31 May 2011

Curves and angles

This has been our longest travel day of the trip both in time and in distance.  Dearborn -- Hyatt Regency just off Michigan Avenue -- to Chicago -- Embassy Suites Downtown, mostly on I-94, almost 300 miles and nearly seven hours, including a one hour time change.  I did some writing aboard the coach in my last row nest, along with some pretty serious napping. 

Looking across the
Hyatt's atrium at the
open corridors
I am surprised by the fatigue I am experiencing.  One would think that not having to drive or to plot the route would leave me rested.  But, that is not the case.  At the moment, however, despite the length of the day, it seems as though I walked out of a curvy hotel one minute and into an angular one the next.
Detail (in black and white) of the circular six-story light fixture
in atrium of the Hyatt Regency, Dearborn MI

The Embassy Suite's open --
and straight-sided -- atrium
See what I mean?  Spacious, more airy and open than Dearborn.  Not as soft or as enveloping. I find it intriguing that, when I walk into either one (or a charming B&B or a nice Hampton Inn for that matter), I respond very positively.  Which do I like better?  I would be hard-pressed to say.  For tonight, squared-off is good.

The ceiling/roof of the Embassy Suites Downtown, looking up and toward the elevator lobbies.  The pattern is distinct, making locating the building with Google Earth a snap.

Our in transit hours, though, were not without highlights -- beyond the napping and writing. 
  • Our lunch was at an Olive Garden in the vicinity of Kalamazoo.  Our experience, Tal's and mine, with that chain is that service is slow.  But, not today.  A staff of five was standing by when the coach pulled into the parking lot.  We were seated in a reserved dining room, ate sumptuously (salad and their signature bread sticks for me) and were back on the interstate in slightly over an hour.
  • Despite still sitting on the left side of the bus, I spied two intriguing signs -- also while we were near Kalamazoo.  The town of Portage MI declares itself "a place for opportunities to grow."  I'd like to know more about that.  And, I also spotted a sign for the Air Zoo.  That I have since looked up -- an aviation museum and amusement park (located where? why Portage, of course).  It boasts an impressive array of aircraft, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.  I could be convinced to go exploring ...
  • Since we were, on the original itinerary (on Plans A and B, in fact, the bus adventure being Plan C) supposed to spend a day at Mackinac Island, near the intersection of Lakes Michigan and Huron, we watched an hour+ long DVD, "Ice Bridge," about the three-mile span of ice that some winters allows islanders to pass to the mainland.  This link will take you to a minute and a half preview of the DVD if you'd like to take a look.  We didn't get to spend the day and the DVD didn't really help with the attendant loss, but the show was truly lovely. 
  • I wrote in my journal "3:35 ...  Lake Michigan."  I don't know what our precise location was for that first view and I don't know what time zone it was.  From that sight, however, its vastness was evident.

As I watched from the corridor outside our room, a couple
of teenagers coming from the pool stopped by the table
where an adult they knew was sitting, leaving their wet foot-
prints on the stone/tile/slate floor. 
 So, we're in Chicago.  I'll sign off with two final images, other views that captured my attention after our arrival.

The view from our room is north.  Through a canyon of tall buildings and over several parking garages one can see the tower (with flags flying) of the Montgomery Ward Memorial Building at Northwestern University.

30 May 2011

A day at the Henry Ford

Sunrise over the Maumee River

A distinct advantage to being in a hotel -- on the 8th floor with an easterly view -- and to being up early for the re-packing, check-out routine is the opportunity to see a sunrise.  We were rewarded brilliantly this morning with this glowing scene of the sun through low clouds and the cable array of the Veterans' Glass City Skyway. 

After breakfast I had a few minutes to explore the Promenade Park which runs along the Maumee River and all but surrounds the hotel.  It seemed a shame to miss it, just out the door of the hotel as it was, no matter how short our stay.

Our hotel reflected in the side of the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate

Propylaea by Dimitri Hadzi
This granite sculpture/fountain stands in Maritime Plaza's reflecting pool between our hotel the Fifth Third Center.  Its name, Prophylea, is the Greek word for "gateway."  In its position it marks the entrance to SeaGate and Toledo, the city having been the gateway to exploration, invention, transportation and industry which helped forge the nation.  It was good to recapture a hint of our trip's theme just under our window! 

