I didn't get my Dad a card or a present for Father's Day this year. I didn't even call him. But that is because I went for a 3 day convertible drive with him, starting in Chicago on Father's Day. We used to go on father-daughter convertible drives all the time when I was in junior high and high school, in my first car, Alfie, a 1983 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. So when he asked me if I wanted to go, I thought I'd humor him. Here we are with Alfie II, a 1990 Alfa Romeo Graduate (which unlike Alfie the first, has no rust, you don't have to start it with a screwdriver, and has functioning AC):
In case you aren't familiar with these fine Italian machines, here are a few things you should know: Alfa drivers are more accurately called enthusiasts - they don't just drive these cars, they love them. They love them so much, they typically join the Alfa Romeo Owner's Club, or what I like to call my Dad's "Old Man Driving Club", wherein they have meetings and go for drives - I guess. Anyway, my Dad was in Chicago for the 2008 Alfa Romeo Owner's Club National Convention (whoa) and our little drive was the pre-convention tour. More specifically, it was the FANGIO (Fantastic and New Greater Illinois Observation) 2008 Pre-Convention Tour. Here's how that went:
Day 1_We head west and a little north from Chicagoland on the Lincoln Highway - which is winding and devoid of the typical Chicagoland weekend traffic. Some highlights from this part of the drive include a waitress that looked like Miss Trunchbull from the movie Matilda, a sunburn, and being scolded for not driving fast enough. (To my defense - I DON'T DRIVE anymore. And on the rare occasion that I do, it's in the city at less than 40 mph.) After a wind-whipped drive through the northwest corner of Illinois and into Dubuque, Iowa, and back to Illinois, we stopped for the night in Galena, Illinois. This is where it gets interesting. Galena was kind of a big deal starting in about 1825-ish when lead miners started moving to the area. It has a cute little downtown and is full of great old buildings. After dinner, some of us met up to take a ghost tour! The cars lined up in front of the old mansion where our tour started:
I was really hoping to have a real ghost encounter, but I guess I'll just have to settle for the 'orb' of light in one of my graveyard pictures. If anyone knows where I really can see a ghost - please, let me know.
Day 2_More winding road driving through Iowa. We stopped for coffee and donuts at Breitbach's Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa (population, Breitbach's family, mostly). The Breitbach family has owned it for 6 generations, but the original building burned to the ground on Christmas Eve last year. Since then, it has been rebuilt - mostly by volunteer labor and had just reopened the weekend before we stopped. Before leaving Iowa, we stopped at Pike's Peak, and I had some serious deja vu. I realized I had stopped there with my grandparents on a trip when I was 7 or 8. It's a site that overlooks the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. This time, there were railings, so no one had to yell at me to get away from the edge. Oh, and the rivers were a whole lot higher this time:
After crossing over into Wisconsin, we drove a little further and stopped just outside Spring Green in Dodgeville. And we stayed at the strangest 'hotel' I've ever been to - the Don Q Inn. I was hoping to eat at a local brewery and try some local Wisconsin beer, but had to settle for a rowdy dinner at a corner bar. During this meal, my new friend Howard, from Ohio, was quizzing me about my fiance, Don, when he found out that we are both only children. So after some discussion of social workers and birth order theories, he called Don to ask him some questions. I guess he passed the test. And we're still engaged, thankfully.
Day 3_For me, day 3, Tuesday, marked the architectural and beer highlight of the trip. We took the 4 hour estate tour of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin estate. My 'professional' critique - it was much more interesting and also less refined than his commissioned houses. It is also still a functioning architecture school and home for people, unlike the sterile museums that most of his houses have become. I found it refreshing, and the countryside was beautiful. After our tour and my Dad's first encounter with an organic cheeseburger (he was so puzzled by this seemingly oxymoronic dish), we hit the road. But we didn't get far before we stopped in the Swiss town of New Glarus. I was on a very specific mission to buy a large quantity of cheese, including cheese curds, and beer from the New Glarus Brewing Company. After some ice cream, a beer tasting and some purchases, we were finally on our way back to Chicago. If you enjoy barley and dairy products as much as I, then you should really consider a Wisconsin vacation. Anyway, we had a great time - it was good to spend some time with my Dad and leave the city for a while. And I suppose the driving was pretty fun, too. Fantastic and new indeed!
Unitarian chapel on the estate:
F.L. Dub's house:
Yup, it's even cuter in person, the Romeo and Juliette Windmill: