Sunday, March 25, 2012

28 States: West Virginia, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh

Wednesday, as you may remember was Rachel and my first Anniversary -- but I was in Rochester, Minnesota all week. I got back into Cleveland late Friday and in a rare change Rachel was free of work for the weekend.

I've wanted to visit Fallingwater -- perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright's best known work -- for as long as I can remember and with the weekend free Rachel suggested a trip. Taking it one step further (and looking for hotels in the area) we, incidentally, crossed West Virginia off my list as the 28th state I've visited* in -- almost 28 years.
Leaving Cleveland yesterday morning we headed Southeast, and stopped at the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History -- two of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, colocated in the same building (we visited The Andy Warhol Museum, another CMP but located downtown, last summer). The Natural History side was way too dense with screaming children to be enjoyable, but the full-scale casts of landmark European buildings facades (and a 1/20th scale model of the Pantheon) were interesting. On the art side, the display was interesting with a large volume of art in relatively little wall space and I felt like with with the modern art I was doing a bit much of "Oooh, Nelson-Atkins [Kansas City] has one just like this one..." or "Walker Art Center [Minneapolis] has another of this artist's..." -- but Rachel humored me.

Continuing our journey East and South we did a quick stop by the Pittsburgh Ikea -- with nothing in particular in mind, we escaped relatively unscaled with two sodas, a pretzel, and two pieces of kitchenry being the only damage done on this trip.

Crossing the border in to "Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia" we made our way to Morgantown where after meandering through parts of the WVU campus we checked into our Hilton Garden Inn for the evening -- this is where Rachel will tell you I got giddy: Walking by one of the side doors I noticed the card reader won't accept cards. "Ooh! I think this may be one of the few hotels using prox cards!" -- and so it was. Rather than the by-now-traditional magnetic stripe ("credit card") key card for access to the hotel rooms, this property is the first I've ever stayed at that uses proximity cards for access to the room... it's a little weird to not insert the key into anything but so cool. What can I say, I'm a geek.

One of my friends is from West Virginia and she had suggested a handful of sights to see but based on timing and seasonality the only one that we could actually try was Cooper's Rock State Park -- but the road to the lookout was closed. With three miles each way and about 2 hours before we needed to be back on the road we didn't make it to the lookout but we did get a decent hike in through the woods. With the sounds of Interstate 68 in the far distance it was eerily quiet and still -- only seeing about three birds and not once hearing rustling in the underbrush it was easy to feel isolated but not detached.

With the appointed time approaching we found our way back to my car and hit the back roads stopping for lunch in a little cafe/general store in Ohioplye (which has an interesting history) before arriving at the ultimate destination: Fallingwater.

A beautiful and timeless property I love the exterior's crisp lines, while the interior's open public spaces and smaller,  more intimate, private spaces with narrowing doorways and lower ceilings but spectacular views from every room in the house and the wonderful white noise of the waterfall that runs under the house. I think my favorite feature of the home, as a matter of fact, wasn't any of the number of cantilevered patios but the descending staircase off of the living room (with a telescoping glass closure) that leads down to the stream... especially after all of the hiking we did today, it seemed like the ideal place to just let ones feet hang in the water to unwind.

While the basic tour is a little superficial and repetitive, the access to the building and its three buildings is worth it, though it would be nice if there was a floorplan for the residence (honestly I haven't looked that far) to really understand the relationship of the rooms on each floor...and I, of course, would have loved to see the home's systems and utility spaces -- as a matter of fact, the kitchen (described as utilitarian and for the owners' staff's use only) wasn't included, but it was certainly worth the visit and Rachel and I are contemplating returning for the in-depth tour perhaps closer to fall as our guide mentioned the foliage is beautiful.

Leaving Fallingwater we spent probably 30 miles working our way through tiny little towns on tiny, winding little hill roads and it was nice scenery if a little white knuckle at times -- before hitting Interstate 76 and riding the unchanging asphalt back to Cleveland via the Ohio Turnpike.


*- While I've set foot in Colorado (connecting flight at Denver International Airport) and Iowa (a few wrong turns while I was in you have to drive through a small corner of Iowa to get from the City of Omaha to Eppley Airfield) they don't meet my criteria [eat at least one meal or stay overnight] and aren't included. Wisconsin is also a little perfunctory, and probably shouldn't be included... but I ate the food, darn it.

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