Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 14-15 Cleveland & Pittsburgh

Yes, we’re still here (though I’m beginning to be not always sure of where “here” is…or even what day it is). I believe this is day 19 (August 7). We just left the hotel we stayed at for the past three nights (outside of Harrisburg, PA) and are heading to the Outer Banks (NC) by way of Baltimore and (possibly) D.C. We may decide to skip D.C. on this trip and make a special vacation to spend a few days there. Our main objective right now is to get to the Nag’s Head area and enjoy some of the NC coastline before reaching Savannah in a few days. Surprisingly, we’ve been sleeping pretty well throughout this trip (motel “dives” included!) and are ready for a major day of driving; if we decide to skip D.C., that is.
So…where did I leave off? Oh yeah: Last week we found our fearless heroes enjoying Michigan as they marched effortlessly (and casually!) toward “Camp Villages” in central Florida. Along the way they have enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation in its variously distinctive forms as well as the cultural distinctives of God’s children as they’ve settled throughout the land. They’ve enjoyed mountains with faces looking out of them to alien landing spots; they’ve driven through thick forests hiding all kinds of wildlife as well as dry, dusty canyons where nothing could possibly live over-looking beautiful green plains that once was home to many settlement villages; they traversed through cornfield after cornfield after cornfield after…(well, you get the idea) to gorgeous stream and river drenched lands; they’ve eaten fresh fish from three Great Lakes and seen the wonder of God in waterfalls emptying out into great rivers; they’ve witnessed picturesque homes and farms settled throughout hills and valleys as well as an incredible home practically built into a rock in a forest; they’ve seen beautiful metropolis’, country villages and harbor towns as well as depressed cities that have seen better days (and hopefully will again); and now they’ve just entered Maryland where we now resume our program, “Cross Country with Googly Mooglies”.
Well, the last four or five days have been fairly relaxing. We spent a day in Cleveland and were not overly impressed. Downtown was not very interesting though I enjoyed seeing the home of the Cleveland Browns; but we enjoyed spending some time in the Cleveland Museum of Art. This building was in the “cultural” section of Cleveland that was very pleasant. There were numerous areas along the scenic drive devoted to various ethnic people groups of the world and the museum was right next to the Botanical Gardens. We didn’t have time for the Gardens or to stop at any of the “cultural” parks that lined the drive, but we thought this place was pretty cool. And I saw some Picasso paintings at the museum (very, very cool) which, by the way, had free admission (also very cool). We then headed to Pittsburgh where we spent two nights.
Pittsburgh was an interesting city. I love to see big cities and drive through them (loved Minneapolis) and Pittsburgh is very cool because, as most of you know, it is situated on a peninsula that basically splits the Ohio river into two (the Allegheny and the Monongahela). Now I already knew this of course, since I’ve enjoyed baseball for years and I was well aware of where Pittsburgh was located. But to be driving through the beautiful hills and forests of Pennsylvania and then to have the road just “open up”, so-to-speak, to this large city sitting between two rivers was an awesome sight! I also loved the yellow bridges; painted to match the colors of the Pirates and Steelers, I assume. We weren’t staying downtown, so we had to drive over one bridge taking us over the Allegheny River and into downtown (around the two stadiums) and then over the Monongahela Bridge taking us out of downtown. That was cool enough, but as soon as we got on the second bridge to leave downtown we were immediately face-to-face with the side of a mountain (well, maybe a “hill” to us Coloradoans). Thankfully there was a tunnel! J We went through the tunnel and came out on the other side of the mountain where we found our hotel room (converted apartments) and settled in. We enjoyed a quiet evening in this area and got tickets for a baseball game for the next day. We needed to hang out somewhere for a day since Fallingwater was closed on Wednesday.
So, on Wednesday we got some business completed and spent some time in downtown Pittsburgh! It was overcast all day and it rained lightly during the game, so the photos don’t do the city justice (not enough light); but I thought Pittsburgh was very cool. We had fun walking around a little bit and then watching the game. I took lots of pictures, as you can see, because this is a unique area. The riverboats were constantly operating, taking people up and down the two rivers. We didn’t have time to do that, though I think it would have been fun. We also didn’t go check out Ted Nugent who playing just down the street after the game. Cindy and I had seen the Motor City Madman years ago while we were dating and she said that once was enough. Really?! Can you get too much of Uncle Ted?! Don’t answer that.
So, after the game we went back to the hotel to get ready for a wonderful day at Fallingwater. And it was!
We left Pittsburgh in the morning and travelled down 51 thinking we would be in some scenic territory. There were some scenic areas down this stretch but the traffic was horrendous. The traffic was pretty bad in and around downtown Pittsburgh, but this was awful. We began to wonder if we would make it to Fallingwater at our appointed time. After seemingly forever, we finally made it through “metro” Pittsburgh (really though, some of it was quite nice) and into Laurel Highlands, where we arrived at Fallingwater with two minutes to spare. I can’t begin to express how lovely (yes “lovely”! I’m a man and I can use the term lovely if I want to!) Laurel Highlands is. The gorgeous rolling hills interspersed with picturesque farmland and beautiful red barn houses seemed so surreal to me—like something you could only see in movies because it is make-believe. But here they were! Right in front of me! Everywhere I looked! I wish I had taken some photos but I don’t know where I would have begun and if I could have stopped. We would have never made it through if I had started taking pictures. You have to experience this area for yourself!
But the highlight, of course, was Fallingwater. This house is incredible. You’ve seen the pictures on TV and in magazines (and much better pictures than mine, of course), but until you see it in person you can’t grasp the marvel of this architectural wonder. Cindy has wanted to see this for over twenty years and it was worth the wait. The rooms were much smaller than I would have thought; but then again, it was built in the 1930’s when rooms typically were much smaller. The living space was about normal size, but the bedrooms and bathrooms (especially) just seemed quite small considering this was such an important house. And it was an important house even as Frank Lloyd Wright was building it. From the visitor’s center up the road, it was a five minute walk to get to the house. I’m so glad that they left the ambience of the location unspoiled. The house is tucked into the woods and literally built into the hilly rock and over a flowing stream. I could write about this for a long time, but you would do better to read about it yourself. Needless to say we (especially Cindy) loved it!
After the scenic drive through Laurel Highlands (we were on 381 and 653), we headed to Hershey for some…you guessed it…fish! No, that’s not right. We wanted to go to Hershey’s Chocolate World and also (per Cindy’s moms suggestion) to hang out in Lancaster County to see all the quilt places out there. We stayed three nights in Harrisburg. One day was devoted to Hershey and a huge used book store in Harrisburg, and the next day was devoted to Amish Country for the quilts.
Hershey was a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the chocolate was great! But they didn’t have a tour of the actual factory; just a “Disneyesque” moving car “tour” through animation that told the story of how they make their chocolate. It was interesting, but not what we expected. And of course, at the end of the ride you exited into their huge Hershey store where you can buy all the candy and novelties that you want. Can anyone say Disney? Oh wait, I already did! Still, it was fun. And yes, I bought some candy (fudge, actually; and chocolate, of course).
From there we went to Harrisburg to the book store. I think I could have spent two full days in there and still not be satisfied. It was located in a renovated theater, so it had plenty of charm. I only bought two books (can you believe it?), but I thoroughly enjoyed looking around. We then went back to the hotel to rest for our big day in Lancaster County (Amish Country) looking at quilts and experiencing a bit of Amish culture.
We went to two quilt museums and they were both awesome! Thanks mom—you were right on the money with this suggestion! Even I (a real man, don’t forget—even though I use the term “lovely”), thought these quilts were incredible. The Amish quilts seemed a bit nondescript at first look, but a closer inspection revealed quite exquisite (there I go again) stitching. I mean these things were absolutely stunning! (I had better stop with the superlatives. I think I’ve tapped into my “feminine” side enough already!) But they were! And the quilts at the next museum were arguably even more amazing! (Yes, I know; I’ve been using a lot of “!” in this paragraph. I can’t help myself. I was very impressed with this stuff) I wish I had my large tripod so that the photos were better. But even so, when you see some of these that make your eyes seem to go cross-eyed…that is a good representation of the quilt itself. Some of these looked very three-dimensional and abstract. These (including the Amish quilts) are really “fine art’ in my opinion. See for yourself!
We also enjoyed watching the Amish driving their horse and buggy carriages around town. We didn’t take any of the tours. It was just fun watching them drive through town and around corners (sometimes pretty fast). A tourist “village” was also a lot of fun. I had a shake (chocolate, of course) made with local Amish cow milk. I don’t know what makes a cow “Amish”, but I wasn’t going to go do any research on it. I just wanted to enjoy it. And I did. We also saw something we never thought we’d see—an Amish woman hitchhiking! I guess she’s not breaking any oaths if she’s not the one driving, huh?!
All-in-all, I must say that Pittsburg, Fallingwater, Laurel Highlands and Lancaster County were all very enjoyable in their own way. I’m finishing this email at a hotel in Chesapeake, VA. Today we drove around Baltimore (we’ll do D.C some other time) to Ocean City (too many people!) and down the Maryland/Virginia peninsula to our hotel. This was a very scenic route in places especially going across (and through) the very long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Yes, you heard right: a “Bridge-Tunnel”. The area where the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean connect has a bridge/tunnel that connects the Maryland/Virginia peninsula with Virginia Beach. It was so cool to be driving on this bridge and then twice driving down through a tunnel under the water and then rising back up out of the tunnel back onto the bridge. The sight was magnificent!
All right, I guess I’ve written enough. I’m back up-to-date. Tomorrow we are heading down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina before heading over to the “Research Triangle” area of Raleigh/Durham. I hope to find another used book store there. From there we will be heading towards Hilton Head, S.C and then Savannah.
I’ll try to keep up with this more frequently so that I’m not writing a book for you to read.
Until then….
jj & cj

p.s. wi-fi is very slow. I will try to upload day 15-16 (Fallingwater and quilts) photos tomorrow.

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