Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Colorado (or Marchetti's West)

After driving all day, we arrived at Mike's and Amanda's at around dinner time on Thursday. Amanda made a wonderful dinner of Pasta with Vodka sauce and cranberry/blue cheese and walnut salad. We watched the original Ocean's Eleven after dinner, all of us pretty much falling asleep before the end.

Friday, Amanda made a glorious breakfast casserole with eggs, potatoes, sausage and croissants. Mike and Amanda planned an itinerary of places for us to see--Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, Estes Park (part of Rocky Mountain National Park), Boulder, Red Rocks, Celestial Seasonings Tea Plant, the Dushanbe Tea Room, downtown Denver, tubing down the river in their backyard, Colorado Springs, touring the Denver Seminary campus, shopping the flagship REI store, walking downtown Littleton and touring the Air Force Academy Visitor's Center. Can we finish it all? What to do first?

Much to Amanda's chagrin, we decide on Colorado Springs and a tour of Focus on the Family. We got there, convinced her to get out of the car and entered. We started with a movie exploring what Focus does, looked at the models of unborn children (why I'll share later), got a free coffee and visited Whit's End. The children's area was was very fun. And free. Mike and Amanda talked about coming back there.

Next, we drove through Garden of the Gods (where Mike proposed to Amanda) on our way to Pike's Peak. We figured that after scaling the mountain we'd come back and hike around the Garden. We drove through Manitou Springs, the gateway to Pike's Peak and saw a couple of lunch/dinner possibilities. Perhaps we'd be back. On to Pike's Peak, 14,000 feet up. Amanda had warned us about altitude sickness, so Steve and I had brought our Camelbacks and were sucking down water. We stopped about halfway up to get more water and to get rid of the water that we had previously drunk. I got out of the truck and whew, I felt a bit dizzy. I managed to keep it on the straight and narrow, but I had to think about where I put each step. I refilled my water at the snack bar and got back in the truck to continue the switchbacks up the hill. Not many guard rails and lots of long drops. I was frightened, but in Michael's capable hands we were fine both up and back. At the top, I felt more dizzy, but I kept drinking, held on to Steve's arm and headed to the bathroom again while Steve bought us some yummy spiced, cake donuts the recipe of which can only be made at 14,000 feet. Yum!!!! I had 1 and a half, but I wanted a dozen more. We walked around outside a bit, watched the COG train head back down the mountain and decided to do so ourselves. We didn't get very far. We pulled over to explore another view, Mike and Amanda posed way out on the mountain, Steve stayed a bit back and I found my own spot to hand out that would keep me on the mountain instead of dizzily falling off the mountain. We kept switchbacking down to where we saw marmots posing quite suggestively on the side of the road and where Bigfoot was sighted. We didn't see him. At the bottom we drove back into Manitou Springs, parked by a cool little Farmer's Market and decided on Adam's Mountain Cafe. They specialize in slow food. Slow is right! I think they went out and killed chicken that Steve, Mike and Amanda had in their Pad Thai. Good thing that we had good conversation to keep us going. One couple behind us ran out of things to say and started necking. When we finally got our food, it was yummy, but it took so long that we didn't get to hike the Garden of the Gods. We barely saw it in the dark.

Next day, I woke Marchetti-style as the food was being brought out--cinnamon rolls! Yum! Estes Park Day! By the sign, we saw a cute, fat-cheeked chipmunks that ate out of Amanda's hand. They had obviously been fed a lot; they were not afraid of humans. The alluvial fan called to us next. A dam had burst a\nd spread its detritus in a fan shape hundreds of feet wide--logs, rocks jumbled everywhere and the most beautiful waterfall in between. We snacked on treats brought because cinnamon rolls don't last very long and decided to follow a little road that Mike and Amanda found last year but couldn't use because it had been closed. New territory for all of us! Again, Mike's great driving got us through gravel and switchbacks and views of surprise waterfalls, later we talked to a park ranger who said that the road we'd taken had just opened up July 4, only 13 days before. He said that it was too soft before, and they couldn't trust the tourists in rent-a-cars to not get stuck. The road led us out to a choice. We could either circle back through areas we'd already seen or press on to lake views. Press on and see . . . moose! A mama and a baby, from afar. And elk! Right next to the road! We exited the park and found Grand Lake and their annual Buffalo Bar-be-que! We bought tickets and feasted on buffalo bbq, buffalo brisket, beans, potato salad and mountain pie of apple and spicy pepper apple. And for a 2nd dessert, homemade custard ice cream. Yum again! The only downside of this little adventure was the 2 hour drive back. Dang, spaces are big and wide in the West!

