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Published: September 20th 2009
New Wisconsin SceneryON THE ROAD AGAIN: 2009 GREAT WESTERN ADVENTURE
Silos and windmills plus corporate silo replacements
WEEK EIGHT: BARABOO , WI TO NORTHBROOK , IL
Tuesday, July 14
The Warners were at the ready with fond farewells as we prepared to leave Baraboo. They gave us directions to Portage
, a small town north of Baraboo where I have fond childhood memories of my grandfather’s lakeside cottage. Although I was unable to locate the cottage, I did get the feel of the town and Silver Lake as I tried to conjure up memories of skipping stones on the rocky shore and my mother braiding my long hair as we sat on the stone steps basking in the morning sun.
There was supposed to be a small hamlet called Buffalo just outside of Portage where the Kelley clan landed from Ireland but there was not enough time to pull the thread on that quest so we pushed on towards Fond du Lac
on the shores of Lake Winnebago
The last time I had seen my college friend Kathy was 38 years ago at her home in Mayville when I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. Kathy and I quickly brought each other up to speed while
Kathy’s husband Rick and Dave got acquainted. After a tour of their lovely home and gardens and a walk with Calais and Sebastian, their standard poodles, we drove out to Stockbridge
to Kathy’s favorite restaurant, the Mud Creek Coffee
. We had all enjoyed a good meal along with the warmth of friendship and I enjoyed the creative photography displayed on their walls.
On the way had Rick pointed out the difference between the small private and large corporate farms
. He also pointed out the new method of storing grain on the ground under cover where it is more accessible and can’t explode as it has in silos. We passed endless fields of corn, soy and wheat and a handful of grazing cows accompanied by the aroma of good old manure. Large windmill farms also dotted the landscape. The windmill farms
have been around for only two years. Rick told us that farmers are paid $5,000 to have a windmill on their land with a private access road to service it. Most are in favor but there are some who complain of the shadows from the blades or the noise generated from the windmill. I think they are striking in
appearance and don’t think I would mind having one near me, especially if I could benefit from their energy.
Dinner was good but there was a hole in our sweet tooth so Rick proposed Frog’s
, his favorite place for a soft serve ice cream. With our dessert in hand we drove out to see Wisconsin’s largest cottonwood
. This ancient tree towered over the rest of the small grove that surrounded a cemetery in the middle of acres of farmland. It seems our allergies can’t escape this messy tree. On our way home, Kathy pointed out her father’s old farm and the sweet little clapboard schoolhouse across the street where she attended first grade. Wednesday, July 15
The rain and resulting cold front last night brought us a brisk sunny morning so after a quick bite we leashed the dogs and went for a walk on the golf course
across the street. Beautiful fields of golden wheat punctuated by a few barns and silos surrounded the edge of the fairways and greens while many spring-fed ponds dotted the course. The sweet smell of newly cut grass with the sound of bullfrogs croaking in the ponds brought me back
Dave visits the house from his childhood
to the pleasant afternoons of my childhood.
Soon it was time to leave for Illinois so with promises to keep in touch we drove south along highways edged with bouquets of bouncing blue chicory, yellow buttercups, white Queen Anne’s lace and purple thistle. The landscape in southern Wisconsin is flatter and more expansive than I remember as a child and the sprawling urbanization of the farmland was an expected and yet surprising change on the landscape.
Dave was born in Libertyville, Illinois
so we set off to find the place he first called home. It is advisable to have a map when driving down memory lane (an address doesn’t hurt either) so when we arrived in this suburban extension of Chicago we stopped at the nearest Real Estate office to procure same. Dave did recognize his house and a few of the neighbors and pieces began to come together in his memory bank.
We left Libertyville with the train’s whistle echoing in the distance as we pointed our car towards Northbrook
and Ellie and Lou’s. We were greeted with their typical warmth and enthusiasm and when Ellie discovered Dave had a cousin in the
same town she immediately extended her generosity to include Shirley at her dinner table. Thursday, July 16
The sunshine brought us another promising day and Ellie was determined to fill it. She generously gave us her car to get in to the Chicago Botanic Garden
not far from her home. As it is with most botanic gardens I was in a delightful daze as I stopped, strolled, sniffed and photographed these lovely grounds. These beautiful gardens contained a wonderful Japanese Garden
with a reconstructed warlord’s retreat overlooking the serenity that signifies the Japanese gardens. The English Walled Garden
reminded us of our garden tours in England while the lovely Evening Island
had a profusion of coneflowers, grasses and water gardens, but the Conifer Garden
took my breath away. Perched on a hill overlooking the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden, these colorful conifer specimens interspersed with contrasting textures, stole my heart. I usually don’t enjoy rose gardens because I believe roses need companion plantings to accentuate the beautiful flowers and hide the unattractive plants. The Chicago Botanic Rose Garden
did just that. With purple catmints, lavenders and hostas I thought it was one of the best presentations a
rose could ask for.
