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Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, Oak Park, IL

100_6691Louise Speaks:  Day 27 Con’t:  After another hectic morning in Chicago it was fun to get out of town a bit and head to Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago.  We always try and see any of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings when we travel and this one particularly because it was his home for 20 years and where he raised his 6 children.  As we went in to purchase tickets for the tour I asked about Gracie going on the tour.  I said she was a service dog but I didn’t bring her papers because in AZ we don’t have to show papers.  They said of course she can go on the tour, that was not a problem.  They were very pet friendly and welcomed Gracie at every junction of the tour.  We had to wait about a half hour but that gave us time to shop.

Frank Lloyd Wrights Home and Studio

Frank Lloyd Wrights Home and Studio

Once the tour began there are always interesting facts about Frank Lloyd Wright and his buildings.  Since this was his home it was interesting to see how he could live in such a beautiful home at such a young age.  Apparently Frank Lloyd Wright purchased the property and built the home in 1889 with a $5,000 loan from his employer Louis Sullivan.  Frank was 22 at the time, and newly wed to Catherine Tobin. The Wrights raised six children in the home.  The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and declared a National Historic Landmark four years later in 1976.

plauThe tours are always very informative because they tell us how the buildings were and how they became what they are today.  The homes original 1889 structure was quite small.  It was extensively remodeled in 1895, when among other changes the kitchen was enlarged and converted to a dining room, the upstairs nursery was expanded and converted for use as Catherine’s dayroom, and the Children’s Playroom and a new kitchen were added to the back of the house.  The children’s playroom has an incredible design and was not only designed for children and play but also education.  For example Frank Lloyd Wright put a Grand Piano in the play room but built it into the wall.  As you go out the stairs, the entire back of the piano is supported and just hanging over the stairs.  All the windows in the room were only 3 feet off the ground and there was a loft area if the children wanted to put on a play.

Can you see the chains holding the ceiling?

Can you see the chains holding the ceiling?

A second major addition was made in 1898, when the Studio and Connecting Corridor were built.  The studio was added on in such a way that you had to go outside to access it.  Mr. Wright didn’t like this especially in winter so he made a hallway so that he would have access to the house.  He didn’t want to loose any of the trees so he built the hall around the tree and had it growing right through the roof.  After 1909, the Studio was converted into a residence for his wife and the younger children.  Later on, the Home and Studio became an apartment building.  In the 1960s it fell into disrepair as the owners began to neglect the property due to financial problems.  The longtime roofing company entrusted by Frank Lloyd Wright, took control of the property.  In 1974, the structure was handed over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the 13-year restoration began.   Staying true to Frank Lloyd Wrights fashion, the second floor of his studio is actually held together with bolts and chains suspending from a pointed ceiling.  Even though this studio became private residences and has had different owners, no one every thought of cutting the chains.  This is a good thing as it is the chains and only the chains that are keeping the roof from falling.

See the height of the windows and how he displayed his drawings for clients.

See the height of the windows and how he displayed his drawings for clients.

Mr. Wright also was a smart business man.  He knew that in the lobby it was to show his status and that he was worth every penny he charged.  So the lobby had leather and gold wall paper and the highest quality of wood.  But the studio was very plain with no windows at eye level.  He wanted his clients to focus only on the drawings and what he was suggesting and not be distracted in any way.

As part of our tour we were able to take an audio walking tour of the neighborhood where several of Frank Lloyd Wright homes are located.  These homes are all occupied with families but it’s hard to be on the same street as Frank Lloyd Wrights own home and live in a home he designed and built and not be shared with the public.  We were given audio speakers where you pressed a button and it told you all about the home.  What a great neighborhood to live in.  It was like a walking museum of gorgeous homes.  Now this neighborhood is pretty upscale so even the homes that are NOT Mr. Wrights are still pretty impressive.

100_6697One of the houses is known as the Arthur B. Heurtley House was built in 1902.  It was in poor condition until the current owners,  who purchased the house in 1997, completed a five year long museum-grade restoration of the home.  The main living area is on the second floor with a children’s playroom and laundry area on the first. The wide, low entrance arch is actually the entrance.

