Spring Green, Wisconsin 2017

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Thursday, September 21, 2017: We were headed to Wisconsin for a family reunion and to do some sightseeing. As usual, we were compelled to get a photo of the beautiful windmills along I-69 as we drove north.
As we headed away from the Chicago area, we admired this excellent building.
Then we reminisced about going to Medieval Times long ago when we were young and in love. (We're still in love. Young, not so much.)
Instead of continuing on 94 into Wisconsin toward Madison, we drove past Rockford and entered Wisconsin via IL-26. There was a welcome sign waiting for us there.
We were headed to Monroe, Wisconsin, known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA.
We stopped at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center but didn't actually go in.
Instead, we got a picture of the cow statue out front, ...
... then peeked into the windows of Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory.
Check out that huge cheese vat and the large mixing thingamajig hanging from the ceiling on the left.
Tourists, I swear.
We try to eat locally when we travel, but we rarely eat actual meals at Dairy Queen, ...
... so we were able to justify eating there.
After lunch, we stopped by the Swiss Colony store, because Monroe is where the famous Swiss Colony catalog company is headquartered.
Here's one of the rooms of the store, filled with cheese and sausage and other goodies.
Debbie's a sucker for cute pasta, but we resisted, even though Debbie is a Wisconsin Badger by birth.
Colored hot chocolate? OK, maybe a packet or two of this ended up in our cart, along with some flavored fruit lemonade mixes, some meat sticks, ...
... and a bulk bag of Debbie's favorite Swiss Colony product, petits fours.
But the real attraction in Monroe is the Emmi Roth USA cheese company.
They had a cow statue out front too.
Their company store is called the Alp and Dell, and it is filled with more Emmi Roth products than you can possibly dream of.
It contains many other wonders as well, including this Swiss Party Pizza. If we had the ability to buy frozen products, we would have taken all of these home based on the name alone.
Oh my! They had a huge display of raclette grills, known in the Netherlands as "gourmet" (pronounced "gour-mett"). Debbie had tried this on a trip there in 1986 and had not seen it since.
There was a large display of local beer, including state favorite New Glarus, but patience, dear reader. That comes later in the story.
This lavender-flavored cheese was appropriately named Purple Haze.
After seeing Brun-Uusto bread cheese in the past, we couldn't pass up this display of five different flavors, so we ended up buying the cranberry version.
Now THAT's a pretty wheel of cheese.
There were cheese-tasting displays throughout the store. There were at least five or six, ...
... but we'll just show you two of them. Oh, that Butterkase on the right - so delicious. This platter also featured Grand Cru Surchoix, their most famous cheese because it was the 2016 World Cheese Champion.
Speaking of winners, here was a display featuring another other award-winning cheese, Roth's Private Reserve (which we purchased), and the two other varieties in the Grand Cru family, Original and Reserve (which we had tried while in Milwaukee last fall).
Here's a large selection of Bellavitano, one of the cheeses we've been buying over the part year, with actual Raclette cheese on the top shelf.
Shortly after noon, we had a cooler filled with cheese (we also bought a wedge of Sunset Prairie and a cheese slicer) and were on our way.
The countryside in southwestern Wisconsin is lovely.
Over each hill is another picture-perfect farm, even more pastoral than the last one.
We arrived in New Glarus, nicknamed "America's Little Switzerland."
Most of the businesses in town reflect the overall Swiss theme or decor. Look! There's the first cow statue spotting! We knew that there would be one or two, but we were about to hit the jackpot. This one was painted with Zs, which one would presumably get when you stay at the Swiss Aire Motel.
Here's a pretty Swiss-like hotel.
We headed to downtown New Glarus to look around.
We spotted our first cow statue ...
... just outside the New Glarus Hotel.
Another block down the street was another cow statue.
We crossed the street to visit ...
... Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus.
There was a cow statue outside ...
