November 21, 2004

The Wrights And Wrongs Of Architecture

Day 3: Pittsburgh, PA to Canaan Valley, WV

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One thing the Westin hotels do right is their Heavenly Beds. They are, by far, the best hotel beds in the world as far as I'm concerned - in this case, a good night's sleep was needed to erase the Tim Burton freakshow we endured the day before. And seeing as though we were headed to some traditionally strange parts of America this day, who knew when we'd get a good night's sleep again. Gee, how long would it be until we saw something we'll probably never see again?

Oh, about 2 minutes after leaving our hotel room. We got a coffee in the hotel lobby and sat down to enjoy it with our croissants. Concurrent with our visit, the national Jr. Fencing Championships were in town and the Westin was apparently the staging area. Any kid into fencing is weird. Their tight little white outfits are weird. Their families are weird. Sigh, can't we just enjoy our coffees without weird kids yelling french phrases and prancing about all around us?

Our first destination was Frank Lloyd Wright's world famous Falling Water house he built for the Kaufman's back in the day. Our drive there took us through a town called Normalville which did, in fact, appear pretty normal. Of course, we were both half expecting frogs to start pelting our car from the darkening rain clouds above us. We arrived at Falling Water right on time and got into our little tour group. Now, some people probably think some of Wright's architecture is "not for them" or maybe even a little odd. I happen to love it and I was eager to tour the house. Unfortunately, unless we paid a hundred bucks each, we couldn't take any interior pictures which I thought was pretty lame. But the true beauty of the house is the exterior anyway, as you can see in the pictures below.

Our tour guide was excellent and very knowledgable as he took us through the house's many rooms. The whole "theory" behind Wright's work was cool to learn about and seeing the incredible cantilevers and inventive window designs was interesting. I love how he brings the "outside in" with his giant fireplaces and natural rock walls, complete with tricking spring water through a hallway. I totally dug the house and look forward to seeing more of his work out in Ohio and Wisconsin in the future. Props to the state for preserving this gem (structurally, it's not the strongest building and would have crumbled into the creek if not for some massive funding, analysis, and shoring up).

After the tour, we drove south in search of a couple more architectural gems. The drive took us very near yesterday's Pennsylvania highpoint and through a town called Accident in Maryland. (Any joke regarding that town name would be lame, unless I went for an "I crapped my pants" joke, but that would just be tasteless.) We were in the very westernmost swath of Maryland and believe it or not, the scenery was kind of pretty. I remember when I was in my mid teens my pops and I got stuck in Cumberland, MD at a trailer park for a night. We did not feel safe... It's a whole other world out there. Safe in our car, we zipped down to the SW corner of the state and crossed over (barely) in West Virginia. I'm sure you've all heard of the little town of Silver Lake as it, like Chicago or Austin, is world renowned for its awe-inspiring cutting edge architecture. Check it out... The Smallest Church in the US! Right next door to the Smallest Post Office in the US!

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We had to fight off the crowds to get good views of these landmarks

Honestly, if you're West Virginia, what else do you have, really? Inside the little church, I prayed for the state and it's legacy of environmental destruction and disregard. (I forget which photo editor software's "red eye reduction" made me look like a Bambi character in that picture - it does crack me up though.) Here is an explanation of the church and PO, as told by the postcard we paid a dime for at the altar. Thus far, the day had gone smoothly and all in all, it was pretty fun. We changed into some junkier clothing and drove the half mile or so south to the Maryland state highpoint trailhead (which is in WV) and conquered yet another state summit. All the details of the hike are in that report, so I'll skip that whole adventure here. Let's just say that constant close range gunfire made the simple hike a bit interesting.

We made it to the top of Maryland and survived to drive a little bit further south to the Canaan Valley resort, nestled in the hills of West Virginia. This place is bumping in the winter and the summer. Thanksgiving week? Not so much. I kept looking for twin girls on Big Wheels riding down the hallways but fortunately they never materialized. We grabbed dinner in the completely emtpy bar/dining area and made small talk with the incredibly lonely bartender/waitress/cook/hostess lady. "Y'all down here fer openin' day?" Ummmm, no. She went on to tell us that the next day was WV's unofficial state holiday - the first day of deer hunting season and that any outdoor plans we had would be suicidal.

Eh, it wasn't like we were planning any sort of hiking or anything... Oh my.

See how we fared on Day 4...

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