The Big Trip, Part 3

It occurs to me that if we keep writing these chapters as we are doing, the account of this trip will be book-length by the time we finally return to Istanbul. We didn’t intend this to happen, it’s just that, to paraphrase Mark Twain’s famous comment, we don’t have time to make them shorter. Feel free to skim and skip, as you will.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Joe and Rosalie

The day was sunny and warm. The lovely fall colors of the trees enhanced our three-and-a-half-hour drive to Kalamazoo to vist old friend Joe and Rosalie. An interesting fact is that this is a family that writes. Joe has written several books and short stories. Rosalie has been published, as well. Their daughters all write either for work or for art. Another fact: all three daughters studied abroad.

In Kalamazoo, we found the Markin’s Glen RV Park along a road lined with decrepit frame houses and extensive greenhouses that grow bedding plants.

Kalamazoo is a surprising place. A city of less than 100,000 full-time residents, it has two large colleges. It also has an active cultural life with several legitimate theaters, a symphony orchestra, and other musical venues.

Friday, October 5, 2012

We took our time leaving the RV park. The night’s rain had brought a much cooler temperature. Walking from our motor home to the wash house, made me wonder just how cold the next couple of weeks will be.

My Sister-in-Law Linda with Her Daughter Sarah

We arrived at my sister-in-law Linda’s home in Tinley Park, Illinois in the mid-afternoon. When Kay went upstairs for a two-hour nap, I used the time for a one-on-one talk with Linda, the first we’d ever had.


We began talking about Chris, her ex-husband and my late brother. I was curious to know how she understood his substance abuse and behavior that led to his premature death. She said that as long as Chris was engaged with things that interested him, he was fine. The problems arose when he was confronted with the ordinary tasks of life.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Onarga Military School as I Remember It

This morning Kay and I drove 80 miles downstate to attend the annual reunion of former cadets of the Onarga Military School where I had boarded and studied during my final three years of high school.

Onarga Alumni Group

Although it closed forty years ago, the school still has an alumni association, and each year in October anyone who had ever attended OMS is invited to return for a weekend to share memories. It was interesting to learn the difference attending this small school with its regimented hours and strict discipline made for those men I talked to. Some had been boys at risk, who told me that were it not for how the school shaped them, their lives would have turned out much worse.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chicago – Evergreen Park – Chicago

In the late morning I suggested that my sister Janis, Kay, and I walk around Beverly.

A Large Beverly House

I grew up here and once knew these streets well. Janis has a remarkable knowledge of the residents in many of the homes we passed by. Except for a brief couple of years in Austin, Texas, she has spent her entire life in this neighborhood. Much of her knowledge comes from a time when she was more involved socially than she is currently. Also, there are memories and connections formed by her children when they were young.

Architects designed most of these homes in the early decades of the 20th century when the neighborhood was a bedroom community for men who worked in downtown offices. They are located where they are because of the proximity of the railroad that still runs just south of Longwood Drive. This is the same train I would take as a pre-adolescent to get to the Loop and the Near North Side.

I never get tired of walking around Beverly on my visits to the old neighborhood. This is because there are so many homes there that are so architecturally interesting. Every imaginable size and style from the 1910s through the 1940s is represented. I’ve never seen any neighborhood to match it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chicago – Plano, IL – Chicago

Our trip to Plano to visit the renowned Farnsworth House couldn’t have been scheduled for a nicer day. Sun, blue sky, good roads, and autumn colors made this a memorable excursion.

Farnsworth House

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s glass house stands in a wooded area next to the Fox River. The architect began designing this small, weekend house for Doctor Edith Farnsworth personally in 1946. However, there were delays and the house wasn’t completed until 1951. In the meantime, Mies’ design had inspired Phillip Johnson to create his Glass House on his own New Canaan property in 1949.

Farnsworth House

That this icon of Modernist Architecture survives at all is a tribute to its importance as, in the words of van der Rohe’s biographer, Franz Schulze “the first of an extraordinary building type as well as an unsurpassed example of it.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chicago – Kenosha, WI

It was time once again to drive to Kenosha, Wisconsin for our visit to Dolores, Kay’s erstwhile French professor at Oakland U. and an old friend of ours.

At 85, Dolores doesn’t travel much anymore and depends on friends and family visiting her. She has had a long and interesting life that she relates in dramatic fashion.

