized by their lack of attics and basements, radiant heat in the exposed concrete floors, and simple wood detailing that can be beautiful yet economical due to the ability to be made by machine.  The houses all had tiny “Workrooms”…

The house was built and the family moved in.  They soon found the house a bit cramped, especially when a fourth child arrived.  So they hired FLlW to design an 1,100 s.f. addition, containing a guest room and bath, a new, much larger “Workroom”, a Laundry-Service room, and a large Playroom-Dormitory for the four boys.  Somehow they still managed to get along with the Dining Room table for five…

FLlW designed many pieces of furniture that are still in the house – simple, beautiful, and elegant, using simple materials like plywood.  As usual, the chairs were impractical and uncomfortable, but they are beautiful, and that’s all that matters.  (A chair similar to these from another house recently sold at auction for $35,000!)

The house was sold to the City of Florence in the late 1990s for $75,000; the City spent several years and over $600,000 restoring the house, which was opened to the public in 2002.

The walls of the house, inside and out, are board and batten, using cypress wood from Louisiana swamps, and pine battens.  (We saw cypress trees growing out of the water on our swamp tour…)  Cypress is extremely resistant to wood rot and termites – it is an excellent building material!  Unfortunately, the walls also contain battens of pine; when the house was sold to the City it was found to be infested with termites.  When the termites had destroyed the pine they settled into all the books… But the cypress wood is still intact!

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The board and batten walls; on the interior side all shelving, tables, and doors have horizontal lines that match the battens…

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The second cantilevered carport…

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This tiny balcony in the center of the photo below is off the Master Bedroom…

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The Living Room and Study have these beautiful French doors opening onto the terrace…  You can see through the house to the narrow clerestory windows on the opposite side of the room…

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We thoroughly enjoyed touring this house.  It is beautifully restored and maintained, and we were able to see all the rooms, with all the furniture, as if the family were still living there.  Furniture not designed by FLlW is mostly designed by Rae and Charles Eames…

After our tour we walked into downtown Florence and walked the four blocks of Court St.  Upon the recommendations of the Rosenbaum staff we had a lovely lunch at Odette…

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After lunch we walked back to the Rosenbaum house where we had left the Villa.  We drove to Tuscumbia, about five miles away, and parked at Heritage Acres RV Park.

This is a very basic, all gravel place, with no trees – good for satellite TV reception.  Full hook-ups including cable are all very good.  We wanted to refill one of our propane tanks, but when I went to take it off the Villa I found that it had been locked using a cable and a padlock.  Could I find the combination to the lock?  After tearing apart the trailer and the truck I finally found it, 1 1/2 hours later.

Well-deserved Happy Hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-14 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Tallahassee, FL, and Frank Lloyd Wright

All night long I heard and saw tornado warnings on the weather channel; storms were coming in from the west.  We were up at 6:00 am to hitch up and go; then ambulances and fire trucks rolled in, blocking all traffic lanes in the RV park.  Apparently there was some minor medical issue 3-4 trailers down the row…  But by the time we were ready to go they had all left, and we rolled out at 7:00 am.  We saw lots of lightning as we drove north 15 miles, then, as we turned east we started to get some light rain.  But no tornadoes, no hazardous wind (despite the large flashing signs warning us about hazardous winds…), and the rain soon stopped.  We heard of terrible storms in Michigan and Texas and Alabama, but I think the storm had petered out by the time it got to Florida…

We arrived safely in Tallahassee and set up in a nice RV park.  We walked around and found another Airstream – and found out that it was another couple that we knew from an earlier caravan, and who will be going on the Kentucky caravan with us!  Small world!

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We had an appointment at 2:00 pm to see the Spring House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright house built in Florida.  We had light rain as we approached, but the house itself was delightful.

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Obviously it is in need of repair and restoration… The daughter of the original owner, who grew up in the house, still lives here; she is trying to raise funds on behalf of a foundation (www.preservespringhouse.org) so that they can buy the house, restore it, and open it for philanthropic events…

We met Byrd, the current owner, and heard the story of the house.  Her parents, Mr. and Mrs Lewis, saw an article by Frank Lloyd Wright in a magazine about houses having “souls”, and they were impressed.  They had a chance to meet FLlW in 1952 and they said, “We have a lot of children (4) and not much money; can you design a house for us?”  At the time FLlW was 84 years old and was still excited about his “Usonian” houses for people of modest means, so he agreed.  After a 2 1/2 years the Lewises had found this five acre property with a stream running into a lake.  The house was designed and eventually built, with all the usual FLlW drama, even though he never visited the house…

