Our 2002 Road Trip, Part 5 of 5: The Day the Vice Presidents Took Over

Man in Space!

Anne hanging out with Jud Nelson’s “Man in Space”, our greeter at the Ford Museum. Per aspera ad astra, and all that.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a flashback to our fourth annual road trip, a meetup in Grand Rapids with fellow Star Wars fans for opening day of Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. Before and after the movie, we spent our first time in Michigan hitting a few key tourist attractions in the vicinity.

Our miniseries finale begets a confluence of regrets, as eventually came the time to take our leave of our gracious hosts and hit the road home. We had three more stops planned along the way. Two of them worked out. I’d love to share a thousand solid words and a couple dozen photos from what we did that Friday. Yep. Sure would be cool. I’ll get to what we do have in just a moment.

Once Anne and I consciously accepted that road trips were now our shared annual ritual, it also became my personal mission to capture our stories in print every year — partly for the modest audience we had at the time, partly for ourselves. The memories of our experiences and anecdotes are treasured for as long as they last, but too many are fleeting thanks to the inherent flaws in our mortal design. Sooner or later even our favorite treasures vanish if they’re not preserved. To that extent, our travelogues are our backup files for our memories, our accomplishments, and sometimes our lessons learned the hard way through our dumbest mistakes.

For anyone out there who hasn’t traveled to the same places we have, our stories of course serve the basic “hey, check this thing out” show-and-tell objective. They’re also meant as an outreach to people like us — the geeks, the introverts, the homebodies, the mild agoraphobes who’d never dream of venturing far beyond their hometown, the kids like us who came from poor families that couldn’t afford fancy vacations. To that extent, our travelogues are a clarion call beckoning the reluctant adventurers toward the wonderful worlds outside their windows — preferably what’s reachable on four wheels because we still have our limitations, but we do our best to make the most of whatever’s in reach within our boundaries.

Much as comic books combine words and pictures to deliver a form of synthesized storytelling apart from prose or film with its own tools and strengths, words and pictures would likewise serve as the joint foundation of our own travelogues. Without words, all our photo galleries would be ordinary vacation slideshows. Without pictures, our stories would be formless words cast into the TL;DR void of an unwieldy internet overflowing with infinite superior uses of reading time. To that extent, the travelogue process has been a satisfying creative challenge for me. The very act of fusing words and pictures for that sake feels just special enough to me to merit the seventeen years’ worth of effort and counting.

With many blogs and travel sites, you can read any number of random articles about assorted beauteous locales, attractions, cultures, foods, beaches, terrains, and whatnot, much of it bereft of chronology or personal context. The big idea behind what we do here isn’t (primarily) to crank out nearly 1500 auditions for exposure. It’s about sorting the narrative of our lives — the incidents in themselves, the recurring motifs, the returning players, the foreshadowing, the running gags, the interlocking histories and ongoing cross-references, and the Morals of the Stories. To that extent, our travelogues are our legacy for as long as we can keep the site alive.

…so, given how much this all means to me, let me just vent here: it’s really, truly, thoroughly annoying to dive into years and years’ worth of old photos, albums, scrapbooks, and forgotten shoeboxes in search of the photos I know we took nearly fifteen years ago only to find they’ve somehow vaporized. Perhaps we misplaced them in our 2007 move, or perhaps I did something stupendously idiotic with them. All I know is the remaining records of our 2002 road trip are scanter than I’d hoped. My annual write-ups didn’t begin in earnest until 2004, so I always knew I’d be weaving new text from whole cloth when I got around to remastering this one. Anne’s far better memory has been invaluable in filling in many gaps, but even her mnemonic capacity has its limits.

In all, eight photos have survived the day we drove from Grand Rapids back to Indianapolis, just enough to patch the glaring hole in the long-term narrative with a swath of visual cheesecloth. Before we left town, we made one last stop: the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Gerald R. Ford Museum!

Because every President gets their own museum, even the only one who never won a Presidential election.

