Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 52/60: Bentonville to Oklahoma City

We started the day with a trip to Walmart to stock up on drinks and snacks. The Supercenter in Bentonville is in no way different from any other Walmart. No souvenirs. No bargain price on the catalog for Crystal Bridges.

We got under way about 10:00. I was amazed to notice that almost as soon as we passed from Arkansas to Oklahoma the land got drier, trees smaller, and it grew more arid as we went west. What we saw was basically cattle country.

We got into Tulsa about 12:30, just the right time for lunch at the Gilcrease Museum. The café has a pretty view of the Osage Mountains, and a rather elegant look. Service seemed painfully slow, and everything on the menu seemed peppery. I settled for salmon salad, very dull. Dan had blackened catfish, which he liked well enough.

This was our third visit to the Gilcrease, and every visit has been disappointing. They have a fairly good collection of American art, quite strong in Western art, and they have a pretty big building, big enough to give their collection a fair showing. But they relegate their permanent collection to about 25% of their gallery space and use the rest for other stuff. Like the Eiteljorg, a similar collection of Western Art in Indianapolis, they used a lot of gallery space commercially—the works were all for sale. They had lots of room devoted to children's discovery activities. They have added a lot of Native American art. To add to the frustration, this year they wouldn't allow photography. Luckily, Dan has photographed our favorites twice before.

They have a couple of massive masterpieces, permanently in place; one by Bierstadt and one by Moran. I enjoyed seeing these old favorites again, but now they have iron railings in front of them, marring the view. We spent a couple of hours review the works by Russell, Remington, Leigh, and Shreyvogel, and the Taos artists. It was okay.

Then we sped on to Oklahoma City, arriving about 5:30, plenty tired. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was casual and comfortable.

Day 51/60: Bentonville, Crystal Bridges

Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, who founded Walmart, has employed her wealth to create a wonderful new museum of American art on a beautiful piece of family-owned land in Northeast Arkansas. The wooded country was so lovely, that I was thankful for the opportunity to be there. We started our day with a walk on the Art Trail. It doesn't have much sculpture of interest yet, but it has a wonderful sky-viewing building by James Turrell, much like the one at the de Young Museum.

The inspiring museum building was designed by Moshe Safdie, who also designed the new wing of the Telfair Museum in Savannah, which we saw in 2010. Like Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Fallingwater,' it is built over a creek, a creek which has been managed to form reflecting pools. Unfortunately, Arkansas has been in a drought so some areas that should have had rippling falls were dry. The complex is composed of four pavilions. I believe the metaphor was an ark, as the pavilions are tapered like boats and their roofs are composed of massive bentwood beams in broad arcs like the hull of a boat, upside down. It is good to have breaks between pavilions where you can enjoy the woods and water through the glass walls, but it adds to the walking involved.

Ms. Walton came into the collecting game rather late, meaning it was hard to get her hands on works by some very important artists. Take Georgia O'Keeffe; her best stuff has long been ensconced in the major museums. Walton compensated by getting a few small but unusual pieces that show something new about her talent. She had only one work by a Californian, but it was a fab piece of a 'supine woman' by Wayne Thiebaud. She also has excellent work by sometimes-neglected artists. She had a knock-out piece by Harriet Frishmuth, a 19th Century sculptor who communicates joy and abandon like no other. She had a couple wonderful figurative sculptures by Alexander Calder's father, also Alexander Calder.

The collection pretty much runs the gamut from Copley to Ursula von Rydingsvaard. There are several masterpieces that we had seen in other big museums.

Admission is free, covered by Walmart, and photography is permitted. The whole endeavor comes from a very generous spirit. Properties abutting the museum have access to trails through the museum's park, and a trail reaches it from downtown. Ms. Walton has long been a promoter of the region—she got the local airport going—and she has tried to integrate the museum into the community, as well as into the site.

The museum was very well-attended, sometimes too crowded; this on a Monday in late October. Most of the patrons were seniors, many quite infirm. Bentonville, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is actually fairly convenient to St. Louis, Tulsa, and other major cities.  Most patrons seemed to be from the region. They said things like, "Lookee there! Inat weeeird?" Apparently many patrons have never been to an art museum before, because there is a greeter at the door to explain not to get to close to the art work and other courtesies.

One of the pavilions is devoted to a vast eating hall. It has glass walls and projects over a reflecting pool; light patterns ripple across the broad wooden arches. We stood in line 25 minutes to order; the food came out pretty fast. We both had High South Chicken salad, which was excellent roasted chicken mixed with mayonnaise and cranberries, over greens; it was fine. I had a devastating Devil's food cupcake; I don't know how they can make anything that swell in such vast quantities. Dan had a fancy cookie.

We spent most of the time separately, running around trying to cram the whole collection in, taking as many photos as we could. Mostly the lighting was quite good, but a few large pieces had bad reflections. It is notable that in the galleries there is no natural light at all, quite a departure from the usual practice. The artificial light is even and constant, but you do appreciate the breaks between galleries where you get natural light through glass walls. Both of us made a second trip out to see the Turrell sky-viewing building, perhaps a half hour's rapid walk. The upshot was that by 6:00 p.m. I was so tired I could barely move.

Next we went to downtown Bentonville. On the central square is Walton's original Five and Dime store, now a Visitors' Center. It has some old time kids toys and candies for sale up front, then a museum on Walton on Walmart, which had no interest for us.

For dinner we found an Italian place called Tavola Tratorria. Yes, in Bentonville, Arkansas, we found authentic Italian food. The Wedding Soup with turkey meat balls and risotto, a few veggies, had perfect, delicate Italian spicing; so life-giving. It reminds me that the best 'German' food I ever had was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, several years ago; a black cook working to instructions of German chef. We both had the soup with some sort of fancy salad that was fine. Very pleasant place, and nice service.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 50/60: North Little Rock to Bentonville

Rather than face another day of competing with huge trucks on the interstate, Dan came up with a plan to take a state highway through the Ozarks. This was a beautiful drive. The trees are good size and have large leaves, and they carpeted the hills with gorgeous rich color. The road is steep and winding. Hardly a truck to be seen. Very little traffic in fact.

The temperature was very cold, but the sky formed a clear blue background for the colorful scenery.

View from Overlook provided by National Park Service
Dan's photo
We stopped at a viewpoint with a great view of the Buffalo River Canyon, which is covered by colorful trees.
View from parking lot of Gift Shop
Dan's photo
When we tried to stop for lunch at the Cliff House, the only place for miles around, it was packed on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Both locals and tourists saw that this was a special autumn day and leaf-peepers abounded.