The house is boat shaped, and it has three curved walls, the two exterior walls being convex, and the interior balcony being concave.  The ends are pointed.  There is a huge two-story tall curved wall of glass facing the forest; all the major rooms in the house face this wall of glass and have a continuous view of the wall of trees a few feet away from the house.  Spectacular!  Unfortunately, interior photos are not allowed…

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The little windows resemble half-portholes…

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The ship lap siding runs through the glass…

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So between talking to Byrd, the other docents, and other visitors, we spent a delightful two hours.

We then traveled to the home of the WBCCI Caravan Director, Jay Thompson, and his wife, Elna.  They were leaders of the Southwest Caravan that we did last year.  We had a nice time catching up, drinking wine, and batting around ideas about how the caravan experience can be improved…

We returned to the Villa about 6:30 and enjoyed a bottle of wine and some pasta…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-13 – Arizona – Day 56 – Taliesin West and the Biltmore… And Rain!

It was slightly raining this morning when we left Sun City to drive to Taliesin West.  We arrived in plenty of time for our tour.  We were able to take a few pictures, but soon it was raining quite hard.

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Taliesin is today a fully accredited School of Architecture, and it is not affiliated with any university.  It has between 20 and 30 students at any one time, and they can earn a Masters Degree.  The students live and work and study at each of the two campuses for 6 months each year, Summer in Wisconsin, Winter in Arizona…

We started the tour, but quickly retreated to the “Dance Pavilion”.  This was a performance space, and it is about the last building built at Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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What you need to know is that for FLlW, Taliesin West was his “desert camp”, and he enjoyed “camping” here in maximum communion with nature.  The first few years they put together temporary structures with scrap lumber and canvas.  They left it all when they returned to Wisconsin in the Spring, but when they returned in the fall they found that it had all been stolen and carted away by the locals…

So they began to build more permanent buildings, but they were still built to be open to nature.  The roofs were sheets of canvas, walls and doors were open, maybe partially covered with canvas flaps.  They had no electricity (except from generators) until the early 1950s.

So the dance pavilion was originally an open air pavilion.  Only in later years was it enclosed by glass.  The canvas roofs still remain today, and everyone enjoys the softly filtered light that they provide…

We walked in the rain to the FLlW’s “Office”.  This was not a work room, but was a conference room and presentation room… On the way we could see the canvas roofs.  Originally they were just sheets of canvas.  But they deteriorated quickly under the desert sun, so a panelized system was created to make for easy replacements of individual sections.  Today the canvas is covered by translucent acrylic, and the canvas still needs to be replaced about every five years…

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Inside, the canvas is supported by steel beams and internal gutters to channel away (most of) the water that seeps through…

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All of the solid walls at Taliesin West are concrete, formed with rocks gleaned from the desert by the Taliesin students.  This has proven to be an economical system that has stood the test of time.  This being Arizona, there is no rebar in these concrete walls…

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The entrance to the Office is through this odd-shaped door.  The door is barely six feet tall, and the ceiling is not much higher.  FLlW’s secretary sat in this entry space, in a “cave” constructed of this large rock concrete.  This entry exhibits FLlW’s famous “compress and release” concept as you move through the low-ceilinged space into the larger space beyond…

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It is a very nice space… Of course, because it was raining, I had to position my chair so that I would not be dripped on…

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The table you see covered with a tarp to protect it from the rain is VERY low, as are the chairs.  FLlW designed it this way so that when clients looked at the drawings placed on the table they could see them very well as an overview, but if they wanted to examine them more closely they would have to stoop, and it would be very uncomfortable.  He didn’t want his clients looking too closely at the drawings…

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Our next stop was the drafting room.  This room is generally off limits when the students are present, but the students are still in Wisconsin, and they won’t arrive for a few weeks yet… We walked in the rain and passed the concrete walls of the drawing vault.  Paper drawings must always be protected from fire and other elements.  (Today we use computers to draw and make presentations, so they are much safer, if backed-up properly…)

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The drafting room has the same style of canvas roof.  The glass ares were originally open, with canvas flaps…

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It is a marvelous space!

