Category Archives: Travel

Drive Between Yellowstone & Mount Rainier National Parks ~ August 17-19, 2014

After grabbing dinner at the Old Town Café in West Yellowstone, we gassed up the “Escape Mobile” and headed north to connect with U.S. 287 — a highway we had traveled countless times across north Texas, but never across Montana.

Hands down, the Montana portion is more interesting and beautifulLake Hebgenwhile traversing the east bank of the Madison River, between canyon walls, and along the shorelines of several lakes.

Positioned in the lower western sky, the sun provided great photo opportunities of the lakes. (Photo above is Hebgen Lake.)

A particularly long stretch of a lake prompted our curiosity and called for us to stop at its overlook point. Quake Lake, MontanaQuake Lake had been formed exactly fifty-five years prior when the combination of an earthquake, massive landslide, and subsequent rushing, rising water flooded the valley.

Just minutes after the quake and slide, the new lake began forming. In the following weeks, it grew to encompass an area five miles long and 190 feet deep.

 

The formation of the lake came at a great cost – twenty-eight people died the evening of the earthquake, either by drowning or being crushed in the landslide.

For Trey and I to be the only individuals standing above the former campground on the 55th anniversary date of its tragic demise, was surreal and humbling.

Tree tops emerging from Quake Lake
Dead silver treetops emerge from Quake Lake as an eerie reminder of the past.

Before continuing the drive to Butte, where we would spend the night, we said a short prayer in honor of the lost souls.

Spokane, Washington

The 316 mile trip from Butte to Spokane…Montana Landscapeincluded a seventy-four mile trek across the top of Idaho.

As we approached Idaho, the trees grew dense, steep ravines began crossing under Interstate 90, and fall colors dotted the hillsides.

 

We were in Idaho just long enough to realize we should have planned a stay there. Next time.

After settling into a hotel on the outskirts of Spokane, we headed downtown for dinner and a walking tour of the city. Spokane was a pleasant surprise because we had no expectations. No thoughts whatsoever, other than a place to sleep for the night. I think perhaps its location in eastern Washington, and its lack-luster name, conjures up images of dust and doldrums.

Spokane is the opposite — lively and lovely. Spokane, WaThe Spokane River runs through the city’s center. A river walking path was being extended as a part of a larger Riverfront Park renovation plan.

Spokane Riverfront Park Improvements
Part of Spokane’s new river-walk and Riverfront Park revitalization efforts

On to Mt. Rainier…

We stopped at a lookout point outside of Vantage, Washington to bask in our first sight of the immense Columbia River. Columbia RiverGinkgo Petrified Forest State Park lay just beyond the opposite bank and was once home to the Wanapums, an indigenous, peaceful tribe of fishermen who are near extinction.

 

A few hours after crossing the Columbia, and after refueling both the car and our bodies in Ellensburg, we soon caught our first glimpse of the mammoth Mount Rainier. Mt Rainier in the distanceThe sighting renewed our energy and enthusiasm for the remaining two hour drive to our campsite.

Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming ~ August 13-17, 2014

Upon entering Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance (located on the Montana-Wyoming border) we were greeted by Buffalo, and more buffalo escorted us throughout the 85 mile drive to the Grant Village Campground.

First stop along the trek was an overlook view of Tower Fall, the famous 132 foot waterfall of the Yellowstone River.

Tower Fall, Yellowstone River
Tower Fall, Yellowstone River (namesake taken from the surrounding rock spirals)

The overlook sits at the junction of the Yellowstone River and Tower Creek which also permitted us to experience the strength of the water forcing its way through the canyon.

Yellowstone River
Convergence of Tower Creek and the Yellowstone River south of Tower Fall

There is no shortage of wonders along Grand Loop Road which wends through the heart of Yellowstone and around the north shore of Yellowstone Lake.  For this reason, the two-and-a-half hour drive took us about four hours, getting us to our campground with just enough daylight to set up camp and grab dinner at Lake View Cafe.

Yellowstone Lake @ Sunset
Yellowstone Lake @ Sunset

 

Grant Village Campground

Grant Village is located in the southern end of the park on the “west thumb” of Yellowstone Lake, and within the volcano’s caldera. Our third experience camping, and our third experience pitching our tent in the rain.