View downstream from the hotel with the Promenade Park waterfront and
the Anthony Wayne Bridge (aka the "High-Level Bridge") in the background

View upstream from the hotel
The bridges in order are:
Cherry Street Bridge, Craig Memorial Bridge (both Bascule deck drawbridges),
the new cable-stayed Veterans' Glass City Skyway.

It was a short ride from Toledo to The Henry Ford Museum (referred to as The Henry Ford these days) and Greenfield Village -- about 50 miles.  We arrived very early and were free to explore for the day.  Here again, I was transported back to childhood and wonderful family activities, having visited this Dearborn attraction with my immediate family and with aunts, uncles and cousins in the 1960s.

Even though we would have enjoyed wandering the village, it turned out to be the warmest day of our trip -- very hot even to us southerners.  That coupled with the fact that it was Memorial Day and the place was over run, the Civil War was being reenacted, complete with scruffy, wool-clad soldiers -- Rebel and Union -- in the mix between battles.  And, believe it or not, campfires burned cheerfully at every encampment.  It looked hot in addition to being hot.  We made for the shade of the museum -- spacious, cool, interesting and not nearly as popular as the village.

Tail light detail of Regan's
1982 Lincoln
Transportation, of course, is pretty much the name of the game at The Henry Ford.  The exhibit of presidential limousines was front and center.  The 1982 Lincoln is the last of the national cars that will be preserved.  Later cars have been and will be destroyed at the end of their service to keep their construction and component information secure.  The line of cars was a great spot for photographing specific characteristics of each vehicle.

Hood ornament , 1950 Lincoln, the Eisenhower "Bubbletop"

Door handle detail, "Bubbletop"
Looks like an intense pair of eyes to me ...

Having been introduced to DeWitt Clinton's strategy for getting the Erie Canal built, it was fun to see the reproduction of the 1831 train bearing his name.  Essentially, it's a stagecoach on rails.

The 1939 Douglas DC-3 

Our accommodation for the night is at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, a huge hotel overlooking Ford's world headquarters, the distant Detroit skyline visible from our room.  Dinner at the hotel, with no food service except in the bar, was a long and tedious affair.  Seems the manager had closed all the restaurants for Memorial Day even though there was a fair number of guests and our group had been issued dinner vouchers.

The situation reminded me of a sign someone put up on the Grande Mariner's bulletin board after the announcement was made that we'd not finish the waterways excursion on the ship.   It's true, I know, but I do sigh anyway.

29 May 2011

Along Erie's edge

We departed Cleveland after breakfast this morning, glimpsing again the wide streets, generous green space with its public sculpture, multitudes of bridges before finding the interstate and continuing our westerly travel.  Cleveland was attractive to me.  I say that realizing we saw it over a weekend (with none of the daily traffic and attendant busyness) and in the early summer (as opposed to dead of winter), both factors making getting around and experiencing the spaciousness of the downtown relatively easy.

I felt at a low ebb today.  Packing, unpacking, repacking and off and on the coach is having an effect.  Rather than read or write during our initial 75-mile drive I indulged in a time of contented dozing in my cocoon of a back seat.  It's pretty cool actually.  Two seats to myself (Tal is one seat forward), a place to nestle my Chewonki coffee mug securely between sips, nice legroom, an unobstructed line-of-sight to the nearest video monitor, a good view of the landscape off the left side of the coach.

The real upside to the day was our list of destinations, specifically the Marblehead Peninsula, which, like Niagara Falls, provided me another sweet connection with the past.  Thanks to my dad and his brother, Bob, I have photographs of their family during the 1930s enjoying outings along Lake Erie's edge at that locale.  I was looking forward as we rode along to spending at least a few minutes savoring the experience of walking where they walked and seeing what they saw some 70+ years ago.  Sentimental sap, I know, but true.