We then moved to the “Kiva”.  This is the original “man cave”, where FLlW would show movies for his students and guests.  Originally this was a windowless storage room.  When they would leave in the spring they would put anything of value that they were not taking with them in here for security… Later they added the projection room and they experimented with lighting…

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Floor lights…

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Cove lighting, with “cut-out” shapes to form shadows.  Are these triangles representative of teepees?  Or mountain peaks?

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Corner lighting…

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We moved on to the Dining Room…

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The Dining Room is entered from this Breezeway.  The Breezeway has always been here, but the ceiling was raised after FLlW’s death in 1959.  Apparently his son-in-law, Wesley Peters, who was an MIT-trained engineer, and who was FLlW’s right-hand-man for all things engineering, was 6′-5″ tall, and he hated that he always had to stoop when he was around FLlW.  He wanted a space to sit and enjoy the desert in front of a fireplace and remember FLlW.  So he had the ceiling raised to make this space…

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The fireplace…

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The views…

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We entered the Dining Room to enjoy a break and a little refreshment…

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The Dining Room wasn’t always here… It was originally on the opposite side of the house, overlooking the southern views across the desert.  But, in 1948, the local power company strung power poles across the edge of the property to facilitate the rapid post-war expansion of Scottsdale.  FLlW was so incensed at this, after exhausting all avenues of protest, including a letter to President Truman, that he redesigned the buildings and landscaping to reverse the orientation and avoid the views of power poles.  (Truman’s response to his letter:  “Do you really think I have nothing better to do than to worry about your view?”)  Today the power poles have been replaced by giant steel high-tension wire structures… They are quite ugly…)

So we enjoyed our refreshment… We had a VERY interesting talk by a woman who was born at Taliesin.  She lives here today, where she works in the archives department.  Her mother and father were some of the first students here in 1937.  They stayed on after their school days were over, having two children here.  They moved away briefly during WWII; they subsequently divorced, and her mother moved back and lived and worked here the rest of her life.  She passed away just last year, well into her nineties.  There are three other original students who came and never left who still live here…

We saw many photos of life at Taliesin in the old days, and many interesting stories.  Originally, the students pitched tents out in the desert (there were no dormitories…) or they built “Desert Shelters” in which to live.  No electricity, running water, or kitchens.  Students still live out in the desert today… If you come to see Taliesin West in the winter you can tour the student “homes”…

We thoroughly enjoyed her talk…

But it was time to move on… We left the Dining Room via the Breezeway and went to the entrance to Mr. and Mrs. Wright’s home…

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As usual, the front door is hard to find, and is very small…

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This is the Garden Room, or the entertaining space.  Parties, called, “Taliesin Nights”,  were held here most Saturday evenings.  Celebrities, friends, and students mixed, all in formal attire.  In the early days FLlW would send a large flat bed truck the four miles to Scottsdale to pick up the guests, so that they would not have to navigate the narrow, steep, dirt road…

The room has a canvas roof; glass was added in the late 1940s, and central heat and AC was added by Mrs Wright in the 1970s… It is a lovely room…

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Water is added whenever it rains…

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Adjacent to the Garden Room is the Wrights’ private sitting room.  Originally it was an open-air space, open to take in the nature of the desert…

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But Mrs. Wright eventually tired of the exposure to the desert and asked that glass be installed.  FLlW objected for many years… Finally, FLlW consented, and ordered the apprentices to install the glass.  When they asked what they should do with the pots on the shelves, FLlW angrily answered, “Leave them exactly where they are”!  Thus:

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The Wrights’ bedroom and Mrs. Wrights sitting room, face onto the desert, but the views have been constructed, using fencing and trees, to obscure the power poles… The “Moon Gate” allowed the Wrights’ children to access the adjacent courtyard and their rooms.  Mrs. Wright eventually built another bedroom suite for herself after FLlW’s death…

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The Sprites seen here are two of the five remaining original Sprites (out of over 500) that were designed and built for the Midway Gardens project in Chicago in 1915.  The others were all bulldosed into Lake Michigan, along with the rest of  Midway Gardens, after prohibition doomed the project and the City wanted something else on the site…

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This is the Master Bedroom…

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The bathroom is sheathed in polished aluminum… as befitting an Airstream!

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More lighting experiments in the bedroom:  recessed lighting and up-lighting…

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We then moved to one of the guest cottages.  The rain is briefly letting up…

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Walking back along the main house… This is about the only 2-story building… The upper floors contain apartments for staff and/or guests…

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The dinner bell…

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Our last building is the Cabaret…

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This is an underground “supper club” where the students and staff would put on various types of entertainment… The acoustics are great!

