Jun 222014

There are easier ways to travel, but families still love their three mile an hour horse power on the hoof.
Antelope Island Horse and Wagon
This covered wagon group travels through the western states each year. They converge on Antelope Island in Utah each summer during the annual Western Music Festival. The riders donate their time and covered wagons for local charity. As fellow horse lovers, we couldn’t resist the chance to go along for a ride down the dusty trail.
Antelope Island meeting wagon
They allowed me to ride shotgun with the driver, which seemed to give a very short proximity to the back side of the horse. Nell was harnessed close enough to me that she brushed the dust off my cowboy boots with her tail. I was so relieved that the horses didn’t need to add some fertilizer to the trail, or I’m sure that would have landed on my boots.
Antelope Island Covered Wagon
The driver explained what a day out on the road was like.  Although some of the group travels in motor homes, he keeps the heritage alive by camping as weather permits.  He described his morning as being awakened at dawn by the sounds of harnesses clanking and smelling coffee boiling.

The smile on his face while explaining that his average speed is three miles per hour, gave a sense of what I’m missing.  One of the tales he dispelled was the colorful phrase “circle the wagons” actually meant that the wagons served as a corral for the livestock.
Antelope Island riding shot gun
The towns along the way welcome them with organized guitar playing groups sitting around the evening campfires.  Other entertainment in the towns would include quilt and craft shows, toilet bowl races and cow pie bingo.

He admitted he’s feeling the old bones are telling him that riding on wagon trains may have to end soon.  His motto has been “as long as he is able to continue, this is an adventure that gives him a real appreciation for God, Country, and his pioneer ancestors that thrived on the western life.”

May 232014

One of the weirdest, yet unique houses in America is near the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin.  The House on the Rock has the world’s largest indoor carousel, as part of its bizarre themed collections.
View of House on the Rock
On top of a 60-foot tall column of sheer rock, Alex Jordan Jr. finished the house begun as one-upmanship by his architect father.  The house was purposely built near the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal residence, Taliesin.

As the story goes, Alex Jordan Sr. was Frank Lloyd Wright’s biggest fan and hoped to get his idol’s approval for a building he had designed.  Wright told Jordan he “wouldn’t hire him to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop.”  While driving home in a huff from the fateful meeting, he planned this house that has become shrouded in myth and legend.

The Infinity Room contains thousands of windows and a glass panel in the floor, where visitors can look directly down into the valley.  It hangs out 218 feet from the house without supports underneath.
House on the Rock automated instruments
Some of these instruments actually play, but the string and woodwind sounds are produced by organ pipes.  The mechanically moving instruments create an illusion designed to fool and entertain visitors.
Angels and Carousel
Obviously his perceived masterpiece was never meant to become a museum.  Alex Jordan Jr. filled the home with oddities purchased or built, that reflected an eccentric and reclusive lifestyle.  This carousel features 269 animals, 182 chandeliers, 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling.
house on the rock mikado photo by Joseph Kranak
The Mikado is one of the animated, off-key musical machines with an oriental façade that Jordan designed.  I agree with a description that reads – “the House on the Rock is a manic mishmash of mechanical musty mayhem and sensory overload.”  We saw collections of ivory carvings, model sailing ships, dolls, knight’s armor, cars, British crown jewels, silverware, toy circuses, guns, cash registers, stained glass and lots more stuff.
house on the rock percussion 1
The House on the Rock left me overwhelmed and confused, after spending over five hours walking the winding pathways.  I found a book on Alex Jordan’s life, to better understand his passion for living with so many fakes that he passed off as real.

He was described as a combination of Howard Hughes and P.T. Barnum, rolled up into one masterful collector and architect.  As a child, he learned how to do magic tricks.  Growing up, he would sit in a corner and laugh about the way he fooled everyone.  His home became a masterpiece of illusion and imagination about places he never visited.

Although most people throughout the world have heard of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Jordan had the last laugh.  The House on the Rock is said to draw more visitors every year than any other spot in Wisconsin, including the nearby F. L. Wright’s Taliesin.

What’s the weirdest place you remember visiting?

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