Our Road Trips, 1999-2015: the Complete Checklist, So Far


Teaser image from our 2015 road trip, Day 5. Coming soon!

[Hey, all! The following special presentation is the all-new Page added tonight to MCC that merges and replaces the previous individual “Our Road Trip” checklists that were taking up too much real estate in the desktop header and the mobile menu. This handy Big Picture checklist summarizes all the trips we’ve taken to date for full historical context, with links to everything that’s been exclusively posted here since 2012, a few years’ worth that have been reprinted here on special occasions, and capsule summaries of other trips and vacations we previously shared on other sites in years past that, sooner or later, Lord willing, will all be re-chronicled on MCC someday as part of the continuing story of one geek couple and their annual quests to find new things to see and do.

Or if you totally hate domestic travel, skip down to the 2013-2014 checklists and pretend this is a different new entry called “A Salute to MCC Post Titles”. I’d understand if you did, really. I do like titling stuff.]

Us.Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college.

In our first four years as travel buddies, our trips took us to geek gatherings, three large and one personal. Since 2003 we’ve been heading in all directions on all the interstates we could reach, never on planes and only once beyond national borders. If we ever start yearning to push into new frontiers, we’ll see where our whims take us. So far America’s proven a multitudinous landscape that hasn’t yet run out of ways to wow, amuse, entertain, educate, impress, or humble us.

The following is a complete list of every annual road trip we’ve taken together from 1999 to the present. Travelogs were posted on my old message board home through 2011. I launched Midlife Crisis Crossover as a grandstand of my own on April 28, 2012, and have posted them here ever since. My long-term plan is to rework those old write-ups and represent them here for a new audience when time and inclination allow. This process will involve rescanning old 35mm photos with better technology than what I used to have and hate, scanning photos that were never included the first time around, and revisiting whatever digital files we can recover in the wake of the heartbreak that was the Great 2015 Hard Drive Crash. Road trips that have been posted or reposted on MCC are broken down below by their individual chapters. Space has been reserved for future special-edition encores of the other road trips still waiting their turn.

All of this is being provided to You, the Viewers at Home, as a courtesy for latecomers to the party, for longtime readers who missed episodes or love reruns, for old friends who remember our trips from back in the day, and for myself as online scrapbooks. Someday after my memory collapses, I’ll have no choice but to reread these pages and experience the joy and stress of every road trip all over again.

Sure, a lot of couples prefer to spend their downtime at the nearest beach, book passage on a cruise, or max out their credit cards on a Paris dream trip. We have our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Digging for gems in unusual places — sometimes geek-related, sometimes peculiar, sometimes normal yet above average.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.


* * * * *

1999: Our first Wizard World Chicago

We started small, with a simple overnight trip to our very first Wizard World Chicago. Today it’s become an annual ritual for us. At the time it was an astronomical challenge to our budgets and navigational skills.

I previously reposted four photos from the occasion, but we have a few more waiting in the wings.

2000: The second and final Gateway Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis, MO

We met cast members from Mystery Science Theater 3000, attended a Q&A with author Terry Pratchett, and, in the first of many live meet-ups with internet folks, had dinner with a couple dozen loveable MSTies I knew from Usenet. We lived to tell and appreciate the tale.

2001: Our first Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL

We made the 300-mile drive to Superman’s hometown four times between 2001 and 2012. We’d love to go again someday, more than once if the stars keep aligning, but every year the second weekend in June invariably has issues for us. I don’t remember ever sharing more than one or two of the photos from 2001 with online friends at the time, but everything we have was uploaded to MCC in June 2015 with all-new narration.

Part 1: The Great City of Metropolis
Part 2: Super-Villains vs. the Super Museum
Part 3: The Roads to Paducah

2002: Grand Rapids, MI

We visited internet friends in honor of the release of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. We saw it twice on opening day, celebrated my 30th birthday, and tried to find other things to do in town. I remember visiting Meijer Gardens and doing New Comic Day at a shop that only stocked Marvel and DC books. This trip could probably be recounted in a single entry, but I hadn’t thought about doing so till just now.

2003: Washington, DC

Our original destination was a Trek convention in Baltimore called Shore Leave. When we realized how close it was to our nation’s capital, we figured a side trip to an endless supply of monuments might be in order. Then we realized my son, who’d recently moved in with me, might appreciate such world-famous sights. Then we realized he would hate the convention and decided the proper parental response would be to skip that part. And that’s the story of how we planned our first official “normal” family vacation, in our own way. Dropping by D.C. two years after 9/11 made for interesting times.