So we went onto Jasper, where we ate at the Ozark Café, a huge place, also jammed, but we were able to find a seat and get reasonable service. The best thing I learned on this trip is that when a restaurant offers deep-fried fish, they can generally grill it, if you ask. I had grilled catfish; was it ever light, almost sweet. Dan had chopped steak, which was done right. The wait staff worked very hard. They weren't grim, but they were serious and they were tired. I was amazed how much it pleased a couple of them when I said the food was good.

One of the signs for the Ozark Café, which is twice this long
Dan's photo
One of three large cluttered rooms at the Ozark Café
Dan's photo
We stopped at a viewpoint down near the Buffalo River where we could observe the handsome gray rock formations along one bank. Because of this year's drought, there was almost no canoeing.

National Park Service Sign
Dan's photo
View of Buffalo River from Pruitt's Landing
Dan's photo
Another view from Pruitt's Landing
Dan's photo
View from Pruitt's Landing with highway bridge in Background
Dan's photo
We left at 10:15 in the morning; we arrived in Bentonville at 5:15. It took a couple of hours longer to come through the mountains than to drive the freeway, but we were less tired when we got here because of the stimulation and the beauty of it.

Dan had dinner at Mama Chu's Asian Cuisine. I didn't need any more food. I had a latte and worked on the blog.

Day 49/60: Nashville to North Little Rock

Based on research he did on the fly yesterday, Dan took the car for its first oil change this morning at 8:00 a.m.

Though the previous day had been quite warm, when we left Nashville at 10 a.m., the weather was quite cold, 20 degrees lower in temperature, and the sky was gray and heavy.

We took I-40 all the way; no navigating to it.

At first the land was hilly and the rock was flaky and gray; the trees had more color than up north. Later the land flattened and large cotton fields appeared, some loaded with cotton, others harvested already, with only a few stray balls of fluff clinging to the brown twigs.

We had lunch at the Waffle House, because it was the only alternative to Subway at the time we got hungry. We had the chicken salad. It was okay. The wait staff and cook worked very fast, but their attitude was grim. Absolutely no pretense at friendliness, just fast service.

By noon, the clouds had dispersed; the sky was blue but the temperature was tooooo cold.

Around 1:45 we crossed the Mississippi river on the Dolly Parton Bridge, remembering how we had taken a cruise on the river on our previous trip through here. Then we were in Arkansas.

In Arkansas the land we saw was flat and fertile.We saw more prosperous agriculture in Arkansas than any state so far: lots of cotton, soy, cattle, corn, lots of green rice fields and harvested rice fields.

Driving was intense all day. When there are only two lanes going one way, then you get stuck behind one semi trying to pass another one. This went on constantly. Very had speed lane changing. We got in about 4 p.m.

The restaurant where Dan had eaten dinner on our last trip was closed, so he chose the Riverside Steakhouse at the Wyndham Hotel. Maybe this was not the best choice. First off, it did not have any view of the river, or anything else. Then we made the mistake of asking to sit in a particular section of the restaurant, instead of letting the hostess seat us; we've gotten away with this in the past, but this time Dan chose a seat in a section where a party of about a dozen people was taking shape. Thus, the service we got was negligent. The second mistake was to order minestrone. Both Dan and I think of minestrone as magically healing; we have had a couple of good bowls on the trip. This concoction had obscure ingredients and was so hot that I refused mine after two bites. We both had the salad bar, which was satisfactory.

Some days you just have to get the job done.

Day 48/60: Nashville Museums

What a day!

The first time I went outside, it was gray and cold. Every time I went outside after that it was colder; light rain intermittently. This did not stop us from savoring the best of Nashville.

First stop, Fisk University. This institution has been at the center of a big art controversy for about seven years. Through personal connections, Fisk acquired a small collection of first rate paintings and  a number of other works of interest from the estate of Georgia O'Keeffe and her husband Alfred Stieglitz, one of the great early collectors of modern art. When the university's budget got tight several years ago, it naturally occurred to some bean-counter type that their star painting by O'Keeffe alone would raise enough money to make much needed repairs, so they proposed de-accessing the collection, hoping to keep it intact. This raised a hubbub because donors and potential donors like to think of gifts as being permanently in place. The case was in court several years. Then dear Alice Walton, inheritor of the Walmart fortune, came to the rescue with a compromise: share the art, in exchange for big bucks. Walton's new museum Crystal Bridges will have the art part of the time, and it will be at the Fisk part of the time. Details are still being worked out. We wanted to see the collection before this disruption takes place.

The star of the show is O'Keeffe's 'Radiator Building,' the only one by her. They gave all her other major pieces to major museums around the country. The largest quantity at the Fisk was Marsden Hartley, showing his enormous range from delicate desert-scape to bold abstraction. There was a fabulous portrait of Stieglitz by Florine Stettheimer. A couple of nice pieces by Gino Severini. Of the Europeans, mostly sketches. All in all, quite worthwhile. Not allowed to carry a camera in the gallery.

The next objective was to see some mural decoration by Aaron Douglas, a Black American artist who  taught at Fisk much of his career. He decorated a former card catalog room in their old library. These were uplifting depictions of various aspects of academia, simplified and stylized. They are modest works in moss green and pale yellow, but pretty. We also sought out some decoration in an administrative office that was nice.

Then we went over to their new library. On the third floor is an art gallery, with an eclectic collection of quality work, ranging from a Calder design worked up in jute to an early work by Martin Puryear.

For lunch we went to the student cafeteria. $6.75 all you can eat; wide variety of stuff from fried fish to spaghetti; terrific home-made yellow sheet cake with fudge icing. Fisk is predominently African American. The students seemed very quiet and serious in the cafeteria. They were chatting, but there was no cutting up or loud laughter.

We were pretty conspicuous. Staff and students were cordial. Every place we went on campus, people were very helpful and friendly.

Then we dashed downtown to the Frist Art Center. Notice: Fisk University and Frist Art Center. We had to get this straight. We had researched and planned for the three art venues at the Fisk, but Dan figured this one out on the fly.

The Frist is a new art center, since 2000. It is housed in a huge Post Office built in 1930, in a Federalist/Art Deco style. Beautiful art deco interior. Nashville used to be a major regional hub for mail. I am so happy they re-purposed this fine building.

The big show was German Expressionism from the Detroit Institute of Arts. We've been to the museum in Detroit a couple of times and always appreciated their modern German works, but their collection is much too large to show, except in a traveling exhibition like this. No photography, of course, but Dan had photographed some of the important works in Detroit: a handful of amusing works by Kokoshka, a great one by Kirchner, one by Franz Marc. Very rich.

The most exciting part was that we discovered a major contemporary artist that we had not known about: Carrie Mae Weems. She is a photographer, a black woman, whose conceptual range is very impressive; she is at least as important as Cindy Sherman, and I'm happy to have seen her work in bulk. What fascinated me was the stories she wrote to accompany some of her sequences of photos; she is very poetic, insightful and revealing.

In the thirties, the regional Post Office was right next to the railway, and on the other side was a handsome stone railway station. Just as the PO has been re-purposed as an art museum, the train station has been redone as a magnificent hotel. Really. All the details of the interior decoration were tasteful and grand. Stained glass windows. Relief carvings of the angels of transportation. Decoration with a theme. In the lobby bar, I had a latte and Dan drank a beer. A guitarist was playing in the lobby, lobby-jazz standards. It was very cool. I took lots of pictures.

On the way back to the motel, we stopped at the Cinco de Mayo restaurant. We both ordered grilled tilapia; it was perfect. The place had been quiet and easy-going the previous evening, but Friday night it filled up with fertile and noisy families.

Dan has been trying to follow the Giants through the play-offs and the Series, but he is so tired by the time the game comes on (sometimes not till 9:00), that he doesn't see much before he falls asleep. First question on his mind the next day, How did the Giants do?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 47/60: Columbus to Nashville

Basically this was just a boring travel day. Stayed on the Interstate all day. Traffic was very intense. More big trucks than cars. Everyone speeding and jockeying for position.

In Ohio we saw quite a lot of corn, apparently good crops, ready to harvest or being harvested. We drove straight through Cincinnati at speed. We crossed into Kentucky about 10:45. The land got hillier. Thick bands of bare, brushy trees masked the view most of the time. We had lunch at a Burger King south of Louisville. Then we started going through some mountains and there were some colorful trees.

The weather was the most interesting: it was hot! 80 degrees. Hot wind all day. Light clouds gathering, then dispersing.

For a break we explored Franklin, Kentucky, a small town with some old buildings. Very noisy and intense traffic. Big trucks, also cars, right downtown. A big crane was being used to repair the roof of their handsome city hall. Dan had a long conversation with an old codger who was observing the operation from a wheel chair perched on a golf cart. Dan photographed some grain elevators and cleaned the windshield.

We entered Tennessee about 4:45. Freeway lined by trees; green corridor.

We arrived at our motel about 5:30; 4:30 local time. Terrible location, hard by two freeway onramps and two big highways. Very noisy and unfriendly.

We had dinner at the Cinco de Mayo restaurant. Getting there was formidable. An accident on the freeway directly opposite the motel had emergency vehicles wailing. We had to cross the big highways. Walk 2 blocks to restaurant where there was some police activity. Dinner was fine. We both had shrimp dishes. Authentic Mexican cafe. Nice atmosphere, nice service.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 46/60: Buffalo to Columbus

Live blogging.
Departure 9:30; light rain continuing.
Dan promises it will get warmer and drier as we head south.
10:00 on the I-90 thruway west, still raining lightly. Trees are bare and brushy.
Two days of driving coming up; no museums.
Crossing our own path in Columbus to head south.
We have seen 30 museums so far.
5107 miles on this journey so far.
10:20 Wine country, then corn; some pretty trees, still golden.
10:45 We cross in to Pennsylvania. I paid $3.15 toll.
Stop at PA visitor center; Dan checked paper map. Concerned about gassing up.
11:10 Buy gas at Kwik Fill for 3.69 per gallon. Dan waited to buy gas in PA because he heard they have lower prices than most states. 25.2 mpg on last tank; 416 miles; $64.
11:45 Stopped in historic North East, the most eastern and northern town in PA, looking for latte for Jan and a P.O. for Dan, who wanted to mail a card to his dear sister, Carol. We found both in the same block, near a pretty park with colorful trees. No rain. Sky growing lighter. One-jacket temperature.
Leaving town, vinyards are brown-gold.
12:30 Hazy sunshine!
Entering Ohio.
Extensive roadwork.
12:55 Stopped for lunch at Kay's place in Kingsville. Sunny! Mild breeze.
Both had veggie beef soup. Good stuff.
2:20 Cloudless sunshine; intense truck traffic.
2:55 Rest and stretch break. 78 degrees according to car sensor. Yay!
3:25 Freeway driving boring, into the sun, bare black trees are ugly.
4:00 Had to stop live blogging because iPad battery running low; need it for navigation.
4:20 Garmin in car navigates us around traffic jam on freeway. Traffic is very intense.
5:15 Arrive BW Executive Inn, Grove City, just south of Columbus.
Problem with the room: 3 refer trucks parked just outside, motors running; they will run all night long; sounds like a never-ending freight train in your back yard.
Dan arranged for us to get a room on the opposite side of the motel. 2 queens, no sofa, instead of a king. No problem. Located right next to room with ice machine and guest laundry.
I put a load of clothes on to wash right away. Dan checked out the local restaurant scene.
While waiting for my wash, I uploaded a bunch of Dan's photos to my post for the Shelburne.
The restaurant scene is not promising. Because our motel is located at an interstate hub, with motels tucked into the armpits of every onramp, getting to a nice restaurant would require several complicated freeway moves; Dan's had enough of freeways for today.
I turn the blog for Shelburne over to Dan. He is very interested in adding the captions to his photos.
7:15 Dan is working on the captions. He wants to watch the Giants play the Tigers in game one of the world Series. How will he get dinner and be back in time?
While Dan worked and my clothes dried, I walked to Panera's, which is literally on the next property, across a stretch of grass. I got a steak salad for him and a cob salad for me. Both were good. Dan ate all of his salad and half of mine. He drank a few little bottles of Merlot from the snack box.
Then he watched a couple innings of the game before he fell asleep. Driving 340 miles is no small matter.
After dinner, I finished the drying and folding.
No more live blogging. It uses too much iPad battery on the road. And anyway it is pretty boring reading. Better to sum things up, to the extent I am able.

Day 44/60: North Adams to Buffalo

Big travel day. Very windy. Partly cloudy. Left at 9:30.
The morning's drive on Highway 2 through the Berkshires was very, very pretty. Lots of good color on rolling hills, winding roads.
When we first got to the toll road, we had some great vistas as we went down hill, but once we got on the flat land, most of the trees were bare, black and cross-hatched and the scenery grew boring.
We had lunch at a service area on the toll road. All they had was Sbarro's. We both had a salad and a meatball; better than I expected.
The scenery became more boring and we were driving into the sun. Dan finally got so numb that he let me drive for the first time on the trip. After about an hour, resumed the wheel to get us into Buffalo. We were settled in our motel by 4:30.
We have returned to the Best Western where we stayed the previous 2 trips to Buffalo. It is necessary to use your room key to get the elevator to move. Apparently this is a security issue. Buffalo is the tenth most violent city in the nation. Neighborhood seems quiet. Haven't been able to get onto wi-fi here yet.
Dan explored neoghborhood on foot then ate at a Greek restaurant. I was blitzed; did nothing.

Day 45/60: Buffalo museums

Rainy day, all day, on and off. Dan dropped off a load of clothes at a nearby laundry.

The Albright Knox Art Gallery is a noisy, frustrating, disorganized place with some great art. The older stuff is hung unceremoniously in a long hallway around a courtyard. People circulate past it to get to basic services. Low ceilings make the hall echo. There must have been 10,000 school children of various ages milling about noisily, being told not to touch. I finally bolted. It was a relief to stand outside in the rain.

I walked across the street to the Burchfield Penney Art Center, which has a handsome new building designed by Gwathmey just before his death. Just inside the building is a snack bar; no caffeine available at the other museum. I had a latte and a fabulous home-made muffin.

Burchfield was a very interesting painter, mostly water colors, mostly light effects and wind effects in imaginary gardens. There has long been a gallery on campus at Buffalo State College for his work. Then an art collector named Penney donated his Burchfields and his other art, and apparently a bunch of money, to the Burchfield Art Center, so they expanded and added his name. Only a small amount of Burchfield's work is shown, but, later, when Dan joined me, he persuaded a curator to give us a tour of the storage space where they keep the others; that was a special treat.

The rest of the stuff at Burchfield Penney was unmemorable. A bunch of stuff about the Black freedom movement. Some comic book art by Spain Rodriguez. I enjoyed some American crafts and furnishings from the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The school tours all leave the Albright Knox at noon, so the sound level was tolerable when I returned. Dan was most pleased to be able to shoot Gauguin's "Yellow Christ." I was most happy to discover fine paintings by Gerhard Richter and Anuszkiewicz. Plus a stunning wall design by Sol Lewitt. They have one of the better works by Pollock and some excellent Clyfford Still.

We picked up the laundry on the way back to the motel.

For dinner Dan had wanted to try a fancy place called Mother's, a block's walk from the motel, but it is an in-spot. The bar was roaring. The music, nice enough, was deafening. We finally gave up. Drove a few blocks to Towne restaurant, a Greek place where Dan ate last night. No music at all. Lots of room. Pleasant warm light. Enthusiasic, if somewhat scatter-brained service. I had the broiled grouper with rice mixed with spinach, plus fresh zucchini. All excellent. Dan loved his lamb kabob. We shared a piece of pumpkin pie. We were very happy about our choice.

Dan said, "I could do this forever. Just traveling around looking at art and eating in new restaurants." So there you have it.

We for pretty sick of our room at the Gest Western on the Avenue. No wifi kept us from uploading photos to blog. Room small and badly arranged; desk chair always in the way. On the other hand, one of our two nights wasfree based on BW's point system.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 43/60: Clark Institute and Williams College

Back to cold weather, heavy sky.

The Clark Institute has a very high quality art collection. The only problem was that they have shipped most of the best stuff around the world on a special exhibition tour, to raise money for the extensive renovation and building project which is now under way, not to be completed for two years. Thus our time at the Clark was frustrating, though not without its high points. Their Old Masters (late 1400s through 1600s) were still in place, well hung and well lighted. They have one portrait by Ghirlandaio that it made the visit worthwhile in itself. This is our third visit to the Clark, so this portrait is like an old friend to me. They have first-rate works by Gossaert, Goya, David, Vigée-Lebrun.

The rest of their permanent collection was represented by a random conglomerate of paintings double-stacked on the wall and poorly lighted: most disappointing. Good stuff though.

About 1/3 of their exhibit space was given over to recent archaeological finds in China. We're not real big fans of Chinese art, but we make an effort. We're beginning to recognize the characteristics of different Dynasties. The tomb guardian statues were imaginative and well-preserved.

For lunch Dan wanted to return to the Moonlight Diner, where we had eaten during previous visits. I had a turkey burger, skip the bun; he had a chicken salad. It was okay, nothing special.

Then we went to Williams College, a large campus with handsome brick and stone buildings in traditional styles. We got two big treats right away. Out front is a series of "eye" sculptures by Louise Bourgeois that is a lot of fun. In the foyer is a terrific wall design by Sol Lewitt. They also had a small show of Lewitt which had the rarity of work done by his own hand and signed by him. You may know that Lewitt's designs are sold, or even leased, but other artists execute them. It is special to see demonstrations he made himself.

Dan had a major disappointment at Williams. Arguably their most important painting is by Grant Wood; it shows an auto accident about to happen on a country road at twilight. They had the painting up, but covered with glass and so badly lighted that you could hardly make it out, let alone photograph it. However he felt somewhat compensated by a group of 3 California artists he admires, all excellent examples: Diebenkorn, Park, Bischoff.

For dinner we had an excellent bit of luck. The good restaurant where we ate last night, the Hub, is closed Sundays so we tried a place called Public Eat and Drink. We both had cod poached in butter. Wow. Plus very special veggies and hunks of unpeeled potatoes. Dan had a fresh beet salad for dessert. This was probably the best meal on the trip so far. We had to compliment the chefs on the way out.

Our Holiday Inn here in West Adams has been good; all functional. Wonderful view of Berkshires and town. We had a decent meal at the restaurant the first night. It is about the only real hotel around here; there are some cottages and wood-sided places with outdoor stairways. The location is so fun we've joked about moving here. Because of Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the vicinity, there are a lot of students keeping things lively and giving good service in the restaurants. Of course, I would never move some place that gets so cold, but North Adams is really happening.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 42/60: MASS MOCA

A warm day! Shirt-sleeve weather!
The tree-covered hill behind North Adams glows gold and copper as the sun comes up. The view from our 5th-floor window of the hill and the brick buildings of the town is so fascinating as the light changes that we both are forced to take photos though the window is spattered by last night's rain.

A major goal of the trip for me was to see a retrospective exhibit of the wall designs of Sol Lewitt; I am a major fan. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art occupies huge a complex of defunct factory buildings; they have lots of space to play with, and have yet to make use of it all. About five years ago they renovated one of the buildings for this retrospective. They are showing Lewitt's wall designs on three floors, sixty to eighty huge designs, all very different. This project was completed just before his death, so he personally was involved in the arrangement.

It is amazing to see how he progressed. Because ideas were more important to him than appearances, his early work used faint lines of graphite, all of them straight, all related to the square. Over the years he used heavier lines, he started doing systematic demonstrations of color relationships, and then he discovered the curve; by the end of his career, he was doing wildly gyrating curves in blindingly contrasting colors.

