After three and a half weeks in the BWI long-term lot, our Lincoln MKX started up again without a hitch. We had racked up a parking bill of $126, but in the bigger picture, it meant we could pick up the road trip exactly where we had left off – just outside of Washington, DC and headed north.
My vegan Tribal Jones travel bag was packed with t-shirts, jeans, slide on sandals and scarves, as well as the minimal grooming products needed on a road trip.
We had a few must-dos on the list for the next phase of the trip, but the rest we would figure out spontaneously as we traveled.
I’d uploaded apps that would help with spur-of-the-moment planning. We used Roadtrippers (great for finding unusual stops and planning routes), iExit for quick info about each upcoming off ramp, and HotelTonight for making last minute hotel bookings.
One of only two planned overnight stays was at the Omni Bedford Springs, a huge, rambling resort built in 1806 on the grounds of a natural hot spring where people have been “taking the waters” for centuries.
We swam in the dramatic, two-story indoor swimming pool, took long walks in the surrounding woods and gathered with other guests around an open fire in the evenings.
Then it was off to Fallingwater.
I’m a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work – and not just the obvious ground-breaking architectural masterpieces. I love his commitment – the way he created his own universe within each home he designed. He specified everything from lighting to tables to fabrics when he designed a space.
Mr. H and I once had the rare good fortune to see an outdoor opera performed on the cantilevered balconies of Fallingwater, on Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday.
Based on Wright’s truly operatic life, the performance featured high passion, creative drive, broken relationships, and serious rule breaking. Wright was an architectural rock star, with the lifestyle to match.
It seemed only natural that our next stop was the The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. One of the most flamboyant “rock stars” in the art world, Warhol is honored in his hometown with the largest single-artist museum in North America.
Housed, appropriately enough, in an old warehouse, the space occupies seven floors and includes interactive exhibits, a screen test area, and thousands of paintings, drawings, photographs and installations.
Almost anyone born after 1960 has been inspired by Warhol in some way, even if they don’t know it. His use of color, repetition, flat shapes and everyday objects made the world look at art – and life – differently. Our own graffiti-inspired patterns and portrait pillows might not have come to life without Warhol’s original rule-breaking.
His edgy films, studio happenings and famous quote about “fifteen minutes of fame” have inspired countless online influencers, too. Imagine his audience if he were living now.
As a lucky surprise, our Pittsburgh stop coincided with the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, too. We enjoyed an impromptu concert and lunch from a food truck, before heading out again.
(Travel alert: Always leave room in your itinerary for surprises!)
After that, it was on to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, for more stars, from the very biggest (Elvis, The Beatles, Prince) to the most obscure (Laura Nyo? Anyone?)
The museum building was designed by another architectural legend, I.M.Pei, best known for designing The Louvre in Paris. While working in the Los Angeles art world years ago, I had several long chats with Pei’s design partner James Ingo Freed. I was a lowly exhibition coordinator at the time – but Freed always remembered my name and greeted me warmly. He would pick up the conversation as if we were old friends, even when we hadn’t spoken in months. I’ve never forgotten that – and I think of him whenever I’m in an I.M.Pei building.
The Rock and Roll of Fame building is shaped to look like a record player when seen from above and is basically 150,000 square feet of cool. There are cars suspended mid-air in the atrium lobby, for instance and a revolving show of stage props depending on the current exhibition schedule.
I loved seeing memorabilia from some of my personal favorites – Joey Ramone’s leather jacket, for instance. There’s also Michael Jackson’s glove, and the printed invite to Janis Joplin’s funeral. You’ll also find handwritten lyrics to iconic songs, flamboyant costumes and guitars, posters from CBGB’s, and John Lennon’s trademark round glasses. The handwriting, in particular, always seems to connect with me.
Back in the day, in the tourism and events business, I produced outdoor music festivals and cultural events – from multi-stage extravaganzas in the Nation’s Capital to black-tie galas in Los Angeles. I especially liked discovering memorabilia from artists I’d met along the way…Whitney Houston, Joan Jett, Madonna, Earth, Wind & Fire and more.
For whatever reason, even Rush has a place in the Hall of Fame. I don’t get this one, to be honest. Yes, their concert WAS the first I ever attended, but not because I liked them. A boy I was crushing on at the time invited me (hi, Mark!), so of course, I went. Those are still lost hours of my life I’ll never get back. I couldn’t name a Rush song if there was money on the table.
Talk to any music aficionado and you’ll find that the Rock Hall has this effect on people. You’re delighted to see your favorites, disappointed to see others and aghast that an underrated artist you love hasn’t yet been recognized.
In any case, you’ll enjoy a day at the museum. There’s a cafe, too, and a gift shop.
From Cleveland we headed to Chicago, for a stay at the Blackstone Hotel. This opulent property in the heart of downtown feels pretty rock and roll, too.
Built as a mansion for the president of the Union Stock Yards in 1906, the Blackstone has hosted Vanderbilts, Rockerfellers and mobsters like Al Capone. Enrico Caruso performed at the opening ceremony. The building was once even owned by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to The Beatles! That’s some rock and roll street cred.
Today, the hotel features high style, from the mirrored lobby and gilded banisters to the Barcelona-style tapas restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa.
As an added bonus, we drove across town to a Chicago cult-favorite, the Mods vs. Rockers festival, a motorcycle and scooter gathering and tribute to the competing British youth subcultures of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Serious participants dress in appropriate costume – rockers in leather jackets, mods in skinny suits. But, like us, you can just show up “as is.”
In addition to a weekend packed with music, there’s a film festival, a car show, an art exhibition and a Pin Up Girl contest.
By the end of the journey we had a fabulous playlist and a healthy appetite for continuing our semi-spontaneous journey. So we parked the car and headed home to start planning the next phase.
Join us every Thursday this summer for another installment of our Progressive Road Trip – 19,000 miles on the backroads of America.