Monday, November 12, 2012

Yosemite National Park

By Claire

Our final destination, before heading home, was a vacation from our vacation at Yosemite.  I wasn't sure what November weather in the park would be, but we decided to go for it.  As luck would have it, our good friends, Letha and Tai, were up for joining us.  It was so fun to hook up with them before coming back to reality.

We stayed in side-by-side rooms at Yosemite View Lodge, a great choice.  Each had a gas fireplace, kitchenette, two queen beds, spa tub and table and chairs.  The room felt cozy and comfortable, and we shared all our dinners together--which involved some chair hauling, but it all worked out.  We also played Skip-Bo all 3 nights.

We mostly relaxed in the hot tub and got caught up the first day.  Snow was predicted; so waking up, I opened the curtains and, to my delight, we had a fresh dusting and the temps were in the thirties.  We bundled up and took off for a day of up-close and personal with nature.

El Capitan as we drove in

First view of Half Dome, Letha and Tai

We happened upon a lively bunch of college students visiting from San Francisco.  At least one of them was an exchange student from Rome.  They gladly took our pictures as we demonstrated our joy at the beautiful day.

Close up of Half Dome

We continued driving around and stopping at various spectacular view spots.  We saw "chains required" signs but Tai was at the wheel and they have snow tires.  

First stop, the Ahwahnee Hotel

Main Room for lounging, visiting and reading

Famous dining room

Another cozy room to relax and enjoy the warmth of the fire

We had packed lunches but realized that it was way too cold to eat them outside.  Besides, where would we sit?  Everything was pretty much covered in snow.  We made a quick decision to have lunch in the hotel bar--there was no line and they had just opened.  It was a great choice and our sandwiches for dinner that night were tasty and easy.  A mocha for Tai and hot chocolates for the rest of us.  The chocolate group also had the chili, which was awesome, and Tai had the Chicken Waldorf Croissant.  With a window seat and good food, we were warm and satisfied. Later we saw a long line waiting to get in.

We decided to hike to Mirror Lake after checking out the back lawn area of the hotel.  We were so lucky to be able to enjoy the gorgeous fall colors in the snow.  How lucky could we get?

 On the trail to Mirror Lake



This little table top snow man was a reminder of just how cold it was.  The temperature ranged from 29º to 34º that day. 


Bridal Veil Falls in winter (but it's fall, isn't it?)

Back at our lodge, where we spent time all three days

What a perfect way to end our trip.  I am amazed at how much we saw and did.  It was so interesting to really see this country and experience different cultures, food and weather conditions.  I will treasure the memories forever.

This was a trip I had envisioned since I was a child--though, in the originally imagined version I visited all 48--at that time--States.  We, wisely, decided that was too much to take on for our self-imposed 70 day limit.  After all, we can always fill-in with shorter, targeted trips--e.g., to the Northwest and the Northeast. 

There were so many highlights, all so different, that I find it impossible to pick out single best-of-category sights or events.  But, some of my memorable moments include--in no particular order:  Visiting a number of Frank Lloyd Wright structures; spending a full day at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland; visiting the several National Monuments & Parks described along the way, especially Yellowstone and the Everglades; touring Biltmore House in North Carolina; riding in the Air Boat in Florida; eating the Low Country Boil in Savannah; visiting and dining with Pete and his daughter in Charleston; the NYC Architectural Boat Tour around Manhattan; visiting with my daughter, Natasha, and her partner, Adom, in NYC; visiting with my son, TJ--aka Todd--in New Orleans; the very full day touring New Orleans; finishing up by spending time with Letha and Tai at Yosemite in snow, sun and shade. 

I'm glad I did it, and have no serious regrets about our choices along the way or our time frame.  I return home realizing there is beauty throughout this country that compares well with what any place in the world has to offer--we have no reason to apologize to anyone on that score.  Nonetheless, I am happy to be home, again, and look forward to the adjustments involved:  Putting stuff away; resuming my regular exercise and meditation regimens, increasing my commitment to reading, and finding time to draw, paint and write. 