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Notice that the rows of seats are angled relative to the stage area.  Mr. Wright always sat a certain way in venues like this, so the seating was designed to accommodate his habits.  This was his way of dictating how you sit if you want a good view of the stage…

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I couldn’t help peeking into the kitchen and service corridor…

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As we left the Cabaret the rain stopped briefly, so we could take a few photos of the exteriors…

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Ventilation holes in the vault…

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The Office…

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The Drafting Room…

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The view of the power towers…

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And then our three hour tour was over…

We left, sadly, in the rain…

We dropped in at The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort… We immediately noticed the Sprites… Oh.  And it was raining with a capital RAIN!

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Warren McArthur, Jr. and his brother Charles McArthur along with John McEntee Bowman, opened the Arizona Biltmore on February 23, 1929.

The Arizona Biltmore’s architect of record is Albert Chase McArthur (brother of the hotel owners), yet the design is often mistakenly attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright.  This is due to Wright’s on-site consulting for four months in 1928 relating to the “Textile Block” construction used in the hotel.  Albert McArthur had been a draftsman for Wright, and specifically asked Wright to assist with implementing the textile block system, which became a signature element of the hotel’s appearance.  The hotel has similarities to several Wright buildings, especially in the main lobby, owing to a strong imprint of the unit block design that Wright had utilized on four residential buildings in the Los Angeles area six years earlier.  McArthur is indisputably the architect as original linen drawings of the hotel in the Arizona State University Library archives attest, as does a 1929 feature article in Architectural Record magazine. The two architects are a study in contrast with the famous and outspoken Wright being self-taught and never licensed as an architect in Arizona. The more soft-spoken McArthur was Harvard trained in architecture, mathematics, engineering, and music. McArthur obtained an architect’s license in Arizona, number 338, in 1925, the year he arrived in Phoenix to begin his practice.

Reproductions of the geometric ‘sprite’ statues originally designed by sculptor Alfonso Iannelli for Wright’s 1915 Midway Gardens project in Chicago are placed around the property.  Also, the original hotel solarium was converted to a restaurant in 1973 and since the mid-1990s has been named ‘Wright’s’.  Three on site restaurants bear Wright’s name, Wright’s at the Biltmore, The Wright Bar, and Frank & Albert’s.

We were there to have lunch at Frank and Albert’s

We looked around and found many interesting details…

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And then we enjoyed a very nice lunch…

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Driving back to the Villa proved to be quite an adventure…

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We did safely return to the Villa and spent the rest of the day and evening watching football…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-12 – Arizona – Day 55 – Arcosanti and Taliesin West

We packed up early, left Camp Verde, and headed south.  Our first stop was at Arcosanti:

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Arcosanti is a planned experimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business 70 miles north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet.  Its “arcology” concept was posited by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri, a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  He began construction in 1970 to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.  He taught and influenced generations of architects and urban designers who studied and worked with him there to build the proposed ‘town.’

We arrived in time for the 10:00 am tour.  After a brief video presentation we toured the various buildings of this “urban experiment”.  We saw the “students” making their signature clay bells, then we moved on to the Foundry.  Today we watched as they poured molten bronze (2,100 degrees F) into dies (forms) to become bronze bells…

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We were shown performance areas, living quarters, and lounge spaces.

The place is a little strange… Sort of like a hippie commune with high academic credentials.  And we didn’t even see any of the architects living and working there…

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We continued on into Phoenix, or Sun City, to be exact.  We checked into our RV park, then I took the truck into the Chevrolet dealer; we are about 1,000 miles overdue for an oil change, and I don’t want to risk driving home across the desert with bad oil…

The big event today is an evening tour of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio and school in Scottsdale…

Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert on the outskirts of Scottsdale, AZ, from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship began to “trek” to Arizona each winter in 1935. In 1937 Wright purchased the plot of desert land that would soon become Taliesin West. He paid about $7,000 for over 600 acres on the southern slope of the McDowell Range overlooking Paradise Valley outside Scottsdale.  In 1937 is was 4 miles past the last paved road in Scottsdale, a hamlet of about 200 people.  Today it is about a 45 minute drive from the RV park in Sun City… It is almost totally surrounded by the sprawl of Scottsdale…  We arrived just before dark…

The tour was fabulous, but, since it was at night, we took few pictures.  We will come back tomorrow and do it in the rain, so pictures might be better…