The Keeper's House

Window detail
Our first stop was the Keeper's House, the private residence of the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse, Benajah Wolcott and his wife, Rachel Miller. Located a surprising distance along the lake shore from lighthouse (nearly three miles), it was built in 1822 of native limestone, its design known as "hall and parlor."  Owned now by the Ottawa County Historical Society, it is run by volunteers.

Front step detail with flowers

The original name for the lighthouse was
the Sandusky Bay Light.
The lighthouse itself was a very popular destination on a Sunday morning.  It was becoming a a warm day, threatening to become overcast.  A steady breeze from the water made our visit a comfortable one, a visit which was, of course, much too short.  I walked the rocks at the edge of the lake, though, recalling several people from my past who would have taken the next step -- literally -- and have gotten their feet wet!

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continuing lighthouse in operation on the United States side of the Great Lakes, still a valuable aid to navigation.

I am not certain how I managed it with a seminary education, which included a course in church history on this side of the Atlantic, but I -- until today -- missed the Chautauqua Movement entirely.  Our mid-day stop was at Lakeside: The Chautauqua on Lake Erie, also on the Marblehead Peninsula, a couple of miles west of the lighthouse.  There we were treated to lunch in the airy dining room of the inn overlooking the shoreline, followed by an informative lecture about Lakeside and the American Chautauqua Movement from Kevin Sibbring, president of Lakeside.  Rather than attempt a several sentence explanation about the place and the movement, I am including a link to the Lakeside website here

Suffice it to say, however, that Lakeside is a lively, vital place.  In fact, I found the feel and atmosphere very familiar.  Lakeside exudes the same kind of settled, contented, smug ambiance that permeates most religious retreat centers I've visited.  That's not a negative by any means.  Rather, the folks who love the place and make their way there every year, or more often, do so to enjoy a place of safety, a place where day-to-day challenges can be set aside for a time and where other pastimes and interests can be explored.  In addition to the descriptors "lively" and "vital," perhaps I should add "restorative."

A view of the Pavilion (left of center) and the Hotel Lakeside (dome visible to right of center) as seen from the end of the dock.

It was less than 50 miles from Lakeside to the Crowne Plaza (overlooking the Maumee River) in Toledo.  We were fortunate that we arrived, were unloaded and to our room before the first of three waves of storm passed through.  From our 8th floor window we watched a wedding in the park between the hotel and the office building next door end in the nick of time. 

Given the wild weather not all of us decided to try to make the Mud Hens baseball game.  Rather than walking to Fifth Third Field as planned, the intrepid among us were dropped off at the field -- and into a clearing evening, I might add -- by the bus.  Our All-American supper (potato chips, potato salad, slaw, baked beans, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, lemonade, soft drinks chocolate chip cookies, watermelon) was served in a banquet room next to our seats in The Roost overlooking first base.  Restraint was so hard. 

The field from our seats

By game time it was a golden evening.  Nestled as we were in among the tall buildings of Toledo's downtown, we could see threatening clouds still off to the north while a gentle sunset behind the home team dugout side of the stadium lit up the sky.  Turns out the game we watched (which the Mud Hens lost to the Durham Bulls) was to have been the afternoon game of a doubleheader (the Saturday afternoon game having been rained out), but it rained this afternoon, too, remember?.  When we left to stroll back to the hotel after 9:00, the second game was getting under way and I don't know if the Mud Hens redeemd themselves or not.  I do know that the second game ended at 11:50, the fireworks audible and long.  I was glad to be curled up and abed by then.

28 May 2011

How did we end up here?

Just pinch me.  A Holiday Inn Express this isn't.  Not even a Hampton.

This is the front entrance to the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade from across Superior Avenue.  One of the earliest indoor shopping malls in the country, it opened in May 1890, Victorian through and through.  Our room overlooks the entrance on the top floor in this photograph.

The door to our room on the 4th floor

From the windows looking in

The view from the position of our room's door, but two floors down
(so as not to have the Hyatt sign/banner competition), featuring 300' of skylight and four wrap-around balconies. 

Skylight detail

Stairwell detail

We look out our windows at the Cleveland Public Library -- the original 1925-building and the new 1997-wing.  They are connected underground and by the Eastman Reading Garden, which has a beguiling set of gates.

