Sunday, October 16, 2011

American Gods and Roadside Attractions Tour: The House That Dreams Are Made Of

I have to admit...

I'm stuck here at the House on the Rock in describing our adventures across country. To the point that I'll bet you all figured I'd run out of steam and wouldn't continue on. But no. There is so much more to say. I've just been...stuck.

In talking it over with Acr0nym, I think I stumbled across the reason why talking about House on the Rock has stumped me. If you'll please recall, we arrived at the attraction so late in the day that we were denied entrance into roughly 2/3 of the exhibits and, given that this was why we even came to Wisconsin, the disappointment in not seeing it all and what little we did see was so hurried, I'm confused about what to say.

We saw the gatehouse, we saw the Infinity Room, we saw parts of the main house and the gardens. But there was still so much left unseen. And the parts we did see? We practically ran through them, fearful that we wouldn't get to see what little we were going to be allowed to see. An hour isn't much time to examine little details, after all. And now, looking back at Acr0nym's photographs - and please understand Acr0nym is a very fine photographer - his pictures reflect the hurry we were in to see everything. These pictures were the only pictures of our trip I felt did not capture the essence of what we saw (sorry, Acr0, but I can't imagine you disagree with me entirely in that assessment, right?).

However, we did see some of it and I have some overall impressions of the House I'd like to share with you if you're interested. I'm not going to delve into the history of the house...I trust you all know how to Google whatever it is you'd like to know.

To start, we wound our way through the little gatehouse. I don't remember much about it and what I do remember blends in with the main house so I'll skip what little I remember and blur it with my impressions of what we saw later.

After we emerged from the confines of the gatehouse, we found ourselves at the entrance of the Infinity Room. Now, if you don't know what an Infinity Room is, it's this...

Photo courtesy of - Acr0nym, for whatever reason, didn't capture this image

And from the outside at a distance...

Photo courtesy of - for obvious reasons we couldn't capture this ourselves I have a fear of bridges. And, for me, this was a bridge connected at only one end...which makes my phobia that much worse. Combine that with the fact that I could feel the room moving and it should be no shock to you that I made it about 2/3 of the way to the window looking down onto the top of the trees...

Infinity Room window looking down...don't EVER look down, alright?

Before I went oh-shit-if-I-go-any-further-into-this-room-I'm-going-to-vomit-or-be-unable-to-get-out. I must confess, I did not go all the way to the end. It was all I could do to BACK OUT of the room...because I couldn't even manage to turn around.

The top of the Infinity Room from an overlook accessible from the main house

We would exit out onto a ramp that would lead us down into one of the gardens. The gardens, I must say, are so tranquil and lovely! And made that much more endearing to me by this statue of St. Francis of Assisi - patron saint of animals.

St. Francis - watching over the critters

My mother, Blind Betsy, has a St. Francis of Assisi statue in her own garden marking the place where we buried the ashes of our beloved dog, Joan Bone Jovi.

My beloved Joanie in the garden she loved so well...such a sweet girl

Another garden shot

Once we entered the house, the tranquility in the gardens, while the attempt to pull it through the internal structure was evident, was not present to me. I found the house and it's oddly spaced stairs, narrow passages, and low hanging ceilings to be disconcerting, dark, claustrophobic. At one point, I mentioned to Acr0nym that Blind Betsy would HATE this place...mainly because it was so dark and seemed to have no rhyme or reason to its design.

I felt trapped inside a cave-like structure...not one that is cavernous with high ceilings and echoing chambers but one that is closed in on itself, heavy on my head. I frankly couldn't breathe. The decor was largely Asian influenced and there were several stained glass windows that, while not allowing in much light, were spectacular to see. There were few actual windows in the portion we saw...only stained glass.

One of the many sitting areas

An example of the lovely stained glass windows
One of the many lanterns used to light the interior
We saw a few of the famous automatic music machines...some that played, most were out of order...

One of the many automatic music machines - this one worked

One of the automatic music machines that did not work

Overall, I didn't feel as though I were enveloped in an artist's sanctuary. Instead, I felt imprisoned by rock, stained glass, and water.

Once we would emerge back out into the lower garden, however, I could see how this might be a peaceful place to exist...for a time.

Hans enjoying the gardens

A rear view of the Welcome Center
As we walked back up toward the Welcome Center to leave, we'd spy a chipmunk a mere 3 feet from us. I'd never seen a chipmunk so up close and personal...

A chipmunk enjoying the lovely gardens
An elderly gentleman who'd been following us up the ramp asked what we were looking at. When I whispered, "chipmunk" and pointed, his face filled with glee and his own camera would emerge to begin snapping photo after photo of this cutest of rodents.

And that, Dear Readers, was it for House on the Rock. We used our full hour+ and left feeling not a little disappointed in ourselves.

Enough so that we've already decided we're going back sometime in the spring. A whirlwind trip back to Spring Green and Milwaukee. Interstates as much as possible and as fast as the Intrepid can fly. We have people to do and places to meet in depth, in detail, and, frankly, absinthe to try and buy.

Never fear, House, we will be back.

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