100_6701Another one of my favorites was the Laura Gale House.  The house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1909.  The home  has been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historid Places  since March 5, 1970.  The house was occupied by its original owner until 1962 when architect Howard Rosenwinkel purchased the home and undertook a meticulous restoration..   

This was one of the best tours I have ever been of of Frank Lloyd Wrights creations.  It was very informative, interesting and the guide was actually funny but full of knowledge.  We could keep the audio players all day if we choose and have the descriptions repeat.  The walking tour is one long block with 10 Frank Lloyd Wright homes.  The homes in between were just as beautiful and it was a great day for a walk.  Both these tours were only $21.00, much less than other Frank Lloyd Wright tours.

100_6723Oak Park holds other Frank Lloyd Wright buildings but we spent so much time here we were unable to see any of the others.  For example the Unity Temple was covered in a tent and is undergoing a major renovation and the Robbie House back in Chicago had just taken the last tour of the day when we arrived.  The Robbie House is actually on the campus of the University of Chicago.  It was designed and built between 1908 and 1910.  We were able to see the outside and the grounds of the Robbie House but not take the tour.  I guess that is yet another reason to come back to Chicago.

20150726_205522_resizedAfter this full day it was time to get back to Chicago to see the Sky Line at night.  I’ve seen it in pictures many times but I wanted to have a birds eye view and see it in person.  The day planned out right as it was coming to an end and it was just about dusk.  It is time to say good bye to Chicago and spending the day with Frank Lloyd Wright buildings makes for a great farewell.

As always I love Frank Lloyd Wright and his buildings and tours will always rate an A+ with me.  I can’t wait to come back to Chicago and Illinois and visit the buildings I’ve missed.


Thelma Speaks:


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Chicago, IL—Day Two

100_6574Louise Speaks:  Day 27.  Well after all the back and forth driving yesterday, we once again went into the city of Chicago.  We were hoping that today would not bring us into town, and that being Sunday there would be less people.  Wrong on both accounts.  There were less people, and no ball game, but still tons and tons of people and crazy drivers everywhere…and we did have to hit the center of town but only for a few things.

100_6678We started off by seeing a few more hotels.  These hotels were older than the ones we saw yesterday.  The first one was Hotel Burnham.  This is in an older part of town, but the hotel’s architecture brought you back in time and it looked very old.  Next it was off to the Palmer House Hilton.  This hotel reminded me of Vegas.  With all the light bulbs I thought I was on the Strip.  As with the other hotels from yesterday we did not bother to go inside and ask for a tour or to see rooms, these visits 100_6686were literally drive by photo shots.  The Chicago Hilton Towers, however was quite an impressive looking hotel.  Signs were posted stating what president stayed here, and apparently there have been many.  It is out of the center of town, but with impressive views of the city.  The burgundy awnings with the international flags outside just made it look more impressive.  The Chicago Hilton looked cleaner than the other hotels as well.

We drove around town several times trying to find certain things in Patricia’s book as well as using the GPS to try to find them, but it was just not possible.  We probably drove right by them…probably more than once, but we couldn’t find a sign or any site of these attractions.  The ones I’m talking about were the Petrillo Music Shell and Millennium Park.  There were two large parks in the center of town, holding a street fair, so I’m certain that one of those parks had to be Millennium Park.  We saw signs for the Millennium Park garage, but not a park enterance.  There was a building at the address for the Petrillo Music Shell, but from the research I had 100_6681done, this was an outdoor theater so I don’t think it would be housed inside the building.  We had talked to someone at Winnebago from Chicago and he said the music was just in the park, but I was looking for a stage or something.  So after a good 30 minutes of driving in circles, we decided to cross them off the list as not being seen.  We did however find the Art Institute of Chicago which is very centrally located. In our course of travels today we did find the “not so good side” of Chicago.  I know every city has one, and Chicago is no exception.  We have seen worse, but we were glad that there was nothing here to stop and take 100_6670photos of.  One of the coolest buildings I saw was a round apartment complex with parking spaces going around the building about halfway up.  It looked like a stack of cookies, and those openings you see from the middle to the bottom are all full of cars.  They looked like hot wheels, or match box cars they were so small in comparison to the building.  But what a concept.  There is little parking in Chicago, so build a building, park on the bottom  20 floors or so and build the apartments on top of that, in a circular fashion.   This way everyone gets a view.