This is the main drafting room…

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This is the Breezeway…

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We arrived home at about 10:00 pm – very late for us…

Tomorrow we come back to Taliesin West and have a three hour “In Depth” tour…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-21 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 34 – Traveling to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

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We started the day by realizing that we might need propane.  We are headed to a campground at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; there will be no electricity (or any other hook-ups) and it will be cold at night, so propane becomes pretty important.  So rather than having a leisurely morning and leaving at the indicated time, we hitched up and headed to the town of Kanab…

According to Yelp, there are 3 places in town that offer propane.  The first one we came to had a giant sign that said, “We’ve Moved”.  So we traveled on.  The second place was closed.  No signs or anything – just no one there… The third one looked good – large lot, lots of activity going on.  We pulled in and I walked to the office to see what the procedure was.  I was told, “Sorry – our RV propane guy is not here today…!”  I asked where else I could go, and the nice lady told of a nearby gas station that has propane.  So the fourth time was the charm and we topped off our tanks.  (It turned out we were getting bad readings from our gauges and we really weren’t that low…)

So we headed south, across the Arizona Strip…

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Our intermediate destination is Jacob Lake, a really tiny lake, campground, and lodge.  It gave us a nice break and a chance to stretch our legs.  When we arrived there were 5-6 Airstreams already here.  By the time we left, there were 20…

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We decided to stay for lunch with another caravan couple…

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After lunch we continued on south.  The scenery changed along the way…

We are traveling to a much higher elevation – about 3,000 feet higher…

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We soon were treated to the Aspens changing colors…

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This meadow is called Grass Lake… there are many similar meadows.  At one of them, there were several Bison in the distance… we just didn’t get any pictures of the bison…

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As we approached the campground we found ourselves in the forest…

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8,827 Feet!

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It doesn’t take long to set up when there are no hook-ups…

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We had been sitting all day, so we went looking for a hike (really a walk…).  We have 8:00 pm reservations for dinner in the lodge tonight, so we have some time to kill, too…

We walked the Bridle Trail from the campground past the Lodge to Bright Angel Point.  It was late afternoon and the sun was about to be setting, so it was lighting up the cliffs across the canyon…

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Out on Bright Angel’s Point some people are braver than others…

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The drop off into the canyon below is steep!

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More brave (or crazy) people…

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More steep canyons…

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Lynda was brave enough to walk across this bridge to get to the far point…

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She didn’t look down…

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More sun-lit canyon walls…

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More crazy people…

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We returned to the Lodge…

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And watched the sunset…

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The Grand Lodge is a spectacular pile of stone and wood.  It looks exactly like what you would expect for a National Park Lodge.  The Front of the Lodge:

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The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood and was finished in 1928.  Native stone and timber were used to make the lodge with much of the main lodge featuring Kaibab limestone that makes up the cliff at Bright Angel Point.  The stonework makes it appear to grow right out of the cliff!  Very “organic”!  Frank would be proud!

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They built 120 cabins surrounding the main lodge then later added 20 more in 1928. The lodge was initially owned by, financed, and run by the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, who also did the same in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and at Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The lodge flourished after it was initially opened, but a devastating fire that began in the basement nearly destroyed all of the main lodge and two of the cabins.  In spite of this setback, in 1936 the lodge began being rebuilt.  While the original stonework was reused, the lodge was scaled back to ensure it could withstand the strong winter snow that comes to the North Rim. For this reason, the original second story and the third story observation tower were not rebuilt; however the main Dining Room and Recreation Rooms were reconstructed with higher roofs.  It officially earned designation as a National Historic Landmark on May 28, 1987.

The Lodge is great fun and it has many places just to hang out.  After our viewing of the sunset we headed to the Saloon for a drink while we waited for another caravan couple who would join us for dinner

 

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We went to dinner in the Dining Room… Dinner in the grand dining room was much fun.  Food was OK, as expected in a remote location like this, but the service was good (most servers (and other employees) live here in the National Park, in dormitories…).

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Our friends gave us a ride back to the Villa (walking 1.5 miles on a dirt trail in the dark didn’t seem like a good idea…).

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-22 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 4 – Moving to Santa Fe

This morning we found that there had been a little rain overnight…

Today is a travel day, so we started by doing a little laundry, cleaning up, and hitching up The Villa.  We pulled out of the RV park about 9:30.  Today’s travel is to the Pueblo of Pojoaque, just north of Santa Fe.  It is only about 85 miles from Albuquerque… An easy drive…

We stopped alongside the freeway after about an hour to stretch our legs and to keep our Apple watches happy…

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Since we could not check into the next RV park until after noon, we took a detour to chase down the two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in New Mexico…

A few miles north of Pecos is the Alfred Friedman House, “Fir Tree” (1945).  The good news is that we found it easily; the bad news is that it is not visible from the street and it is a private residence, not open to the public…

We respected their privacy and did not pull The Villa up their driveway…

We turned around at the next wide spot in the road, getting mud all over The Villa.  We headed into Sante Fe and looked for the “Pottery House”, 1984.  Obviously, this was built long after FLLW’s death; he did the design in the early 1950s; the lot and the plans were purchased by a builder, who modified and enlarged the house.  It may or may not be a “real” Frank Lloyd Wright house – but we’ll never know.  We could not find it.

So on we went, to the RV park in Pojoaque.  We set up (in the rain…) and walked around.  It is very sparse and bleak in the RV park, but the surrounding high desert is quite pretty…

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Tonight we enjoyed a dinner with the caravaners at Gabriel’s, a very nice New Mexican restaurant near by; we rode along with caravan neighbors from Houston…

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We returned to The Villa, and enjoyed a lovely sunset…

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An enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-01-24 Frank Lloyd Wright and the Hollyhock House

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On January 24, 2018, I began my training to become a docent (tour guide) at Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It is located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Hollywood, in Los Angeles.

If you followed our Blog last summer, you know that we visited several (15?) FLlW* buildings on that trip.  Somewhere along the way I said to myself, I could do this – spend my days in a beautiful house and tell people all about it all day…

When we returned home in October, 2017, I applied to be a docent at every Frank Lloyd Wright house in Southern California that is open to the public.   I found out that there is  exactly ONE Frank Lloyd Wright house in Southern California that is open to the public.  This house is known as Hollyhock House.

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The Hollyhock was Aline Barnsdall’s (the client’s) favorite flower, and Wright put stylized images of the flower all over the house – hundreds of times.  The house is quite unusual in that it is unlike any other FLlW houses.  Not Arts and Crafts, not Prairie Style, not Textile Block, and not even modern.  It is also notable to be one of the first Southern California indoor-outdoor house – each room has a corresponding patio, terrace, or lawn, with French doors connecting the indoors with the outdoors.   FLlW deplored how so many houses in Los Angeles were little stucco boxes with tiny windows in the walls, ignoring the beautiful weather outside.  Hollyhock House was his response.

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The house is also set atop a hill, something FLlW never did anywhere else.  The house dominates the hill, and has 360 degree views of all of Hollywood.   The house was originally intended to be part of a large theater and arts complex, which never came to be.   Only the main house, garage and chauffeur’s quarters, and two guest houses (A and B) were ever built.

The interiors are quite striking, with a spectacular Living Room with custom FLlW-designed furniture and bas relief artwork above the fireplace…

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I could go on and on, but to learn everything I know you will have to come visit and take the tour…

On April 12, 2018, I passed my final exam, so I am now an official docent, with a name tag and everything…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

  • I have used the initials FLlW several times in this piece.  Frank Lloyd Wright was very proud of his Welsh heritage, and the Welsh consider the double L, as in Lloyd, to be a single letter.  Frank Lloyd Wright always wrote his initials as FLlW, so I will, too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-10-16 Westbound; Home!

We left the Visalia WalMart at about 8:15 this morning.  We pulled the Villa over the Grapevine, and arrived in Irvine:

 

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Our intrepid crew was waiting to greet us:

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Happy Hours and a home cooked meal ensued; an enjoyable time was had by all…

June 10-October 16

128 Nights

Over 15,000 miles, including about 1,000 miles as part of the WBCCI Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan

28 States, 5 Canadian Provinces, all 5 Great Lakes, 10 border crossings between US and Canada

Public transportation:  7 Train trips, 4 bus trips, and 3 Uber rides (not counting excursions as part of the Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan)

8 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings

5 Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and museums

Visited by our grandchildren:  2

12 Visits to friends and/or family

3 Visits for service on the Chevrolet Silverado truck

5 visits for service on the Airstream

143 Airstreams seen along the road or in RV parks ( plus 24 on the Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan, 31 at the Carson City Rally, 98 at the Jackson Rally, and many, many more at the various Airstream dealers we visited along the way…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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