Grant Village Campsite
Grant Village Campsite, Loop K #391

What a great camping experience! Our site, 391 on Loop K, was spacious and sits near the ledge of a shallow ravine.

Yellowstone is wild, and camping provides a great opportunity to experience that wild. On several nights we were awakened to the howls and barks of wolves running through the ravine below.

The third morning we woke with the sun and to a strange snorting noise outside our tent. A quick look out the window eased our minds – the noises were from two elk cows and four calves grazing just outside.

The calves decided to nestle down in the grass around our tent and keep us company through breakfast.

With everything one would need from restaurants, showers, a post office, and general store, Grant Village is truly a village. We particularly enjoyed exploring the campground by bicycle and the Ranger’s educational presentations at the visitors’ center.

We learned:

  • Yellowstone’s supervolcano incurred three major eruptions over the past 2.1 million years, and it’s doubtful another one will take place within the next 10,000 years.
  • Grizzlies’ forage after dark in the summer months and during the day in the spring and fall.
  • The native lodgepole pine tree has a second type of cone that opens only under the extreme heat of fire assuring the species’ survival

 

Thermal Geysers

There are more than 10,000 thermal geysers in Yellowstone, and Trey attempted to see them all! Kidding, but at times it seemed as if that was his goal.

Of course Old Faithful was a must-see, and due to its southern location, it was our first stop.

Old Faithful
Old Faithful erupting on schedule

Most of the geyser touring areas line Highway 191 on the park’s west side. Raised boardwalks varying in distances from a quarter mile to two miles cut between geysers and keep visitors safe from the unstable, scalding hot ground.

Sapphire HOle
Sapphire Geyser

While visiting each geyser area was impossible over a five-day period, we exhausted ourselves checking out Old Faithful Basin, Biscuit Basin, Fire Hole Loop, and Norris Geyser Basin.

Morning Glory Geyser
Morning Glory Geyser

 

 

Grand Teton National Park

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Grand Teton’s north entrance is located 54 miles south of Yellowstone’s Grant Village which made it ideal for a day trip. After checking out Lewis Falls, we headed out of Yellowstone via the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

The Parkway follows the Snake River and then Jackson Lake, with the Tetons laid out along the other (west) side of the lake.

The day was spent mostly touring the park in the “Escape Mobile.” There is much to see by car including Signal Mountain, which offers great vantage points for both the Tetons and the Snake River Valley to the east.

View from Signal Mountain
Looking east from Signal Mountain

The initial plan was to hike around Lake Jenny, but we decided to explore more of the park rather than spend the day on a 7-mile hike.

Jenny Lake
A short, but steep, hike to Jenny Lake’s edge, we arrived just as a swimmer made it across from the west side. (his arm is visible in lower left of photo)

As an alternative, we chose the shorter Taggart Lake-Beaver Creek Trail, a 3.8 mile loop. Instead of looping, we hiked about a mile-and-a-half in and backtracked. The trail offered gorgeous shots of the Tetons.

A lovely day that we ended with a fabulous dinner at the Jackson Lake Lodge, donated to the park by JD Rockefeller, Jr. Despite being under-dressed in our hiking clothes, we were seated at window table with a prime view of the Tetons.

Great food! Afterwards, we stepped outside and onto the Lunch Tree Hill trail for a short hike up a ridge overlooking the valley and Grand Tetons. Trey was hoping to see moose, but the sun set while we waited.

Outside of Jackson Lake Lodge

 

Leaving Yellowstone

Having depleted most of our energy, we opted to pull up stakes in Yellowstone a day early, breaking up the 500+ drive to Spokane. We toured another geyser basin on our way to the west exit, where we were escorted out by more buffalo.

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Note, though visiting Yellowstone in mid-August, we kept our jackets handy at all times. The evening temperatures fell into the 30’s, and some afternoons brought sudden, but short-lived, storms and hail.

More Yellowstone Wildlife…

 

Red Lodge, Montana – August 9~13, 2014

We experienced two firsts during our stay in Red Lodge – we saw our first bald eagle in the wild, and we saw our first sign of the coming autumn. Both of these firsts took place while rafting (without a camera) on the Stillwater and Yellowstone Rivers. We had been hoping to spot a bald eagle as they’re pretty common in the area; the changing leaf colors on Aspens and Cottonwoods was a surprise though. It was early August and autumn was arriving. We would follow its arrival from that point across the remaining west and into the northwestern states and Canada. Much like we had followed the hydrangea bloom up the eastern states and into Vermont.