Sunday, we all slept in. Ahh, the joys of an evening service. Monkey bread and getting ready later, we decided on a Boulder, CO tea day for our day's trekking. First, we toured the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory--home of sleepytime bear! We started the tour by trying as many samples of tea as we wanted. I found a couple new favorites--acai mango sweetened ice tea and cold brewed tropical tea to be exact. Of course I bought some there because at the end of the tour there was the ubiquitous shopping opportunity! I even found some stuff at half off. My favorite part was the mint room--it is shut off from the rest of the factory by a steel rolling door. We walked in, and whew, that mint cleared our sinuses and brought water to our eyes. I could've stayed there all day--it really perked me up! We shopped Boulder downtown while we waited for our table at the Dushanbe Tea Room. It was a gift from the people of Dushanbe, Tajikistan to their sister city of Boulder, CO. Beautiful and yummy! Their spiced tea was awesome! We got to church on Marchetti time and heard a sermon that furthered knowledge about Creation that we'd learned at the Creation Museum. Cool! Then Steve and I shopped at Barnes and Noble (for knitting books for me and history books for Steve) and at Game Stop while Mike and Amanda had a Guatemala missions trip meeting. Another fun, exciting day in Colorado!

Our last day--the most exciting of all! Baby Marchetti! Yes, you read right. Mike and Amanda are expecting! We got to see the pictures. We call her or him Baby Kumquat Danger since he/she is the size of a kumquat and Mike wants to call him/her Danger. 14 weeks old and due for our world at the end of January! Yippee!! We traveled into Denver for a look-see after a banquet server job interview for Mike and a foot tour of downtown Littleton for Amanda and I. We found a spice store that takes its spice blend names from Colorado. I got Pike's Peak Beef rub as a souvenir. In Denver, we walked down Denver's walking mall, 16th Street. We ate at Ted's Montana Grill for dinner enjoying their specialty, bison. We caught the free bus back to our car, much to poor Michael's sick stomach's relief. The next morning we tearfully got up and ready, took a walk down to the tubing river and had to leave for our long drive to Kansas City. We loved being with Mike and Amanda and can't wait to fly out in February to see the newest Marchetti and see if we like Colorado in winter.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Sonic for breakfast again. Then dah, dah, dah, dah, dah , dah DAAAAAAAAH! Mount Rushmore! I was so psyched! As we drove, I could see glimpses through the trees! I tried to get pictures but Newman! I couldn't. I decided to just enjoy. Then we rounded a corner and there it was! Yippee! We parked the car and walked up the steps. The closer we got the better the views. We walked down to the museum. Then we were able to walk right underneath the Rushmore faces on a half mile loop to the artist's studio. After exploring, we even saw a mountain goat walking through the trees!

Wow again! Crazy Horse! When it's done, it'll be huge. I felt guilty the whole time though about how the Native Americans have been treated. It made me feel bad, too, that the family that is working on the Crazy Horse statue won't take money from the government to finish the statue. It's been 68 years and only Crazy Horse's face is done. Steve pointed out that perhaps there are too many strings attached.

Next we figured out that we weren't making it to Colorado this night. We called Mike and Amanda and set up a hotel in Nebraska. Then we headed to Custer State Park for their wildlife loop. Cathy Patrick recommended it to us. She said we'd see lots of animals. Did we ever! We saw prong-horned antelopes, prairie dogs, burros and tons and tons of bison. The bulls were as big as our car and right next to it! Some of these bison are sold in the fall because with the new babies the herd swells to 1,500 head and the park can only sustain about a thousand.

Nebraska had a yummy Mexican restaurant, a Walmart, a pool and a cheap pancake place for when we got up to late to get the free breakfast. And Carhenge! What's Carhenge? Stonehenge modeled with cars. We Americans are so classy!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do You Want to Play a Game?

I was never very afraid of Nuclear War. I don't know if it's because I never thought about it or if my Mom and Grandma didn't worry about it so I didn't. Maybe I assumed we'd never be capable of using nuclear devices (aka bombs) again after we saw the devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Who knows? I think if I'd lived in North or South Dakota or Wyoming, though, that I'd have been worried, very worried. Did you know that we had 1,500 minuteman missiles scattered around these states? You could see the tops of their silos from the highway. You could see the house-like launch sites, too. You couldn't miss them; they were surrounded by 8 ft. high fences with antennae. Why South Dakota? Because we could shoot the missiles up over the Arctic Circle and they could be in Moscow within 30 minutes. Of course, Moscow had their long-range ICBM's pointed at us, too. Theirs could be over to targets (like Washington, DC) within 30 minutes, too. Oh, happy day! This is what I learned on Terrific Tuesday or at least that's what was written on the tickets that we received at the Minuteman Missile Visitor's Center. At 8 am, they started handing out free tickets on a first come, first served basis to the 9 am, 10 am and 11 am tours of the launch control facility. We got there at 8:30 am after calling to make sure there were still tickets. We secured our tix to the 10 am tour and then drove back 17 miles to the missile silo itself. We looked down into the silo and saw the top part of the minuteman missile and the huge door that gets blown off when the missile flies. After checking that out we drove back down 14 miles to the launch site. We put our name on the list of tours and waited until we were called. One of the missilers (the guys who would shoot off the missile) said that their jobs were hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer panic. They had tv, books, magazines and basketball to alleviate the boredom, and a cook made them 4 meals a day. The support staff had the same boredom troubles except they had to go out in all kinds of weather to check security breaches like the local jack rabbit or grasshopper who tripped the alarm. Then we took an elevator down 31 feet to where the missiles were launched. Steve almost forgot to take pictures he was so fascinated by being in the actual room. The two missilers were seated 12 feet apart. They monitored 10 missiles per launch facility during their 24 hour shift, locked in a vault with a 5 foot thick door. They each had keys that they had to turn simultaneously to launch the missile when they got the alarm and processed the codes. The man who ran the elevator for us had spent time as a cook in several of the launch sites. He worked 3 days on and 6 days off and lived in the area. He said that he was never worried about dying in a nuclear attack and actually preferred that to living in the aftermath.

After seeing a man-made "wonder" we headed to see a God-made one, the South Dakota Badlands. We stopped at the first pull-off spot. There was a boardwalk down to a gap in the hills that fronted the parking lot. It opened up to a vista of a desolate yet striking landscape. We wandered around a little and then got back in the car to drive the 36 mile loop, hoping to see some denizens of this part of the world. After about 6 miles, we were done. not with the drive, mind you but rather with the landscape and the lack of life. We'd seen a chipmunk and a few birds and that was it for wildlife. Of course, it was pickin' hot, so maybe all the wildlife was smarter than we were and hunkered down in the shade. All in all we were glad to get to mile marker 110 and the town of Wall.

South of the Border has nothing on Wall Drug. Since we'd left Rapid City we'd seen signs for this Wall Drug place. At first, I was put off by all the advertising. I do tend toward being a gosh darned independent, but after seeing so many signs, I was caught up in the spirit of the thing and asked Steve if we could eat lunch there. He agreed. We walked in to one big shopping opportunity. Not all of it was gaudy souvenirs. You could buy cowboy boots, hats, spurs, camping equipment, rocks, fossils and western art if you were so inclined. We were content with the souvenirs and the free bumper sticker. We treated ourselves to a buffalo burger each and onion rings and spent the rest of the couple hours we were there just looking around and posing for pictures with the various statues posted around the place. Wall Drug even had a t-Rex that would look at you and a few times an hour would huff and puff and scare the kids. We wanted Americana kitsch as we drove around this great country of ours, and we found it in Wall Drug.

What to do?

We didn't realize the huge amount of space that exists in the Plains of America. You drive forever to get any place in South Dakota. We wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, Custer State Park's Wildlife Loop, the South Dakota Badlands and the Minuteman Missile Silo. How were we going to do it all in one and a half days and then drive to Colorado to see Mike and Amanda? Answer--we couldn't. We even got up and out of the hotel by 7:30 am. I know, shocking! Steve planned out the routes according to the things that we closest together. So one day we went to the SD Badlands and the Minuteman Silo and the next we saw Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and the Wildlife Loop. And we stayed overnight in Nebraska instead of going all the way to Colorado. :0(

North Dakota Badlands

Badlands--Not a place you'd really want to go, hmm? Wrong! In the case of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota Badlands, you'd totally want to spend time there. Check out a couple of the pictures we took. We drove a 36 mile loop. It was a little more time than just going straight down the road, but we didn't care. The views were amazing. The visitor's center had lots of information about Teddy Roosevelt and his conservation efforts, too. The prarie dogs were hilarious. They were none to fond of me standing there laughing at them. One kept cheeping, cheeping, cheeping, until I moved. We drove to Rapid City afterwards. The land was so desolate. We got down to a quarter tank of gas, and I got a little nervous. We kept passing exits that said "No Services." Not too comforting. Finally when the GPS directed us to get off the highway, we found some gas and snacks. Good thing because we didn't get to Rapid City (outside Mt. Rushmore) until 9 pm. By the time we checked in, everything nearby our hotel, the Alex Johnson (not to be confused with Howard Johnson) where Alfred Hitchcock stayed while filming the ending of North by Northwest, was closed. We drove to the business district where fortunately, we found a Wendy's. Unfortunately, when we were driving back to the hotel, we also found a Sonic Drive-in. It would have been yummier. We decided that we'd head there for breakfast the next day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Friend, Kari

Kari's Mom introduced us online 6 years ago. Both of us were having the same kind of problems. Jude thought we'd benefit from emailing each other. We did. Life is easier when you know you have a friend who gets what you are feeling. It didn't matter to either of us that we were on the other end of the internet from each other rather than the other side of town. When Steve and I thought of this cross-country trip, I knew I just had to add Bejou to our itinerary! I was so excited to finally be meeting her. We drove up from Minneapolis on Saturday. We got a message (because our cell phone reception was sketchy) saying that Kari and her family were helping her Dad bind and bring in the hay and to give her a call about an hour out. Unfortunately, we didn't get the message until we were about 10 minutes out. Fortunately, they were already back from haying, and it worked out fine. We greeted each other with hugs and tears. We spent the afternoon talking, laughing, meeting the kittens and sheep, enjoying Kari's world famous pumpkin bars and playing Wii Mario Kart with Terry and Lovi. After a dinner of real brauts(!) grilled expertly by Mike and yummy pasta salad (and more pumpkin bars along with chocolate cake), we talked some more, watched the kids swim, watched some tv (Dirty Jobs rocks!) and turned in. (Coco, Kari's and Mike's lab-rotweiller mix, spent the night by our bed. She's so cute!)

Sunday was filled with some new experiences for me! I had never had caramel rolls. Kari's were excellent. Are you getting the idea that she's an awesome baker and cook? :0) And I'd never ridden a 4-wheeler. We drove over to Jude's and Lonnie's house after breakfast. We met Jude and Lonnie for the first time (although I'd talked to Jude on the phone one Christmas) the goats, the chickens and Jude's dogs and then took off for some 4-wheeling around the fields. Wow! I finally got the hang of steering and giving it gas at the same time but Kari had to help me get out of the ditch. I was afraid that I'd tip over. Steve took a ride with Lonnie and Mike afterward and came back wanting to buy a couple 4-wheelers. We went to lunch at the Ness Cafe and then drove around seeing the sights. Finally I'm able to picture where Kari works, where the kids go to school and Bejou proper. We also went through a great exhibit of a really small church, a log cabin, a tank and helicopter (as a tribute to the military) and a house full of historical items in Fosson. Very fun. Too soon, we had to load up the car and head out. I cried as we pulled away, sad to be leaving but thankful that I'd finally met my friend!

Mall of America

Our first impression of the Mall of America was one of disbelief. We thought as we drove around the outside that Columbia Mall was bigger! Once we got inside, however, and especially after we walked all three floors shopping, we felt differently. It is huge! It even has a whole theme park in the center. We went to Crave for lunch. We started off with beef spring rolls. They were crunchy outside and savory with beef and soba noodles inside. I had the lunch special of half a muffaletto sandwich and a Crave salad. Steve asked what the best burger in the place was. The waitress said that their bacon, barbeque burger was best. Steve got it and agreed. Our hunger sated, we started shopping. We hadn't been on a shopping spree for years. I found some tops on sale at Nordstrom Rack and some capris at Coldwater Creek and some shoes at DSW. Steve found some tops and shorts at Columbia. We got a couple of gifts, too. We ate dinner at Kokomo's Island Cafe. I felt like I was at Disney World the theming was so good. The food was good, too. Both of us had shrimp enchiladas. Yummy! We thought about a movie and then decided to get things ready for our next day's first time ever visit to my friend, Kari's.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Good-bye Chicago; Hello Minneapolis

We got up at 9 o'clock a.m. Ack! We had to get ready, we had to get downstairs by 10 a.m in order to get our free breakfast. There were more people in the hotel now. Ack! We might not get anything! Ack! We hurried and got ready. Steve wasn't quite ready when I was. (I know, there's a first time for everything!) I rushed downstairs to secure our breakfast. Hmm, waffle mix is still in evidence. I secured some and tied up both waffle makers for the 2 minutes and 15 seconds it took to make yummy, hot, fresh waffles. Steve, as per the Marchetti skill set of showing up when the food is ready, got there just as the dinger dinged. He got us plates, and we ate. Then we had to be out of the hotel and on the road in time to get to our tour time of Frank Lloyd Wright's first home at 11 a.m. We rushed back up to the room with the luggage cart, threw everything on it, hurtled back downstairs, tossed everything in the car, returned the luggage cart and drove off looking for ice for the cooler. While Steve was in the store, I programmed the GPS. "Man," I thought. "Steve said that he fixed this clock on the GPS! It says 8:30!" I confronted him when he got back with the 20 lbs of ice that he lugged out of the store and hoisted, grunting, into our ice chest. "I thought you fixed this clock!" I said. "I did!" he said. "Then why does it say 8:31?" I asked snippily. "Because it is 8:31" he answered back at the normal speed. "That's what it says on my phone, too." We figured that when I put in the alarm time, I changed the real time. He wondered why the clock in the room didn't match his phone but figured his phone was wrong. Hmm, nope. We now had two and a half hours to kill and only a half hour drive to Oak Park. So we helped Starbucks' bottom line and used their free Wi-fi to find a motel for South Dakota. We got to our tour time with minutes to spare.

This is Frank Lloyd Wright's first home after he started his career as an architect and designer. He lived here until 1909 and tried out techniques and conventions that he would become famous for later on in his career like going over budget. And like using patterns based on Foible blocks, using natural forms, Japanese prints, and two other things neither Steve nor I can remember. Sorry. His front room flowed like an open floor plan of today. He had an inglenook fireplace, built-in couches and two tree trunks growing right through his house. His dining room had indirect lighting with a beautifully carved screen over it. The dining room table with its very high backed chairs were like a room within a room--showing the first signs of the prarie style for which Wright was known. Upstairs his children's bedrooms had a soaring ceiling and a wall which partitioned off the 4 boys from the 2 girls. The master bedroom had a soaring ceiling as well and a couple of friezes on the walls and Wright designed pendant lamps that fit in with the art. Also, his windows were arranged to look like a kimono. His wife's sewing room had a lower ceiling for part of the room--creating a room within a room, a deep closet where she could hide from her overbearing mother-in-law who lived next door and a flat ceiling due to the magnificent children's playroom beside it. The playroom was reached through a small hallway--the guide suggested that this was to increase excitement and anticipation--all the large family gatherings took place in the playroom--Christmas, birthdays, etc. The playroom had a semi-circular arched ceiling, a frieze at the end, a Steinway piano that was built in to the wall so that it wouldn't take up floor space, a gallery for either putting on plays or watching plays and everything was child-sized. It also had a sky light that had one of those magnificent carved screens over it. By far the playroom was my favorite room in the house.

After a brief look at the kitchen that was reconstructed from recollections of his children, but of which nothing original remained (because Wright could care less about kitchens in his designs), we toured Wright's studio. Both the studio and the library, the two bookends of that wing of the house, were octagonal in shape. The studio had chains that held up a balcony and that held the room together basically. It showed that he had a lot of skill with engineering. Each drafting table was a room unto itself along the sides of the room. The windows were at the top of the walls rather than smack dab in the middle of them. He had a mural over his fireplace made just like one he made for a client's home. His library housed his design books and showed off some of his current plans. It was also where he met his clients. His waiting room and reception area had a stained glass sky light with 1,500 pieces of glass in each of the 3 panels. It had windows that showed off the tops of the columns that he had built on his porch. They each had a open book signifying the laws of architecture and the tree of life and two storks symbolizing prosperity and fertility. The studio was the end of our tour. We briefly looked at his Unity Temple, also in Oak Park, got our lunch at Long John Silvers and headed down the road to Minneapolis. It took about 6 hours to get to our Extended Stay hotel. Tomorrow--Mall of America!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chicago Day 3

We spent our last full day in Chicago in very leisurely fashion. We slept in, getting there late for our free breakfast. No waffles for us. The day's allotment had been eaten already. We had to satisfy ourselves with bagels and cream cheese. When we finally got under way, we drove north to the Regal Cinema in Lincolnshire, IL. Why, do you ask? Semi-finals of the World Cup--Germany vs. Spain! In 3-D! Steve had found a Fathom event on the internet and Lincolnshire was the closest venue. We felt like we were there in South Africa. People around us were even speaking Spanish. We ultimately were rooting for Spain. There was only one goal in the game, but we didn't care. The team play and footwork of these two teams was astounding!

We tried a new place for lunch, Claim Jumper. Never heard of it, but it had a chain-y feel. It was good though, themed after the Gold Rush in CA. Steve had a wonderful shrimp pasta and I had a beet and goat cheese salad with cheese bread. Yummy for both of us, but neither one of us liked what the other had. Different strokes for different folks.

We headed back to the hotel in the rain to get ready for the night's event. We were driving into the city to see Million Dollar Quartet. Apparently Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were all together for one night at Sam Phillips' studio, Sun Records. The show was all about that one night, how Sam had had to sell Elvis to RCA to keep his studio afloat, how Johnny Cash didn't renew his contract, all about Jerry Lee Lewis starting out. The show was filled with music from all four of those men plus a woman only identified as Donna. It was hilly-billy rocking! An hour and a half of great music! And the parking was only $10 and right next to the venue and easy to get out of. Afterward we drove around and saw the sights of Chicago (like the Buckingham fountain) one last time for this trip. We'll be back again. And I think we'll stay in Evanston again. It was a great deal and an easy place to make our home base.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chicago Day 2