Ford was born in Nebraska but raised in Grand Rapids through high school, where he was captain of the football team. The Ford Museum was built in Grand Rapids and dedicated in 1981, 4½ years after he ceded the Presidency to Jimmy Carter. Though he lived in California at the time of his death in 2006 — four years after our visit — he and his First Lady Betty would both be buried on the grounds of the Museum. Now that in recent times we’ve upgraded our M.O. to include a specialization in Presidential burial sites, we agree a return to the Ford Museum someday is now an absolute must, and not just for photo retakes.

Ford painting.

The man himself, who never had the privilege of running on a Nixon/Ford election ticket and convincing people he was a reason why they should vote for Nixon. Ford got the VP job only after Spiro Agnew quit.

Between the two of us, our recall of the exhibits is sketchy — much of it documents, including at least one letter to or regarding his would-be assassin “Squeaky” Fromme. Naturally there were TV displays. The most impressive sight was an entire Vietnam helicopter with a wall built through it. Otherwise we’re drawing blanks today.

We also unfortunately remember our next attempted stop in Michigan, a restaurant called Turkeyville USA that Anne thought sounded intriguing. On my road map I had pinpointed the exit that should’ve been closest to its location. When we cruised past the mile marker where it should’ve been, no exit existed. I kept on driving south down I-69 into Indiana without turning around and searching, embarrassed and feeling I had no solid clues that would lead us to the right spot. The controversy over that incompetence and dedication to running away from Turkeyville remains one of my dumbest road-trip moments ever. Eventually I’m sure we ate somewhere, but it’s deservedly forgotten.

giant seal!

We’re not sure what this was at our next stop, but I wish it had been a Gong Show gong that someone could’ve used to end the Turkeyville incident ten seconds in.

The grand finale to our four-day getaway was likewise devoted to politicians, to one and many at the same time: the Dan Quayle Vice Presidential Museum. The very idea had us incredulous and curious because once upon a time in America, the most reprehensible thing an elected official could do was misspell “potato”. How could such a reprobate be allowed to put his name on a museum?

Quayle's diploma!

Quayle’s J.D. diploma from IU Law School.

The Museum was located several miles off I-69 in the town of Huntington inside a two-story former church. Our arrival surprised the front-desk volunteer and lone building occupant, who offered to turn on a short film for us. The guestbook indicated we were her second visitors of the day, but another family popped in while we were browsing to help diffract the echoes.

giant Bible!

A giant Bible of significance to some ancient Vice President TBD.

The first floor covered the assorted histories and artifacts of the various Vice Presidents of the United States of America, along with a few gentlemen who ran for the office but lost. I can gender the object in that clause because I can’t recall offhand if Geraldine Ferraro was represented. VPs who were from Indiana received preferential treatment, possibly because their homes and relatives were nearer and in a better position to donate relevant items.


A souvenir handkerchief from the 1904 Teddy Roosevelt/Charles Fairbanks campaign. Fairbanks lived in Indiana at various times and is buried in Indianapolis’ Crown Hill Cemetery.

The second floor is all about James Danforth Quayle himself. Before serving under President George H. W. Bush, Quayle was a successful lawyer elected to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 29 and the U.S. Senate at age 33 before becoming VP at age 41, three years younger than I am now, which explains many things. He’s nonetheless had a lifetime of stories to tell, and fans back in Indy largely thought kindly of him through tough, awkward times. Today the Museum is now called the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center and presumably does okay for itself.

Danny sweater!

We have our memories. Quayle has his.

…and that’s the story of what we did for my thirtieth birthday. I wish we had more pieces to pick up and put back together. If those missing pics ever reveal themselves during some future spring cleaning, I reserve the right to tack on a bonus chapter.

Until then, you can check out past road-trip travelogues through their main menu for lunchtime reading and workday escape at your leisure. Our 2003-2005 and 2007-2010 forays are still waiting their turn in line for revision from their original online versions, sharing and preserving here on MCC, but we’ll complete the sets one day, Lord willing.

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

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