Both Dan and I really enjoyed the show. The light was fairly decent; photography and video was allowed. The wall designs are still in good condition, no smudges or heel marks. Several young guards prowl constantly about. The way the paintings were arranged created a visual surprises. It reminded me of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris—the church with the most and the prettiest stained glass. The mental and aesthetic mood created by Lewitt's work is similar.

We had lunch in their busy café amongst students, parents with children, and tourists from abroad. I had  salad, Dan had soup, it was fine.

After lunch Dan and I split up. The hotel is only a couple blocks away, so we planned to meet back here. The light was nice and Dan was eager to visit a place called the Hoosac tunnel museum to learn about a railway tunnel here in the Berkshire Mountains.

The rest of the exhibits were interesting, more or less, but lacking in aesthetics. There was a show of contemporary work from Canada, including some very strong gay statements. Everything was weird structures and video expressing attitudes of discontent. There was a show of structures representing "invisible cities."

The rough factory complex, with metal staircases and signs left over from its active days, is quite interesting. Both of us wandered around the property separately. There were some weird installations here and there. The river running through it is dark and swift. I followed a path toward some pillars, thinking there might be a different view of the river. I ended up by the river under a highway. From the highway was hanging a half-dozen swings, flat black boards hanging from very long black ropes. It happens that I have been dreaming about swinging, so I saw these unexplained swings as an answer to a dream. I dropped my stuff in a pile and used one of the swings for awhile, swinging toward the fence by the river. It was satisfying.

I explored the small town a little. North Adams is funny because everything is crammed into a small space. From the hotel you can walk to the art museum, to the fire station, the police station, other public services, several restaurants and other businesses; the highway and the railway are right next to the hotel. There's a liberal arts college nearby and students ply the streets and pubs. By 4 p.m. I was hot (hot! yay!) and tired; I returned to the hotel for a brief nap.

Dan returned from the railway museum with lots of information. For dinner we walked across the street to the Hub. Very busy; very noisy. Very good food and good service. I had chicken noodle soup. Dan had grilled strip with fresh steamed veggies. We shared an excellent piece of cherry pie.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 41/60: White River Jct to North Adams, MA

Misty morning. Not too cold. Umbrella not required. Visibility no good.

Since White River Junction is only ten minutes from Hanover, where Dartmouth is located, Dan decided we better check out their Hood Museum of Art. We were lucky to find metered parking a short walk away. Dartmouth is an Ivy League university, dating from the mid-1700s, and its large brick buildings have elegant, symmetrical architecture. The art museum is small and tucked away between two other buildings, but it has an attractive façade and fore-court. Something about the way they present their art makes it seem important and exciting.

Their European collection has good examples of second or third level artists, with a few exceptions, such as a decent work by Vigée-Lebrun. Not surprisingly, the American collection was stronger; a delightful little piece by John Sloan stands out. We made pretty quick work of this museum, our 25th on this trip.

Just down the hall was a cafeteria where we had lunch surrounded by students. The salad bar was good. The girls wear skirts that barely cover their bottoms, and then only when they stand erect, with knee high boots; or tights with boots; or skin-tight pants. Dan said the students looked like they took their work seriously; maybe that's right; no hi-jinx; no tattoos; hurried walks.

Then we dashed in a slight rain a short block to the Baker Library to see a huge mural sequence by Orozco. This was in a long wide study hall that offered acres of uninterrupted space for painting, plus some other walls. His theme was the history of civilization in the Western Hemisphere, starting from early myths, through the Spanish conquest, and the arrival of white people, and industrialization, and etc. This is a famous mural, and when we visited the Pollock-Krasner house, we learned that Pollock was influenced by Orozco and had seen this mural in the making. I wish I could tell you it was fabulous. It was certainly a fabulous effort, full of fury and bombast. I just don't like Orozco's style, much as I try; I don't like the way he applies paint.

When we got back to the car to make our two-hour drive, it was 3:30 and raining very hard. The first hour and a half on the freeway was very stressful driving, because of the high speeds and back-splash. When we turned onto a Massachusetts highway (Highway 2, The Mohawk Trail) to get across the mountains to North Adams, we had to drive more slowly and traffic was light. We really enjoyed the twisting mountainous route; the trees were golden and coppery mixed with dark evergreens. It was quite lovely despite the rain.

Dan had quite a nice meal at the restaurant at our Holiday Inn here in North Adams: flank steak done right, fresh green beans, mashed potatoes. Service was slow because they were under-staffed. We both worked with our photos and stuff. Dan watched a little of the Giants game against the Cardinals, which the Giants won 5-0.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 40/60: Burlington to White River Jct

The only problem with today's scenic drive through the Green Mountains was that we were about two weeks too late for the fall color, and most of the trees were bare. We did have a few good views of hillsides carpeted in autumnal hues. We didn't bag a lot of killer shots because streaky clouds frequently dimmed the sun. The hills and valleys are covered with trees; I kept thinking how beautiful it must have been in the spring and summer, let alone the autumn. Dan enjoyed driving the country roads; not much traffic, constantly changing scene. The two lane road was in poor repair much of the way, but tolerable.

We made it to Woodstock in time for a late lunch. After a few hours of driving through tiny villages with virtually no business, bustling touristy Woodstock was a shock. We parked in a free lot a couple blocks from town. You know, it is a really pretty old town; no wonder it is popular. Lots of substantial old buildings, both residential and commercial, very stylish, with fashionable shops and trendy restaurants. Dan chose Bentley's, a pleasantly traditional place. We both had salads with chicken added; the chicken was moist and tender.

Then we went just up the road a piece—some hardy souls walked it—to an interesting historical complex. Basically there are two parts. One is a large, working farm, Billings Farm, that demonstrates sustainable farming, as well as the history of farming. This we skipped.

What we were interested in was the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. This place has a complex background which we learned from a young ranger who gave us a tour. The property's first owner, Marsh, was an early conservationist, one of the first to propose that the resources of nature be conserved. He was a theorist and writer who never had the funds to practice what he preached. Billings was a highly successful businessman (railroads, etc.) who was so inspired by Marsh's ideas that he bought Marsh's property and tried to apply them there. One of the main things he did was to plant hundreds of trees. At that time, Vermont—now known for its trees—had been largely de-forested for the sake of pasturing sheep. He also established the Billings Farm, to spread the idea of smart farming. Through marriage, the property came into the hands of Laurence Rockefeller, one of the sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He was an active conservationist and tried to continue Billings' work. His wife was the grand-daughter of Billings, and she tried to keep much of the mansion as she remembered it from her childhood.

It was an interesting tour but a little wordy, and there was little time or attention to the art on the walls of the house. They did have a couple of small works by Bierstadt, nothing much. The interior decor was by Tiffany; lots of woodwork, all beautifully carved in simple geometric patterns; excellent embossed wall coverings; that was the best part.