The rest of our day was going to be in Oak Park as we were going to go tour a few of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes. By now it was time for lunch and being in Chicago we tasty-dog-380x270had to have hot dogs or Chicago dogs and pizza.  We opted for a hot dog and found Tasty Dog, a hot dog stand right in the middle of the block and decided to give it a try.   Excellent choice and just filling enough for the afternoon ahead.  From the Frank Lloyd Wright tours, and since we had a rental car, we were going to do the first part of the Route 66 adventure this afternoon.  We plan to drive from the starting point in Chicago to Joilet and then back to Chicago for some evening activities.  I am blogging about the Frank Lloyd Wright Tours and the Route 66 adventure separately, so make sure you read them as well.

20150726_204907_resizedAfter our Frank Lloyd Wright tours we headed back into Chicago, to start the Route 66 adventure.  We had to hurry as it was pretty over cast today so not staying light as late as normal.  The plan was to get to Joilet and back so that I could to see the skyline after dark.  That is how I want to say good night and good bye to Chicago.  We arrived back in town just at dusk.  Over the last two days, I found that by the Adler Planetarium was the best view of the skyline, so that is where we headed.  After a very busy day we found our spot and parked so that we could take in the night life of Chicago…the skyline lit up was just breath taking.

So I can say this…two days in Chicago just isn’t enough time, but the city is over whelming.  Maybe if we had parked and not tried to see as many things as possible from Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die” this may have been more enjoyable.  The driving, the traffic, the rude cab drivers, just did not make for a very positive impression of Chicago.  On a good note, as I see it, now that we’ve completed the book, the next time here I can truly just enjoy it.  I would like to take 100_6634one of the hop on hop off buses and just enjoy a tour with someone else driving and telling me about the sites while I sit back and take pictures and just enjoy.   The Architecture of Chicago is different on every corner, so it would have been nice to just sit back and enjoy the views.  Thelma did all the driving so I’m sure she didn’t enjoy it as much as she could have had she not been driving and trying to find a place to park.  So all that being said I am only going to rate Chicago a C.  It does have much to offer, and maybe with more time and under less stressful conditions, Chicago could be a great place to visit…but no way in hell would I live here.  So thanks for a great adventure Chicago…and I will see you again.

AM…483, 485,

Thelma Speaks:  I love Chicago and all it has to offer!  That being said I do not like to drive here for several reasons the least of which is you can not take your eyes off the street or the cars around you so you don’t see anything but traffic.  I would like to come back and enjoy the city and all the different places to eat so I will be back and hopefully the next time is a charm and a Cub’s game will happen with a stop at the Cubby lounge.

The skyline at night is breath taking and one could take a blanket and sit on the bank and watch as the city changes from light to the darkness of night.  I would love to do that.

Like Louise, I was intrigued by the circular parking with apartments on top!  Guess it was because I went around this corner at least 20 times!  I feel as if I know some of these streets like the back of my hand but I do not care to drive them again.  The city has lots to offer but I would say fly in stay at one of the many hotels and then take public transportation and enjoy the city.  The hop on hop off bus would be great and there were at least three companies that I saw sliding through town.  So pay the price forget a car and enjoy the city! I for one would have enjoyed Chicago more if we had picked a couple great things to do and forgot the rest but next time it is all about what we want to do and not Patricia’s book!  We have seen what she has talked about and now we can enjoy Chicago.  Since I have been here several times before and seen some of the sights I would rate Chicago a B.  If the Cubs win it is a B+ for sure and if I am there it is an A+ for sure!

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Chicago, Illinois

100_6666Louise Speaks:  Day 26.  We arrived at our camp site very very late last night, but at least we made it.  We are at Lehmans Campground in Marenga, IL, northwest of Chicago.  We are parked right by a duck pond and the quacking is driving Gracie crazy, but what a beautiful sight.  One of the reasons for picking this site is that Enterprise will pick us up here.  Since we are going to be spending 2 days touring Chicago, we thought it best if we rented a car as driving through Chicago in a 26 foot RV probably isn’t a good idea.  Now it is the weekend so we “thought” it would be less crowded than during the week…well not our best idea.  I had planned this trip so that we would be in Chicago on days when there was not a Cub game.  However, since we spent 8 days at Winnebago that threw the schedule off, and I didn’t recalculate, so there is a Cub game today.  This is going to be interesting day.