2004: Niagara Falls

We married on July 17th of that year, took a honeymoon weekend up by Lake Michigan, and the following weekend drove out to the Falls with my son in tow. We saw both Lakes Erie and Ontario, saw a smidgen of Buffalo, and took a one-day detour into Canada, in those halcyon days before passports were required. On the way home we spent several unplanned hours in Ohio due to a comedy of terrors. On a related note, this was the last time I used my own car for these feature-length journeys. To this day we hold a mighty grudge against the big fat Buckeye State and refuse to let it go.

2005: San Antonio

Even in our first comfy rental car, driving from Indianapolis to the deep heart of Texas was grueling and dehydrating and frequently miserable and I can’t believe we ever thought seven days would be enough. While in the areas we stepped into Arkansas and Oklahoma for our first and only times to date, and — in an extremely rare feat for us — visited relatives on the way.

2006: Wisconsin and Minnesota

2006 was the year I upgraded from my old Kodak EasyShare to a Canon, while my wife held tightly onto her modest 35mm camera for a bit longer. In mid-2014, the year we staged a sequel, I revised large portions of this series with a George Lucas Special Edition Editing Hammer and represented it here for MCC followers, along with many photos that we’d never shared publicly before. Back in 2006 I hated our scanner and never cared for the available photo-editing software. With the help of slightly newer technology, I’ve now compensated for my past lazy reluctance.

Photos #1: Our Milkman’s Chariot Awaits
Photos #2: This is Our Hill and These Are Our Beans
Photos #3: Milwaukee for Art’s Sake
Photos #4: Appointment in Alligator Alley
Photos #5: Scaling Down Mount Olympus
Photos #6: The Worst Pirate-Themed Anything of All Time
Photos #7: Last Hurrah in Wisconsin Dells
Photos #8: The Rock in the House
Photos #9: A Pit Stop for Half-Pint
Photos #10: We’re Gonna Make It After All
Photos #11: Mandatory Zoo Visit
Photos #12: Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
Photos #13: Like the Minnesota Zoo, But Stiffer
Photos #14: The Road to Superior
Photos #15: Superior!
Photos #16: Another Hick in the Mall
Photos #17: The Season Finale and the Lost Outtakes

2007: Florida

Our primary target was Universal Studios, but we found plenty of stops along the way in Tennessee, Georgia, and other parts of Florida’s upper half. This year wasn’t just six dozen shots of my son enjoying some supercharged carnival rides.

2008: Virginia Beach

I give you my personal guarantee: this trip is dead last on the list to be overhauled for MCC. It remains the worst vacation we’ve ever taken for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons were medical. We thought our biggest regret would be the one-night stay in West Virginia, but no, that was the least of the drawbacks.

2009: South Dakota

This, on the other hand, was one of the all-time best. So. Many. LANDSCAPES. Also featuring stopovers in Chicago, Omaha, and Iowa.

2010: Philadelphia

My wife the history buff demands a do-over on this one someday. We faintly scratched the surface of that big ol’ colony when she’d been hoping for a miles-deep dive into so much fascinating American history. We still did a lot, mind you, but the unchecked items on our to-do list were quite a shame. On the other hand, the very special detour to Liberty Island was an awe-inspiring experience that demanded an immediate sequel.

2011: Manhattan

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Manhattan “Best Vacation Ever!” I want to redo New York City over and over again until I die. I’d drop by annually if my wife would let me, but a lot of other states are still waiting for their turns with us. We also found a couple of places in New Jersey that don’t deserve to share the brunt of two hundred years’ worth of New Jersey punchlines.

2012: Colorado and Kansas

Our first full engagement with the magnificent Rocky Mountains was our first road trip to be written up exclusively for MCC after it launched on April 28, 2012. The diversions in Kansas weren’t 100% boring, either. I submitted one live text-only update every evening to my precious few followers from our hotel while we were on the go, then shared the photos in installments over the subsequent months.