In the courtyard of the Regenstein Center
we found a fine display of bonsai
but inside the center, guest curator Penelope Hobhouse
had assisted the Chicago Botanic Garden in the development of In Search of Paradise; Great Gardens of the World
, a photographic essay on some of the most spectacular gardens in the world, many of which I have been fortunate to see in person.
Later that afternoon the train from Northbrook brought us in to Chicago
at Union Station
where we disembarked in the pouring rain. Off to CVS for umbrellas and then down Jackson to catch the bus to Michigan Avenue
and the Art Institute of Chicago
. This museum is known for its amazing collection of Impressionist art
and it truly was amazing. I had a hard time progressing from room to room because each painting captivated me so. On Thursday nights admission is free from 5-9pm so I had little time to savor my art experience. Dave brought a book so I would not be rushed. Trying to fully enjoy the wonderful Asian exhibits, the Native American and American art in such a short time was a real challenge.
Dave is not known to appreciate art that is not like a photographic image but even he could appreciate the depth of this Monet collection
, especially having indulged me on so many of my “art tours”. I saw some amazing Van Goghs
including a wonderful self-portrait and his room in his yellow house in Arles. Of course the enormous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat
was incredible to behold and Dave really enjoyed Grant Wood’s American Gothic
but I was pleasantly surprised that he was fascinated with Monet’s treatments of London ’s bridges in the fog.
We brought a picnic lunch intending to eat it at the concert in Millennium Park
but instead sat on the steps of the museum as we took in the wonderful Chicago skyline and architecture on Michigan Avenue
while enjoying the talented street performers. The Nichols Bridge
from the Art Institute to Millennium Park embraces a wonderful contrast of architectural styles that takes on even more drama as the sun sets and the lights come on. The free Arabic concert did not pull us as much as the art in the museum so back we went in
for more visual delights.
We closed the museum at 9pm without seeing Hopper, Cassatt or Picasso so I begged Dave to return again soon. We walked up Adams to the bus stop under the “L” train
near the Palmer House
surrounded by so many street and place names I recognized from my childhood. Much to Dave’s relief, the bus arrived in time to get us back to Union Station and our train ride home. Friday, July 17
Dave finally got in a game of tennis early in the morning with Ellie and Lou. Cousin Shirley kindly invited us to lunch at the well known Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse
in Wheeling. Chinn’s is known for its seafood and Hawaiian influenced Mai Tais but I am here to say they have one of the better salad bars I have been to. We had a delightful time catching up on the Sutton family which was especially nice since we are unable to make the Sutton family reunion next month.
After a nice long nap, poor tired Dave rallied to the promise of a return trip to the Chicago Art Institute
. This time it was not raining when we
arrived at Union Station and the city seemed to be much more alive. The Corner Bakery Café
(on the corner of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Ave) is Chicago ’s answer to Panera’s. After a quick bite we began our walk up Michigan Avenue passing chess players and dancing fairies, street musicians and tourists all the while soaking up the amazing contrast of old and new architecture that is the city’s hallmark.
As we turned into Millennium Park the shiny seamless stainless steel sculpture nicknamed “The Bean”
or more formally referred to as Cloud Gate, was created by British artist Anish Kapoor and is the centerpiece of the plaza in Millennium Park. Adults and children were reflected in its mirrored surface along with Chicago ’s beautiful architectural skyline making this sculpture an interactive focal point of the Loop Community.
The musical sounds of Chicago's Grant Park Symphony
teased us down to the lawn at the fabulous Jay Pritzker Pavilion
. Designed by Frank Gehry
, (Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa , Spain and Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles) this amazing bandshell looks like a “delicate” stainless steel flower with its petals unfolding to reveal the stage at the heart
of the design. Amid the sounds of classical and popular music we wandered under the spider web-like stainless steel pipe design that floated over the lawn with its perfectly designed acoustic system pumping out sweet melodies around us. This was truly sensory overload. For nearly seventy years Chicagoans have been listening to free summer concerts in downtown Chicago but only recently amid this new visual excitement. Ghery achieved his goal of “creating architecture that evokes joy” through beautifully curved lines that carry the eye through a visual playground. Ghery’s BP Bridge
sparkled as it snaked its way from Millennium Park over Columbus Drive
to the beautiful gardens in Daley Bicentennial Plaza
along Lake Michigan. This bridge is a shining complement to the blend of landscape and hardscape architectural designs in the Historic Loop District
of downtown Chicago. Classical music wafted over the beautiful BP Bridge and into the Lurie Garden
at the base of the Art Institute blending a softer element of art into the fluid hardscape and landscape. What pure joy!
