Thursday, August 7, 2008

Kings of the Road

Mini-Roadtrip Part 1.

Well, Lone Reader, it’s been a long trip, 4ril. On Tuesday morning I took off with the kids for House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Yes, it IS 4 hours away. For those of you not familiar with this behemoth, it is the most popular privately-owned attraction in Wisconsin. (According to them anyway.) It is a house built by one Mr. Alex Jordan after being dissed by local architect and luminary Frank Lloyd Wright. The original house does feel like a crappy version of a FLW house – low-slung and Japanese-y. After the original house, you go through the collection rooms. It seems Mr. Jordan and later his son collected all sorts of stuff – parts of old cars, mechanical banks, jewelry store displays, carousel horses, etc. Room after room of this stuff kept the kids entertained and makes me think of all the stuff I want to get rid of when I get home. (No hoarding syndrome here, pal.) It was interesting to me to see the obvious anti-Semitism of the antique jewelry store displays…am I the only person who noticed that?

Some of the displays are incredibly weird - this goat girl plays a mechanical fiddle. A reference to the profane nature of man? Nero? The perv who lives in Apt. 113? I dunno. It does take an incredibly long time to get through the whole thing and the cheesiness of the displays wears on one after awhile. Some of the things displayed are authentic, some are fakes, but there’s no labeling to let you know. By the end you’re praying for relief and to feel the warmth of the sun on your face. (The whole place is super dark.) Nonetheless, I’ve always been a sucker for the trappings of the insane and this place surely qualifies. (Get me to a grotto and I’ll be yours for life.) The kids really loved it.

Mini-Roadtrip Part 2.

After an evening’s rest at a lovely Best Western (seriously, it was a lovely Best Western!) we headed to Cave of the Mounds. This was, for me, the best part of our little jaunt. It’s an interesting cave that was discovered in 1939 by quarry workers blasting. By 1940 thousands of visitors had traipsed through the cave. We were there yesterday and we had a lovely tour, given by a woman who had been a cave guide when she was a teen in the 50s and now has returned to work in her retirement. She was very informative, and gave us a lot of background about the ways the cave has changed in the last 50 years. The grounds are magnificently planted with prairie restoration and lots of attention to detail, and the gift shop features minerals, fossils and gemstones more prominently than the usual tschockes. I will say, it’s ridiculous to go to a cave and have the guide constantly point out “the eagle”, the “breakfast table” and silly interpretations like that. We get it – just like clouds – you see what you’re looking for. There were no colored lights or big swells of music on the tour, though, which I appreciated. (I still remember going to Meremac Caverns as a kid and seeing the light show on a stalactite formation while Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” blared over loudspeakers.) Cave of the Mounds was all very earnest and low-key, which was nice.

On the way back we stopped in Mount Horeb to go to the World Famous Mustard Museum. Very funny, I must say. I spent an insane amount of time trying to decide whether or not to buy my ex-father-in-law a fake diploma from “Poupon U.” Ultimately, it was not to be. I did buy some mustard from the vending machine, though. (!) They take their condiments seriously in Mount Horeb.

We then started the long, long trip home. Part of 94 is down to one lane, and the kids were beyond surly to be sitting at a dead stop. (I, on the other hand, was thrilled.) I slept like a baby on Benadryl last night and today, I’m fresh as a daisy, fit as a fiddle, and many other clichés you can imagine.

Sadly a Lego Chewbacca was lost today. We’ve had many frantic searches and tearful outbursts. He was a good Wookie…we’ll miss him so. Keep your powder dry, Lone Reader and more soon! (heart), Velma

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