If you’ve been following the blog for the past 3 years, you know that we are trying to complete the book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz.  Most of the things she focuses on are of course tourist attractions, but in additions she loves hotels and restaurants.  So as we go through Chicago, we are going to be stopping by many hotels and restaurants.  With parking being close to impossible, our stops are going to be just that.  It’s going to be Thelma driving me around so I can stop at these places, take a picture, pick up a brochure and if I’m lucking asking a few people why they think they are in Patricia’s book.

100_6557Our RV Park was about 50 miles north of Chicago and by the time Enterprise picked us up and took us back to their office we didn’t get to our first stop until 11:00.  I map quest all the stops so we did have a route.  Our first stop was Gino’s East Pizza, supposedly one of the best places to eat Chicago style Pizza.  Our next stop and another thing Chicago is famous for was Super Dawgs, a very busy hot dog stand.  The next stop I have no idea why Patricia picked this place but apparently it is a very high price Thai restaurant.  This may be so, but we were almost afraid to drive through this part of town.  To me there was nothing special about Arun’s Thai Food, so maybe the inside and the food makes this restaurant special.

100_6562After visiting these restaurants it was time to head to Wrigley Field.  It wasn’t until we approached the ball field that I realized, oh crap, there’s a game today.  But I was still able to get pictures of the famous field sign, and feel the excitement of game day.  There were people everywhere.  I don’t know what time the game even started, but it was buzzing from all directions.  Luckily one of the bars that Patricia mentions was right at the same corner that I was standing at to take my picture.  Turns out Cubby Bear Lounge is a pretty happening place on game day.  They have a second floor bar that they called Cubby’s Upper Deck…kind  of cute.  I got to go inside to speak with the door man and asked for a menu or something with their logo on, and nice as he was he handed me some ice water in a bottle that had their logo.  Not what I had in mind, but I appreciated him trying so hard to find anything with their name on it,  This bar was hopping and I’m sure it is even busier after the games as it is right across the street.

100_6569From Wrigley Field it was off to some of Chicago’s entertainment.  Chicago is famous for comedy clubs and improv training as some of the best comedians come out of Chicago.  So Patricia had us go visit The Second City comedy club and the IO Comedy Club that trains comedians.  Even though it was Saturday it was too early for either of these clubs to be open, so it was stop by, take a picture and we were on our way.

100_6589As is Patricia’s favorite stops are hotels.  There are many hotels in Chicago as Patricia’s choices were The Drake, with the famous Cape Cod Room and the Ritz Carlton.  I was really hoping to see the Cape Cod Room as you are still able to see Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s carved initials in the world famous wooden bar.  There is also a “Wall of Whiskies and Wine Bottles”, a collection of bottles saved from prohibition days.  In any other city we would speak with the front desk  and ask for a tour or to at least see a room, but not in Chicago.  The streets were packed and there were cars and people everywhere.  So once again it was take a picture and jump back into the car.

100_6606By this time we are close to exhausted with going up and down the streets of Chicago.  As if the traffic wasn’t enough, they were doing construction on almost every street and every other street was a one way street.  So even if we found what we were looking for (thank God for a portable GPS) we had to go around the block several times just to find a place to pull over so that I could jump out.  Chicago is amazing with stores like Home Depot, or Office Max right on the main streets of Chicago.  There were people shopping and eating everywhere you went.  I thought they drove bad in New York, but the cabbies in Chicago are down right crazy.  We had thought of just parking in a garage but it was $35 for the day and since we had no idea where our stops were and they were so spread out, it was still easier to drive around and go around the block several times than to park and walk.