Red Lodge, Montana
Broadway Avenue, Red Lodge, Montana

Red Lodge is a former mining town and retains the rugged charm of its past in the late 19th century brick buildings that line its main street, Broadway Avenue. We stayed in one such building, The Pollard, which claims to have hosted legends such as Bill Cody, Calamity Jane and Harry Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, who ended up robbing the bank housed on the building’s first floor.

The Pollard Hotel
The Pollard Hotel

There’s not a whole lot to do in Red Lodge other than strolling Broadway’s sidewalks to browse gift shops and scout restaurants, of which there were many. Nightly dinner options were difficult decisions due to the many amazingly good options. We particularly enjoyed Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen & Wine Bar and the Carbon County Steak House, where we dined on fresh Alaskan Halibut.

For as much as Red Lodge appears to be the standard western outpost trying to attract visitors with a taste of the past, in actuality, we found it to possess a progressive sophistication. This was evident in the food, the local market and the people making a living there. There was also a yoga studio that offered destination hiking and yoga trips in the mountains that I sadly had to miss. We will have to get back there.

Montana Cover Photo 5

The adventure starts at the city’s perimeter where the Montana wilderness begins. We had received a warm welcome, loads of helpful advice and maps at the visitor’s center on our first full day in Red Lodge and then immediately headed out of town via West Fork Road to a trail labeled as a good “conditioning hike.”

Basin Creek Lakes Trail
Basin Creek Lakes Trail, Trail #61

The Basin Creek Lakes Trail ascends steeply for two and half miles following Basin Creek to a lower lake and then continues for another mile and a half to an upper lake.

We opted to turn around at the lower lake for a total roundtrip hike of five miles. We had started to turn around after about two miles because I was growing more apprehensive as we headed further into the wilderness. We were in the middle of grizzly country and seemingly alone on the trail…bear bait. Just as I had talked Trey into turning around a group of twenty-somethings caught up to us and then quickly passed out of sight. I decided I could make it the rest of the way and the reward for my bravery was the gorgeous scene and the serenity of the mountain lake.

Arriving safely at Lower Basin Lake
Arriving safely at Lower Basin Lake

Our other outing was the aforementioned rafting trip. Adventure Whitewater is located 35 miles outside of Red Lodge near the community of Absarokee. In addition to bald eagles and fall colors, our three-hour/half-day ride included rapids on both the Stillwater and Yellowstone rivers, swimming among the currents and jumping off a giant boulder. Trey enjoyed the jump so much he hiked back up onto the rock and back-flipped off.

Along Hwy 72 on the edge of Custer Gallatin National Forest
Along Hwy 72 on the edge of Custer Gallatin National Forest

The drive to/from Absarokee wends through the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains and was gorgeous as the sun and an approaching storm highlighted the golden rolling hills.

Our last evening in Red Lodge was spent doing laundry (there’s a nice laundromat on south end of town) and filling our coolers in preparation for five nights of camping in Yellowstone National Park.

Beartooth Pass
Beartooth Pass

We headed to Yellowstone’s north entrance via the Beartooth Highway (U.S. Highway 212) which the late Charles Kuralt proclaimed to be the “most beautiful drive in America.”

We have to agree with Mr. Kuralt. We experienced many wondrous pathways during our U.S. tour, and Beartooth tops our list and provided us with the unique sense of driving on top of the world.

Beartooth Hwy2

More Pics….

Long Lake, Beartooth Hwy
Long Lake, Beartooth Hwy

 

Red Lodge Butterfly2

 

Devil’s Tower and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monuments ~ August 9, 2014

 

We departed Black Hills National Forest with the sunrise and via the infamous community of Deadwood, South Dakota.

Deadwood SD
Deadwood, South Dakota

Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming

After breakfast wraps and coffee at Wild West Espresso in the also infamous ranching community of Sundance, Wyoming, we detoured 27 miles from Interstate 90 to Devil’s Tower, our nation’s first national monument under the Antiquities Act.

Wyoming
Beautiful Wyoming

We were greeted by grazing buffalo and longhorns – sights we had not seen since leaving Texas.