We went over to nearby White River Junction, much more affordable, to spend the night at a very basic Comfort Inn. Our absentee ballots were waiting for us, as we had arranged. After a little confusion we located a supermarket and stocked up on drinks and snacks. Dan had been hoping to eat at the Chinese restaurant across the street from the motel, but their power was out because a line repair was being made nearby. I wasn't planning to eat Chinese food (after my msg episode, I'm feeling very negative about Chinese food), but I was with Dan to explore the situation. We ended up going to a country kitchen place also nearby. Ordinary stuff; no wine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 39/60: Burlington, Shelburne

A perfect autumn day in Vermont. The sun was shining; by noon I was able to strip from three layers of jackets to just one, and even switch from a knit hat to a sun hat. This was most fortunate because our plan was to visit outdoor attractions.

View from Shelburne Museum Parking Area

The Shelburne Museum is a collection of old structures and artifacts strewn across 40 acres in the green hills of Vermont. It is an odd story, rather inspiring. A woman named Electra Havermayer was from a wealthy New York family living on Park Avenue, but as early as 19 she began collecting big old stuff: she started with a cigar store Indian. She married a man named Webb, who was related to the Vanderbilt family, so she had a lot of money to work with. She established this museum in Shelburne. It has a round barn, a steam ferry that used to ply Lake Champlain, a lighthouse that used to be out in the lake, residences from the 1700s, a schoolhouse—that sort of thing.

The Round Barn

The Covered bridge

The Horseshoe Barn

View of the Shelburne Museum Grounds

Dan especially enjoyed the ship, called the Ticonderoga, which was beautifully restored. We were able to explore all over it from the wheelhouse to the lowest deck.

Lake Champlain Steamship Ticonderoga, 1905
Every building had an exhibit of some sort: the round barn had an exhibit of antique snow vehicles—sleds and snow mobiles, and such.

The trees on the property were all the golds and reds you hope for; the Adirondacks in the distance were several hazy shades of blue-gray.

You won't be surprised to hear that we mostly looked for art. Here's another strange story. After Electra's death, her children built a memorial for her in the form of a home-like building that displays six rooms from her Park Avenue apartment. In other words, they built a building like a house that Electra had admired, but adjusted its proportions so that it could hold the rooms of her apartment in New York, which they dismantled and rebuilt there. The apartment contained the art collected by Electra's mother, Louisine Havermayer. Louisine was friends with Mary Cassatt, who advised her on collecting art and got her interested in Impressionism. The house has a lovely painting by Cassatt of Louisine and Electra as mother and child.

xxxx by Mary Cassatt, 

It also has a few excellent works each by Manet, Corot, Degas, Monet. Really quite impressive.

Ice Floes by Claude Monet, 

Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas

zzzz by Manet,

And it was a marvel to see a Park Avenue apartment out in the hills of Vermont: leather-covered walls, leather-bound books, sculpted mantels and all.

Hounds by Marshall

We had lunch in the café, a self-service place on the grounds; quite decent soup.

We also saw an excellent quilt exhibit, featuring quilts by men and boys—some very interesting bold designs. Not surprisingly, men get into competitive quilting, like the largest number of pieces of fabric in one quilt, etc. There was also a show of traditional women's cooperative quilts.

About 3 p.m. clouds started filtering in, pushing us to the next phase. Dan was very interested in the Crown Point Bridge, also known as the Lake Champlain Bridge, so we drove down to investigate. Historically there had been a bridge across the lake from Chimney Point in Vermont to Crown Point in New York. When it had to be closed down for safety reasons, it "threw businesses on both sides of the lake into a tailspin." They formed a coalition that first got a car ferry going—one of four at various points on this long lake—and then built a handsome new bridge in under two years. On the New York side, Crown Point park has an old military installation that had belonged first to the French, then the British; it was a grass-covered ruins that we did not explore. We got some lovely views of the bridge and the lake and the mountains beyond.

Lake Champlain Bridge, 2012
On the way back to the motel we stopped at Pauline's for dinner. Dan had the veal meatloaf and vegetables; I had a burger plate with chèvre cheese and vegetables. We both started with white bean and vegetable soup. All this food was excellent, first-rate. We shared a piece of key lime pie that was just right.

Day 38/60: Burlington, Fleming

The Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont has just about the least amount of art of interest of any museum we have sought out. They had a very illuminating photo of Andy Warhol in drag, a wall drawing in white crayon on black wall by Sol Lewitt, a very nice portrait of a black man cooking at a wood stove by Thomas Hovenden, two full length portraits of women by Sergeant, a Norman Rockwell called The Baby Sitter.  Otherwise there was a big show of a local contemporary artist that I hated; a smattering of oceanic, African, Native American and Asian art.

We wandered around for a couple of hours, before we started to think about lunch. On the internet at home, Dan had found a place that he wanted to try called Pauline's, a few miles out of town. We really liked this place. Dan had a crab cake and fresh beet salad. I had meatloaf with tangy barbecue sauce on the side, a small salad and fresh mixed squash. Both dishes were delectable. Toward the end of the meal, Dan asked the waiter about fishing. Turned out fishing was his main avocation and they had quite a conversation about fish and waterways. Then Dan got interested in a ferry, or is it a bridge? There used to be a bridge across Lake Champlain to New York, but it became unsafe, so it was shut down, and replaced by a car ferry. A year or two ago the new bridge was opened and the ferry suspended.

When we got back to the motel about 3:30, we both tucked in for a long winter's nap. When I awoke about 5:00, I staggered through the freezing cold to Starbucks, across a big parking lot, and got a double tall latte. Buoyed by all that caffeine, I washed and dried my two pairs of cold-weather pants and some other stuff. Then I ironed my pants, a pair of pants for Dan, and some other stuff. I felt very proud of myself. Dan spent a long time on the phone working the point systems; he negotiated one free room, and one is in process. Then he washed a load of socks and underwear, but demand on the guest laundry was so heavy that he was unable to dry them. Then he got a bite to eat at the nearby restaurant. We watched the second Presidential debate.

It was crazy to come so far north at this time of year. I am lashing myself for signing on to this. However, our huge and sprawling Best Western is packed. Almost everywhere we've been, even fairly remote places, the motels have been fully booked: conventions, conferences, family reunions, work groups. It was good that we booked well in advance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 37/60: Rockport, ME to Burlington, VT

The dawn was lovely this morning, all rosy and streaming. A clear, dry start for our long drive. With great effort and sacrifice, we managed to get on the road by 7:30, very early for us. We stopped about an hour later for breakfast at MacDonald's. By then, the clouds were thickening and the light was dull.