100_6598We were right in the center of Chicago. 100_6600 The buildings were so tall around us that even the GPS lost signal, which was not good, since we had no idea where we were going.  There are two corners right across from each other that house two of the more famous pizzeria’s in Chicago.  Due to their location, history has it that there is major competition.  I’m not sure which one was there first, but the second one definitely didn’t earn points by opening right across the street.  Pizzeria Due and Pizzeria Uno were both packed, so I don’t think there really is a competition…they both seem to be doing well.

thTaste of Chicago is an annual summer event that was held just a few weeks ago.  This is when different restruants and food vendors provide food in a tasting fashion.  With the city as crowded as it was today I can only imagine what it was like during a Taste of Chicago.  One of the spots that Patricia mentions in her book is Billy Goat Tavern.  Now we had the address and drove by where it was suppose to be at least 10 times…we just couldn’t see any sign of a restaurant or a tavern bearing that name.  So I told Thelma to just drop me off and I’d find it or ask for directions.  I walked and walked and it just wasn’t anywhere to be found.  The building with the address we were looking for had many business under one roof.  There was one space, a corner space, that was under construction, so I just assumed that was were Billy Goat Tavern was and it was just being remodeled.  So I go to the street to wait for Thelma, and just happen to look to my right, and there is a sign saying that Billy Goat Tavern is under ground, or on the lower level.  You think maybe Patricia would have mentioned that fact…another sign that Patricia has not been to Billy Goat Tavern.  But I found it, so I can cross it off the list.

100_6613With all the driving we did today, we were able to drive up and down the Magnificent Mile, which has five of the 85 tallest buildings in the world.  In fact 5 of the 10 tallest buildings in Chicago are on the Magnificent Mile.  There are several things we wanted to see, but again without parking it was simply impossible.  Things like the Lego Store which exhibits life size or larger than life characters at the main entrance of the mall.  It would have been nice to go inside the Tower at the Ritz Carlton which is Oprah’s residence.  And just going to the top of any of the buildings for a view of the city…but that didn’t happen either.

100_6658Chicago is famous for it’s Museums and there is an area known a Museum Campus, which is a 57 acre museum park.  This park sits right on Lake Michigan and it houses the most notable museums that are all dedicated to natural science.  The Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History are all on this campus.  The park is also the site of Soldier Field Football Stadium, which was quite impressive.

We saw many other things today, but they weren’t on the list for today so we will visit them tomorrow…at least now we’ll know where they are.  We still have an hour and a half drive back to camp, so we were done with Chicago.  I’ll wait until tomorrow to give Chicago a rating, but let me just say, for my first trip to Chicago, I was not impressed.  I’m hoping for a better day tomorrow.

AM…484,   485,   486,   488,   490,   492,   493,   494

Thelma Speaks:  I have been to Chicago several times in my life.  That was the reason for a car verses the RV for travel.  No RV Louise or no go!  I think after the drive to Chicago Louise got the idea of why I made it clear no RV!  The roads are horrible and narrow with traffic flashing like lightening so not a good place for RV to go… enough of that.  Chicago is full of lots of great places to see and if you live close and come there often you know where to park and ride the many different ways of transportation available.  We did not know or have anyone with us to direct our travels, therefore it was Thelma the tax driver!

I was so sad that we didn’t get to eat “in town” at one of the many great local spots.  My mouth watered every time I drove by one of the two pizza places but no place to park and they don’t deliver to drive by cars.  We could have had a hot dog but the time was not right for other activities of the day.  So next time I am in Chicago eating is number one on my list!

So the fun places to eat look very busy.  The Thai place was in a scary part of town and stood out in the neighborhood.  Not a place I would have chosen to have eaten in Chicago.  The Cubby spots are a must for me since I grew up watching the Cubs and with their winter playing field just a mile from my Mesa home I am a fan!  I have tried to get into their games but always something happens…..please someone get me in to a Cub’s game!!  Anyway on the bucket list for later.

The museums are great here as is Shedd Aquarium.  You can spend days going through any of them depending on your interest.  I have enjoyed them with friends years ago and lots to see and learn.  The Navy Pier is a great place to enjoy the rides and also see the lights of the city at night.  Again take public transportation to any of these and avoid parking at all cost!

The Magnificent Mile, now what can you say?  It is neck breaking and full of traffic but such interesting architecture.    One can just spend time looking up and seeing all of the different shapes and designs used to make this city interesting and appealing to the eye.

We saw a lot today!  Seeing Billy Goats Tavern when I dropped Louise off and her adventure to find it, all the Cub activity, the eateries, Museums, aquarium, Magnificent Mile and of course…..traffic!  It was time to drive the hour and a half home to our little RV and call it a day!  See you in Chicago tomorrow for more adventures!


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