Wyoming Buffalo Longhorns

We were officially in “The West” and it was exhilarating! That feeling was amplified at our first glance of the massive igneous rock protruding from the horizon – Devil’s Tower, or Bear Lodge, one of its many native names.

Devils Tower Horizon Shot

The tribes of the northern plains consider Devil’s Tower sacred and regularly conduct ceremonies or leave prayer clothes and offerings at its base. Visitors are reminded to respect and honor these traditions. As we strolled around the tower’s base on the Tower Trail, we sensed a hallowedness among the rocks and colorful cloths tied around tree limbs and branches. The feeling was no less, and perhaps greater, than the feelings we experienced within the great ornate basilicas we had visited.

Devil's Tower 2

This church however was formed from and by the earth, rises 867 feet above it, and hosts a diverse group of plant and animal species. Its great columns cling tightly together in their battle against the elements and gravity. That’s what it looked like to me anyway. Kiowa legend states that the rock had been sculpted by the claws of a great bear – it’s easy to see that, too.

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We had heard from a ranger that golden eagles were in the area and we spotted one fly over and around the tower’s top a couple of times, but the eagle was too quick for us to snap a photo.

Climber on Devil's Tower
Climbing is allowed only by permit

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

We arrived at the Little Bighorn battlefield as a park ranger began recounting the story of the U.S. Army’s 1876 effort to end the centuries old independence, cultures and customs of the northern plains’ native people.

Indian Memorial at Little Bigfield Battlefield

Thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho had joined forces in a valley east of the Little Bighorn River where they outnumbered and overwhelmed General George Custer’s regiment of 262 men.  It was one of the northern plains Indians last successful  battles in preserving their identity. We had been starkly reminded of their eventual defeat while driving through the Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations on our way to the battlefield.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
The Battlefield of Little Bighorn

The young ranger confidently relayed the battle scene while pointing out specific hills and slopes that laid out before him and the crowd that had gathered. He was Crow and a U.S. government employee.

Lacking the time for a guided tour, we walked along Battlefield Road and walking paths surrounded by tombstones that had been placed where bodies had been found.

Path through Little Bighorn Battlefield

Last Stand Hill and the Indian Memorial are easy walks from the visitor’s center.

Little Bighorn Battlefield

We left the monument feeling somber and wishing we had been able to spend more time there.

Markers in Little Bighorn Battlefield

As it was, we had two more hours left of the seven and half hour drive to Red Lodge, Montana.

More pics…

View of Montana from the Tower Trail

Buffalo and Bird

Devils Tower Columns

 

 

 

Across the Mid-West and The Black Hills ~ August 4 – 9, 2014

ACROSS THE MID-WEST

We actually took three days to drive the 1,000 miles across the remaining mid-west to its western edge in the Black Hills National Forest. Neither Trey nor I recall the exact reason, but agree that the difficulty booking accommodations in the Black Hills may have influenced that decision.

As it was, we spent the first evening after departing Chicago in Des Moines, Iowa. Not a completely unremarkable city in that we could see for miles from the unobstructed view of our third floor hotel room where we had arrived just in time to see a somewhat remarkable sunset.

We had not traveled far down Interstate 80 the next morning when I saw a sign for the turn off to Madison County and its famed bridges. We did not turn and I felt a tinge of disappointment at the time which has since turned into regret — I will have to get back there.

We were to cut up Interstate 29 just east of the Missouri River which serves as the border between Iowa and Nebraska. Instead, we detoured across the Missouri and looped through the city of Omaha just so we could say we’d been to Nebraska – a first for both of us.

The reasons behind our Black Hills booking difficulty began appearing more numerously as we headed further west – Motorcycles. As in Chicago, our visit to the Black Hills had unknowingly coincided with a major tourist event – this time it was the 74th Annual Sturgis Black Hills Motor Classic.

Bridge Across the Missouri between Chamberlain & Oacoma, SD
Bridge Across the Missouri between Chamberlain & Oacoma, SD

After crossing the Missouri a third time and into the town of Oacoma, South Dakota, ours was one of only a few automobiles spattered among the Harley Davidsons parked outside of the Howard Johnson’s for the evening.

Soon after departing Oacoma, the landscape changed to rolling mounds of a golden color that I had never seen in nature. I failed to capture a photo so the image lies solely in my memory.