... and cheese and wine inside. Still full from lunch, we passed on buying an ice cream cone and bought a New Glarus Spotted Cow candle instead.
We passed another cow statue, ...
... and another.
A city block was closed off and was being setup for some sort of party that evening. There were several New Glarus Brewing trucks, of course.
We wandered a little more throughout the town, looking for cows. There's one ...
... perched over the doorway of Tofflers.
Here are cow statues in Village Park, ...
... in front of Cow and Quince, ...
... and in front of Union Bank & Trust.
There was little or no cell service in town and the surrounding areas, so we incorrectly drove north to our next stop. We passed Dean Lane and got this photo for our friend Dean when we drove past a second time later on.
We went to the original location of New Glarus Brewing Co. Fortunately, there was a sign on the door that told us where we should go to visit the new facility.
We needed to backtrack a couple of miles, but all was not lost, because we got a picture of a couple of cow statues.
We wondered how we could have missed the brewery on our way into town, but as we backtracked, we noticed a magical group of colorful buildings high on the hill.
We turned into the property, ...
... and felt like we were driving into an amusement park.
The complex is large and sparkling.
What's in those barns? No idea. We only had 45 minutes to spend here.
The overall effect was that of entering the Hogwarts castle.
We did a quick tour of the gift shop, making mental notes of what we'd buy on our way out. We forgot to buy these awesome Spotted Cow socks, so we'll probably have to come back again someday.
We didn't have the time nor the interest in a brewery tour, but here's where they start.
We bought a round of three tastings for $8 each.
In addition to receiving a tasting glass that we could keep, we got these stylish bracelets as well. Each glass refill required a blue Taste coupon.
We headed out to the large patio ...
... and enjoyed our first samples: Wisconsin Belgian Red for Tom and Bubbler for Debbie.
It was a gorgeous day ...
... and the view from the terrace was lovely.
Here's a look back at the patio/courtyard.
Tom had a second sample - just a half glass, and Debbie slugged down two more samples, also half glasses. Then we bought some New Glarus souvenirs, including some bars of soap and this lovely green Tyrolian hat.
We were back on the road shortly before 2:00 and got a quick look at the New Glarus Hop Garden on our way out.
After visiting New Glarus, we had to find some spotted cows to photograph. Here are some!
We had an hour drive and admired the pretty countryside. This farm had a little rock outcropping right in the back yard - the ideal place to grow up if you were a kid.
But this one was even more amazing.
We arrived at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center in Spring Green shortly before 3:00.
The visitor center was designed by Wright and is across the road from the Taliesin estate.
There is a restaurant on the property that is only open a few days a week, and this wasn't one of them.
The restaurant is called Riverview Terrace Cafe, and it features beautiful views of the Wisconsin River.
We had tickets to the 3:15 PM Taliesin Highlights Tour.
Before the tour departed, we looked around the gift shop and made mental notes of all the things we wanted to buy when the tour was over.
We boarded a bus and ...
... headed to the Taliesin property. We started with a visit to the Hillside Studio.
Originally, this was a school that Wright designed for his two aunts.
That's the Assembly Hall on the left, ...
... and the Drafting Studio and student housing on the right.
Here's the inside of Assembly Hall.
Of course, there's a large, beautiful fireplace on one wall. Mr. Wright did love his fireplaces.
Several walls were lined with cushioned seating.
Here's the view to the second floor.
Let's zoom in on that drawing on the wall. We want to live there.
A triangular opening from this room gives a glimpse into the dining room next door.
At this point, we visited the impressive Drafting Studio. It is an active schoolroom filled with working students and their works in progress, so no photographs were allowed. The edge of it is visible at the top of this photo. We came down the stairs tucked behind the walls in the center of the photo.
It led into this room, which serves as a photo gallery of some of Wright's work.
This is a photo of the living room at Taliesin as it existed in 1940, which is very similar to how it looks today.
In contrast, this is the living room at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, taken the same year. We ended up taking a road trip to Arizona two months later and visited Taliesin West.
