South Island Road Trip

I am on an ambitious road trip on the South Island of New Zealand. First I flew to Queenstown and drove north to view penguins at the Wilderness Lodge in Lake Moeraki about 30 miles north of Haast. The drive over the Crown Range and through Wanaka immersed me in beauty. I found myself pushing to get to the Lodge for the 7:30 p.m. dinner AND stopping frequently to take pictures.

Along Highway 6 north of Queenstown

So frequently I got to meet Rohan and Dhaval who stopped at three scenic stops with me. Dhaval took this picture of me.

On Friday there were lots of work crews repairing rock slides and slumps. It is spring time in New Zealand so it time to repair winter damage. New Zealand keeps miles and miles of roads in good shape–a lot per capita–only 1.5 million people on South Island. Highway 6 goes from Invercargill to Queenstown and then on to Franz Joseph National Park and beyond. To conserve resources they use one lane bridges and one side gives way and waits if there is someone coming from the other direction. It is a bit unnerving at first, then I realized that I hardly ever actually encountered another car when I approached one of these bridges. One exception is the bridge just outside Frankton and Queenstown Airport. It has a light and there are cars waiting, but the scariest part is the spotty surface. The tarmac is worn away.

Cattle crossings are called Cattle stops.

Cattle crossings are called Cattle stops.

Then there are the different signs. My least favorite: “Drive with Care, Accident Black Spot”. I am not sure what it indicates except it cannot be good.

Then there are the switchbacks, just out of Arrowtown, so severe my GPS thought I had done a u-turn.

I rented a very affordable car (saving money for accommodation) from Snap Rentals in Qtown. It is the same Nissan we drove in Auckland except it has 247,000 km and the seats are broken down and the radio does not work. It did the job and with the excess insurance I did not have to worry about the loose gravel and other road hazards.

Nissan from Snap Rental

I drove through lots of rain showers. The weather was the most severe in Invercargill. Fortunately I had dashed into hotel reception before the heavy hail started to fall.

I love noticing uniquely New Zealand things. On the way out of Invercargill I saw recycled feed sacks full of “Horse Poo $2”. Just leave the money by the stand on the honor system. There are numerous roadside picnic spots. And they call it freedom camping when you can stop your self-contained camper on the side of the road.

I am glad to be moving to a bicycle tomorrow. My neck and back were so sore I called Matt at The Dairy Private Hotel to book me a massage. Juliana at Body Sanctum in Qtown did an amazing job. I am undoing her good work as I lean over my computer to write. (straighten up!) Also glad to finally have a decent internet connection. I have a lot to share. Stay tuned.

Art of the 101st Tour de France

Supporting Greig Leach’s Kickstarter campaign to bring his beautiful drawings together in a book was a no-brainer. I’d seen some of his drawings in the news. We were both following the entire tour. I like how he captured pivotal moments of each day in line drawings with watercolor in his Book du Tour. I received my copy about 2 weeks ago and I have been going through it slowly. It brings back so many great memories.

book du tour

It is also time to sign up for cycling tours at the 2015 Tour de France.  I can personally recommend either Trek Travel or Thomson Bike Tours.

If you are interested in a spectator tour, then Thomson is the only one offering these. The brilliant Jacinta McHale is returning to lead them.

And on a completely silly note, those of us who traveled with Jacinta in 2014 were thrilled to see Enriique Iglesias’ song Bailando won the Song of the Year at the Latin Grammys.

Sunday Morning Farmers Market in Inner Richmond

Inner Richmond

Inner Richmond is a San Francisco neighborhood between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. Clement Avenue is the main street. I like the Sunset District, North Beach and other neighborhoods, so it was fun to spend a few hours mooching around on Sunday. It is also a day when the Farmer’s Market is open on Clement at 2nd Avenue.

Buy truffles or chocolate bars at Jade Chocolate.

Buy truffles or chocolate bars at Jade Chocolate.

As I write this I am munching on a Krakatoa chocolate bar from Jade Chocolate. It is flavored with black pepper and lemongrass and is a perfect chocolate with coffee for after dinner.

Performer serenades children at Farmers Market.

Performer serenades children at Farmers Market.

I lingered over the Petaluma Happy Hens Farms stand where one can buy eggs and grass-fed poultry, pork and beef. Sometimes it is fun to spend time in a neighborhood just hanging out like a local.

Eats Restaurant a great place for breakfast or lunch at Clement & 2nd.

Eats Restaurant a great place for breakfast or lunch at Clement & 2nd.

Off the Beaten Tourist Path in San Francisco: Golden Gate Park

Most visitors to San Francisco flock to Union Square, or Fisherman’s Wharf. I get why people spend their first visit to San Francisco riding a cable car or cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge or walking from Ghiradelli Square to Pier 39, or shopping at Union Square. In San Francisco, there is so much to do if you are willing to spend a little more time and go off the crowded tourist path. (And please do not call it “Frisco”; if you must shorten “San Fran” is okay. “The City” is what locals call this beautiful place.)

San Francisco Golden Gate Park Map

One frustration is finding parking. My Plan A to participate with my Brompton on a locally organized “Tweed Ride” was derailed by my inability to find parking. So I rerouted to Golden Gate Park. Over the years I have visited the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the DeYoung Art Museum multiple times and the Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers at least once. I parked my car and unpacked my bike and set out to find some new-to-me areas of the park.

Children's playground at Golden Gate Park

Parking at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday was not easy to find–luckily Ivy is compact. The first place I cycled  to was the Lawn Bowling Club of San Francisco. I turned to investigate and discovered a complex of tennis courts and then a children’s area. There is an extensive playground, a carousel and a hot dog stand with ice cream. Perfect for an outing with your kids or a first date.