The Art Institute was closing at 9pm so I made the difficult choice to leave the outdoor splendor and return to my now beloved
Frank Gehry got it spot on, this bridge brings balance and calm to the diversity of architecture that it connects
museum to fill in the missing gaps of yesterday’s visit. With two hours under my belt yesterday, it was still a whirl wind tour ahead to enjoy the 3rd floor Contemporary Art Gallery
in the new wing and still make it to the Galleries of American Art. Matisse, Moore, Picasso, Kandinsky and Basque were among my favorites of nearly 1,000 art works in the Contemporary Art Galleries.
This museum is second in size to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York so I realized I still had a long way to go to complete my viewing journey. The Galleries of American Art were my final destination but I never did find my beloved Mary Cassatt nor could I locate Sargent, Chase or Whistler. Sadly none of the museum staff could direct me to these artist’s works so I guess I will have to come back and plant myself in this museum for several days, a destination vacation I am eager to make. I did however rush through a fine collection of Homer’s work which made up in part for my loss.
By 9pm Dave was shot so I agreed to go back to Union Station.
Fortunately for me (not for him) we missed the bus and walked back allowing me to savor the last glimpses of this great city at night. Saturday, July 18
We enjoyed a relaxing morning, one of the first on our trip, before enjoying Ellie’s famous whole wheat-buckwheat-blueberry pancake breakfast. Ellie on the other hand had made the mix the night before, got up early to go to exercise class at the gym, came home to make breakfast, then left for a yoga class after which her sister Paulette and I took off for a quick trip back into Chicago. As soon as the train hit Union Station we hit the ground running for Hot Tix to purchase tickets for a Sunday show. Hot Tix was located at the old Water Works
across from the Historic Water Tower
, (one of the only buildings to survive the 1871 Chicago Fire) on the Magnificent Mile
. By the time we got there the tickets we wanted were gone and there we were, two women stranded in one of the best shopping districts in the city with not enough time to do it justice.
But before I left town I had to
take a trip down memory lane
. We hopped a bus for State Street, the heart of Chicago ’s Loop where the old Marshall Field and Company
(now Macy’s) is located. I was five years old with long brown pigtails holding my mother’s hand as I came off the old “El” skipping along and pressing my nose to the cold glass to see the animated snow scenes in the store windows.
This time there was no woman with white gloves to kindly ask me what floor I wanted; instead a disembodied voice informed me I had arrived at the 7th floor. And there was no long fairyland maze on the way to Santa’s lap, but the beautiful corner clocks, the 5 story atrium
with the Tiffany and Company glass mosaic capped ceiling
, the Walnut Room
and the Tea Room
all in the second largest store in the world was this year’s present.
Paulette and I ran for the train to carry us back to Northbrook just in time to leave with Ellie’s fabulous picnic for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual summer Ravinia Festival
. The weather couldn’t have been better as we laid our blankets and sumptuous picnic on
the expansive lawn in front of the pavilion. Aaron Copeland’s
wonderful Fanfare For the Common Man
began the evening and then, in honor of Lincoln ’s 200th birthday, Jessye Norman
gave an emotional narration of Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait
But I was especially moved to be back in Illinois to hear my beloved Beethovan’s 9th
for the first time since singing it with the Oratorio Society at the University of Illinois ’s Champaign-Urbana campus under the direction of Dr. Harold Decker some thirty years ago when my then four-year-old Mandy watched from an upper balcony! It was wonderful to have Dave, Ellie, Lou and Paulette share in this very emotional experience. Sunday, July 19 Lou Mitchell’s
restaurant is a legend in Chicago. Located at the beginning of Route 66
at 565 W. Jackson Boulevard, this restaurant has served the famous and not so famous since 1923. The first Mayor Daley made Lou Mitchell’s a Sunday morning routine after attending mass at the nearby St Patrick’s church. Old St Pat’s Church
, the center of Chicago ’s Irish culture, survived the Chicago fire of 1871 and is the oldest public building in the city, but what makes it unique is its two different octagonal spires
; one is built in the traditional western architectural style, the other spire, an onion dome, represents the design of the Eastern Church.
After a huge breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s, our own “Lou” began his fabulous architectural tour of Chicago
. We covered so much ground both in the car and on foot that it would be impossible to record it all. We focused most of our tour in The Loop, Magnificent Mile, State Street and Michigan Avenue
. The city seemed to come alive under the tutelage of “Professor Lou” as he described the complexities of the stone, glass and steel structures that comprised the new and old architectural blends that make up this great city. From the mosaic Chagall on Dearborn
, to the neo-gothic Chicago Tribune Tower
on the Mag Mile we took in all the important sights in town.
