Monday, May 30, 2016

Roadboy Visits the Cowboy Hall of Fame

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

When I was maybe 9 or 10 my family passed through Oklahoma City one summer on our way to visit some of my father's relatives. While there we stopped for a visit to (what was then called) the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.  

The End of The Trail

On that first visit I was dazzled by the larger than life "End of the Trail" sculpture perfectly showcased in a striking building composed of dramatic intersecting concrete folded plate roofs.

I enjoyed listening to my father revel in the chance to explain the nuances of "Rodeo!" to his city kid son. I was also pretty impressed to find out we were related to a few of those rodeo stars.


 Canyon Princess

 Detail Canyon Princess

Now, some 50 years later, I had another chance to return and visit (what is now) the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  I am delighted to report it is bigger and better than ever.

There are now large (and very well curated) sections of western themed art (featuring works by Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell, mixed in with some idyllic dreamlike paintings depicting the western expansion by artists like Bierstadt).

I found myself completely delighted by the exhibit hall dedicated to exquisite Native American arts and crafts.

 A Woman's Wedding Uniform

Spectacular Native Arts and Crafts
Even A Few Depictions Modern Life

Perhaps my favorite exhibit was the one dedicated to Hollywood Westerns. Displays included Robert Redford's jacket from The Electric Horseman (he is kinda short!) along with props from Bonanza, The Big Valley and Gunsmoke. There was a tribute to the music of singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

They even had Paladin's gun and holster from the 1957 - 1963 television show "Have Gun Will Travel" (featuring its iconic platinum "Knight" medallion).  I saw the show in re-runs, but loved it. After reading a bit about the show, I was impressed to realize 24 of its 225 episodes were written by Gene Roddenberry.  Episodes of HGWT featured a long list of amazing co-stars including: James Coburn, Jack Lord, June Lockhart, Angie Dickinson, Harve Presnell and George Kennedy.

 Have Gun, Will Travel
Wire Paladin
San Francisco

 Oklahoma's Cowboy Genius
Will Rogers Was Well Profiled

Of course, the museum has a section devoted to Oklahoma's own Will Rogers. Roger's was the master showman who could ride and rope and yet "Never Met A Man He Didn't Like".

He dispensed with humor that made an America, in the midst of the Great Depression, laugh. His humor was honest and timeless. And it cut to the quick. Examples that seem appropriate today might be:  

"A fool and his money are soon elected"  
"Ten men in our country can buy the whole world 
and ten million can't buy enough to eat".

There are also galleries dedicated to American firearms, detailed exhibits showcasing daily cowboy life and all the rodeo memorabilia I remember so well from so long ago.

This is Oklahoma's Celebration of The Iconic West

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Airports With Light Rail / Metro

Roadboy's Multi-Modal Airport Round-Up  

When I arrive in a big city I prefer to travel minus rental cars. And I especially appreciate destinations where I can connect from the airport to my hotel via train, light rail or subway.

Sadly, in many airports there is no rail option and you still have to renta a car, Use a taxi starter or request an Uber.

Here is a list of airports where practical multi-modal (rail) choices exist.

ANC Anchorage
Anchorage's airport has direct in-terminal link to the Alaska Railroad. This allows for seamless connection south to the Kenai and north to Denali National Park (Mt. McKinley) and Fairbanks. The Alaska Railroad is a national treasure that operates year round. It is hard to imagine a more amazing winter adventure than going southbound to ski a few days at Alyeska and then going northbound all the way to Fairbanks. 

BUR Burbank Bob Hope
Burbank's funky airport is undergoing a transformation but does offer a close-by stop for the So Cal Metrolink rail system.

BWI Baltimore 
You have two great options. If your are traveling to Baltimore simply proceed to the end of the terminals and catch the light rail. If you need to go to DC or anywhere accessed from the Washington Metro simply take the shuttle to the MARC / Amtrak Station. Amtrak can take you to any major city on the eastern seaboard. MARC is Maryland's fine rail service. If you take it to Washington DC's Union Station you can transfer to the Metro which serves DC, Northern VA and Maryland. 

CDG Paris
This one requires some maneuvering to get to the famous Paris Metro. You'll need to walk to the CDG's RER (National Rail) train station and then take a train to a station in the city that offers a transfer to the Metro. Personally. I find the train trip to be long, crowded, dirty and unpleasant. So I still prefer a Roissybus (comfortable, inexpensive, safe and clean) express bus to Opera. From Opera you can easily link anywhere via Metro. Watch for Pickpockets at Opera.

DCA Washington National
DC's National (I still can't call it Reagan) has a Metro stop right at the airport making it my favorite airport whenever I travel to the capital. 

DAL Dallas Love Field
Everyone's favorite Dallas airport offers a free "Love Link" connector bus to DART rail's Inwood / Love Field station.

DEN Denver
Denver's airport is miles from Downtown. I joke that the airport is halfway to Kansas. Yet it is a lovely airport and Denver is a vibrant city, so the decision to link the two with rail was a good one. The light rail service however opened April 22, 2016! Like SFO it is expensive ($9). So if you have a big family in tow it might not make sense.

DFW Dallas / Fort Worth 
The DART Orange Line now serves DFW airport from the lower level of Terminal A. It operates from 3:50 AM to 1:19 AM seven days a week. Fare is $2.50. That's a real deal!

The Newark's Liberty Airport AirTrain

EWR Newark Liberty
Newark is my choice of the three "New York" Airports. Since both JFK and La Guardia are horrible to get to. For those just arrange a limo or rent a car and allow a lot of time. 

But at Newark's Liberty, however, you can catch its AirTrain connector to a nearby NJ Rail rail station. There you can choose New Jersey Rail or Amtrak for a quick ride direct to Manhattan's Penn Station. If you are headed for lower Manhattan the best great option is to catch a train and go just one stop from the airport to Newark Penn Station and catch the PATH subway direct to Manhattan. My favorite PATH stop is the one that arrives at the site of the World Trade Center. There is no easier, faster, or cheaper way to get to Wall Street, Battery Park than to use the PATH trains. If you have any questions ask one of the friendly red coated ambassadors at EWR to explain how to get where you need to go.

You Can Arrive at Calatrava's New PATH Station

IAD Washington Dulles
Sadly pretty old Dulles airport still awaits its rail connection (but it is well under construction). In the meantime, it just sits there in the burbs surrounded by traffic choked, confusing and annoying toll roads.
GAT London Gatwick
Gatwick has local rail connections but, I find them not as user friendly as those at Heathrow. To travel to/from Gatwick I prefer the Gatwick Express to/from Victoria Station. Once you arrive into Victoria Station the Tube connects you anywhere including the Eurostar trains (departing from St. Pancras). Eurostar affords convenient links to Chunnel trains for high speed rail to Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels.

LHR London Heathrow 
Heathrow offers great local rail connection straight to London on the "Tube" using the Picadilly line. There is also direct express rail service (the Heathrow Express train to London Paddington). Once you arrive into the center city, Tube connections allow access anywhere including (as noted above at Gatwick) London's Eurostar trains.

LIS Lisbon 
Lisbon has a new link to the Red Metro line making a direct airport connection to the its cheap and cheerful network of subway, rail, tram, elevators, funiculars and buses! Such a cool city! For more about using Lisbon's entire Metro click here.

MAD Madrid Barajas
I love Madrid. It has a direct link to its swift modern and clean subway system. There is a premium for going the extra stops to the airport. But it is very convenient!For more about using Madrid's entire Metro click here.

ORD / MDW Chicago
As one would expect from the nation's rail hub, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports both offer superb train connections. Simply look for the "Trains to City" signs and enjoy a ride on the Blue and Orange lines respectively. These trains routinely whisk past clogged freeway traffic, a handy thing to know when you need to get to the airport during rush hour!

NRT Tokyo Narita
Narita airport offers superb connections. Just board a clean, fast, NEX (Narita Express) train to Tokyo station (in the heart of Tokyo). From there you can get anywhere in Tokyo or connect to the Shinkanssen (Bullet) train network to go virtually anywhere in Japan.

PHI Philadelphia 
Philly does offer connection rail to the City Core and its city subways, but the way finding is exceptionally poor for a first time visitor. A trip to an "Info" stand is essential to make it work. Also Philadelphia (although one of my favorite American cities) is a city where visitor safety can vary a lot from one metro stop to another. So know where you are headed and have clear directions if you attempt the trains.  

PHX Phoenix Sky Harbor
Phoenix Sky Harbor offers a free Sky Train rail link from Terminals 3-4 (and can be easily walked to from Terminal 2). Sky train provides a direct connection to Phoenix's light rail system for connections to downtown or east to Tempe (Arizona State University) and Mesa.
Word of caution. The light rail station near Sky Harbor airport is in a crap neighborhood so I'd avoid using it as an option late at night.for more information about the SkyTrain click here.

Scottsdale residents opted out of the Phoenix Metro light rail system, so visitors planning to visit NE Valley (i.e. Scottsdale resorts) will need to use cab or rent a car.

PDX Portland
Yep it's perfect. Portland's light rail offers easy and cheap light rail service from the airport to the convention center and downtown.

SAN San Diego 
Lindbergh Field offers a quick bus link to its growing light rail system. The light rail system also allows connections for international transit direct to Tijuana.

SEA Seattle SeaTac
Sound Transit's rail link to/from SeaTac takes about 40 minutes to Downtown terminating a the Westlake Mall (easy walk to the Convention Center). For more detailed onformation about Seattle's SeaTac light rail connection click here.

SFO/OAK San Francisco / Oakland
Both airports (finally) offer direct Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) links to downtown SF and most East Bay destinations. Be aware that the BART fare from SFO is ridiculously expensive (what isn't in SF?). So if you have a big group, Other options may be better. Going down the Penninsula, up to Marin and to Silicon Valley can still be a time consuming challenge.

SIN Singapore Changi
Anyone who has ever flown into Singapore knows it is the best airport in the world. And, (of course) it has a wonderful subway connection into the City. 

Sadly, many international flights (from the US) arrive in the wee hours of the morning and the subway is closed. So plan your arrival accordingly.

STL Saint Louis Lambert
Lambert Field has recently undergone a significant facelift. They now have the ubiquitous airport rockers and overall the terminal is as confusing as when it was the home of TWA, but at least it is clean and sparkly again. Still no free wi-fi (Grrrr!) but (hooray!) STL has a very convenient and direct light rail connection from airport to downtown Saint Louis. 

SLC Salt Lake City
Anyone who has not visited Salt Lake City in the past few years will be amazed at its transformation into one of America's best cities. New transit oriented developments (TOD's), live / work lofts, parks, good shopping, fine restaurants, arts and culture abound. SLC's also operates a light rail line direct to the airport allowing smooth connections from the airport in any weather. 

YYZ Toronto Pearson
Lester B Pearson fInally completed its TTC dental work with the new UP trains from the airport to downtown's Union Station. It is expensive ($12 / ea. way), but it is fast and comfortable.   

The Diss List
Still no convenient link from LAX (but its connection is nearing completion).
Sacramento, Orange County / Santa Ana, Raleigh and Houston, Ugh.

And, the award for worst offender award goes to...  

LAS (Las Vegas). How the most tourist dependent city in America, can go on treating its tourists like such garbage is beyond me. No hotel shuttles are allowed to/from the airport. No monorail connection. It is just an embarrassment. Got to assume the taxi lobbyists bribe very well.  So plan to rent a car or take a cab ( that will try to drive you the longest route possible) to your hotel. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Rainy Weekend in Chicago

The Most American of Cities

I have always had a soft spot for Chicago. 

This is a brash city that works hard, is not afraid to eat meat and loves its architecture. I'd honestly classify Chicago as the most American of cities.

So, en route to Toronto Monday, I arranged a weekend detour to Chicago. I was hoping for a couple of lovely spring days before the annual arrival of another humidity laden Midwest summer.

What Chicago delivered was a bunch of NFL fans (the NFL draft), spring flowers, a smidgen of sunshine and a lot of rain. 

Friday included stops at the Harold Washington Library, architectural sights in The Loop, a German lunch at the Berghoff all capped off with a walk through Millennium Park.

Since the weatherman only offered a single day of "partly sunny" weather it was spent walking beginning with a quick stop to admire some Mies and Calder.

Mies And Calder

Then it was a brief stop at Chicago's magnificent library. The take away this trip was how this library affords access across a wide spectrum of media (including technology labs full of etching machines, 3D Printers and lasers).

The library is hosting an emotional ceiling installation comprised of over 58,000 GI dog tags (representing American casualties in Viet Nam). I had seen a similar version at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin a few years back. It still delivers a punch.

The Price of War

Poster for an Upcoming Library Photographic Exhibition by David Gremps

Departing the library and the Loop, the next stop was Millennium Park and the pure joy induced by Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate (which everyone simply calls "The Bean").

Chicago Reflections in Cloud Gate 

Spring Blooms in Millennium Park

The Serpentine Bridge
(Viewing from the lake back from Maggie Daley Park to Michigan Ave.) 

With Saturday came the rain and a full day meandering through the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern wing.  Happily, it allowed me to experience artwork missed on previous visits.

 Viewing A Rainy Chicago
From the Art Institute

A perfect rainy day introduction to the Art Institute is the Caillebotte's monumental painting of a rainy street scene in Paris in 1877. He was only 29 when he created this painting.   

