Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: twelve years ago, before we went on vacation, Anne and I got married!
The guests had left earlier than expected and effectively canceled the scene where we were supposed to walk to my car through a hail of blown bubbles. After cleanup the bride and groom made a hasty retreat, dropped off all the gifts at home, then sped north to our honeymoon destination that was absolutely not an exotic tropical island resort, though portions of it bore faint resemblance to one in our humble eyes.
Ours was a most economical wedding experience partly by circumstance but mostly by preference. Neither of us comes from families in a position to drop several thousand bucks in one place on any object or experience ever. Anne’s dress, which I adored to pieces, was a great find at JCPenney. My attire was cobbled together piecemeal at Value City, as I’ve never owned a full, matching suit in my life, not even now in 2017. Our wedding rings were a Black Friday purchase I’d scored a month before I proposed. Everything from church to flowers to wedding planner to all the other mandatory expenses –- which I can’t remember because I was the groom –- added up to a few hundred at most. Anne and I already each had a failed marriage on our respective rap sheets and were absolutely in agreement and okay with taking the lo-fi route all the way. I promise you it can be done, kids.
Our big honeymoon plan was to revisit our old friend Lake Michigan, last seen on our 2002 road trip to Grand Rapids. And we knew at least one place on the Indiana side with a beach and a view.
About 6 pm we arrived in Merrillville, a mid-size town southeast of Chicago. We ate dinner at a place called Bennington’s, which was like Applebee’s but spelled differently. When we returned to Merrillville years later on our way to a Wizard World Chicago, we found Bennington’s replaced by a Tilted Kilt, which was very much not the same thing as Applebee’s, but that’s an embarrassing story for another time.
Saturday morning we headed out to Indiana Dunes State Park. Along the shores of Lake Michigan, the Dunes are quite impressive, if very frustrating to climb. We chose a shorter trail to walk, about two miles round trip, which included a nice jaunt along the Lake Michigan coastline. Reports of a nasty riptide that day discouraged us from diving right in, but just the breeze and some light foot-dampening were a joy enough after walking that first mile.
For our next leg we diverted slightly onto a different trail that would add half a mile of walking, but took us to the summit of 192-foot Mt. Tom, the tallest dune in the park. The brochures and nature center posters failed to mention that the side of Mt. Tom we were facing was the steepest side — a side that was not only a 50-degree incline by my estimate, but it was a 50-degree incline buried in about a foot or so of sand the entire way up. Between the piping hot sunshine and the way our feet sank down four inches with every step we took, it took us a solid hour of huffing and puffing before we reached the summit…where we found that the other side of Mt. Tom had a spiffy network of sand-free wooden staircases with railings running all the way down the other side to the bottom. D’oh.
Nevertheless, it was still a lovely day at the beach, a great day for a picnic, and a great excuse to head back to the hotel and test-drive the hot tub in our suite for over two hours. Teen Anakin Skywalker may have been a whiny brat, but he wasn’t wrong about sand.
Monday morning we headed back home, arrived at noon, and opened our wedding presents, of which roughly 85% were either photo albums or photo frames. Heed this lesson well, folks: that’s the consequences of making the conscious decision not to register anywhere for your wedding presents. You think you’re being modest and downplaying any need for gifts, when in reality you’re setting yourself up to receive truckloads of future clutter and Goodwill donations.
The rest of that day was all utility work — dropping off the multiple disposable cameras for developing; moving the remainder of Anne’s stuff over to my place (now our place), cleaning up her now-former place for inspection; and finishing out the work week in order to conserve vacation days. That following Friday, my son returned home from a stay at his mom’s, and final preparations were made for our official 2004 road trip, which would contain two more Great Lakes, more animals, lots more water, a bit more sand, and still no formal wear.
To be continued!