Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical sites, natural splendors, bizarre man-made creations, culinary marvels, and valuable life lessons await us. We began the tradition in 1999 during our best-friend years as an excuse to attend geek conventions and fan gatherings outside Indianapolis. After four years of narrowly focused hijinks, the tradition evolved through our happily married years into an ongoing project to visit as many other states as possible, see what they have that we don’t, and filter the results through our peculiar sensibilities.
For some families, vacation means picking a campground, braving the wilderness, and hiking until everyone succumbs to bug bites. For some, vacation means a beach, too much alcohol, and sunburns severe enough to scald away the worst hangover. For me as a child, vacation was visiting elderly relatives and napping on their furniture until time to leave. For my wife as a child, vacationing was something other families did because they had spare money.
Today we keep our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Scouring for surprises in unusual places. Sometimes investigating the popular destinations when their claims to fame intersect our fields of interest or just pique our curiosity.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans — home to jazz, voodoo, Cajun and Creole cuisine, fresh seafood, beignets, Mardi Gras, alcoholic revelry, Emeril, Harry Connick Jr., HBO’s Treme, NCIS New Orleans, Swamp Thing, The Princess and the Frog, great moments in American history, and horrifying moments in severe storm damage. We’d never been to Louisiana itself, let alone the world-famous Crescent City, but there was something about the idea of seeing New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina that stuck with me and wouldn’t let go.
Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation. As is the case with every road trip, we regret we had to cut some activities here and there en route whenever moods swung and/or time ran out.
Despite bypassing a few major points of interest, the places we did see encompassed a slew of other anniversaries in addition to Katrina. Throughout the course of this very special MCC series we’ll be sharing photos and anecdotes from touchpoints all across the human experience, including but not limited to the following historical milestones occurring this year:
* The 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, the grand finale to the War of 1812
* The 170th anniversary of the death of Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States of America
* The 150th anniversary of the end of America’s Civil War
* The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II
* The 50th anniversary of the three marches from Selma to Montgomery
* The 30th anniversary of the cancellation of The Dukes of Hazzard
As always, chapters in this MCC series will alternate with our regular MCC quote-unquote “programming”, though I’m anxious to see this road trip through a bit more quickly than usual. I’ll need time to sort through the 1100+ photos we took and triage them by worthiness, but in the meantime here’s your teaser trailer full of sights and recounts yet to come:
Any resemblances to recent headlines and hot-button issues, whether solved or unsolvable, were unplanned and didn’t occur to me when the simple, isolated thought of “Let’s go see New Orleans” first popped into my head. As society in 2015 kept taking turns from bad to worst and every side street in between, the intersections between American controversy and our happy fun road trip just kept gridlocking right in front of us. We tried to make the most of it anyway.
To be continued!