Wall, South Dakota
Wall, South Dakota

THE BLACK HILLS

We had felt lucky to have snagged the last available room at the Coyote Blues Village Bed and Breakfast when we had called the owner from a payphone in Ottawa. We hadn’t know just how lucky we were until we had arrived at the secluded, yet conveniently located inn outside of Hill City, in the heart of Black Hills National Forest.

View from Coyote Blues
View from our patio at Coyote Blues Village

The owners are from Switzerland and were just as charming and welcoming as the surrounding environment. It was full of European charm from the Swiss chalet feel of the inn to the traditional breakfasts of cured meats, cheeses, eggs and fruit. Each guest room is decorated in a different theme. We stayed in the Turkish room and had a private patio and sauna overlooking the valley below the inn. We took advantage of the views, patio and sauna each of the three nights of our stay.

Private Patio at Coyote Blues Village B&B
Private Patio at Coyote Blues Village

We also enjoyed breakfast each morning on an outdoor deck with friendly bikers and travelers, and loved the comradery and sharing stories of the road.

Mount Rushmore

Once we had settled into our room, we headed to nearby Mt. Rushmore with the excitement of children. It was raining and the wet winding roads were challenging for the bikers, but provided us with a unique photo opportunity.

Mt Rushmore - Crying Presidents

Mt Rushmore - Crying George

The park service has done a nice job in tastefully accommodating thousands of daily visitors while preserving, best as possible, the mountain’s and surrounding area’s natural states. The walk way up to view the monument, along with the amphitheater at its base are a bit over the top, yet successfully achieve the goal of provoking patriotism.

Mt Rushmore Walkway
Mt Rushmore Walkway

We highly recommend an evening visit for the film on the monument’s history and stories of each of its presidents.

Rushmore at Night
Rushmore at Night

The evening program ended with a touching tribute to our country’s armed services’ veterans.

Honoring Veterans
Honoring Veterans

Hiking in Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park provides access to over a dozen trails including South Dakota’s 111-mile Centennial Trail that wends through the Black Hills from Butte Bear in the north to Wind Cave National Park in the south.

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park
Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park

We chose, at the recommendation of a fellow traveler, to tackle the less lengthy trek to Little Devil’s Tower. The trailhead is located a mile east of Sylvan Lake’s parking lot and the trail is an easy walk through a grassy birch forest for about the first half mile…

Little Devil's Tower Hike
Little Devil’s Tower Hike

at which point it becomes increasingly more difficult.

Little Devil's Tower Path
Path to Little Devil’s Tower

It is the last section that earns this hike the label of “strenuous” as the trail sharply ascends through and over rocky passages to the apex.

Little Devil's Tower - Up to the Summit!
Up to the Summit!

The surrounding views from the top of Little Devil’s Tower are well worth the trip — being surrounded by the Black Hills with Black Elk Peak (Harney’s Peak at the time) and its stone tower to the north…

Black Elk Summit and Lookout Tower
Black Elk Peak and Lookout Tower

and Cathedral Spires to the southeast.

View from Little Devil's Tower
View from Little Devil’s Tower

Gorgeous!

We then drove east on Highway 87 from Sylvan Lake and through a section called “Needles Highway” for the towering spires that the road twists around.

Spires along Needles Highway
Spires along Needles Highway

Several narrow tunnels on the route limit traffic to automobiles and motorcycles, so no RV’s or trucks.

Entering Needles Tunnel, Hwy 89
Entering Needles Tunnel, Hwy 87

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Monument
Crazy Horse Monument

This massive sculpture has been a work in progress since 1948 and has received no federal funding, per the wishes of Oglala Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear who had envisioned such a memorial to honor all Native Americans. Chief Standing Bear had been inspired, so to speak, by the carving of nearby Mt. Rushmore.

The design is based on a pointing gesture and response that Crazy Horse is said to have given a snarky U.S. Calvary man who had asked him, “Where are your lands now?” Crazy Horse’s response was, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

Crazy Horse Model with Sculpture in Background
Crazy Horse Model with Sculpture in Background

The carving efforts have been in the hands of a single family, the Ziolkowskis, who rely on admission fees, gift shop and concession sales, and private donations to continue their work.

To provide some idea as to how tedious the hand carving process is, Crazy Horse’s face was unveiled in 1998. To provide a sense of the size the finished sculpture is to be at some point in the future, that will mostly likely be beyond my lifetime, Crazy Horse’s pointing arm is 263 feet long and his horse’s nostrils are to be 26 feet in diameter.

~~~

The Black Hills were a fitting first step into the wild and beautiful west and provided us with a taste of the wonder that laid before us.

Up Next, Devils Tower and the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monuments…

Meanwhile, here’s some more of our favorite pics!

 

Chicago, Illinois ~ July 30 – August 4, 2014

I’ve written elsewhere about our arrival in Chicago. We had been traveling ten weeks and I was tired. Chicago is where I had first begun to wonder whether it was traveling that I was actually doing, but there was still much to do and see in Chicago and beyond.

Chicago Skyline from Northerly Island

Our budget, combined with the fact that our visit coincided with Lollapalooza, had us staying in the suburb of Elk Grove instead of central Chicago as we had wanted. We didn’t realize that Lollapalooza was the cause of our displacement until we happened upon the three-day music festival while walking from the Lake Michigan shoreline to Millennium Park. By the end of our five day visit we had come to appreciate Elk Grove’s slower pace and placidity; particularly, Busse Woods, a forest preserve with seven miles of bike paths.

Busse Woods Bike Path (internet photo)

Also, Elk Grove offered some great local food options with Elly’s Pancake House, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Lou Malnati’s for Chicago-style pizza and wine.

Cubs vs. Rockies

We took the Wrigley Field Express bus which dropped us off across from the stadium’s entrance and headed into the Cubby Bear bar for a pre-game dog, tots and beer. It was a lively, authentic and fun joint! And, YUM…

Dog, Tots and Bear from Cubby Bear’s Bar

Wrigley Field was the fifth MLB stadium we had visited on our tour; it also ended up being the last as our route was leading us westward and into the wilderness. We would not emerge until the first of September when we arrived in Seattle and the Mariners were on the road. By the time we would arrive in San Francisco the first of October, the Giant’s regular season was over. So, Wrigley Field was our last MLB experience, but what an awesome ending!

The crowd was great — if you really want to get to know the culture and people of a big city, go to a baseball game. Cubby fans were boisterous as the cubs scored the first three runs of the game which was enough to win the game.

Wrigley Field’s “Skyboxes”

Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago

The renowned architect lived and worked in the Chicago area for the first twenty years of his career and left it with a vast collection of his prairie house designs. Most of the homes are privately owned, but there are several operated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and open for tours.

Sculpture on the Oak Park grounds

We chose to tour Wright’s residence and adjoining studio in Oak Park. While the prairie home design was different, it followed basic constructs of late 19th century perceptions of what a family home should look like. Wright was only twenty-one when he designed his impressive Oak Park home and thirty when he designed the studio. I think the greatest enjoyment for me was seeing the contrasts between Oak Park and the Fallingwater residence we had visited outside of Pittsburgh.

FLW Home and Studio, Oak Park
Fallingwater, Pennsylvania

The differences between each home’s environments obviously would demand and conjure up practical and creative differences, but the contrasts I’m referring to are the varying levels of Wright’s growth and development into a true creative. He was sixty-eight when he designed Fallingwater, and had obviously freed himself from designing within perceptions other than his own.

The tour took us about an hour and half and afterwards, we walked around the historic neighbor enjoying other beautiful homes. The Trust offers a self-guided audio tour of other FLW designed homes in the area but we opted to go it on our own.

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium, Northerly Island, Chicago

Trey joined me for an early morning yoga class at the Adler Planetarium. It was his first yoga class and as he said, “it got my heart going.” The class was held in the Granger Sky Theater and we moved from pose to pose while constellations and the Milky Way crossed above and around us. We then ended in resting pose while lying under a massive full moon. It was a pretty incredible experience for this yogi!

Yoga with the Stars, Adler Planetarium