I continued pedaling around and enjoyed the car free streets on Sunday. I especially liked watching the dads teaching their kids to ride bikes. I just gave a grown-up friend a lesson in riding a bike so I watched with curiosity. How is the learning process different for children? The main thing I noticed is that adults feel foolish using training wheels, so we compensate by lowering the seat so the learner can touch the ground easily with their feet and scoot along until their sense of balance allows them to begin pedaling. Both kids and adults need a lot of encouragement.

Youngster learning to ride a bike

Autumn and spring are the best times of year to visit San Francisco. The weather is usually beautiful. On this Sunday, there were many people jogging, and even more people riding their road bikes. Or push your kids in a stroller on the car-free interior streets and spend a day at the playground and carousel.

Walk Chicago’s Michigan Avenue

Downtown Chicago is the most beautiful downtown in the USA. Just walk Michigan Avenue. I stayed at Club Quarters at Wacker and Michigan. I walked across the Chicago River and a few blocks and the shopping began. Nordstrom and Bloomingdales are not architecturally interesting, but its the inside that matters.

Walk back across the river and a couple of blocks and you are at Millenium Park and a block or two from the South Lakeshore Drive.

Frank Gehry designed the Jay Pritzger Pavilion at Millenium Park

Frank Gehry designed the Jay Pritzger Pavilion at Millenium Park


There is the famous Cloud, which is always different depending on the weather and the people interacting with the sculpture.

The Cloud in Millenium Park

The Cloud in Millenium Park



These are new sculptures from my last visit to Chicago. People have already created ways to interact with them.


Across the street from Millenium Park is the Art Institute of Chicago. I have spent many hours on previous trips. This time I only visited the bookstore (a terrific bookstore). The walk along the park continues all the way to Field Museum and Soldier Field.


The park goes on. I have never walked past Soldier Field. There is a city bike rental program if you want to find a quick way to get back.

Highwire Act Over Chicago River

IMG_3976On Sunday November 2, 2014, Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope between these two high rise buildings and over the Chicago River.


You cannot see the wires. They are there, because I was there. I saw the crowds gather. I heard fellow guests in the Club Quarters elevator discuss watching it–pros and cons. What if he falls?

I sat at the outdoor cafe at my hotel and ate a pizza while waiting for him to walk. Finally it was just too cold and it was not clear when it was going to happen. So I went up to the 38th floor where hotel staff said there was a window. Management made a maid stay there and shoo guests away. I got another view but not a good photo. Still no Wallenda.



I went to my funny triangular shaped room on the 34th floor. Unfortunately it looked out a different direction. So I watched it on the Discovery Channel. I liked hearing Nik’s commentary. He walked across then returned and walked the same direction again only blindfolded. Whew. Glad he made it.

Every time I go to Chicago there is something fun and cool happening–the Taste, a stunt like Nik Wallenda’s, the cross town rivalry game between White Sox and Cubs. This is one of the reasons I love Chicago.

5 Inspirations from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Museum

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio museum in Oak Park, Illinois

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio museum in Oak Park, Illinois

I have long wanted to go to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park (just outside Chicago on the green line). I thought I had to rent a car to get there. The beauty of Google Maps (click train option) and I made plans to visit at last.

Getting there on the green line actually was a little more complicated because I was trying to get on in Bridgeport instead of downtown. I had made a 2:00 p.m. tour reservation and after a bus ride to Roosevelt station it still was not clear when the train was departing. I pulled the “quick release” and called Lyft. The driver Caroline lives in Oak Park so I not only got there in plenty of time, I learned a lot about this first suburb of Chicago (all for $23).

Frank Lloyd Wright was just starting his career as an architect and getting married when he bought a piece of land on the edge of town and built his family home. At that time his home looked out on the prairie and he was able to draw inspiration from nature for his work. I thought about the interesting things I observed in his home and found these 5 inspirations.

Frank Lloyd Wright's first home was built on the edge of the prarie.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s first home was built on the edge of the prarie.

1.  Marry wisely if you plan to use your home as a place of experimentation.

The family home evolved over the 20 years they lived there. They raised 6 children in this home. FLW worked out many of his ideas in his own remodeling projects. Lucky for him he seems to have chosen his wife well as she let him design not just the architecture but the furnishings as well.

2. If you are going to be a prick-ly person, then you better be a genius or super talent.

Stories abound of FLW’s very particular vision and his disregard for others feelings in his pursuit of this vision. Our docent did not sugar coat why he got fired–he was designing homes behind his bosses’ backs. Moonlighting is frowned upon when you are keeping business to yourself and not sharing the fees with the partners. In college I had the honor of going to a conference at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin. Wingspread is a prairie home (mansion) that FLW designed for the Johnson&Johnson family. They told stories of him returning to visit and staying up all night rearranging the furniture and generally being an eccentric and demanding house guest.

3. It is fun to be creative and design special things for your own living space.

FLW designed many decorative elements of his home (such as the skylight in the photo below). He must have enjoyed it.

4. You have to be willing to stand out and risk ridicule if you are an original thinker.

Frank Lloyd Wright made a huge impact on American architecture because he was willing to take risks.


After the tour I walked about 4 blocks to main street Oak Park through a beautiful neighborhood contemporary to his home. The docent said we would be able to see several of his homes on our walk. He was absolutely correct and they were easy to spot. The homes of the period, when he was developing his unique vision, were Victorian. Stately yes, but not very interesting.

IMG_4292 IMG_4287


Compare this to the lines of one of his early designs. This is a clunkier version than the clean modern lines he eventually made popular, but already it is a big departure and a risky choice for both the homeowners and FLW.

5.  If you are going to think outside the box, it helps to be short.

The piano that he inset in the wall to save space in the interior of the “playroom” is suspended and hangs out over the staircase. This is fine if you are 5’9″ or shorter.