2012 US Road Trip Stats Totals
Lodging: $7,708.15
Food: $3,165.96
Gas: $892.96

Parking/Tolls: $207.15
Entertainment: $1,621.43
Miscellaneous: $99.84
Total Cost: $13,910.58
Daily Avg: $198.72

Miles Driven: 11,005
MPG Avg: 49.9

No. States Seen: 28

No. Pics Taken: 2,980

It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end. ~ Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Taliesin West, Scottsdale, AZ

By Claire

Taliesin means "shining brow" in Welsh, which is Frank Lloyd Wright's ancestry.  He believed a building should be in the brow of a hill, not the crown.

We made our last FLW pilgrimage today, another exciting, interesting journey into this man's life and work.  Taliesin West was built from 1937 onward.  He was in need of a winter abode, fell in love with Scottsdale, Arizona, while designing a home for a client, and decided to build a western location.

Entrance--note the twirling square--a Frank Lloyd Wright logo

This rock with petroglyphs was found in the hills behind the property during ground preparation.  Frank had the builders place it near the entrance in the same relative position they found it, and adopted the twirling square as a logo that represents the linked hands of fellowship.

The entire estate living area is a sprawling 33,000 square feet.  There are patio areas everywhere, giving it a roomy, open feel.

This structure is an archive that stores all documents and plans to protect them from fire.  Our guide, Jim, was talkative and full of information, quotes and jokes.  One client, Mr. Johnson, of Johnson Wax, called Frank in a fury because he was holding a party to showcase his new home, when it began to rain.  The roof started leaking over Mr. Johnson's chair.  Frank's response?  Move the chair.

We went into the office where the archives are located and sat and listened to some history of the place.

This is a photo of FLW taken 3 months before his death.  He died in a Phoenix hospital at 92.  He was in great shape; he ate mostly organic vegetables from his own garden, took a nap everyday and walked all over his properties, except when he was driving one of his 25 Cherokee Red cars.  Every Frank Lloyd Wright home incorporates Cherokee Red paint.

This is the Kiva, designed after the Indian style.  It had one window and stayed cool, wonderful for the parties held in here. The interior is surrounded by beautiful drawings.

Chuck heading into the Kiva--that red tile has FLW's signature carved into it as a building with his personal seal of approval

This drawing is a design he did for a proposed new City Hall building in Scottsdale.  The Mayor wanted something special and different.  Unfortunately, the City Council rejected it except for the spire, which was built and placed somewhere in Scottsdale. 

We were startled to find it as we drove by, later in the day, on our way to get gas.  If his design had been built, it would have become world famous, I'm sure.


Frank loved triangles and this house has them everywhere.

Looking towards the mountains

Frank loved Japanese art and placed one of these at all entrances.  These were purchased at Gumps in San Francisco.

Lots of sculpture placed all around the property

Frank found some pots he wanted to place in the living room.  His wife told him he would have to build wider shelves.  His solution was to cut a hole in the glass.

These small squares are ventilation windows for the bathroom on the other side of the wall.

Water tower on the right

Dragon with the ability to shoot a flame 4-5 feet

Breezeway--the Venturi effect--designed to increase natural air flow

View through Venturi onto Olgivanna's patio where she enjoyed tea every morning

Bell tower--the bell was used to call the architectural students to meals

This walkway had the beams at 6 feet--remember, he felt that anything over 6 feet was wasted space.  After his death, the beams were raised 8 inches.

Double doors leading into the theatre where plays took place and architectural presentations were made

Music room--each row had bench seats facing chairs and tables

Frank brought in a grand piano but it took up too much room.  He told his students to get their hammers and make a hole for the piano.  One of them had the bright idea of using dynamite rather than trying to chisel it out.  It worked but it took out all the windows too.

No house should ever be on a hill or on anything.  It should be of the hill.  Belonging to it.  Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright