Day Sixteen: Iowa to Michigan

Before leaving Iowa, I had two important stops. The first was at Cedar Rock, a Frank Lloyd house that he imagined was a modest suburban home. I knew a little about Wright’s style and personality, but I had no idea how particular he was to the homes he designed, and what a fixture he became in the lives of people who lived in his homes. I asked the guide if Wright knew Ayn Rand, whose Fountainhead character Howard Roarke is so similar. He didn’t know, but later checking proves she did. While Rand may have had the inspiration for Roarke earlier than her impressions of Wright, it seems outrageous coincidence that she did not refine her character based upon his work.

Here’s what I mean. At Cedar Rock, Wright designed the home, furnished and decorated it, and then had a few more conditions. 1) The Larson family could move in with nothing but their clothing. No new furnishings or knick-knacks could be used; 2) A housewarming gift of a pitcher and cups, because they did not fit Wright’s style, had to be removed; 3) No garage or attic or basement would be designed, because these represented clutter, and no family in Wright’s home would live in clutter; 4) The chimneys would not draw air because they were too low, but Wright would not redesign them because that would ruin the line of the house; 5) Items in the house had a particular place; if Wright visited the home and found one out of place, the owner was chastised; 6) Wright produced two front doors with a wall-corridor between them in order to make the home seem unwelcoming to strangers. Not ridiculous enough? When they moved in, the Larsons found that the master bedroom had two separate beds; when she asked him, Wright told Mrs. Larson, “You will both appreciate having your own bed to sleep in more comfort.”

Even with all this, the home was beautiful. The choices he made in creating horizontal line, creating corner windows, allowing nature to grow through the foundation of the home, how furniture would unfold into the room, the use of natural light, were all amazing ideas. Landscaping, room names, and redefining social spaces (i.e. dark entryways to discourage hanging around near doors), were intriguing. Homes and owners that lived up to his ideals received his signature tile of approval.

Rand’s Howard Roarke differs from Wright only in that he would never ask for money for his ideas, as Wright often was compelled to do. Roarke would design a building and not care if no one lived in it, so long as his personal aesthetic was never violated (when one owner does change his building, Roarke blows it up). But Roarke was truly flawless, marrying aesthetic to engineering. Wright seems to have had trouble keeping the engineering part in focus (poor heat, roofs which leaked, etc.). Oak Park, IL, has many Wright homes, but this seemed a much easier and more intimate stop on the Wright parade.

Only a few miles down the road is the movie set for Costner’s Field of Dreams. Why not? The best part of re-discovering this beautiful farmhouse in the middle of Iowa’s cornfields was not the nostalgia of the film, and certainly not the souvenir stand which sold everything from Field of Dreams baseball bats to Field of Dreams ice cream cones. It was the twenty or so people playing baseball on the field. The rules are simple: anyone can play at any time. And the spirit of that was there, with a four year old girl batting, with adults trading sides as the pseudo-game progressed. They just played.

But after that, I was anxious. Looking at the clock, I couldn’t help estimate that I would hit Chicago right around rush hour. Sure enough, I hit the north side at 4:00 pm and the turnpike by 4:30. Never mind that I spent 20 minutes at one of four toll booths, by the time that I cleared Chicago and made it into Indiana, it was 7:00 pm (8:00 EST). Now, weary with the madness of tons of steel jostling for positions for three hours, I had to decide to hold up for the night or press on. A quick stop at the Michigan Welcome Center and a meal made up my mind. Time to bring it home.

I pulled into my driveway at exactly 1:00 am and exactly 5600 miles on my odometer since July 21 when I left, American Road Trip concluded.

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