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?

May 022014

This amphibious boat/car promised to revolutionize drowning.  Actually, it’s an Amphicar that we enjoyed following on Wisconsin’s Lake Noquebay in our boat.
My beautiful picture This Amphicar was the peacetime descendant of the German Schwimmwagen.  They were known as the “Model 770” and only 4,000 were built between 1961 and 1965.  The “770” referred to the fact that it could do 7 knots (about 8 mph) in the water and 70 miles per hour on land.  It’s considered the fastest boat on land and the fastest car on the water.

I imagine you can’t wait to buy one.  A rust-free “swimmer” might cost anywhere from $10,000 to as much as $50,000, depending on its condition.  The car is made of steel and naturally prone to rust, so upkeep with paint and lots of wax is mandatory.
My beautiful picture
While waterborne, the front wheels serve as rudders, so turning the steering wheel right will take you to “starboard” and turning left will allow you to drive to “port”.  The one thing that doesn’t work is the brakes.  Halting a floating Amphicar works the same way you stop any other boat: you throw the props into reverse.
Amphicar with LBJ
Former President Lyndon B. Johnson enjoyed playing practical jokes.  While driving his amphicar on his Texas ranch, he took visitors for what became the scariest ride of their life.  He would shout “The brakes don’t work!  The brakes won’t hold!  We’re going in!  We’re going under!” while driving them downhill into his lake.

The Japan-based Fomm Company feels these cars could be useful in flood-prone areas.  They have developed an electric, waterproof car that could theoretically keep people mobile during natural disasters.  Would you feel safer during a Tsunami in one of these cars?

Feb 132014

A look back to a special time in my life as an Olympic volunteer, when Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics in 2002. Olympic Torch
The 2002 Olympic motto was Light the Fire Within and the Cauldron was created with the Fire and Ice theme in mind. Designed to look like an icicle, it was made of glass which allowed the fire to be seen burning within. Small jets sent water down the glass sides of the cauldron to give the effect of melting ice.
Olympic rings with Airforce one President plane
Air Force One landed with President George W. Bush on board. To be visible across the valley, the illuminated Olympic Rings were displayed across an area the size of ten football fields.
Olympic opening trade center flag
The tattered flag was recovered from the World Trade Center ruins after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York City. It was carried into the opening ceremony by eight athletes escorted by New York City firefighters and Port Authority police.
Olympic chair lift from tents toshovels
Every morning our course crew teams were sent up the mountain at Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah to prepare the Women’s and Men’s Downhill courses. We looked like Blue Smurfs skiing to our designated areas.
112 clean course between racers
This is what you didn’t see when you watched the Olympics. We were a small part of the many volunteers making this the best possible Olympic event ever. I’ll never forget how dedicated these volunteers were to work for “free” just for the pride and love of the sport, country, and the fact that the world was watching us.
Olympic day with Wisconsin skiers

All volunteers received extensive training on being helpful and friendly to the visitors. Being part of a photo op was the easiest part of my job, since these three guys were visiting from my birth State of Wisconsin.
Olympic Mascots with Mitt Romney
The three Olympic mascots are: Swifter, a snowshoe hare. Higher, a coyote. Stronger, an American black bear. They are based on a Utah legend inspired by petroglyphs from a Native American tradition. Mitt Romney was the President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and more recently the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
037 Kari's view of mountains
023 sunrise





Since our days began as early as 4 a.m., we enjoyed beautiful sunrises at the top of Snowbasin Ski Resort. My daughter Kari stands near the starting gate of the Woman’s Downhill course and a view of what the Olympic skiers saw on their way down the mountain.
Olympic Volunteer party 1
After the Olympic and Paralympic games ended, the volunteers came together one last time. This special night was given to honor all the dedicated volunteers, with a concert on the Olympics Medal Plaza.

What is your favorite Olympic memory?

Jul 312013

Our love of trains took us to the Camp 5 Museum, in Northern Wisconsin.  Working in and for logging camps, were a part of my husband’s and my dad’s lives when they were teenagers.
Camp 5 steam trainThe logging industry played an important role in Wisconsin’s history.

This American Prairie type Steam locomotive was built in 1916 in Pennsylvania.  In 1926, it was brought to Laona, Wisconsin for use in the logging industry.

Camp 5 museum jammer  and log hauler

A farm was developed in 1914, by the lumber company at Camp 5 and is still in operation today.  Fresh food was a necessity for the hard working loggers.

This made the company self-sufficient, by raising their own animals for fresh meat, produce, and vegetables for their lumber camps.  Camp 8 boxcar old lock copyCamp 5 blacksmith shopCamp 5 museum bootleg booze

All logging camps were numbered in succession, as forestry moved from one location to another.  This boxcar from Camp 8 was restored and added to the train.

The museum has an amazing amount of artifacts on display for an in-depth perspective of how harsh and desolate the life of a lumberjack was, in the early 1900’s.

Draft horses were raised on the farm for use in the woods.  The blacksmith shop is still in operation, although now it makes miniature horseshoes as souvenirs.

Taverns were built near the logging camps to help the loggers spend their pay.

The bartenders were the law, and kept a bat handy for convincing a drunken logger to behave himself.  Payroll was given in tokens and the song “I owe my soul to the company store” was very real for these young teenagers.Camp 5 steam train discussing old times

My husband and a museum docent discovered that they both served in the navy on aircraft carriers, during the 1950’s.

They found a lot in common about their own lives as teenagers, on the train ride back to town.  It was a surprise to learn that the docent’s shipmate is a friend of ours from our hometown.

But that’s another story!

Jul 162013

What’s the most unique and flavorful hamburger you’ve ever eaten?  If you grew up enjoying a Cheesy Butter Burger, you may be from Wisconsin.
Kroll's Hamburger
What’s so special about this hamburger?  Glad you asked!

It has a butt-load of butter that oozes down onto the paper wrapper, as you can see in the picture.  There are two pats of butter placed on top of the grilled hamburger.  A soft squishy bun is toasted and slathered in butter.  Before layering on those onions, they are fried in butter – what else?  All that’s left to create this juicy butter burger is the cheese, pickles, and catsup.

My hubby and I would often stop at the Kroll’s Restaurant on a date night out, before and after we were married.  We left Wisconsin over a decade ago to live closer to our children, but we’ve never been able to find a burger that comes close to matching this unique dairy state’s delight.

The host of Man Versus Food Nation traveled to Kroll’s Restaurant in Green Bay, Wisconsin and gave his review on this artery clogging famous burger.  He surmised that “people in Wisconsin stay healthy by shoveling all that snow.”   Enjoy his culinary discussion with the Kroll’s restaurant owner and main cook at this link:

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