Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
Full disclosure: we knew we couldn’t reach Baltimore from Indianapolis in a single day by our own driving rules. A stopover would be needed along the way. We’d never heard of Morgantown before our research turned it up, but we’re grateful we found a nice place to hang out for a night and a morning before we moved on…entirely thanks to this man.
That’s actor Don Knotts. You might remember him from such films as The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Apple Dumpling Gang, or the more recent Pleasantville. Before all that, America knew him as Barney Fife, awkward Mayberry deputy for five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show. After the comedy flicks that followed, Knotts found a second act on TV as goofy landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company. His resumé continued well beyond all that till his death in 2006.
In July 2016 his hometown erected this statue in his honor in front of the Metropolitan Theatre downtown. We swerved by on Sunday morning after breakfast while the streets were nearly deserted and paid our respects.
We had hours of driving ahead of us and couldn’t stay long in Morgantown, but we used our mapping resources to stumble our way toward a surprise pit stop where we could enjoy a few minutes of West Virginia nature. A narrow backstreet led us to Hazel Ruby McQuain Park, dedicated in 1996 in honor of a local businesswoman and philanthropist who co-owned several businesses and donated generously around town, including but not limited to a seven-figure sum that established their largest hospital back in the mid-’80s.
Our primary objective for this side quest had been an unfettered view of the Monongahela, which we’d seen while driving around but lacked easy access. The park was a good excuse to stop and exactly the riverside vantage we’d hoped it would be.
Our exit strategy out of Morgantown took us through a series of narrow lanes through crowded residential hillsides, cozy and verdant and clustered all at once. Murals peeked out at us here and there as extra-credit scenery.
To be continued!
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