You ever been someplace where you know you didn't belong but had no way of getting out so you might as well make the best of it? Steve and I found ourselves in that exact situation on Tuesday. We were heading to The Museum of Science and Industry, Steve's particular choice for places to go in Chicago (we'd hit mine, yesterday). We took the El into Chicago, figured out where the Loop run was and got onto the Green line towards Cottage Grove. We were patting ourselves on the back for forging our own way instead of taking the bus like the Chicago map suggested after all on the map the museum only looked about 2 blocks from the El station. As we were chugging along high above the ground, we started seeing abandoned, boarded-up houses and apartments; never a good sign of a thriving neighborhood. It only got worse the more south we went. Hmm. We got out of the El and started down the street, after all it was only going to be two blocks. How bad could it be? We were getting eyed up and down, but we just acted like we belonged there and kept on walking. Two blocks passed and three, and we started that realizing that perhaps the map wasn't to scale. What could we do? We just kept walking (and praying). Steve saw a non-local bus pull off to the side of the road and then heard someone calling out to us. We jaywalked across the street to him. Although he wasn't supposed to and he acknowledged that we could keep walking if we wanted to, he offered to rescue us. He said we stuck out like a sore thumb in that neighborhood. We readily took him up on the offer. I called him our angel. And we rode with him the rest of the 3 miles it would have taken to get to the Museum. He told us to take the bus to get back to our hotel and not walk through any more strange neighborhoods and that we had two mouths between us to ask for directions instead of going off on our own. Advice we will heed in the future. No more pride for us!

After arriving safely at the Museum, we bought our tickets and started exploring. I'll tell you right now that we didn't finish it. We'll have to return. First we got onto the first diesel train ever. The Zephr traveled from Colorado to Chicago to take part in the Chicago World's Fair. It got there in 13 hours with a top speed of 112 miles per hour and an average speed of 77 mph. And we learned that the Museum itself was the one remaining World's Fair building. All the rest burned down. Next we checked out the only captured German u-boat in existence, the U-505. The picture is Steve in front of the U-505. The exhibit was fascinating. It told the story of the German u-boat control of the Atlantic, our defense tactics and then the bold decision to capture a u-boat intact and the inherent difficulties of that task. It culminated with the U-505 itself in all its bullet-riddled glory. We spent a good 2 hours exploring this exhibit alone. Then we realized that we were hungry and headed to the Brain Food Cafe before it closed for the day. We looked at an exhibit that held pictures of our solar system's planets and sun gleaned from 40 years of space photography from the various space probes (some of them sent off by APL). We explored different extreme weather conditions like avalanches, tornados and tsunamis and then the museum closed! The audacity! We weren't done with it! Guess we'll have to plan another trip to Chicago. :0)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chicago Day 1

In college, my friends and I were in love with Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. We watched it over and over. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters were brilliant, and the cast contained Brent Spiner before he was Lt. Data on Star Trek. The whole musical centered around Georges Seurat and his painting, A Sunday on La Grand Jatte. I never thought I'd get to see it. I never thought I'd get to Chicago. Today I made it--to the Art Institute of Chicago and to see A Sunday on La Grande Jatte . The painting's location isn't obvious. Actually nothing in the museum is obvious. It's a museum made to wander around in. We wandered around in English landscapes for an hour before we found it. Steve saw it first. He brought me around the corner and ah, beautiful and so cool. You can see the dots that Seurat made the painting with. You can tell their individual colors when you are close enough. You can see how they meld together in one cohesive whole when you stand further back. On top of that, the Art Institute has American Gothic and lots of Monets. Love it! We saw lots of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art. Amazing! And the miniatures--a whole room of diorama rooms from different time periods and different countries made by one woman as her hobby. Fantastic!

After the art museum, we set off to find the Silver Bean, aka the Cloud Gate. We asked information and a security guard, and we not only found the Bean but got to walk over a cool aluminum bridge from the museum into Millennium Park. Finally, the monument that eluded us on our first trip was found!

Then we took it on faith that the information man was telling us the truth when he said that the John Hancock Observatory was only 8 or 9 blocks up Michigan Ave. It was more like 12 or 13. But since we walked on the shady side of the street and there was a breeze, it wasn't too bad. We zipped up 94 floors in 40 seconds on the "world's fastest elevator" and listened to David Schwimmer tell all about the sights of Chicago that we were seeing. There is even one section that they call "the front porch" that is screened in and open to the elements. I just love Chicago! I'd love to return. There is just so much to see and do here. We haven't even scratched the surface.
We hopped back on the El after getting some good advice from a City Concierge and headed to dinner at Cesar's (home of killer margaritas) and our next destination--the Blue Man Group theatre. Steve has been wanting to see the Blue Man group since he has known who they were, and his dreams came true this night. It was spectacular! They are a very clever, talented group of men. We loved the music and drumming, and the skits were funny! Also, I almost made it into one of the skits. They were looking me over, but I guess I didn't seem scared enough because they didn't choose me. Bummer! Steve was mentioned, though, in the introduction as the guy with the credit card bill unpaid. Dubious honor. We are getting used to this El stuff. It's very convenient. We found a station really close to our hotel on the way back tonight. It's only a couple blocks down which beats the 4 or so we traveled this morning. Of course, we then got too cocky as tomorrow's episode will show. Stay tuned for details.