Notes on the Go, Day 1: Trumans and Burgers
Photos #1: Vandalia the Ex-Capitol Presents Lincoln and Madonna
Photos #2: Truman’s Grave, Bobo’s Drive-In, and Our Intro to Smashburger

Notes on the Go, Day 2: the Plains, the Plane, the Hills, and the Bill
Photos #3: Abilene Presents the Eisenhower Museum and a Perplexed Bear Drowning in Chocolate
Photos #4: Between Topeka and Denver — Buffalo Bill, Black Copters, and MegaVanGogh

Notes on the Go, Day 3: Misty Mountain Marathon
Photos #5: Red Rocks Amphitheatre Under a Dull Gray Sky
Photos #6: Fossils and Folly at Dinosaur Ridge
Photos #7: the View from Buffalo Bill’s Memorial on Lookout Mountain
Photos #8: Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 1 of 2: Panoramas on Parade
Photos #9: Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 2 of 2: Small Stuff at the Feet of Giants

Notes on the Go, Day 4: Dallying in Downtown Denver
Photos #10: Denver Presents the Molly Brown House and What a Mile Feels Like
Photos #11: An Hour Inside the Denver Art Museum, Part 1 of 2
Photos #12: An Hour Inside the Denver Art Museum, Part 2 of 2
Photos #13: Denver’s 16th Street Mall, with Good Money After Bad

Notes on the Go, Day 5: Beauty and Breakdowns
Photos #14: Morning in the Garden of the Gods
Photos #15: Romping Through the Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Photos #16: On the Way to Pikes Peak
Photos #17: Powerful Panoramas from the Pinnacle of Pikes Peak
Photos #18: Coming Down from Pikes Peak, Physically and Emotionally

Notes on the Go, Day 6: Waters Running Deep
Photos #19: Seven Falls, Part 1 of 2 — Falls Upon Falls
Photos #20: Seven Falls, Part 2 of 2 — That Critically Acclaimed Canyon
Photos #21: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 1 of 3: the Bridge Over the River Arkansas
Photos #22: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 2 of 3: Animals and Apparatus
Photos #23: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 3 of 3: Voyage to the Bottom of the Gorge
Photos #24: War Memorial on the Edge of the Rockies
Photos #25: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 1 of 2: Return of the Arkansas
Photos #26: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 2 of 2: Art of the Riverside

Notes on the Go, Day 7: Toto, I Think We’re in Kansas Forevermore
Photos #27: Lamar, Colorado — Last Stop, This State
Photos #28: Kansas Flatland Interlude
Photos #29: Boot Hill Museum, Part 1 of 2: Paupers’ Graves of the Old West
Photos #30: Boot Hill Museum, Part 2 of 2: Dedicated Hobbyists of the Old West

Notes on the Go, Day 8: Salt, Space, and Route 66
Photos #31: Underground Salt Museum, Part 1 of 3: Into the Mines of Morton
Photos #32: Underground Salt Museum, Part 2 of 3: To Preserve Man
Photos #33: Underground Salt Museum, Part 3 of 3: Hollywood Under Glass
Photos #34: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 1 of 2: Starship Graveyard
Photos #35: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 2 of 2: Starship Parts Catalog
Photos #36: Little Museum on the Prairie
Photos #37: Tow Mater Welcomes You to Route 66
Photos #38: the Landscape of Joplin-That-Will-Be

Notes on the Go, Day 9: the Season Finale, with Car Crashes and Dynamite
Photos #39: Prolonged Missouri
Photos #40: The Season Finale: Look Back in Outtakes

2013: Boston and Cleveland

Two cities older than our hometown. One filled with history, the other with pop culture. Sounds like a travel agent booked it specially for her and me, really. Featuring special guest stars Pennsylvania and upstate New York, plus a cameo by Connecticut’s bad side. MCC followers were treated to one preview photo per day while we were on location.

Notes, Day 0: the Master of Last-Minute Cramming

Photos #1: the First of Two Springfields
Photos #2: Punxsutawney, Part 1 of 2: All Hail Phil
Notes, Day 1: Surprise Groundhog Festival
Photos #3: Punxsutawney, Part 2 of 2: All the Groundhogs of the Rainbow
Photos #4: Travel Bits from Day One

Photos #5: Mark Twain’s Words in the Walls
Notes, Day 2: Square Pegs in a Roundhouse

Photos #6: Freedom Trail, Part 1 of 3: the Departed
Photos #7: Freedom Trail, Part 2 of 3: Statues
Photos #8: Freedom Trail, Part 3 of 3: the Town
Notes, Day 3: Garden of the Ducks
Photos #9: In the Green of the Boston Public Garden

Photo #10: Counting the Blessings While the World Races Past
Photos #11: Inside the Adams Family Crypt
Photos #12: the Adams Family Church
Photos #13: Adams Family Real Estate
Notes, Day 4: Refuge in a Gated Community
Photos #14: It’s Chinatown!

