Beartooth Highway

(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

In order to reach Yellowstone, we had to go up and over Beartooth Mountain. Charles Kuralt called the Beartooth Highway the most beautiful drive in America and I think he might have been right! Unfortunately, because of the hairpin turns and the heights, Mike mostly gripped the armrest and the door handle I kept my eyes on the road so we don’t have a lot of pictures. But trust us, it was amazing.

As we neared the top, we hit the ice pack and COLD! It was about 38 degrees at 8:30 am according to the Mazda thermometer, brrrr.

The ride down wasn’t quite as thrilling and we soon reached Yellowstone! Because of the number of pictures we took, there will be at least one post about each day we spent there. So be sure and come back tomorrow for Bear!!!



(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

We got our first glimpse (and feel) of mountains as we left South Dakota and entered Wyoming. So weird to be driving with snow on the sides of the road on July 9th!

After driving most of the day, we arrived in Cody a couple of hours before the Buffalo Bill Museum closed. Several friends had said this was a not to be missed attraction. While it was interesting with displays about Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show (a la Ringling Brothers), and a moving (and disturbing) exhibit about the displacement of the native Americans, and a raptor talk, we both agreed that we were sure the relatively high price of admission was worth it.

However, we did enjoy our BBQ dinner that night!

Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower

(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

They always say pictures aren’t the same as being there and this is certainly true at Mount Rushmore. After seeing pictures for all my life, to be standing at the base looking up at the Presidents carved into the side of a mountain in pretty amazing.

The site has dealing with the crowds and parking down to a fine art. Entrance to the site is free but we were disappointed that our newly purchased annual National Park pass doesn’t cover the $10 parking charge here. Oh well, it was money well spent. While you can see the mountain easily from the highway, being in the trees below or better yet at the base of the gravel created by the blasting of the hillside let’s you see the true scale of the carving.

The scale can also be seen in the model Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor used to direct the over 100 workers where to blast. He used the scale model (1″ equals 1 foot) along with a plumb bob to give the workers dimensions to use up on the actual mountain.

After leaving the actual site we drive part of a loop around the park through some interesting tunnels. After leaving the park we made a drive by of the Crazy Horse Memorial. Mount Rushmore was completed in 14 years (1927-41) whereas Crazy Horse carving was started in 1948 and is still very far from completion. I am doubtful it will be completed in my lifetime. When it is however it will be incredible as you can see in the picture showing the model of the sculpture with the actual hillside in the background. The heads at Mount Rushmore are 60′ tall-whereas Crazy Horse’s will be 90′ and his arm 263!

From there we headed towards Devil’s Tower. This rock pillar was left after the surrounding Hill was washed away over millions of years. It was amazing to see it from the distance and then up close also.

Leaving the Tower we headed towards Cody Wyoming after an overnight halfway there.

The Badlands

(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

The Badlands hadn’t been on my radar until our friend Gail said we “had” to visit this national park. OMG, just amazing. Suddenly in the middle of nowhere, you feel like you’ve been transported to one of the alien planets in Star Trek.

It’s very otherworldly until you see the sign warning about rattlesnakes or come across Big Horn sheep grazing or jumping across the rocks-you’ll have to look closely at the video, who knew sheep wore camouflage?

We have hundreds of pictures of this amazing park, but the few above hopefully give you the idea.

Next up Cody Wyoming!

Da Plains

(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

It didn’t take long for us to leave the rolling hills of Wisconsin and reach the Great Plains. Wow, corn for miles and miles (and miles!)

And when we thought we had seen all the corn we could we got to Mitchell, South Dakota and The Corn Palace. The original palace was built in 1892 as an exposition hall to showcase the area’s major crop. Since then the building has been rebuilt and is an arena used for community events, concerts, basketball games, etc. including the annual Corn Palace Polka Festival!The exterior corn murals are replaced and redesigned each year with a new theme. The designs are created by local artists using various types and colors of corn.

Our next big stop was at the Missouri River. This site if the rest area was originally one of Lewis & Clark’s camps. The view (and wind) across the River was amazing. Adding to the scale was a beautiful statue honoring the native people.

Our multi day trip across the plains is almost complete. This is the first time I have been at ground level to see this part of our beautiful country. It’s truly awe inspiring to see the land appear to go on forever, and to think about the natives and the first white settlers and the hardships they endured. I mean we only had a few crappy hotel rooms! And we got to have some delicious rhubarb pie.

Next post will be about our first visit to a National Park-The Badlands.


(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission was a windmill in 1896 for his two aunts located on his family’s farm near Spring Green Wisconsin. This was followed by a school for them. Later in his life, he moved on an adjacent plot with his mistress (later wife #2) where he used the building built for his aunts as the school for his students and built a house for himself and his mistress. He named his compound Taliesin as a nod to his Welsh heritage. It means Shining Brow.

Below are pictures of the school, which was built in the early 1900s.

The school includes a theater added later. All of these and the studio are still in use by architecture students.

Nearby is the house and office where FLW lived and worked. The title photo of this post is from the balcony outside the bedroom wing. The structure in the foreground was built for birdwatching. As with most of his houses, it included carports which were a new invention.