Sunday Drive

Ever been on a long trip and decided to swear off highways? We tried it once in California when we took the Pacific Coast Highway. The ride on the highway would've only been about 20 minutes, and it took 2 hours on the PCH, but the views were so beautiful, we didn't care. Sunday after church (we visited a Vineyard Church in Cincinnati--that's Steve with the trip mascot, Donkey), we told the GPS to avoid highways and off we went. We took two hours longer, but we saw some pretty country. We also saw some scary sections of city like in Gary, IN (yes, that one from the Music Man), but then when we got to Chicago, we drove the whole length of Lakeshore Drive. Lake Michigan is just so gorgeous with its blue, blue water. Since it was July 4th, there were so many picnickers. I loved seeing all the family groups. Happy 4th, Everyone!

Blue Ash Chili

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visited a restaurant in Cincinnati--Blue Ash Chili. Guy Fieri deemed it the best Cincinnati chili in the city. Cincinnati chili uses cinnamon as one of its ingredients, making the chili sweet as well as spicy. Also, it is served on spaghetti. You can choose it with onions, cheese, beans and jalapeno rounds--3 way through 6 way chili, in the vernacular. We chose 5 way chili for Steve and for me chili lasagna, another one of Guy's favorites. The lasagna came with two slices of garlic bread. We shared both entrees and the bread. Good thing we decided to share the bread before I tried it or Steve might have been out of luck--that garlic bread was good! I preferred the lasagna and Steve preferred the 5-way chili, but we agreed that both were good. I wondered if the owners of the Blue Ash were sick of making these couple of dishes. Maybe that's a downside to being featured on Diners, Drive=ins and Dives.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Creation Museum

No sleeping in this Saturday for us! We had to get up and out to the Creation Museum, a two hour drive down the road and only one day to explore it. For us that might be an impossible task. We still haven't finished with either the Native American museum or the Newseum. But first we had to find breakfast. After an extensive search of roadside signs, I read "Tim Horton's" and whooped! Joanne had told me about Tim Horton's. We hurried off the exit. It was everything she said it was. Yummy! I even had a Canadian Maple Doughnut in honor of where Tim Horton's are usually found. Double Yummy!

After devouring our breakfast on the run, we finished our drive to the Creation Museum. (We are listening to a book on tape called Beautiful Boy, a father's journey through his son's meth addiction. Fascinating! Brilliant writer. Hard topic.) We pull up to the parking lot and are directed where to park. We walk to a glass-fronted building, one story but high-ceilinged. We walk in and wind our way to the ticket sales area. We decide on one-day passes with the planetarium included. Steve can't remember ever being in a planetarium. Then we are let loose to explore (until 1 pm when we have to be in line for the planetarium). The Creation Museum started with worldview, i.e. same facts interpreted differently because of how you view what God says in his Word. Then we explored the 7 C's of History--Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross and Consummation. We thought it was done very well. The audio-animatronics when used were as good in their movements as anything you'd see at Disney. The planetarium show gave you a idea of the vastness of space and was also well done. In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I did find my eyes closing a couple of times though due to the comfortable almost reclining chairs and the cool, dark room. After lunch at Noah's Cafe--Roast Burgers, anyone?--we finished with the 7 C's, checked out the dinosaur dioramas and went to the bookstore. We explored the gardens for a minute--it was hot out there! Then we left. We'd recommend it. (Sorry for the lack of pictures. We forgot to charge the camera's battery.)

Columbus Rocks the Fireworks!

Columbus rocks! My apologies to Cleveland. I'm sure that it's lovely and all, I've never been, but Columbus earned the title with their fireworks display on July 2nd. The Capitol 4th has nothing on this display (except perhaps live music). It started with the Star Spangled Banner and concluded about 20 minutes later with the 1812 Overture. In between was the most lively, most varied fireworks display I'd ever seen. All sorts of colors, all sorts of styles.

Why Columbus, you ask? While researching our trip, we needed a place to stay after Fallingwater and before the Creation Museum near Cincinnati. Steve googled places in between and found that Columbus was renown in these parts for their fireworks. We love fireworks, especially the finales. We walked downtown about 3 hours before the show was to start. Steve, lovely, smart man that he is, thought to bring our portable chairs. So we sat in comfort down near the vendors and had a perfect spot. After eating gyros and butterfly chips and smoothies, I worked on my sock project, and Steve played Bejeweled. We stayed at the Hilton that evening. Steve found a package deal that included valet parking (normally $25) called the Red, White and Boom package.