Western Maine is dreary. Spindly bare trees. No vistas or rock formations. And life is poor: ramshackle buildings surrounded by piles of junk. We did not see a substantial or well-tended home or farm for hours.

The narrow neck of New Hampshire that we crossed was hillier and rockier; the homes and businesses were even more bedraggled and benighted. When we drove through Montpelier, Dan quickly spotted the golden dome of the capitol; it looked incongruous with the impoverished scene in the foreground.

Vermont is hillier and has more substantial trees, so the scenery is more picturesque, though the light was still dull. Occasional shower; occasional blue sky; back to soporific gray. The economy of Vermont seems more substantial; well-tended houses look like they might withstand the weather; two cars in the drive, etc.

When Dan first mentioned to a waitress in Rockport that we were planning to drive to Burlington, she said, "You can't get there from here." To take the interstate, we would have had to drive way south back to Portland, and then head north, but that seemed like a defeat to Dan. So he worked out a rather complicated route on two lane highways, as direct as possible. But it made for a long day's driving. Fortunately, traffic was not too bad. We went through and by lots of intriguing little towns with names like Poland, Norway, and West Paris. Dan wanted to photograph everything, but the light was unfavorable.

Dan wanted to eat Chinese for lunch. The idea of Chinese food in the mountains of Vermont did not appeal to me, and I managed to block out two crummy little places, but when a big place loomed up with a big sign, House of Tang, and a big parking lot right off the highway, I gave in. Dan enjoyed his chicken and vegetables very much. It was nutritious; it was not satisfying.

We got to the hotel about 4 p.m. When I undressed I saw that my torso and upper thighs were flaming red, as though I'd been steamed. I felt faint and collapsed in bed. Over the next hour or two the heat traveled down my arms and out my hands. My first diagnosis was shingles; it made me shudder. But I had a shingles shot a year or two ago. The way the heat was traveling around made me think of allergic reaction, like maybe the chicken had been tenderized in MSG. In any case, within a few hours it began to subside, to my great relief.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 35/60: Portland to Rockport

We left Portland about 11:00. The sky was clear; the air was cold, really cold. The scenery was very pretty as we crossed several waterways.

As a way of enjoying the coastal scenery, we made a side trip to Boothbay Harbor for lunch. We spent a few days there in 1997; we recall it fondly because we saw the aurora borealis there, standing on a footbridge across the bay with many other bundled-up gawkers.

Boothbay Harbor
Dan's photo
 This time we had lunch at the Tug Boat Inn, because their parking lot had good views of the harbor. The restaurant was built into the side of an old tug boat, and much expanded. We both had grilled haddock, not deep-fried; excellent light taste. Side dish was fresh-cut zucchini, steamed just right and served in butter sauce. Excellent meal. Pretty good service as well.

Tug Boat Inn
Dan's photo

Afterward we took some photos from the parking lot, then walked up the street where we could observe activity at a boat building yard. They were restoring an antique 3-masted schooner and repairing an emergency craft.

Schooner being restored in boat yard
Dan's photo
We got a few shots from the lawn of a hotel with a perfect view of the harbor.

Dan's photo
  Then we drove around to the other side of town and walked a ways on the footbridge.

Dan's photo
We got into our motel around 4:00. Hard entrance. Small, second floor room with only a wooden outdoor staircase. Much baggage to lug upstairs. Way, way too cold to be outside. Electric heat slow to work.

Dinner 2 miles away at Offshore Restaurant. Dan had a fabulous steak. My hamburger pattie was also exceptionally good. The side dishes were all excellent. Service was very quick and friendly.

Our crummy little motel is packed. What are all these people doing running around in the freezing cold? Leaf peeping. Personally, I think coming this far north this time of year was a mistake. Dan, usually the grumbler, is taking it all in a good spirit.

Day 36/60: Rockport, Farnesworth

The many windows of our second-floor room have a pretty view of a scruffy patch of woods and a shallow creek. The weather was gray and misty. The brook babbled at different pitches from different distances, like a Doppler effect. Dan worked on his photos for a long time.

We got to the Farnesworth Museum of Art about 11:30. Absolutely no food service.

Façade of Farnesworth, formerly a department store
Dan's photo
The reason you go to the Farnesworth is to see the work of the Wyeth family. I have previously mentioned N.C., the father, who is considered an illustrator, and his more famous son Andrew, who was a painter, gloomy and profound. Just about everyone in the Wyeth family painted or took up some art form, but the one in the current generation to achieve the most fame is Jamie Wyeth. The museum has works by all three. I was particularly impressed by N.C.'s 'art paintings,' just regular landscapes with no illustrative intent. He could have been competitive as a 'real' artist, but he had 5 sons to support. It was good to see a wider variety of Andrew's work, and remember that he did have some moods that were almost light-hearted. Jamie is hard to relate to, but occasionally he hits the mark. Their work was shown in the main museum, and also in a separate building, formerly a church, that has been converted to the Wyeth Center. One group of paintings included works by Rockwell Kent, another painter who sometimes worked in Maine; his harshly beautiful coast scenes are always a pleasure. Photos were not allowed of any of this.

Camden Mountains from the South Entrance to the Harbor by Fitz Henry Lane, 1859 
The Teamster by george Bellows, 1916
Lady in a Red Dress with Cigarette by Charles Dana Gibson, 1939
Monhegan Island by Jan Marinus Domela, 1939
Turkey Pond by Andrew Wyeth, 1944
Her Room by Andrew Wyeth
Their big special exhibit was Frank Benson, a local artist who made good. Benson's work is delightful, all sunshine, children playing, and women with pure hearts. He did some compelling works, but it is better to see them one or two at a time.

Calm Morning by Frank Benson, 1904
For lunch we went out onto Main Street where there were a few restaurants within easy walking distance. The one recommended by the museum staff was packed, so we went across the street to a grille with few customers. Dan's shrimp and mussel stew as too spicy and thick with rice and potatoes. My chicken salad was pretty good; fresh-roasted chicken.

Rock Café
Dan's photo
It was still gray and misty at the end of the day. We drove around trying to figure out how to get out of town tomorrow. Good thing, too, because the route recommended by iPad was on unmarked country roads; interesting ride. Dan studied the map and found a simple way back to the highway. He is concerned because we have a long, mountainous drive to Burlington, Vermont.

For dinner we went back to the Offshore Restaurant. We both had broiled flounder. Dan declared disdainfully that it had been frozen, but he finished off his and half of mine; it seemed a little bitter to me. For dessert we shared a piece of exceptionally fine apple pie, really.

