About an hour southeast of Pittsburgh is one of the most serene and beautiful places in America: Frank Lloyd Wrightís Fallingwater. Unquestionably the most famous private residence ever built, Fallingwater is perhaps the best all-time work of American architecture. It exemplifies Wrightís concept of organic architecture: the harmonious union of architecture and nature. Built in the 1930ís, the house was the weekend home of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann. In 1963, in a grand generous action, Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr, entrusted the house and its contents to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Since then about 3 million people have visited the site.
Walking around the grounds I am completely overwhelmed by the sublime integration of man and nature. If you plan to visit Fallingwater and want to see the inside of the house, you must make a reservation. Call 724-329-8501.
By noon Iíve also visited Fort Necessity National Battlefield and Friendship Hill National Historic Site: Two more stamps for my passport. I guess itís time I explained about this stamp thing.
The National Park System contains approximately 376 national parks, memorials, monuments and historic sites. Check out http://www.nps.gov/parks.html for the complete list. Each location has a rubber stamp with the park name and location, as well as the date. The NPS sells a passport book (for $5.95) which you can fill up with these stamps as a memento of your visit.
In the spring of 1990, two motorcyclists and Iron Butt Association members (http://www.ironbutt.com) Mike Kneebone and Bob Higdon started a little competition collecting these stamps. Their friendly competition turned in to a contest: The Iron Butt Association's National Parks Master Traveler Award. To complete the tour and be eligible for Iron Butt Membership, you must visit at least 50 park sites in a minimum of 25 states within one calendar year. The record was set in 1996 by Dick Hautau of Detroit with 219 parks and 45 states. See http://www.ironbutt.com/intro/indexnpt.htm for the complete rules and some interesting reports.
Indeed, running around the country collecting these stamps may seem slightly ridiculous. But the quest allows me to visit some of the most scenic and interesting parts of the country. It was also a key factor in planning my trip routes. If all goes well, I may be able to set a new record. My effort will continue well past this 100 days. I have until June 16th, 2000 to finish, the one year anniversary of my first stamp.
As I cross the tip of West Virginia and head south into Ohio, so does the weather. I spend ten minutes riding in the rain before I come across a self-service car wash bay which saves me again like one did near Camden, Maine. But this is no passing shower. I break out the gortex liners and slip them in my suit. As I reach Woodsfield and turn down the Covered Bridge Scenic Byway (Route 26) the rain increases but I donít mind. The byway traverses a pastoral corner of southeastern Ohio through Wayne National Forest, snaking along the muddy Little Muskingum River and climbing onto steep, forested bluffs. For half an hour I see more turtles on the road than cars.
By the time I reach Gallipolis, my stop for the night, the rain has taken a breather. But Mother Nature is not done yet. I walk across the street from the motel to get some dinner and the storm front starts rolling in. The cloud formations are straight out of central casting. Think "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" or "The Ten Commandments". It pours all night long.
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