You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
We've been luxuriating for the past four months on the soon to be snowed-over shores of the lake in the Wisconsin Northwoods, and, cats and all, we've trekked a five-days journey down the Interstates to check in in Staunton, run errands, stock up on the meds, pack up the cats again and head back to Chicago.
Scarcely back in the Old Y and we're intrigued to find our flat surrounded by fire trucks; just our luck.
Looks like we'd better go down and find out what's going on.
No worries, as it turns out -- a false alarm, evidently, and Jack's got the matter well in hand.
After a long summer ranging through the underbrush chasing bugs (in Melvin's case) and tiny mice (for Choupette), they're reacquainting themselves with indoor apartment life again.
Choupette looks so serious in this photo. In all of her photos, to be honest.
Wondering when it's dinner time
And then a little nap in a favorite nesting place
Downtown Staunton in the pre-election season -- in fact, we're just on our way now over to the city hall for some early voting.
Here's a homeowner filled with all of the best instincts and viewpoints -- the lawn signs attest to election choices identical to our own. We lost our districts's House seat race to a useless incumbent, but did exceptionally well on all the City Council and School Board spots. Better times may really be ahead for Staunton.
Some of the best-kept houses along N. Lewis St., with only . . .
. . . the odd exception to that rule.
Here's one of our finest vistas.
And trees of all colors in the big Wharf Parking Lot
It's time now, amid our packing up for the next exhausting adventure, for a salutary walk through the Montgomery Hall jungle in its glory.
-- Mind your head.
A jungle it may be, but at least it's impossible to get lost in here. There's no way to wander off the path.
At the far end, our path today, the short Yulee Trail, winds through less choked-up vegetation.
We're coming round towards the end of our walk . . .
. . . and back down to the car.
Fall colors in the Montgomery Hall Park
Choupette is very keen on hiding out in small containers of any sort, but . . .
. . . she also likes to sit up in her tower and monitor her flatmates' activities.
So soon: the long trek back to Chicago
There is actually a kind of tortured sense to all of this debilitating toing-and-froing through America's heartland -- which, by the way, is very beautiful in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, but once you venture out across Indiana and Illinois it can get pretty grim.
Look quick -- that's the capitol building in Charleston, WV. Our nearly continuous motoring all over the countryside is actually down to simple exigencies. We're taking off for a month in Italy in a few days and we can't take the cats with us; this will be the first time we've been away from them, except for a few days in Duluth this past summer.
Here's the 'Log Cabin in the Field' near Huntington, WV, the back side of it, actually. (Here's the front of it, from our stop-in last month.) Spartan, but cosy and very inexpensive.
Hide-and-Seek. It's going to be devastating for us (and perhaps for them as well) to be separated for a month, and we can't bear to board them with a commercial service amongst strangers in Virginia. Kristin's daughter Emily, with Clinton and Hazel, host two of Choupette's half-siblings in Chicago and will look after our kids as their own. It will be like one big happy feline family, as long as Choupette conquers her fierce antagonism to Pugsley and Wednesday.
[She not only conquered it; by the end of November she'd fallen deeply in love with Pugsley, and both of them went through heartbreaking throes when we had to separate them -- until next summer.]
Dinner at a favorite, the Black Sheep beer-and-burrito house in Huntington
-- Back on the road tomorrow morning, kids.
Melvin, as usual, has burrowed down amongst the luggage somewhere in the back, but Choupette is taking a brief break from snarling and squirming about to see some of the sights.
So there is such a thing as a Rural King -- we've heard rumors for years but dismissed them. It's 'America’s Farm and Home Store', we've learnt, founded in Illinois in 1960 and now with more than 100 such big boxes in a thirteen state area. Who knew?
America is improving its infrastructure maintenance -- happily, it's been improving the westbound lanes whilst we've been going east, and, as here, improving the eastbounders as we're going west. This is somewhere in the approaches to Chicago.
So that must be Chicago.
We're in Clinton and Emily's flat, anxious to see how Melvin and Choupette will get on with their opposite numbers, who are presently hiding in the closets.
The wonderfully refitted kitchen
Choupette's settling in after all, out of the guest room anyway -- all of our misgivings may have been unnecessary.
And taking an interest in the world again
We have a day before our flight from O'Hare, so where better to spend part of it than the Baháʼí Temple in Wilmette just north of Evanston. The Baháʼí religion (we've discovered) is a monotheistic faith founded (but persecuted) in 19th century Iran, but presently it claims some 5 to 8 million followers round the world. The core of the faith is said to be 'the essential worth of all religions and the unity of all people' (Wikipedia).
This Baháʼí 'House of Worship' is one of eight, evidently, round the world, and like all the others it has a nine-sided shape, as well as nine gardens surrounding it. This one was completed in 1953 and seems to be a major sightseeing stop in the area.
With its ideological inclusiveness and its mission of unity, this sounds like a enterprise worth rooting for. And look at all that detail!
Inside the dome
No medieval frescoes, unfortunately . . . but you can't have everything.
Here's one of the statutory nine gardens.
Kristin and Emily in consultations, whilst circumambulating the site
Well, that was fun. They sound like a congenial bunch of believers. World peace, etc.
This is their visitors' centre, which is . . .
. . . just adjacent to the 'North Shore Channel' -- just beyond that lock-like structure is the Wilmette Harbor, an estuary mainly for pleasure boats.
A walking tour through the neighborhood -- there's a tree to be reckoned with.
What? Oh, it's Hallowe'en eve tonight.
To make the most of our one day off, we've moved on a bit to the north to visit the Chicago Botanic Gardens (385 acres displaying 'millions of plants & flowers in a variety of settings' -- but in November, not so much).
Lots of green stuff, but we're missing all the colorful blooming things.
Fall colors, anyway. And rather a good lunch in the cafeteria.
What on earth ...... is that?! The guide informs us that it's all alive; imagine!
And what's that?
On that note, we'll take our leave.
Next up: A few views of Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood