Day 14: The Water, It Is Falling

Fallingwater. Photo: Jenny Williams

Today’s tale begins early in the night last night. We’ve gotten pretty good at dodging rain so far, and last night as we slept, the skies opened up while we were safely inside and dry in our hotel room. It wasn’t just rain; it was a decent thunderstorm. And the power went out at least twice. This woke me each time, since something beeped in the room when the power went off and on. The first time, I unplugged all my devices. (They seem just fine, fortunately.) But this was reason #142 of why I like to use my cell phone as an alarm clock. It has a battery. My daughter set the alarm clock and, of course, it just blinked half of the night.

Sign to Fallingwater. Photo: Jenny Williams

In the morning, though, we managed to leave right when I had planned, and drove more back roads to Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in the western Pennsylvania wilderness. I was amazed at the humidity in this area. It was morning so it wasn’t too warm yet, but you could see the moisture in the air. I wouldn’t quite call it fog, but it was thick air. The kids hadn’t ever seen anything like this before. And there were mushrooms and moss everywhere. The opposite of Arizona.

The visitor’s center was partially outside. The check-in desk and waiting area was outside (though under cover), and there were little pods for the cafe, gift shop, bathrooms, and other areas. They didn’t allow bulky bags on the tours, so I locked up my backpack in one of their lockers. They also didn’t allow photography during the tour itself, but we were welcome to take photos before and after the tour, but only outside. Only people with special permission or on special tours could take photos inside, or during the tour.

The Fallingwater grounds. Photo: Jenny Williams

For those of you who don’t know about Fallingwater, it was commissioned by the Kaufmann family, of Kaufmann Department Store fame. It is built over a beautiful waterfall and around existing boulders, and is made of steel, concrete, glass, and stone. It has some inventive and creative features that were ahead of their time for when it was built in the 1930s, such as an open floor plan and a real connection to nature and the outside. It is filled with small and well-used spaces, and has windows that meet at house corners that open up completely, allowing for a very good view from the house. It is a very good example of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s later works.

The kids were fantastic on the tour. They paid attention and were patient, and the boy even answered one of the tour guide’s questions after raising his hand. I enjoyed the tour immensely, though wish I’d been free to study the room and not worry about the kids. My first impressions of the house weren’t as positive as I had hoped, though. From far away, it just looks awesome. From close up, it just looked like painted concrete. But the angle at which we approached the house wasn’t its best side.

Close-up of the waterfall. Photo: Jenny Williams

I loved all the furnishings inside. The furniture was mostly designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Kaufmanns’ books, art, and sculptures were all donated along with the house and property. I wanted to stay there for two weeks, on my own personal vacation.

I knew that the Fallingwater people had big restrictions on taking photos, and that I couldn’t put them on any commercial website. That means no photos on GeekDad or GeekMom. But I did ask the people at the check-in desk what the policy was for personal blogs, that aren’t commercial, and they said that that was fine. So the young man who was on duty on July 3, 2011, during the 10am tour said it was okay to put photos here. I also heard him then say quietly to the employee next to him, “It was nice of her to ask.” I guess some people just end up doing what they want with photos?

I couldn’t get good house photos from near the house itself, but I do have some of the outside from there. But the good shots, the ones people are familiar with, are taken from a designated view spot.

For anyone who appreciates architecture (though not necessarily good house engineering – Fallingwater is a bit of an engineering mess – didn’t FLW know that water is bad for houses?), especially Frank Lloyd Wright or organic architecture, I highly recommend a stop at Fallingwater. There are several tours available, including one designed for kids (though that one wasn’t available today).

After the tour, we took photos around the property and at the view location, and checked out the gift shop. There were many items that I would have loved to have purchased, but will have to manage to do without. Most of the things I wanted were books anyway, which are probably cheaper on Amazon.

We left and headed toward our hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I was driving around, looking for our first turn off the road, and realized I probably went too far. I drove back, but saw nothing identifying where I was supposed to turn. Fortunately, I had cell phone signal, which was not a sure thing in the hills of rural Pennsylvania. And fortunately, Ed was home. And even more fortunately, Google had a Street View of this particular street. That amazed me. So I had Ed look up the intersection where I was supposed to turn and had him describe it to me. Sure enough, there was no street sign. But I did manage to find the road, and proceeded to propel us down the steep grade toward our destination.

Steep grades today varied from 5% to 12%. Crazy times. Fortunately, these insane hills come along with fantastic views. And we crossed the Appalaichan Trail about 15 minutes before we got to Gettysburg.

Drove: 170 miles.

States: Pennsylvania.

Weather: Incredibly humid, but not too hot where we were.

Kids: I put the fear of FSM in my kids today for our tour of Fallingwater. They took it to heart (and it helped that the tour was in the morning) and behaved extremely well on the tour.

Best Part of the Day: The tour of Fallingwater!

Worst Part of the Day: The driving. It’s getting old.

Song Going Through My Head: Lovely Rita

What I’ve Learned on the Trip: Western Pennsylvania is filled with very, very large hills. Of course, this is what people in the east call “mountains”. The Allegheny Mountains and Appalachan Mountains, to be more specific. Pshaw. Also, I have found that I like driving in northern states more than southern ones. They are more interesting to me to look at. Or perhaps I’m just used to the southern states from the particular road trips we have taken in recent years?

Funny of the Day: We drove through a tunnel that literally went through a mountain today. The kids love tunnels. As we were almost at the entrance, I exclaimed, “We’re heading right for it!” and the kids yelled, completely in unison and totally unprompted by me or each other, “Ahhhhhhh!” It was a perfect moment.

Total GeekDads Visited: 5.

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About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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