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Circus Trip 2018: Oldfields Gardens

Day 25, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Indianapolis, Indiana

I went to the Indianapolis Art Museum!  But first, I must try to explain the names…  Newfields is the official name of the Indianapolis Art Museum complex; it is named for the newer house built on the site that the museum is on.  The art museum is just one building on the site, though.  In 1966, Ruth Lilly and Josiah K. Lilly, the younger generation of the pharmaceutical king family, donated the estate to the Art Association of Indianapolis for their museum complex.  The donation included the country homes of the family; the original home was named Oldfields, and the new house was Newfields!

The Newfields complex includes the Oldfields gardens, the Oldfields Mansion (also called Lilly House), which was accessible through a self-guided tour, and the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Clowes Pavilion (another mansion which is currently closed for restoration) as well as the 100 acre Virginia B Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, which I did not have time to visit.  Admission is $18, which is high, especially after they had no admission fee for years, but it is incredible!  I feel like that $18 was good for two days, but I can’t remember, and I couldn’t turn up any mention of it on their website.

I started with the gardens, figuring that I could spend some time outside earlier in the day before it got unbearably hot.  Well, to be honest, it was already unbearably hot, but I am nothing if not dedicated to my touristing.

The gardens were designed for the original owners of the home; and include a sunken formal garden, a ravine garden, an orchard, a fountain, the Grand Allée (vista) and a border garden. When the Lilly family purchased the estate in 1933, the gardens were mature and thankfully the family didn’t change the design of the gardens.  It is incredible to have these historic gardens available to the public!

There is a lot to see, and outdoor art installations also add a touch of whimsy to the gardens.  I have to admit though, the brightly colored, nearly life sized bears, alligators, meerkats, turtles and other animals scattered around added a bit too much whimsy for my taste.  I prefer my art a bit more traditional.  It was fun to wander around and check everything out though!

 

 

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Circus Trip 2018: Cataract Falls State Park

Day 24, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cataract, Indiana

Who knew that the Midwest has such small waterfalls?  I guess it makes sense, being that the Midwest is so very much flatter than the foothills and mountains that stretch out less than an hour from my sea-level home.  I left Marilyn’s house about noon, and made my way towards Indianapolis.  Cataract Falls was along the way!

Cataract Falls State Park contains the largest waterfall by volume in Indiana, a two fall combo that separately measure at 18 and 20 feet, and combine to create an impressive 38 foot cascade!  It is considered to be a little taller than that, because there are a series of smaller cascades over the course of the half-mile of Cataract Falls.  Alright, maybe impressive is a bit of an overstatement, especially for those of us who have seen waterfalls over 600 feet tall at home.  However, if 38 feet is what Indiana has to offer, I’ll go see it.  I wandered around and relaxed a little bit, but it was too hot to hike that day.

The park also has a covered bridge, which largely looks like the covered bridges near Dana, Indiana, except that it a solid red with no white accents.  The Cataract Falls covered bridge was finished in 1876, and is the only remaining covered bridge in Owens County.  It is unusual because of its construction with a Smith Truss design, rather than the more common Burr Arch Truss that is found on most Indiana covered bridges.  It was pretty, but given my experience from the day before, I waited until another man walked inside before I did.  I will probably always do this with covered bridges now.

I also stopped at the tiny community of Cataract just outside of the state park.  They have a historic general store, originally built in 1860, filled with various antiques and snack items.  I didn’t find any antiques I had to have but did purchase a few of their unique soda options – I bought two to try.  That’s one of the nice things about traveling – you get out of your comfort zone and try foods and drinks that you might not otherwise pick at home!

That evening I headed to my friend Will’s house, outside of Indianapolis.  That evening we had turkey tacos for dinner, the first time in almost a month that I actually made a home cooked meal, in a home, with more than a couple ingredients.  It was soooo delicious!

The Last 90 Days

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that it is the last quarter of the decade… The last 90 days as she put it.  Well, technically since October and December both have 31 days, it’s 92, but we won’t quibble (I can’t help it, I’m a Virgo).

It got me thinking, what am I going to do with the last 90 days of this decade?  What are you going to do?  Sadly, for me, it won’t be a trip around the world, but let’s make it count!

Mount Rainier Snowshoeing 2019

In February, Paula and I did a repeat of our snowshoe weekend.  We spent two nights at Mount Rainier over the President’s Day holiday.  It was glorious!

Last year, the road up to Paradise was closed the entire time we were there, due to avalanche danger and rain.  This year, we were able to drive up to Paradise and snowshoe up there!  We got up early and headed up early, driving up just after the road opened.  We were the first ones out on most of the snowshoe trail, and had the opportunity to snowshoe through fresh, unbroken snow!

That morning, we hiked out under a partly cloudy sky, with a spectacular view of Mount Rainier!  It was so beautiful!  We took lots of photos and selfies, because when you grow up around mountains, you know that the mountain isn’t always out, and you take advantage of the view when you can get it.  I love seeing this view!

We snowshoed out a bit further in the fresh snow, and on our way back noticed that Mount Rainier was now obscured by the clouds.  We were lucky to have gotten out there when we did – there is a benefit to being the early bird!

That afternoon, we snowshoed around the Trail of the Shadows, an easy 1 mile flat loop trail. I love it because it takes you by an old turn of the century cabin, originally built by the Longmire family, as well as remnants of the old mineral baths – they were advertised as having healing properties, if you could stand to soak in the sulfur smelling waters.

We renewed our ritual of sitting on the porch to drink spiked hot chocolate and wine, and also had a good time working on a new puzzle in the game room and making new friends.  We had grass-fed burgers and blackberry cobbler.  Both were to die for!

We were sitting on the porch just after they closed the gate to Paradise at 6 pm, and Paula spotted a critter making his way near the road.  We watched him trot across the road and realized it was a fox!  It was too dark and we were too far away for photos, but he was so adorably cute from afar!  This may be the first time I’ve ever seen a fox in the wild too!  Our room this year overlooked the road in the front of the hotel – it is so pretty there!

I certainly hope that we continue this tradition, either just the two of us or with other friends as well!  It was so much fun!

Circus Trip 2018: General Lew Wallace Study and Museum

Day 23, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Marilyn took me to the Lew Wallace Study and Museum.  I had no idea this was in Crawfordsville, Indiana.  Wallace was born in 1827 in Brookville, Indiana, and lived in Crawfordsville at several points during his life, retiring to his family home after a long career in the military and public service.

Lew Wallace was a lawyer and a Civil War Major General (and also one of the youngest Union officers to ever hold the rank).  He played important roles in the battles of Fort Donelson, and Shiloh, and he went against orders to protect Washington, D.C. from the Confederates at the Battle of Monocacy.

At the conclusion of the war, he served as a member of the military tribunal who tried those responsible for assassinating Abraham Lincoln, as well as the tribunal that tried Commander Wirz, the infamous officer who ran the Andersonville Confederate POW camp.

 

After the war tribunals were over, he went down to Mexico to provide supplies to the Juaristas so they could kick the French out of Mexico, and he served as the governor of the New Mexico territory from 1878 to 1881.  During his time in New Mexico, he signed the execution warrant for Billy the Kid (who then escaped again and died after being shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett instead of being executed).

In 1880, he authored Ben-Hur, the epic biblical saga, despite the fact that prior to writing the book, he wasn’t a particularly religious man.  He also wrote several other books, including his own auto-biography.  Marilyn gave me her vintage copy of Ben-Hur, since I have never read it.  I haven’t yet, but plan to!

In 1881 Wallace was appointed by President Garfield as the U.S. minister to Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.  In 1882 he and his wife Susan made a pilgrimage to Israel.  Makes you feel like kind of a slouch, right?

 

Those accomplishments made him pretty spectacular already, but in addition to that, he also invented a fishing pole with an internal reel, and he even designed the study we visited.  Yes, you heard right.  Wallace wanted his own study where he could read, design and invent; basically the 19th century man-cave with fewer neon beer signs and flat-screen TVs with football games.