Water flowing underneath a house has not always thrilled me. When we had the underground stream at the Catonsville address and the consistent flooding when it rained a lot, I wasn't a fan!
I'd change my status if Fallingwater was my house.

The Kaufmann's of Macy's department store fame commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build it for them in the late 1930's. They used it as a summer home. We couldn't take any pictures inside or I'd share them with you. It was amazing! The open floor plan and built-in furniture, not to mention the color scheme, suggests the late '60's or early '70's. The "organic" design, using two boulders to anchor it to a central core smacks of now. Definitely ahead of his time, Wright. His bedrooms were small, drawing guests and homeowners alike outside on to one of the many terraces. He believed in small doorways and using light to keep a visitors from some areas and drawing them in to others. He designed a guest house that fit completely with the main house but was also completely different. The guest house's design encouraged the guest to stay in the house and be comfortable.

Wright also believed in the functionality of design. The hearth and fireplace in the main house, built right from the boulder that held up the house, had a kettle that could be swung over on to the fire. Very functional. Don't confuse functionality with practicality, however. The metal in the kettle was so thick and the kettle so large that it took 14 hours to heat any liquid inside it. Not too practical for morning tea--evening cider perhaps though.

The price to get in wasn't bad, $18 there, taking what time you can get or $20 for the convenience of ordering ahead and getting the time you want. You check in at the gate, head to the visitor's center and are assigned a group. When your group is called you walk to the house and your tour commences. I'm glad we did it. One suggestion, read something about or watch a documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright before you go. The general knowledge will help you get more out of your visit.

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Stop:The Rockafellows!

Wednesday, June 30, 4 pm, Destination--Elizabethtown, PA, Purpose--Visiting the Rockafellows. I break Steve out of work around 4 pm, he takes the driver's seat, and we wind our way through traffic to Elizabethtown, PA. 6:30 finds us pulling into the Rockafellow driveway and being greeted by Justin. He's grown so tall and strong. We'd just missed his All Star game. Bummer! Ashley is the next out of the house. Can she really be going into 7th grade next year? I remember when she was only knee high rather than the tall, beautiful girl she is now. Linda came out next with her new haircut and friendly smile, followed closely by her svelte husband, Tim, 40 pounds lighter than when we last saw him. I can't believe we are here, starting our trip after so much planning, finally on vacation. We caught up for a few minutes and met the cats while Ashley made the rice for dinner. What a great helper! Dinner was yummy--chicken with some great mushroomy sauce on it with wild rice, fruit and a trifle made by Miss Ashley! Ashley, Linda and I hung out on the back deck until the mosquitoes started in on us as their dinner. The boys had a catch and then played wiffle ball until it grew too dark to see. Linda and I then made bracelets while Tim and Steve talked computers and played Wii baseball with Justin. Ashley had just joined the IM'ing world so was absorbed in chatting with friends.

We slept in a little the next day--July 1st. We planned a pool day, and the pool didn't open until noon. We managed to play some Wii Mario Cart before we left. Justin consistently came in first, but I did improve my standing from 12th (aka Last) place to my personal best, 6th place. We were afraid that the cool breeze and the partly cloudy conditions would ruin our day but not so. Instead, the pool wasn't crowded so we got a great umbrella spot, the water was warm so we were encouraged to stay in longer and the sun/breeze ratio was perfect so we didn't get too cold. All in all, I think I tread water while talking for about 2 hours before we got out, dried off and started thinking about lunch. I could spend every day like this! And the air smelled like chocolate brownies! The Mars chocolate factory is right down the road, and the breeze blew the lovely scent our way. Thankfully, Joanne had treated the office staff to brownies the day before and given me some to take on the trip. It was a perfect dessert after our pizza.

In the evening we headed to the movies to see Toy Story 3-D. We agreed that it didn't meet up to the standards of the first two, but we still enjoyed it. The men held a table at Damon's while the ladies spent about 10 minutes and no money (we'd forgotten to bring any) shopping. (Actually, Linda did find a great deal on the perfume she uses and hot-footed it to the car for a credit card later.) We then ate appetizers at Damon's while answering trivia and catching up on World Cup news. Everyone was tired by the time we got home. What a wonderful start to vacation!

Suzie and Steve's Great American Roadtrip

I've never taken a long road trip. Oh, I've been to Florida from Maryland. I've driven to Maine from Maryland, but everywhere else I've flown. Not this year, baby! Steve and I start our Great American Road Trip on Wednesday, June 30 after work.