This beauty is the David Wright House in Phoenix, designed by Wright for his son and daughter-in-law. This photo was taken in 1953. Unfortunately, this site wasn't available to visit during our Phoenix trip.
The tour continued outside. Right next to the property is a typical Wisconsin farm, reminding us that the land all around was owned by Frank Lloyd Wright's family.
We looked up the hill and encountered this beautiful view.
The Romeo and Juliet windmill is stunningly beautiful. It just is. The taller square column represents Romeo on the left, with Juliet represented as the shorter hexagon column.
Looking back at the studio building and the student housing along the wall.
Next, we headed toward the theater building.
Watch your head! Wright designed the roof to go into the tree, which has grown around it over the years.
The ceiling is very low in this part of the lobby, ...
... then it opens up higher.
There's a glimpse of the theater.
Here's the asymmetrical theater.
Check out that gorgeous theater curtain, designed by the man himself.
Cool light fixture.
The tour continued around the outside of the theater ...
... and our excellent guide, Cate, herded us back on the bus.
We got a fleeting glimpse of Tan-y-Deri, the house Wright designed for his sister, ...
... then we drove past Midway Barn.
There's the main event: Taliesin.
We were dropped off in the back and made our way through the back part of the property.
Some of these rooms are inhabited by people who live at Taliesin.
This style of metal furniture was also used at Hillside.
Here's the start of the garden ...
... in the courtyard that Mr. Wright built for his love, Mamah Borthwick. Read "Loving Frank" when you have some time. It's riveting.
We stopped in a shaded area of the courtyard for a drink of well water.
From here, we could look through a grate in the ceiling to see fire damage from the second fire at Taliesin in 1925.
Here's the view from our shaded resting spot, ...
... with a closeup of a red tile with FLLW written on it, where the two Ls represent Lloyd.
Here's Tom taking those photos ...
... and this one of the full courtyard.
Here's one of the large rooms where Mr. Wright worked and received clients.
Turning toward the right, here is more of the room. Replicas of these gorgeous light fixtures are available for sale, but plan to shell out a bunch of cash for them.
Turning some more, here are some large picture windows next to one of the Japanese screens that Mr. Wright was so fond of.
Here's the view toward the back.
There's another fireplace with a big ol' portrait of Ma Wright hanging over it.
Check out the unusual window over the fireplace, with custom-fitted shutters.
Here's a work table. The small window was deliberately placed there to see outside when intended, but from most positions at the table, the garden outside is barely visible.
Here's Mr. Wright's office. Look closely at the wooden structure on the left. It's a door, not that you can tell when it is closed like this.
Here it is opened. It has a screen door that folds to a 90 degree angle, with two doors that meet at that same corner.
Tucked up overhead is this unexpected little window.
Next, we entered the main living quarters. Here's the living room.
Let's look around the room, ...
... moving in a circle to the right.
These windows had a gorgeous view of the valley below.
Here's the view of the living room that is closest to the 1940 photo we had seen earlier.
Of course, the room has a fireplace.
This allium seedhead in a jar is an easy and interesting way to decorate. We made a note to do this next summer with ours. (We did!)
Tom got this photo of a hexagon vase, ...
... and got artsy with this shot of the inside of it.
Like Wingspread in Milwaukee, there is a cantilevered balcony.
There isn't much to it - just open space that you could walk on if you were more authorized than a tour guest.
We went to a terrace next, ...
... where we had a nice view of the cantilevered balcony from the other side.
Speaking of views, check out the beautiful valley below.
Here's one of the bedrooms inside, ...
... and the loggia right next door.
A loggia is a room with one or more open sides.
This one opens out to the terrace.
Further in the house, we had a nice view into the courtyard.
Even something as mundane as a serving tray gets the Frank Lloyd Wright treatment.
Here's another large room with some groovy shag carpeting. It opens onto a patio ...