 Paris Street; Rainy Day
Gustave Caillebotte 1877

In no particular order here are some of my other favorites. First a Picasso painted after a stint working on set and costume designs in Rome for the Ballet Russes.

Mother and Child
Pablo Picasso 1921

Next up was Charles Ray's strangely mannequin like 6' tall figure "Boy". Boy assumes a confrontational pose in clothes one critic described as somewhere between "Baby and Hitler Youth". Ray is the same Los Angeles artist that created the stark white "Boy With Frog" sculpture showcased at Venice's 53rd Biennale and later (currently) displayed the Getty Center.

Charles Ray 1992

I found a series of photographs by Cindy Sherman to be both engaging and unsettling. The pose in this particular photo conjures up what the other side of Christina would look like in Andrew Wyeth's 1948 masterwork "Christina's World".

Untitled #92 Photograph
Cindy Sherman 1981

During my teens, when art was abstract, pop and op, the world worshipped Warhol. 

So Alan Katz' colorful and realistic painting "Vincent and Tony" stands out.  I found myself completely drawn to the seemingly distracted, vacant and confused faces Katz painted of his son and his son's best friend in 1969. 

In 1969 I was about their age and I think I felt the same way.

 Vincent and Tony
 Alan Katz 1969

In my previous visits to the Art Institute I specifically went to see Edward Hopper's strangely lonely, iconic and ambiguous New York scene "Nighthawks". However, it was on loan somewhere else in the world. So it was especially nice to be able to see it on this visit.

Edward Hopper 1942

Enlarged Detail - Nighthawks

Arguably the most recognizable piece in the museum is Grant Woods "American Gothic". This painting is etched in our popular culture and it draws crowds trying to discern the story behind the spare an unhappy father and, his daughter and that pitchfork. 

Woods recruited his sister Nan as the woman. He modeled the farmer on his dentist Dr. Bryan McKeeby from Cedar Rapids Iowa.

American Gothic
Grant Woods 1930

Next up is Andy Warhol's portrait of Elizabeth Taylor. While not personally a big Warhol fan. This piece is sought out and adored by throngs of museum visitors. The fact that various "Elizabeth's" have fetched $20-$30,000,000 each at auction recently is also pretty breathtaking.

Elizabeth Taylor
 Andy Warhol 1963

I found Gerhard Richter's "Hunting Party" to be intriguing. Richter transferred an image from a photograph then ran a dry paint brush across the photos wet pigment to create this image.

 Hunting Party
Gerhard Richter 1966

While certainly not his best portrait I loved seeing John Singer Sargent's portrait of Chicago native Charles Deering after a recent visit to his brother (James) Deering's Miami estate Vizcaya. Sargent was a friend of James and likely painted this while a guest at James Deering's Florida Estate (for more information Click here for Roadboy's Vizcaya).

Charles Deering 
(Brother of James Deering / Heir to Deering Harvester)
James Singer Sargent 1917

The Institute understands that artistic expression may be exemplified through furniture, jewelry and other functional items such as this spectacular silver decanter by Thomas Muir. 

Cycladic Figure With Hair in a Roller
Thomas Muir 1985

Another favorite museum stop for me are the Thorne Miniatures. The Art Instititute collection of these meticulously crafted miniature rooms is the largest anywhere.

Mrs. Thorne (an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store chain) created the miniatures as a mainly personal interest. In doing so she hired a crew of underemployed craftsmen during the depression. The miniatures were displayed at two World's Fairs. 

About 100 were produced. Chicago has 68, Phoenix 20 and Knoxville 9. The rest were auctioned for charities.

The level of detail belies their tiny size.

The Actual Size of a Typical Miniature
(In this case the interior of an 1893 Pullman Rail Car)

A View Into the Pullman Miniature

As the galleries began to close, we viewed the mesmerizing windows Marc Chagall created for the Institute. After a recent restored they just glow.

 America Windows
Marc Chagall / Charles Marq 1975-77

Ferris Buehler Visiting the Windows 
on His "Day Off"

An inspiring day in an inspiring place.

Saturday evening also delivered an inspiring dinner! That came at a wonderful restaurant named Beatrix. There was a carmelized Pork Shank over Yukon gold mash and roasted Michigan peaches and an entree of organic chicken crusted in parmesan with roasted asparagus. Then came a generous rectangle of blueberry slab pie.

OMG. Very highly recommended!

Roadboy's Travels © 2016