Photos #15: Cape Cod, Gateway to Whales
Photos #16: Parts of a Whale
Notes, Day 5: Cape Cod Cloudburst a-Comin’
Photos #17: Open Sea, Infinite Horizon
Photos #18: A Monument for Thanksgiving
Photos #19: Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride

Photos #20: Salem, Part 1 of 2: Besides the Witches
Photos #21: Salem, Part 2 of 2: All the Quote-Unquote “Witches”
Notes, Day 6: Though the Hakken-Kraks Howl
Photos #22: Springfield is Grinch Town

Photos #23: An Attraction Not Only of Sight and Sound But of Mind
Notes, Day 7: Signs of Life Before the Internet
Photos #24: Rod Serling and His Hometown All-Stars
Photos #25: Paying Respects to Lucille Ball
Photos #26: the House That Vitameatavegamin Built

Notes, Day 8: Pink Nightmare Family
Photos #27: Christmas at Ralphie’s House
Photos #28: More to Rock-’n’-Roll Than Elvis and the Beatles
Photos #29: Rock ‘n’ Roll, Never Forgotten
Photos #30: Man of Steel, Sons of Cleveland
Photos #31: James Garfield and Friends
Photos #32: the Great American Splendor

Notes, Day 9: Back to Our Cells
Photos #33: The Three Investigators and the Case of the Abandoned Prison

Photos #34: Outtakes, Part 1/3: More Freedom Trail
Photos #35: Outtakes, Part 2/3: More Massachusetts
Photos #36: Outtakes, Part 3/3: the Season Finale

Epilogue: Happy Easter! Here’s a Scene After Our 2013 Road Trip End Credits

2014: Wisconsin and Minnesota II

For our tenth wedding anniversary, our first vacation alone together since 2002, Anne allowed me the privilege of choosing a direction. I settled for a sequel to our 2006 trip because I loved the upscale-Midwest ambiance and I thought we gave the Twin Cities short shrift. For a little variety we tacked on a digression into southeastern North Dakota.

Photos #1: Welcome to the Kingdom of Cheese
Photos #2: Fonzie and the Ducks
Photos #3: Art of the Milwaukee Riverwalk
Photos #4: Scenes from the Milwaukee Riverwalk
Photos #5: You Can’t Spell “Psychedelic” Without “Deli”

Photos #6: Shiny Happy Madison
Photos #7: Another State, Another State Fair
Photos #8: Our Favorite NWSF Animals

Photos #9: Another Hick in the Mall, Part 2
Photos #10: The Enterprise Incident
Photos #11: The Flour That Blooms in Adversity
Photos #12: Urban Serenity Along the Mississippi
Photos #13: Parks & Ruination

Photos #14: Sitting Here on Capitol Hill
Photos #15: Under the Dome
Photos #16: Nice Park, Charlie Brown
Photos #17: Around the Science Museum on $0.00 an Hour
Photos #18: Twin City I: St. Paul
Photos #19: Twin City II: Minneapolis

Photos #20: Monkey Donuts and the Rest Stop Lake
Photos #21: Fame and Fargo
Photos #22: Platter 9 from Outer Space
Photos #23: North Dakota Flatland Interlude
Photos #24: American Doomsday Machines
Photos #25: An Evening Stroll Through Downtown Fargo

Photos #26: Voyage Like a Viking
Photos #27: The Lovely Minnehaha Shuddered
Photos #28: The Last Visions of St. Paul

Photos #29: The Fast and the (in)Famous
Photos #30: Roger and Me

Photos #31: Outtakes on the Way
Photos #32: Outtakes, Minnesota
Photos #33: Season Finale, Last Call for Outtakes

2015: New Orleans and Alabama

This one 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. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. This would prove to be our deepest journey into the heart of the South.

Prologue: Our Accidentally Topical Vacation
#1: Up Close with Taylor the Swift
#2: Supping on the Shoulders of Giants
#3: The Welcome Rocket

More 2015 chapters coming soon! Guaranteed 100% Ohio-free!

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