... with a view of the hillside, ...
... and a shady seating area.
Here's the view looking back at the house, ...
... and the plunge pool.
We departed throught the courtyard again. We ran into the gentleman in the left of this photo at breakfast the next morning and had a nice chat with him about Oak Park and other Frank Lloyd Wright locations.
On the drive back, we passed this dam built by Frank Lloyd Wright that created the ponds in the valley, generated electricity for the house, and provided soothing background sounds for the house just up the hill.
Shortly before 6:00, we returned to the visitor center.
It was time to buy all the things. Tom vetoed the purchase of these amazing house letters, ...
... and we were mesmerized by these beautiful pencils but couldn't justify buying them.
We did buy the cool phone cover on the left, ...
... and the middle floor mat shown here, plus a silver Thermos for Tom and a water bottle Chico Bag tote.
We got a shot of the Taliesin sign ...
... then crossed the Wisconsin River.
In town, we checked into the Spring Green Motel.
It was absolutely the nicest motel we've ever stayed in - very low prices, spotless property, nicest management, and great breakfast included.
We headed to Arthur's supper club for dinner.
It has a King Arthur theme. Four flags flew overhead: State of Wisconsin, ...
... Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Badgers, and Autism Awareness, which made us happy.
It's a huge restaurant that is obviously prepared for the busy summer season. One room has this huge, Arthur-themed wall.
We were here for the full supper club experience, so we had to start with ...
... Old Fashioneds. On the left is the Apple Old Fashioned, made with Crown Apple and Fireball, and on the right is the Arthur's House Old Fashioned. We had never tried these before and they were fine, but not something we'd need to drink again.
We ordered the soup and salad bar ...
... and the all-you-can-eat fried chicken. We each received four pieces of chicken, plus bread and butter and side dishes, so there was no need for a refill on the chicken.
There also was no room for the classic supper club after-dinner drinks.
But not to worry. We drove nearly an hour to the Wisconsin Dells to meet some family before our big family reunion the next day.
While there, Debbie had a Pink Squirrel and Tom had a Grasshopper, thus completing our Wisconsin supper club experience.

Friday, September 22, 2017: After a nice chat over breakfast with our tourmate from the day before, we headed back south again, ...
... across the Wisconsin River, ...
... past Taliesin, ...
... and the Taliesin barn complex, ...
... and Unity Chapel, built for the Lloyd-Jones family with input from Mr. Wright when he was a teenager.
There is a cemetery next to the chapel, ...
... with a monument to Frank Lloyd Wright in the center. He was originally buried here when he died in 1959, but his remains were moved to Taliesin West in 1985. Mamah Borthwick is also buried in this cemetery
Several of the gravestones are marked in the same distinctive metalwork style as Mr. Wright's is.
From the grounds, you can see Taliesin on the hill, just like you can see the chapel from Taliesin.
We headed south again and passed the farmland of the Taliesin grounds, ...
... and the Hillside School once again.
Our destination this morning was the House on the Rock, Spring Green's other famous house.
These huge urns were all over the property - at least several dozen of them. Each one had several dozen plants tucked along the sides. What an immense gardening chore this must be all summer!
We arrived just 10 minutes after it opened at 9:00 AM.
We bolted through the welcome exhibit that explained the history of the place and the background of the man who built it, Alex Jordan, Jr.
The woman who took our tickets for Section 1 questioned whether or not we had watched the videos and seen all the sights in the welcome exhibit, but we explained that we were short on time and wanted to get moving.
Our main goal was to get to the Infinity Room before anyone else. With long walkways everywhere, it was clear that this place was built for crowds.
So we rushed through the initial parts of the original House on the Rock attraction.
It's a dark, strange attraction that we'll show you more of shortly.
But first, here's the jackpot: the Infinity Room without another living soul around.
We took our time photographing it, ...
... and admiring it, ...