Architect Helmut Jahn’s
work seemed to dominate the new Chicago style with his wonderful glass and steel designs. His work is a perfect complement to the period pieces that often are in close proximity and many of his glass walls capture wonderful reflections of the earlier architectural styles.
The Willis Tower
will be forever
Chicago Cultural Center
The massive and magnificent Tiffany dome floats above this floor
remembered as the legendary Sears Tower
in our minds. Also legendary is the mammoth Merchandise Mart
covering an entire city block along the Chicago River
but the impressive marble and mosaic Grand Staircase leading up to the breathtaking Tiffany dome
inside the Chicago Cultural Center
will linger in my memory for some time. The Pritzker Pavilion was perfectly framed in the enormous windows facing Millennium Park, a stark and shining complement to the heavily ornamented interior. A wedding reception was about to begin and we waited on the sidelines as beautifully dressed Eastern Indian women entered the room in their brightly colored saris creating a scene of elegance and splendor.
On the three days I ventured into Chicago the gold and green tower of the elegant old Carbon and Carbide building
seemed to glow like a candle on top of its elegant tall black exterior on Michigan Avenue drawing me into a magical era gone by.
In our wanderings Lou pointed out Route 41
. This is the same north-south road that becomes the Tamiami Trail in Florida ! By mid afternoon we needed a break so we drove into Greek Town
to sample the food at The Parthenon
Ellie and Lou’s favorite restaurant. Dave and I had heard nothing but rave reviews about the food here from these two so we were expecting nothing but the best Greek food ever and it did not disappoint. Not only was the food outstanding but the people were charming and the ambiance was perfect. I can see why no other Greek restaurant would suffice.
By the time we finished our meal the clouds had resumed their earlier position so we finished our tour of the Windy City with Frank Lloyd Wright’s redesigned Rookery
, the Civic Opera House
and the massive Monadnock Building
before heading up legendary Lake Shore Drive
. This part of the tour took us past the Navy Pier
and Oak Street Beach
up to Northwestern University in Evanston
on our way to Wilmette
, home of the Baha’i House of Worship.
One of only seven Baha’i Houses of Worship
in the world, this amazing temple designed by architect Louis Bourgeois
resembles the Taj Mahal in its intricately lacy white exterior. The circular temple, comprised of quartz crystal and white cement, is joined by nine beams in the center and is surrounded below by beautiful gardens and fountains. This
gentle faith believes that all of humanity belongs to one single race and that the same God has been revealed to us through all the religious prophets and messengers throughout time. What a wonderful concept!
Lou completed his tour with the architecturally striking Mormon Temple in Glenview
but as interesting as it was, it could not hold a candle to the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette. Monday, July 20
This day was dedicated mostly to Dave for we started and ended the day with tennis at Ellie and Lou’s private club. Dave’s cousin John has a marina in Fox Lake
near the border of Illinois and Wisconsin which was about an hour north of Northbrook . After a good morning of tennis we hopped in the car for this mini reunion. John was tied down with his business but Dave enjoyed an abbreviated visit at the marina before driving south to my childhood home in Inverness
I was amazed at how much I remembered of both my home and Inverness . The houses had multiplied in this lovely suburb of Chicago. A 10,000 plus square foot home now occupies the woods where I had my
The Entrance to Inverness
My childhood memories abound here
fairy land under the umbrella plants (mayapples) in spring and the bare trees gave up their leaves for my leaf forts in autumn. The little woodland creek near our home where I made moss homes for frogs is now an elaborate pond belonging to another mini-mansion but my old home on Banbury Road remained much as it was 55 years ago. Our modern brick ranch home was perched at the crest of the two-plus acre lot with a beautiful view of the remaining woodlands.
Shirley, the current owner of my old home, kindly gave me a tour helping me to rekindle fond memories of Christmases by the fire, watching out the big picture window for Dad to drive up our long driveway after work, playing under the dining room table in my sheet fort, and most famously, rescuing a mouse trapped in the area well (basement window area) by dangling my leg as an escape ladder. Trouble is the mouse climbed up between two layers of my snow pants and became trapped. My mother had to race out in her bare feet and strip me down in the snow to release the poor creature. The little crab apple tree on the corner of the property provided shade and smells for my tea parties and many birthday parties but now this tree is struggling to survive from a lightening strike. These were the years of childhood magic.
When we returned Ellie had planned a wonderful backyard farewell barbeque after which we all headed back to their club for tennis. I borrowed a racket and got a chance to discover that my body still functions after all my recent surgeries. After tennis Paulette headed out to a Jazz Club while Dave and I prepared for our morning exodus to Champaign-Urbana.
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