The mass ascension of hot air balloons had taken over the morning sky. We stood with thousands of onlookers in hushed amazement as the skyscape came to life. Giant nylon shapes speckled the colored horizon. Powered on takeoff by roaring bursts of flame, they soon floated silently on the whim of the winds. In an instant, our calm changed to clamor. We joined the other members of the chase crew, jumping into the open bed of a pickup truck. The engine revved, jolting us away from the launch field. We jostled along sideroads and highways, over railroad tracks, and beside river beds. The chase was on.
Our 2018 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta experience of working on a chase crew parallels our ongoing RV adventures. In many ways, our Winnebago Travato is our chase vehicle. As of late, it has enabled us to chase down Frank Lloyd Wright structures. A list of his works is stowed in our RV glove box (Public Wright Sites) and an app on our phone helps us keep track of our visits (Wright Guide).
The Wright Chase for Us
Wright’s works, scattered across diverse regions of the United States, have led us to new destinations. Sometimes we plan ahead, knowing that certain Wright events are held annually. For example, the Wright Plus Housewalk takes place each May in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. Other times, we coordinate our chase with previously scheduled trips. While driving the Lake Superior Circle Tour, it was an easy detour to hit an FLW site in the Midwest. We called ahead to book a tour of Taliesin in Spring Green, WI. Applying some careful, and wishful mapping calculations, we decided there was just enough time to swing by the original Field of Dreams (in Dyersville, IA) to witness the players emerge from the cornfields, before hightailing it to the tour.
Often, we do the chase alone. Such was the case when we visited Wright’s Price Tower Hotel in Bartlesville, OK. We had wanted to stay overnight in one of the few sites still available to the public. When we booked our date in advance, we didn’t realize that on this particular night we would be the ONLY guests in the entire 19-floor hotel! The concierge, a hospitable Midwesterner, gave us his home phone number before locking up the building for the night – just in case we would need anything.
Occasionally, we have the joy of chasing with fellow enthusiasts that share our love of both architecture and Winnebago life. Last summer, while enjoying Winnebago’s Grand National Rally in Forest City, IA, a group of Class B owners visited Wright’s Stockman House and the Historic Park Inn. Orchestrated by a phenomenal Winnebago employee, we were shuttled to both buildings and a brewery. A stranger off the street asked to join our tour. Having a background in architecture, he shared his knowledge while we, in turn, shared our knowledge of RV life. The more time he spent with us, the more evident was the possibility of him becoming an RV convert.
Planning the Chase
The Wright organization websites contain helpful planning tools. Their phone lines are manned by enthusiastic employees eager to assist. One day, while working our way across New York, we consulted our master list, spoke to a Wright representative, and were able to coordinate tours of three different locations on the same day! Our van once again served as an agile chase vehicle. Just like the pick-up truck in Albuquerque, it maneuvered down gravel roads, under highway overpasses, and slid handily into any parking spot.
We saw Graycliff Estate at 11:00 a.m., the Fontana Boathouse at 1:00 p.m., and were scheduled for the rare twilight tour of the Isabelle Martin house at 6:30 p.m. With Buffalo traffic on our side, we arrived ahead of schedule for the final tour. Parked curbside of the impressive Martin residence, we made a quick supper in our own mobile home.
As we ate, we noticed an employee of the site curiously—repeatedly—eyeing our RV. He paced the Wright perimeter, coming ever closer to us. After inviting him over, we learned he suspected we were journalists working on a news story or documentary related to architecture. His final conjecture, and we kid you not, was that we were spies. It made us laugh out loud to think of us carrying out clandestine missions in our granite-colored van clad in double pane acrylic windows and complete with wet bath. Perhaps to a stranger, the Maxxair ventilation fan resembled a honing device.
After a collective chuckle, we invited him in. Eagerly he accepted a tour of our architectural gem and was struck by Winnebago’s simple, compact design that aimed at form and function, and sought to meld the indoor world with the outdoor. Perhaps the Flying W designers share some common visions with FLW.
Camaraderie of the Chase
We know that we are not alone in our desire to chase. RVers boldly answer the call to seek. They chase architecture, family escapades, Americana, natural phenomena, ball parks, battlefields, fly-fishing, or 70-degree weather. The chase list is endless. RVers embody so much passion, that sometimes we just love chasing the chasers. It’s true. We headed to the Tampa RV show to be with other chasers. We toured the massive display of rigs and vendors, but the highlight for us was our time spent in the parking area, camping with 40 other Winnebago van owners, spending evening hours in circles of lawn chairs getting to know each other.
It took us back once again to our Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta chase crew experience. It had been exhilarating to bounce along the New Mexico roads in the back of the pick-up truck eyeing our target for landing and retrieval. But the joy was multiplied by the camaraderie of the chase.