Wallace designed a gorgeous brick building, and had it constructed between 1895 and 1898, at a cost of $30,000 dollars.  It combines several different architectural styles; Byzantine, Romanesque, and Greek.  The outside of the study has a face on each side; each one a character from Ben-Hur.  He filled it with amazing books, art and historical artifacts.

 

I would love to have a study like this!  Our tour was wonderful, and I was so excited that they allow photographs inside!  Our docent had an incredible knowledge of Wallace and his accomplishments, as well as the historical details of the study.  This is truly a labor of love for these folks.

And get this – they had a little library in the shape of the Lew Wallace Study!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Covington Courthouse Murals

Day 23, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Covington, Fountain County, Indiana

I didn’t make it a habit to check out courthouses or other government buildings on my trip, but the Fountain County courthouse in Covington, Indiana has something special.  It was built between 1936 and 1937 during the Art Deco era, and also the Great Depression.

The walls of the courthouse also ended up being a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project; an attempt by the federal government to create public projects to employ some of the millions of unemployed Americans at the time.  Eugene Savage was a Covington local, and an artist; he was hired to head up the project, a series of murals on the interior walls of the courthouse in 1939.

Savage was a professor for twenty-eight years at the Yale School of Art and Architecture, and during his career, he painted a number of famous murals, including one at Yale University.

The murals depict American life from before the Revolutionary War up through the period when the murals were painted in the 1930s.  They include scenes of joy and tragedy, happiness and sorrow.  There are battles and the aftermath, weddings, the industrial age, farming, and modern day inventions like the automobile.  The artists make their political and social views known through their art.

 

The murals in Covington are beautiful, and interestingly and unheard of at the time, 9 of the 10 artists that were commissioned to complete the murals were women (Savage himself was the only man).  Girl Power!  They were recently restored, and definitely worth the time to check out.  There were many more than I have shown; you can take an online tour of them here.

Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables

I never read this book when I was younger.  I didn’t even know it was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, probably due to some mental mix-up with the Anne of Green Gables book, which seems so much more cheerful than anything Hawthorne would write.  I mean he did write The Scarlet Letter, with all those uptight Puritans.

But then I went to visit the House of the Seven Gables, in Salem, Massachusetts, where Hawthorne lived for a period of time with his relatives.  It was built in the 1600s and was the inspiration for the home in his book.  The gift shop was selling copies of the book, with a little stamp that indicated you bought it at the actual House of the Seven Gables.  And it was only $11, so I bought myself a copy.  Now I wish I would have read the book before visiting the house, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

First things first.  19th century literature is a challenging read.  Oh boy…  We think we are so smart these days with our constant connectness, but writers back then really poured in all the vocabulary words they had ever learned.  And the descriptions!  So much of the book is based on description, rather than action.

The novel centers around a cast of characters from the Pyncheon family, of whom three, an elderly sister and brother, and their barely adult niece, live in a 200-year-old home.  It was built by an ancestor of theirs and is rumored to be cursed.  The book alludes to, but never states outright, that the ancestor accused the original owner of the land of witchcraft in order to buy his property on the cheap after he was executed.  So that man did what any good witch would do and issued a gallows curse on his accuser.  I mean, even if you weren’t a witch, you are about to be executed, wouldn’t you be tempted to pop off and see if karma might have your back?

Fast forward to the mid-1800s, and the elderly residents of the home are poor and anti-social, hiding out like hermits until their young, fresh niece comes along to breathe some life into the place.  As the plot goes on, there is the constant theme of where is the money hidden, in the form of 200-year-old property deeds on long-contested land that would make the rich relatives richer and the poor ones, well, they probably wouldn’t see a dime.

So there you go.  Murder, mayhem, Puritans, witchcraft and a pretty, young maiden to save the day.  There’s a love story in there too of course, and a few twists to keep you guessing.  A good story if you can keep your eyes focused through all that prose.

Note: The photo above is not the edition I read, but this book has approximately hundreds of editions and versions and I’m lazy and just picked one of the photos instead of trying to find the version I read.  So there.