... and timidly walking along the floor knowing that there was nothing underneath the floor but rocks and certain death if this thing collapsed.
Near the end of the room, you can't go any farther, ...
... because there is a barrier and a window in the floor.
Let's look down for just a moment.
Here's the lovely view of the countryside facing toward Taliesin, approximately six miles north.
We were still alone when we headed back to the main building.
With that achievement behind us, we had a little more time to slow down and enjoy what we were seeing.
This spooky display played instruments automatically.
Let's look at the House on the Rock a little more closely. A path leads you through the house so you can't get lost.
Again, it was very dark, and we preferred to take photos in the ambient light rather than spoil it with flash photography.
This portion of the walkway led up to ...
... the roof for another view of the country.
Back inside, there was more Tiffany glass, stonework, ...
... shag carpeting, soft lighting, ...
... groovy seating, and unusual windows.
We were out of the House and on to the next section in 15 minutes.
In the middle of the complex is an extensive Japanese garden that we'd have a chance to glance at a little longer later.
We returned to the ticket taking lady and asked if we could look at the welcome exhibit again now that we were done with the Infinity Room, so we did, and then bolted on to Section 2.
Sections 2 and 3 consist of hundreds of collections of objects acquired by Alex Jordan, Jr. in his lifetime. Each were organized in numerous interesting ways. We stepped into the first part of Section 2, the Mill House, and immediately came across a collection of decorative glass paperweights. OK, that's pretty normal so far.
Debbie decided to visit the rest room and discovered ...
... that every restroom included collections of things as well, including this wall of colored glassware.
A large collection of guns prompted a closeup of two of them.
Many of the collections are displayed as storefronts, like these dolls. Do you like dolls? There are thousands more coming up, trust us.
This dark path to a lower level prompted the funniest line of the day from Tom: "Do you like my dungeon? You like it, right? Right?!" Say it in your creepiest voice for best effect.
Totally normal collection of Faberge eggs.
Buying the Ultimate Experience ticket comes with four tokens each, so we used one of our tokens to activate this auto-playing banjo.
We entered a Diagon Alley-like place filled with storefronts called the Streets of Yesterday, which we also had all to ourselves. This was one of our favorite parts of the attraction.
Here's a sample storefront.
We used another token to determine if Tom was a stud or a dud.
Even the second and third floors of the storefronts were decorated and lit up. With no one else around, the effect was very spooky but cool.
Here's some sort of antique locomotive or car or fire truck or something.
A single token allowed a look at an 1870 French post card showing the Wages of Sin and the Horrors of the Inferno.
Let's take a look.
It's almost too terrifying. We resolved to change our sinning ways immediately.
Next, we walked into the stunning Heritage of the Sea exhibit. It's a three story room with a gigantic sculpture of a squid attacking a whale in the middle.
To give the massive size of this thing a little perspective, we'd estimate the size of the squid's eyeball at three- to four-feet tall.
It was impossible to capture it all, but we tried.
Exhibits line the walls as you slowly climb from one floor level to the next, including this large scale model of the Titanic. Tom was keeping score and found models of nearly every famous-but-doomed vessel.
Exactly one floor up from where we had started, we had a great view of the whale's gigantic mouth.
One of the glassed exhibits included this newspaper clipping about the death of Ernie Pyle, ...
... with this rather biased article about conscientious objectors to World War II.
By now, we were nearing the third level. Looking down, you can get a better idea of how the room is laid out.
This ramp went through a tunnel created through a wave which was part of the giant sculpture.
Every one of these displays was filled with treasures illustrating the era or the ship it was displaying. You could spend hours in each separate exhibit and still not see everything.
Just before entering the Spirit of Nostalgia section, ...
... we stopped for a refreshing drink of water.
Whoa. This huge room featured hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling.
Ramps along the outside led down, just as the previous exhibit had led up. See that white building in the middle? It was a camera shop that we'd see up close soon.
We worked our way down slowly, looking at all the stuff.
