Miller House in Columbus, Indiana

If you’re a mid-Century modernist, then you may know about the recent opening of the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana. This famous residential home was designed by the famous architect and designer Mies van der Rohe. While the house is pretty famous, the landscape is too! The grounds were designed by the famous landscape architect Dan Kiley. The house was commissioned by the Miller family and was built in 1953. A few years ago, my landscape architecture studio got to visit the grounds while on our way to Chicago. The house really wasn’t open for tours back then (it just opened as a museum this week), but one of our professors knew someone and we were allowed to visit the gardens. I was quite amazed at the design of the house and how the landscape tied in with the architecture. I hope to be able to go back and visit the inside of the home! It is now owned and cared for by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.



Photos from my previous trip to Columbus, Indiana a few years ago

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Columbus, Indiana

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After spending a few days in Lexington, my friend and I headed to Madison Wisconsin. Driving the trip with someone was definitely more fun than driving solo and we decided to make a pit stop in Columbus, Indiana which is one of my favorite cities. I came here before with my landscape architecture studio as a stop on the way to Chicago. I told my friend about the interesting town and we decided we’d like to stop and check it out since it’s right on the way to Wisconsin.

It’s a pretty neat town because of it’s ecclectic mix of architecture. There is a blend of traditional, mid century modern, and contemporary. It’s most famous for its mid century architecture and many of the buildings were built by famous architects of the day, like Eero Saarinen. My friend and I drove around for a bit and then stopped in the downtown area. We were hoping to find an ice cream shop, and we found a great one!

We found an antique ice cream parlor and soda fountain, Zaharakos. The place has been there since 1900 and hasn’t changed a bit according to the photos that were on the wall. It is also part diner and museum. I imagine I’d come to this place all the time if I lived here…but it will now be a stop when traveling by Columbus.

This building, a children’s museum I think, was probably one of the coolest blends of modern and neoclassical architecture I have ever seen.  Somehow the styles seemed to blend seamlessly together and the design complemented the whole downtown, something that doesn’t happen much with these new infill projects.  I was surprised that such a small town would think about such details when designing these type of additions!

This traditional soda fountain was an incredible find.  From the exterior, it was not much, but once inside this place exploded into historic soda dispensers, ice cream coolers, and marble counters.  This was the first time I had ever had a ‘real’ root beer float where they mix the soda on the spot and then add the ice cream.  This place definitely deserves a visit if you are ever passing through… I believe that I would take an aside from the interstate to just visit this place.

We had a chance to stop and walk through one of the many World War II memorials in town and this was the coolest place.  It had quotes of soldiers, family members and various others in the community celebrating their service to our country.  As much as I hate war and conflict, I can’t help but celebrate each one’s contribution to our nation, and with Memorial Day around the corner, I think of it quite a bit!  This memorial is worth a visit if you are in town for the weekend, and remember to thank a veteran while your at it!

One of the most intriguing places in Columbus was the Cummins Diesel Headquarters.  We just had the chance to drive by this sprawling campus of buildings, but it seemed very interesting.  The whole place was covered in ivy latticed buildings and walkways with retention ponds in the center of the openspaces that seemed to be geared to catch rainwater from the buildings and hardscapes.  I am sure this mid century design was revolutionary for its time and I would love to go back and tour the facility… I guess there is always that next trip to everywhere that I am always planning!  With so much to do in this sleepy little town, I can see myself stopping by here on random trips to tour various parts of the place.

Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, WI

Last August my friend and I headed to Baraboo, WI to tour the shack and farm of Aldo Leopold, a pioneer conservationist. While in Baraboo, we learned about Devil’s Lake, a recreation destination for many in this area of Wisconsin. Today we decided we would go to Devil’s Lake and spend a half a day having a picnic and taking a hike around the lake. The lake is really nice and I was impressed of how nice the area was. It’s about an hour drive west from Madison. We paid a small fee, which gives you a sticker to park anywhere around the park. We then had a picnic, including some Tuscan Bean Salad, while picking out some trails we wanted to hike. There are many throughout the park. Some go around the lake and others are spread throughout the wooded areas. This place reminded me of the Red River Gorge back in Kentucky, minus the lake! It was really enjoyable hiking around the lake, which made it a lot more fun because of the beautiful scenery. There were quite a few other people out because of the nice weather. I think it was one of the first warmer days. We saw people fishing, boating, swimming, sunbathing, and even dogs playing in the water.

We stumbled onto the idea of a picnic and hiking at Devil’s Lake last August while on our Wisconsin Tour during our visit to Aldo Leopold’s Shack.  The area is filled with lots of quartzite and is cut up from the glacial era in Wisconsin.   The lake may actually be a remnant of the Baraboo River that was cut off during a glacial advance.  In my opinion, the area has plenty of unique topography and very nice trails to experience all of it.

The park has a very unique trail system.  All of the trails that we hiked that day were paved over with an asphalt-quartzite mixture.  This blend let the path take on the characteristics of the surrounding rock and blend in very well.  I have never seen a trail constructed quite like this.  It was easy on the feet and made the liesurely stroll along the lakeshore much more enjoyable.  However, I pity the person who had to haul in all of that asphalt; I am sure it was quite the job!

