Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Happy Birthday, America. Going Back.

Posted on | July 10, 2016 | No Comments

I went to college in northern Indiana and Chicago, Illinois so I knew when the land started getting flat that we were getting close.

We stopped in Springfield to see The Simpsons the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. We’ve already seen the Lincoln Memorial and Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. and this site seemed like a nice addition.  The tour is free, led by a National Park ranger, and includes the house that Abraham and Mary Lincoln lived in for 25 years with their children.

In addition to the home being the original structure, a large number of items in the home are the actual pieces used by the Lincoln family, not reproductions.  It’s an odd feeling to see the rooms and the furniture where Lincoln and his family lived their daily lives—-such an intimate view that reminds all of us that extraordinary people are sometimes people just like us.

Several blocks surrounding the Lincoln home include the restored  homes of the the Lincolns’ neighbors and the entire area is a lovely and peaceful respite from the busyness of downtown.  Which was good because once we soaked up the tranquility, we headed for Chi-Town.  The kids have never been to such a big city and never seen any of the Great Lakes and Chicago did not disappoint them.  The Blues Festival was going on in Grant Park and Americas’ Cup was finishing up at Navy Pier.  We took in all the tourist sights like the Bean (Cloud Gate)….

and Buckingham fountain.

We played in Millennium and Maggie Daley park….

and strolled along Lake Michigan to visit T-Rex Sue at The Field Museum (because she figures later in our trip).

We stuffed ourselves on deep dish pizza at Navy Pier and enjoyed the Crystal Gardens….

walked the Miracle Mile and had drinks at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Tower….

and got a great pic of the boys at the MCA plaza in a sculpture by Alexandre da Cunha.  Don’t worry.  You’re allowed to climb on it.  Probably.  Maybe.  Eh?

It was a busy day with lots to see, lots to do, and lots and lots of walking.  Which, really, is exactly the way it is to live in Chicago.  Chicago remained the kids’ favorite city, even after the others we would see on our trip.  Chicago is tricky like that.  She woos you with the sound of jazz as you saunter on LakeFront Trail.  Impresses you with bright lights and magnificent buildings.  Promises you ice cream on the riverwalk after a day of culture.  Then come the lakefront effect snowstorms in October and the honeymoon is over.  Yeah, I remember you well, Chicago.

After all that big city excitement it was wonderful to head into the rolling green hills of Wisconsin.  We crashed in Madison and in the morning while the males were all still sleeping, Pretty and I slipped out with cups of coffee to view the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

If you’re ever in the Madison area, the Olbrich Gardens have some beautiful outdoor gardens that are free to the public.  We had the place mostly to ourselves except for a plethora of adorable chipmunks scampering around the trails.  The plantings….

and ponds….

and fountains were amazing.

Plus, an incredible cottonwood tree that dwarfed Pretty and left its telltale fluff all throughout the gardens.

Once the rest of the crew was up and ready we headed to House on the Rock.

We went for the Highlight Experience which allowed us to view 2 sections of the sprawling home.  It started out with Japanese gardens and water features leading into cozy rooms hidden in nooks and crannies.

There were a huge number of automatic music machines that played by themselves.  Their tinkling could be heard all throughout the home and went from small ones tucked into alcoves….

or picture frames….

to entire rooms.

The self-guided tour booklet explained that the house was kept dark in many rooms to show off the large collection of stained glass features.

So it was relief to step into the light of the Infinity Room.  If you consider it a relief to be in a narrow glass room that stands 156 feet over the forest floor.  That sways when you walk on it and made a surprising cracking sound when Little jumped onto the ledge for a photo, causing me to run back to the house while everyone laughed at me.

Oh, doesn’t look scary?  Well, to give you a better idea, when we left the house we stopped at an overlook off the grounds to eat lunch.  From there, you can see the Infinity Room jutting off the house.  It’s the kind of thing you only want to see after you’ve walked in it.  Not before.

After the Infinity Room it was back inside to the dark Streets of Yesterday, filled with very old, very creepy automatic moving toys filled with skeletons and devils.  Although my fortune from Ms.  Esmerelda was spot on.  Because as she said “You are straight forward, just, inquisitive, and shrewd.  Very much attached to your own opinions and determined to have your own way at any cost.”  It’s like she knows me!  Or like The Other Half slipped her a fiver while complaining that I am a bossy, road trip Nazi.

The Heritage of the Sea room had a whale and octopus sculpture that was 4 stories tall, intricately detailed, and really just astounding.  A ramp wove its way around the piece, with seafaring artifacts lining the walls, so that you could see everything up close including the rowboat captured in the whale’s mouth, the seagulls hanging from the ceiling, the giant eye of the octopus, the frothy 2 story waves, and the barnacles encrusting the whale’s sides.

There’s much, much more in the House on the Rock.  The 2 sections that we walked through took us over 2 hours.  All the tours, though, end with the famous carousel.  Where all of the darkness and creepiness and fantastical-ness of the House on the Rock merge into the largest indoor carousel, with over 20,000 lights, whirling amidst a ceiling of mannequin angels, and tinkling music.

And not a single creature on the carousel is actually a horse.

Because carousels with horses are for boring houses.   And after the House on the Rock, I was afraid a boring house was what the kids would think of the next house.  Just a few miles down the street is Taliesin.  I wanted to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece but since the shortest tour was 2 hours, was almost $60 per person, and not recommended for kids under 12, I was a bit hesitant.  I settled for the Hillside Studio and Theatre tour which was cheaper and shorter and prepared myself for whiny kids tagging along behind me.  But the tour guide was excellent and the main building, originally being a school house run by Frank Lloyd Wright’s aunts, was actually relevant for the kids.  The space was open and welcoming and the tour guide spent a lot of time explaining the various insignia and mottos throughout the buildings

The dining room was fabulous, we saw architecture students at work in the studio, and even sat in the theatre with its famous curtain.

Not only did the kids tolerate the tour well, they all said they really enjoyed it.  Well done, Frank Lloyd Wright.

We made a quick a stop at Tower Hill State Park (which was just down the street) to see a shot tower from the 1800’s, used to manufacture lead shot.  The steps up the hill were tortuous but Big found it quite interesting, Little tried to throw something down the chute even though there was a sign explicitly forbidding it, and we all felt bad for 22 year old Thomas Shaunce who dug the 120′ shaft by hand.  With that, we left Wisconsin and headed further into the midwest than I ‘d ever been before.  There was no going back now, just going forward into the unknown.  Which didn’t bother these 2 at all.  Mostly because they knew that had a bossy, road trip Nazi in charge to make sure everything ran smoothly.  Just like Ms. Esmerelda said.

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