Tom liked the toy car exhibit and chose this grouping for a closeup.
We spent another token to test Debbie on the Throne of Passion. You can't tell from this picture, but it landed on Brain Dead. Ouch!
The camera shop featured lots of antique cameras, film, and accessories.
The Tile Car is a 1963 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors that has been covered with armour and tile. It's gorgeous to behold up close.
We were probably the first people to show up at the food court, but we were just passing through.
There were more collections: random old things ...
... and mounted butterflies.
Next, we entered the Music of Yesterday exhibit.
It features entire rooms made up of auto-playing musical instruments that will entertain you for the price of a token. This is the Blue Room.
Here's the Mikado, another large room filled with an auto-playing orchestra.
The Blue Danube is another stunner.
The Red Room is the last of these incredible musical displays.
The Spirit of Aviation exhibit was fairly small, but it still counts as a trip to an aviation museum, right, Tom?
But first, let's grab a photo of the women's rest room with its Christmas village tableau.
Inexplicably, there's a random 7Up display in the Aviation exhibit.
There you go. Planes. Let's move on.
The last attraction in Section 2 is the World's Largest Carousel. It's absolutely stunning and no photo can do it justice. We were so happy to have it all to ourselves while we took it all in.
On the walls all around are carousel horses, something you won't find on the carousel itself. There are dozens of them here and throughout other places in the exhibit, with carved angels hanging from the ceiling.
An hour and a half after we started, we were entering Section 3. This section started with a gigantic room called the Organ Room. It was filled with absolutely huge, somewhat unrelated things, including huge vats and boilers, computer chips, grand pianos, scary masks, ...
... several huge chandeliers, ...
... and of course, a large organ.
Here's another women's rest room, ...
... and the matching men's rest room. From this area, you can walk outside to Inspiration Point, but at this point, our bodies were begging us to just stop walking already.
Next, we entered the Doll Carousel exhibit, ...
...and the Doll House Room.
We spent a token to play this Edison phonograph.
It plays round cylinders ...
... that are stored in canisters with the title of the recording on the top.
The Circus Room is a series of galleries displaying ...
... miniature circus tableaus.
Many of the displays featured the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, which was based in Peru, Indiana.
This was a small part of a large collection of Baranger mechanical motion machines. All of these were advertising diamonds and were rented to jewellers by the Baranger Company in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.
We were dog-tired by now, but there was still more to see. We have no idea how to describe what this was.
Here's another automated orchestra, but this one features mannequins pretending to play.
Lord have mercy, here's another sea of gun displays.
One of the galleries was devoted to British royalty and featured replicas of the Crown Jewels.
The way out passed the Doll Carousel again. We could see where we had first entered the room much earlier and lower, and where the ramp wrapped around toward the top of the room.
This led us back into the Carousel Room where we were just below the ceiling, ...
... and then we were back in the sunshine again, shortly after 11:00. This is under the ramp to the original House on the Rock section.
We were so exhausted so we wandered slowly around the Japanese Garden.
We admired the baby koi and wondered if they get replaced every season so they don't have to survive Wisconsin winters.
We spotted a small frog on a rock nearby.
There were more collections on display outside the last set of rest rooms, ...
... and there were more giantic urn planters outside the gift shop, where we peeked in briefly but left empty-handed.
By 11:15, we were on the road to the Wisconsin Dells.
Just up the road, we stopped at a scenic overlook. We nearly cried when we realized that we'd have to walk across the highway, ...
... but it was worth it to get this photo, ...
... and this closeup of the Infinity Room.
We grabbed a selfie to post to our family reunion page, ...
... and grabbed some Culver's in Spring Green.
We passed Baraboo, original home of Ringling Brothers Circus, with its circus-themed decorations on an overpass.
Then we finally stocked up on New Glarus beer at the Wal-mart in Wisconsin Dells before heading to our family reunion.

** THE END **

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