Day 34/60: Portland Museum of Art

Today was about the Portland Museum of Art, PMA, in Maine, not to be confused with the Portland Art Museum, PAM, in Oregon. We got there about 10:30 on a cold gray morning. A Starbucks was located strategically across from the entrance in an old flat-iron building. I had a double tall latte and a 2-bite cherry pie while Dan took a photo of the facade of the museum. It is a handsome brick building that fits in with the other brick buildings around, and copies their arches, and yet is modern in a grand way. One of the young security/info people said it was designed by a member of the I. M. Pei firm; the style seems consistent with his principles. The interior has dome-like sky-lights, much like those in the museum's original building. I was never really conscious of moving between buildings.

Façade of Portland Museum of Art
Jan's photo, late afternoon

The great treat was an amazing exhibit of paintings by Winslow Homer, all seascapes he made at nearby Prouts Neck, which we had visited the day before. There were several great works from the Clark Institute in Williamstown, and other great museums around the country. Lighting was perfect; no photos allowed. The sunsets really get to me, so luminous, with painful streaks of red. And when you get right up to these paintings (most were unglazed), they look like awkward daubs of house paint, but at the right distance those rocks and waves can break your heart.

This is the type of painting shown in the exhibit "Weatherbeaten."
This photo is poor quality because I shot it from a balcony "illegally."
Jan's photo
PMA had a good permanent collection. Two stars were two gorgeous paintings of fishing scenes by N.C. Wyeth; great light effects. N.C., the father, was a bold and generous painter with the eye of an illustrator.

Dark Harbor Fishermen by N.C. Wyeth, 1943
Dan's photo

Lobstering Off Black Spruce Ledge by N.C. Wyeth, 1941
Dan's photo
His more famous son, Andrew, was restrained and gloomy, thoughtful and poetic.

Raven's Grove by Andrew Wyeth, 1985
Dan's photo
We had lunch in their basement café amidst displays of historical glassware, quite lovely. The wait for our food seemed interminable, but our Andalusian meatloaf with sweet tomato chutney was very tasty; plus salad to moderate. Still my mouth was burning, so we split a piece of home-made tasting apple pie.

We spent another couple of hours there.

Diana of the Sea by Marguerite Zorach, 1940
Dan's photo
Wreck of the D.T. Sheridan by Rockwell Kent, 1949-53
Dan's photo
Royal Arches, Yosemite Valley, California by Albert Bierstadt, 1872
Dan's photo
The Great Mogul and his Court by Edmond Lord Weeks, 1886
Dan's photo
Sailboat in Southampton by Maurice de Vlaminck, 1912-14
Dan's photo
The Lotus Eaters by Thomas Moran, 1895
Dan's photo
Around 3:30 we had pretty much seen everything twice, so we went looking for Longfellow's House and the Portland Historical Museum. It was bloody cold and I whined all the way. We got there in time for the tour that started at 4:00, but it was going to last an hour and neither of us felt ready for that; we just wanted to have a quick look around and take a few photos. On the way back to the car, we stopped at Starbucks again. I had a latte and we split a cup of fruit; fruit is hard to get on the road.

Dan wanted to go some place interesting for dinner, but the restaurants all seemed far away; it's hard to go out in the cold and dark. I was satisfied with whole wheat toast at the motel's restaurant. Fortunately Friday nights they have a buffet, if they have enough guests to warrant it. Tonight a few large tour groups arrived and the cafe was packed. The buffet had ham and salads and all the regular stuff. Dan watched some baseball game. I went back to the room and ironed a pair of pants for him. I nearly fell asleep standing there.

This motel has worked out well. The café is a good thing; the elevator works well; the heating works well and is not too noisy; the bed is OK. Bad: fridge froze my Diet Coke every night; bathroom is cramped and has a very low counter. It is an easy drive to downtown Portland, where hotel rates are 50% higher.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 33/60: Sight-seeing around Portland

Okay, fans of spontaneity and serendipity! Today was unplanned. Our objective was "to enjoy the scenery around Portland." The sky was blue and bright. After yesterday's gloom, I could hardly wait to get outside. We hit the road about 10:30.

We decided to start with a run down Commercial Street, which took us past the port and the commercial fishing business. Near a sleek, modern ship, I spotted a coffee shop. I got a latte while Dan took a photo. Next we took a run around town to locate the art museum.

Then we started looking for views of lighthouses. First we went to Two Lights community and saw the Cape Elizabeth light. We had a fun walk on a rocky promontory opposite it. The ocean was a deep rich blue in the morning, very satisfying to observe. Then we went to a park where we could view Portland Head Light, and in the distance we could see Ram Island light as well.

Cape Elizabeth Light House
Dan's photo

Portland Head Light
Dan's photo

Dan and Jan at Portland Head
Photo by friendly tourist
At 1:30 it was time for lunch. As we passed by The Good Table we noticed a lot of cars, so we turned around and went back. From the amount of business they did while we were there, it must have been the only, or the best, place to eat in the area. Service seemed painfully slow, but we got out of there in about an hour. Dan had "apple pie salad" which means apples and candied walnuts, not many, with chicken in a bed of greens. It was okay. I had a pulled pork sandwich, open face. It was a change from so much seafood.

Then we started looking for Prout's Neck, famous as the home of Winslow Homer in his later years. Like Bush senior, we must assume, Homer enjoyed being at the extreme tip of a point of land where he could watch the storms. The ride out there was very pretty. We managed to find a tiny trail between two residences, with a small sign that said "Enjoy the trail at your own risk." We parked in a grassy plot big enough for a couple of cars. Just how Dan knew this was the right trail I cannot say, but after a lovely walk by the ocean, we came to a spot where 3 people were taking photos. "Is that Homer's studio?" They had been to the Portland Museum that morning and seen pictures of the place, so they were sure. The museum offers a tour of the newly restored studio but the price is very high (Dan thinks $100) and the other tourists said you had to make reservations a year in advance. Anyway, Dan was pleased to photograph Homer's studio, and I was pleased to photograph Homer's view.

Winslow Homer's Studio at Prouts Neck
Dan's photo
The house was quite a lot more substantial than I had imagined. The large porch would be a good place to watch the changing weather; Homer might even have set up his canvas out there. Afterward, he could go in and sit by the fire. Below is the type of painting he did while he lived here; Dan photographed it at the Met in New York. Of all Homer's styles, this is my favorite.

Northeaster at Prouts Neck by Winslow Homer, 1895
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Dan's photo

On the way back, we managed to find Walmart. Dan bought a windbreaker and I got an ear-warmer, plus the usual drinks and sundries.

When we got back, Dan did another load of laundry while I worked on this blog. Afterward, we had a functional meal at the motel's café. Dan fell asleep at the computer looking at his photos.