After hiking the lakeshore path, which is relatively flat and easy, the western ridge trail seemed like a nightmare.  In a little under a quarter mile the trail climbed about 450 feet; all of it was the paved asphalt system along the lake.  This made the trail somewhat easier, but it was still quite the climb.  The entire trip was worth it though!  The views stretched off into the distance showing the ridges that form the area around Lake Wisconsin along the Wisconsin River.  The water in Devil’s Lake was crystal clear and acted like a mirror for the awesome landscape.  The cliffs were a neat pinkish color showing the quartzite deposits that are over 1.5 billion years old, the oldest rocks in the state.

At the final overlook of the trail we could look down to see where we had enjoyed our picnic a few hours earlier and the car.  With our late lunch being worked off, I remember we were both exhausted and craving some beer and ice cream… a crazy mixture, but more normal in Wisconsin.  The descent was very abrupt; about 4ooft in less than an eighth of a mile with large quartzite steps lined with asphalt, a rather odd combination.

 At the last part of the trail, I noticed a very interesting sign that talked about invasive species such as Reed Canary Grass and Garlic Mustard. I am very interested in signage because it involved a lot of art and graphic design skills as well as concise written explanations.  The sign explained the devastating effects of invasive species and had some very interesting graphics.  The sign also had a cool boot brush attachment to knock off any seeds that could be spread around to other areas.  The higher parts of the trail were not covered with the Garlic Mustard, but the lower parts were quite full of it.  I suppose the intent here was to get the seeds off before hiking the trails that were not lined with the stuff. Overall it was a very nice day trip and I would encourage anyone in the Madison area/region to take a visit. It is definitely one of the nicer areas I have visited in WI, right up there with Taliesin!

ZUZU Cafe and Henry Vilas Zoo

One of the days I was looking forward to was a ZuZu and Zoo Day with my friend. In the afternoon we headed to the  Zuzu Cafe that serves pretty good fresh food. My friend and I split a grilled basil/mozzarella/tomato grilled panini with a side of salad. I always love the homemade dressings these places serve. Inspires me to make my own salad dressings from now on!

After the cafe, we walked across the street to the Henry Vilas Zoo. It’s a pretty nice zoo that is free to the public. They have quite a lot of animals and they are currently expanding a few parts. There was even the ‘Children’s Zoo’ play area, which I thought was the real zoo! As much as I don’t like seeing animals taken out of their habitat and put into small areas, I hope that people visiting the zoo become educated on wildlife preservation and learn to respect the earth. I think my favorite area was the bird conservatory because it was full of botanical plants and the birds could fly wherever they wanted to.

Urban Assault Bicycle Race

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A few weeks ago my friend asked if I wanted to come and visit him in Madison and do a bicycle race. I had never heard of such a thing…but was up for something new and that seemed challenging. Words can’t describe challenging! So on Sunday I woke up at 7am to get ready for this race. The day before we went to St Vincent’s thrift store to find some unique garb for the ride. My friend and I rode our bikes to one of the lake front parks where the ride began. We arrived and it was super windy from a front moving in. It was pretty chilly, but we knew once we got riding it would probably be a good temperature.

I was already worn out before the race began! Because I don’t ride my bike back home, I was pretty out of shape for such aerobic and strength requiring exercise. I almost gave out a few times, especially going up all the steep hills around Madison, but the excitement of the race and the need to challenge myself made me push forward. After the race there was a ‘party’ with giveaways, music, and free samples from the sponsors. Even though it was very tough (including 2 days of painful soreness), it was fun and whew, a lot of exercise!

The race was called the Urban Assault Ride, a bicycle scavenger hunt around the city. This maps shows the extent of the madness and each checkpoint, 24.6 miles of pedaling adventures. At each of the checkpoints we had to complete obstacles which made it even more difficult and we only had about 3 hours until the checkpoints closed. It all started at Madison’s Olin Park. From there teams started in three waves and chose their own course.

The race was more of a scavenger hunt than a time trial sort of thing, but it was fun nonetheless.  The farthest check point out in Fitchburg, Barriques.  This was by far the most difficult section up a few long hills, but after that it didn’t really get easier.  We trekked it to Whole Foods on University Drive and were met with some pretty rough hills in those neighborhoods.   Up to that point we had completed only a quarter of the race total, but had used about 2 hours doing it.  That meant that we only had one hour to get to a few more check points.  After a quick break we marched on…

The next stop was Williamson Bikes and Fitness on East Washington, a rather easy few miles.  After that, it was off to one of the secret checkpoints, Fontana Sports on Henry St., where we were given a clue to another secret checkpoint.  After figuring out that the other checkpoint was Moving Shoes on Park St. we decided we could grab that on our way back to Olin Park.  We had three checkpoints to get to with only about 40 minutes left in the whole race.  We decided to pedal out to Tenny Park and then to Vilas Park where we completed one of the funnest tasks of the day.  Shooting shoes into a bag with rubber bands attached to shoes!  After that we hustled past Moving Shoes and then onto Olin Park to complete the race on Trek Big Wheel Racers with a time of 3 hours and 28 minutes!

At the end, all of the sponsors had a party back at Olin Park where they gave away a lot of free samples and door prizes.  It was fun to watch all of the race participants compete for some of the prizes. All in all it was a crazy time and was well worth the entry fee that we purchased for half off for using a Groupon.  New Belgium does the races all over the country, so it would be nice to experience a new city this way.

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