Gates into Eastman Reading Garden at the Cleveland Public Library

Gate detail

All in all, I'm thinking the Road Scholar, Blount, Coastal Discoveries people are feeling really bad about our having been put off the boat ...

And, now for Cleveland

What a night.  The Hyatt is a beautiful hotel, but it's a holiday weekend and there was a fraternity convention in house.  The noise level was mind-boggling, from screaming to door-slamming.  It was relentless and went on all night.  The only upside -- yes, there was at least one -- was this:  it was raining and the view from our window onto the wet street with the street lights glowing in the mist and cars moving along was extremely pretty.  I don't need to say that I started out the day tired.  (Do I need to add that I miss the boat?  Didn't think so.)

Our group broke up this morning, some people having chosen to go home early rather than travel by coach.  The continuing group fits easily on one bus and we were in Cleveland by lunch.  That lunch was served in Bytes, a second floor meeting room at the Great Lakes Science Center, a glass-sided room overlooking the lobby and the North Coast Harbor.  I could hardly wait to get started.  The 618-foot William G Mather was floating right outside and we all had tour tickets. 

From the wheelhouse looking aft
The Mather is a 1925 Great Lakes straight deck bulk carrier and was for a time the flagship of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Mining Company.  It was retired in 1980, having been updated significantly at least three times, serving for 65 years. 

We were guided by a retired Navy man who, first, loves that boat and, second, was mindful of people touring and the perilous nature of the stairs.  That is, he was understanding as people chose to cut short their visit, but kept moving.  Eventually, there were only four of us left and each time he asked if we'd like to see something -- the engine room or the galley, for example, we said yes.  Tal and I went from the bow to the stern, from the depths of the hold to the wheel on the upper aft deck, from the Victorian staterooms to the four-story engine room.

We spent the rest of our time in and around the science center, a fabulous place, boasting 400 interactive exhibits and both a solar array (disguised as an entrance portico) and a wind turbine in the middle of the front lawn.  It shares real estate with the Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I thought the name of the downstairs eating establishment pretty clever.

At 4:00 on the dot we were picked up by "Lolly the Trolley" (yes, the tour company also has "Gus the Bus") for an hour-long tour of downtown Cleveland.  Frankly, it was pretty much a blur.  It was also impossible to photograph anything from that cute but jouncing conveyance.  Tal and I walked back later to Public Square and Cleveland Mall to get these three photographs (not surprisingly, all verticals).

Old Stone Church
This is the second building completed in 1855,
which replaced the original 1834 structure.

Marshall Fredericks' "Fountain of Eternal Life"
on Cleveland Mall in from of Key Tower,
the tallest building in Ohio, completed in 1991.

Terminal Tower
It was the second tallest building in the world
when it was completed in 1928.

While touring we even crossed the Cuyahoga River into Ohio City and saw (from the trolley) the Westside Market; St John's Episcopal Church, one of the stops on the Underground Railroad; and where the Grande Mariner would have docked (I couldn't look ...) had we come that far by water. 

It had been a super long day by the time "Lolly" dropped us at our hotel -- the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade -- a splendid location which deserves a post all its own.   

27 May 2011

The power of memory

It wasn't the Grande Mariner, but it was the Maid of the Mist.  And, in the scheme of things today, that distinction made all the difference.

I had a wonderful time doing the touristy thing, the boat ride with Tal and our group.  The whole process -- filing off the bus to being herded to the dock to receiving the blue, hooded poncho, to boarding the boat -- was completely organized.  There was no possibility of going the wrong way, being separated from the group, missing the boat.

Once on the Niagara River and as we approached the falls, I was very nearly overcome.  The water was one thing -- thunderous, surreal, baffling.  More important than the obvious for me was the power of memory -- insistent, clear, touching.

Was it the summer of Lucia's infancy or was she a year and a half?  I don't remember.  Either way she was in a stroller.  On our annual family vacation that year we traveled as usual to see Mom's parents in Milford MI.  The plan had been for Lucia to stay with Grandma and Grandpa while the rest of us went to Niagara Falls.  Grandpa, though, had been ill.  Mom and Dad determined that leaving Lucia would be too much to ask.