Between the house itself and the wing which housed Mr Wright’s office (and his secretary’s apartment) is the beautiful courtyard shown below.

As with all of his work, (and of all great Architects) it is the attention to detail that astounds me. The gold leaf on the ceiling to reflect light and warm the space or the beautiful stone work made to resemble the natural way the rock is found in nature. Just incredible…especially given how innovative it was for the time.

Our last stop (and our first) was of course at the gift shop. The foundation uses what was FLW’s last design as the tour’s visitor’s center. The building was originally built as a restaurant and was completed after his death. Today it has a small cafe as well as the ticket desk and gift shop.

We did a drive by of Spring Green and it is easy to see FLW’s influence in a number of buildings including this bank and it’s drive through.

So ends (at least for now) our FLW tour. We leave Spring Green headed to Condon Montana to visit s long time friend from Raleigh, Gail and to meet her new hubby. Hope you’ll join us for the drive which will include corn (some people call it maize), bears, waterfalls and SNOW!


(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

On the 5th of July we left D&L’s early headed towards Racine Wisconsin. Doug had work commitments but Larry took a post holiday and followed us up the road.

Racine is the world headquarters of SC Johnson and the site if Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings designed for both the company and the family. It is the only FLW corporate headquarters still in use (unfortunately the FLW buildings are underutilized but given they are

SC Johnson offers free tours three days a week, one just has to reserve in advance. The tours start at their Visitor’s Center which is housed in the Golden Rondelle Theater Which was designed for the 1964 World’s Fair and showed a film sponsored by SC Johnson. After the fair it was dismantled and moved to Racine. It is currently having some exterior work done. Below my picture is how it looked in New York in 1964. I’m not sure why the sculptural elements along the top were removed.

The visual focus of the campus is the Research Tower. Imagine this modern looking Tower was built in the mid 1930s. The glass is actually Pyrex tubes which let in light but obstructed the view since the Scientists needed to be working rather than looking out! You can see some of the original tubes wrapping behind one of the columns in the third picture below.

FLW realized the importance of the car to the future so the tower and the headquarters behind it were raised above the ground and one entered through a set of FLW gates into the car park. This area wasn’t just for cars though, it is a pleasant space with sculptural columns and water features to walk through. Even the water drainage system have a FLW touch!

Pictures aren’t allowed in the Great Hall of the headquarters but below are some I found online. This was likely one of the first open plan offices. Remember this was built before WWII.

After touring the Great Hall, we were allowed to climb up into the Research Tower. The Tower was built before current fire codes as it only has one door in and out. Apparently it proved impossible to make it safe, functional to maintain the architectural purity so the building is sadly only used for storage.

The building was built in 1950. It had a floor and a mezzanine for each of SC Johnson’s different research departments- wax, cleaning products, OFF, etc. As you can see in the diagram and construction photos below it was supported by a central core-this allowed the exterior to be transparent.

The core also housed an elevator of sorts-more like a dumb waiter. The core also had one toilet per floor-men only, guess their weren’t any women scientists.

The space seemed tight to me and we were told that scientists working there complained about the bright light (but no views) and heat gain. So while interesting from an architectural point of view perhaps it wasn’t just the lack of exit stairs that made them stop using the building.

Shhh, I forgot and took these illegal pictures inside.

Despite all of it’s issues, it is still an impressive looking building.

Later generations of the Johnson family have kept up the tradition of hiring famous architects. The latest building on the campus is by Norman Foster and Partners. They recently designed Apple’s new campus as well as a number of Apple stores (including the one in Chicago where We bought my new phone).

The building here is used for receptions, conference & training and employee services (cafeteria, gym, etc.). It also houses several galleries which explore both SC Johnson’s history (including the plane which one of the SC’s used to fly to the location in South American where canuba (as in wax) comes from) and Mr. Wright’s. And of course a gift shop…anyone need a ziploc bag?

After finishing our tour of the headquarters, the three of us headed along the lake and found a great spot to have a picnic lunch made up of leftovers from the 4th of July spread and pizza from our dinner the night before. It was a beautiful day and sitting by the Lake (Michigan-dang it we didn’t make it to Huron so still have one more to visit someday) was wonderful. From there we drove a few more minutes to visit the house FLW designed for Mr. Johnson, “Wingspan.”

The house was designed for a family which included a young son ( hence the crow’s nest at the top) and a daughter (she got a Juliet balcony in her bedroom at the end of the prowlike end of the house)

The house’s first floor is open plan around a central core of fireplaces. All of which is beautifully lit from above by skylights (and yes they apparently leaked😢). The fireplace on the upper level was a vertical fireplace but was only used once. Apparently after lighting the fire, the logs burned beautifully but when the bottoms were turning to ash, the remainder of the logs fell forward into the room almost causing a major fire.

Today, the house is owned by the SC Johnson Foundation and is used for corporate retreats and conferences.

Both the headquarters and the house are well worth a visit (especially since they are free) if you happen to be anywhere close to Racine.

After saying goodbye to Larry who headed back to Mundelein, Mike and I set off towards Spring Green Wisconsin for the finale of our FLW tour, his home and school-Talesin.

So stay tuned!