Dolores is one of our friends most committed to film culture. When we get together, we usually spend much of our time watching movies. Today’s visit was no exception. We made it a celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s work by first watching a DVD of the Broadway musical review Putting It Together in which five superb actors perform songs from Sondheim’s work, much of it work that Kay and I have seen on stage at one time or another.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kenosha, WI

In the interest of brevity, I’ll pass quickly over today’s film selections. They were Cyrano de Bergerac and Danton, both excellent French films starring Gerard Depardieu. Finally, in the evening we watched West Side Story for which a young Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics. This is a great favorite of all three of us, one we watch over and over.

I was happily exhausted by the time we finished viewing and discussing today’s triple feature. I needed my rest for tomorrow, there would be more.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Marshall Field’s Clock

Downtown Chicago – I can’t go there without being assailed by so many memories, most of them good. Today was such a day. To get to the Loop, Kay and I took the Metra-Rock Island train, the same line I’d used as a boy before I had my driver’s license. The train cars have changed, of course, from the woven wicker seating and windows one could open on a hot day to today’s double-decker cars able to carry more passengers.

Downtown, at the end of the line, the atmospheric LaSalle Street Station of my youth is long gone, replaced by a small utilitarian space with ticket windows, restrooms, and a waiting area. To my mind this is not progress.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chicago – Indianapolis – Carmel, IN

Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is large and its collections well installed and exciting. The first gallery we entered is hung with the work of Neo-Impressionists, unknown to us but very good. These were pointillist paintings in the manner of Georges Seurat.

Other galleries held works from nearly every age of Western Art. There were also rooms of ancient and African art that we never even entered.

As befitting this Indiana museum, we found paintings by Hoosier artists, including portraits of writers Booth Tarkington and James Whitcomb Riley.

Outdoors, at the end of a long vista, stands a large version of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture done in Corten steel.

Indianapolis Museum Gardens

The gardens were as impressive as the museum, and we took a short walk through a section of them to the large, white mansion built by Elli Lilly, Jr. many decades ago. The mild weather and the fall foliage made this a perfect day to be here. We regretted we had such a short time to experience these beautiful settings.

Leaving the museum grounds, we drove half an hour to the suburb of Carmel and the home of Tripp and Landa. Trippe was my classmate and Phi Delt fraternity brother. I’ve known him since we were both 18, though not as well as I would after this visit.

Family is very important to them, and the basement of their home, where Kay and I spent the night, contains a completely furnished apartment to house their children and grandchildren when they visit.

Trippe is a serious fisherman. He has the largest assortment of rods and tackle I’ve ever seen outside of a sporting goods store. He also hunts birds and has some magnificent trophies on the downstairs walls.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Carmel, IN – Crawfordsville, IN

Wabash College Campus

We said goodbye to Trippe and Landa and drove forty miles to Crawfordsville, the location of Wabash College, one of the best of the Midwest’s small liberal arts colleges and my alma mater.

Us at the KOA Kampground by “The Beast”

The KOA kampground where we parked the Beast is close to the college. A gracious and helpful man named Steve met us there and drove us to the campus. At Wabash, Steve is responsible for editing and publishing the college’s magazine that, according to Wabash President Pat White, is one of the best in the nation. I had corresponded with him earlier as he was preparing to publish an article of mine in the magazine, and now I was pleased to meet him in person.

This afternoon Kay and I attended two classes. First, we listened to a discussion of a Nathanial Hawthorne short story in Professor Warren Rosenberg’s advanced English seminar. Later, we enjoyed hearing Economics Professor Joyce Burnett give a history of the causes of the Great Depression.

The highlight of this Wabash visit was meeting President Pat White and his wife Chris for drinks and dinner.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Crawfordsville, IN – Quad Cities, IL

Today began in sunshine and ended in rain. We drove more than 260 miles across the State of Illinois, most of that while fighting a terrific crosswind that didn’t allow me to relax at the wheel.

Our destination was the John Deere Company’s World Headquarters in East Moline, Illinois across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa.

This magnificent building by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen is as wonderful in its details as it is overall. Fittingly, for a company that manufactures some of the world’s finest heavy equipment, its headquarters building is made of Corten steel. Sited on more than 1,000 acres of its own parkland gives it a magisterial appearance. One approaches it as one would a modern-day industrial palace.

Leaving the John Deere grounds, we stopped at a Walmart to buy provisions for the next few days, for today marks a new stage in our travels. Until we reach Portland, Oregon, we will be living solely in and out of the Beast and getting a real taste of the RV lifestyle.