Forty-six or forty-seven years ago the set up at the falls and going on the Maid of the Mist was different than now (and I think, too, we were on the Canadian side, but I'm not at all sure).  Mom and Lucia had stayed on the rim, missing out on the adventure.  Dad had the three of us in tow descending to the level of the river.  There were dressing rooms.  Dad and Paul went one way.  Joyce and I had custody of each other.  When we all emerged, we were clad in heavy, yellow raincoats, duck-tail-looking, yellow hats, galoshes, having left our own footwear in shoe check.  Strangely, it was that part -- the dressing room procedure that I remember the most clearly of the whole experience.

Anyway, as I stood on the deck of the Maid of the Mist this afternoon, deep inside the cataract carved by the water, the three falls pouring forth, the sound near huge, the mist almost heavy as rain, my knees seemed to want to give way and my eyes made a pretty heavy mist of their own.  The words were so clear.  I was a pre-teen again.  Dad's voice was shouting to us over the roar of the water, "Look for your mom. Wave to Lucia and Mom." 

Grief does work its way in at the most unexpected times.  My dad, gone 13 months this week, was right there.  Without doubt.

I waved.

Moving on -- overland

Since we were told on Monday night how this trip was going to have to play out, given the persistently high water in the Oswego Canal, I have experienced a mirthful delight at very idea of a tour of historic waterways by bus.  But, after packing our bags and leaving them in the corridor and after one last breakfast -- this one including waffles, pancakes, apple wood bacon, fresh fruit, that is precisely what we set out to do today.  Two buses arrived in the RV park.  We were loaded in moments, our goodbyes said to the crew, and on our way, abandoning the boat in the woods.  My last glimpse of the Grande Mariner was from the bridge over the canal, the boat alongside the dock, all flat, wide and streamlined, and Lake Oneida on my right.  Sigh.

It was a three-hour drive to Buffalo.  We were riding in the back, by choice.  Lots more leg room.  A little more solitude.  I didn't bring a map with me on this trip, since I wasn't going to need one.  Google Earth was on the screen on the lounge almost all the time, that or the captain's sailing charts.  So, today I've felt a little lost.  In a church parking lot somewhere on the outskirts of Buffalo we paused long enough to rendezvous with two step-on guides who stayed with us through our visit to Niagara Falls.

Our first stop was at the New York Power Authority visitor center, about 4.5 miles downstream from the falls, where we ate box lunches -- which had been prepared aboard the Grande Mariner.  (Have I mentioned recently not liking having had to leave the boat?!)   High above the Niagara River Gorge and called the Power Vista, the visitor center overlooks two power plants (the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant on the US side and the Sir Adam Beck #2 Generating Station on the Canadian side) and the graceful Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Taken from the Power Vista on the American side of the Niagara Gorge -- Beck on left, Moses on right.

After that too-short visit -- didn't get to explore the exhibits or roam the grounds, we traveled along the Niagara escarpment, eventually ending up aboard the Maid of the Mist, all clad in what looked like blue, hooded dry cleaner bags.  Great fun, very wet, too short.

Despite some graduate work in architectural history, to include landscape, I didn't know that Frederick Law Olmstead did work at Niagara Falls.  In the late 19th century the site was heavily industrial, as well as having been commercialized (like it isn't now?).  New York state established a state park (called a reserve at the time) in 1883 (making it the oldest state park in the nation), which was then designed by Olmstead, collaborating with Calvert Vaux.  Our visit was on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, the place choked with visitors, the design carrying the load, but just barely.  I can only imagine what the next three days will be like.

The American Falls from the observation platform at Prospect Point

The rapids on their way to the brink of the American Falls

A view of Horseshoe Falls from Goat Island's Terrapin Point

Made from a 100
year-old Silver
Maple damaged in
a storm in 2006
To the hotel with us, the Buffalo Hyatt Regency in downtown.  What was one of the first things I saw from my backseat perch?  A "statue" of Frederick Law Olmstead alongside the driveway!  Yes, it does lean back quite a bit.  What do you think?  Chisel or chainsaw?