The Adler sits on the bank of Lake Michigan, opened in 1930 and was the U.S.’s first planetarium. It continues operating as an astronomy and astrophysics research center and offers many workshops and educational opportunities to the general public. It also serves as a museum and houses some fascinating centuries-old tools used in studying, measuring and mapping the stars. One can catch a short film that carries watchers through the cosmos, or “ride” the Atwood planetarium — a metal sphere constructed in 1913 that holds eight people and rotates around them. The stars are actually light that emits from holes that were punched through the metal at varying sizes. The sphere and holes create a scale model of the observable night sky from the perspective of being anywhere and everywhere on earth.

General Sight-Seeing

There is much more to do and see in and around the area of the planetarium, including simply sight-seeing, which is what we did for the remaining afternoon. We walked along Lake Michigan and watched the boats go in and out of the harbor…

Tour Boat on Lake Michigan

…explored Millennium Park, played and posed in front of the Cloud Gate…

Cloud Gate, aka as “The Bean”

…ate tacos while listening to a salsa band on the patio of The Plaza Grill…

Pritzker Music Pavilion – Frank Gehry

and marveled at the abounding architecture and public art.

Look into My Dreams, Awilda – Jaume Plensa

Art Institute of Chicago

We’re often asked about the parts of our U.S. tour that were our favorites. Well, in the art museum category, Trey and I hands down agree that the Art Institute of Chicago was nothing short of spectacular.

Art Institute of Chicago

We had heard that one should plan to spend a day there, so, based on several past frustrating experiences in which we had not heeded such advice, we devoted an entire day to exploring the institute. It ended up not being enough time, but what we did explore of the three building, four level museum was pretty darn amazing.

Two Sisters (On the Terrace) – Renoir

Their collection seems to represent every age, culture and medium across the globe – from ancient Greek vases, thousand year old Mesoamerican figurines, and renaissance period armor…

Jousting Armor

…to American folk art, famous modern and postmodernism paintings, mid-century architecture, and film and photograph of all sorts, to name a few.

American Gothic – Grant Wood

We left the museum with the agreement that we would visit it again and then headed off in the rain to find dinner.

Chicago in the Rain

I feel that the evening walk in the rain provided us with a good sense of Chicago’s vibe and beauty.

The “L”

Dinner ended up being Italian at Tesori Trattoria and Bar. It was one of those occasions in which we were too famished to remember to take photos – a perfect ending to a perfect day. Plus, the carbs and wine helped us to get a good night’s sleep and prepare for the two-day trek to South Dakota.

Here’s more beauty from the Art Institute of Chicago…

Rocks at Port-Goulphar, Belle-Ile – Monet

The Old Guitarist – Picasso

The Bedroom – Van Gogh
The Child’s Bath – Mary Cassatt
Samson and the Lion – Cristoforo Stati
Buddha Shakyamuni Seated in Meditation – Tamil Nadu

 

South Bend, Indiana – July 28 – 30, 2014

We broke up the 400 mile drive from Cleveland to Chicago with a stop in South Bend, Indiana to see Notre Dame University…

Notre Dame Main Building

and take a tour of their sports facilities which was a bucket list item of Trey’s. Not because Trey is a Notre Dame fan – because he is a sports fan and he respects deep traditions in sports; and few schools exemplify deep tradition like Notre Dame.

He enjoyed touring the Fighting Irish football stadium and locker room, and the various memorabilia and commemorative statues displayed.

Trey & Lou

We were both so inspired that we downloaded the movie Rudy and watched it in our hotel room that evening.

We at lunch at the base of “Touchdown Jesus”

We also enjoyed the beautiful Notre Dame campus which included the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the third such Catholic icons we had visited since our departure from Austin two months prior (see Montreal and Ottawa).

Ceiling of Basilica of the Sacred Heart

There was a “grotto” adjacent to the basilica that had been built into a hill and offered students a peaceful space for lighting a candle, contemplating and praying.

Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, Notre Dame

I’m sure it stays busy during finals week, but Trey and I were glad to take advantage of its quiet solitude to sit, rest and listen to the birds.

I found South Bend charming and a bit of a sleepy city. Of course, this was from the perspective of visiting at the end of July. Like most college towns, we were able to easily navigate the city by bicycle, and particularly enjoyed the East Bank Trail that followed the St. Joseph River into downtown South Bend.

Here, the St. Joseph’s is dammed up with concrete walls to create an aesthetically pleasing town center around the water.

Fish ladders were added to the east side of the river in 1987 as a solution to the disrupted salmon and trout migrations from Lake Michigan.

Fish Ladder on the St. Joseph

There were huge trout making their way through one of the ladders but we were unable to catch one on camera.

We also failed to capture the beautiful Italian dinner we enjoyed at Carmelo’s.

Next, on to Chicago and the rest of this travel story…