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…
Much of the drive from Pennsylvania through West Virginia to western Maryland looked exactly as show above — interstates surrounded by deep sylvan panoramas. The first time we drove this way in 2003, my son was disappointed that the Appalachians lacked pointed, snow-topped peaks like in all the movies about the Rockies or the Himalayas. Mountains may be massive, but to some audiences they’re no less subject to stereotyping.
Our eastbound route looked like endless forests for hours. A few remote spots reminded us of that New Zealand grandeur from The Lord of the Rings, but they’re hard to catch during the split-seconds where they’re viewabla. If you drive like me, your top priority is getting to Point B quickly and efficiently whether the other drivers want you to or not. I’m much better at accommodating full stops for sightseeing or physical needs than I am at temporary slowdowns for aesthetic purposes.
So while I’m at the wheel, Anne does the best she can with the opportunities afford her. Sometimes that means sitting back and just enjoying the sights; from time to time it means she can capture something on camera, assuming nothing blocks her shot such as stray trees, highway fences, lollygagging semis, tilting roadways, or the Earth’s curvature.
One point along I-68, the Youghiogheny Overlook Welcome Center, allows travelers the chance to get out for a few minutes, collect tourism brochures, say hi to a lone friendly worker overseeing the place, and take in that verdant horizon. This center is one of several facilities that reopened just a few years ago by the current governor’s mandate, after a previous regime had shut down numerous non-essential services due allegedly to budget issues. It’s interesting to compare values between administrations and play “spot the differences”.
Drivers have to find their own sources of amusement on these long treks since they can’t — well, okay, shouldn’t — be indulging in their own photography. Anne gets nervous whenever I multitask too much behind the wheel, which I guess is understandable.
Driving up steep inclines is tedious and cars don’t like it, but there’s a fun reward: the equally steep downward slopes on the opposite sides in this elevated topographical playground. At the times the downhill stretches were so angled and so long than I could coast for minutes at a time without touching the accelerator. I braked only if I had to, if other drivers were overly cautious and/or in our way.
Near the end of this leg we approached a familiar sight from our past: Sideling Hill, which we last passed on our way to Washington DC in 2003. As with the Youghiogheny center, Sideling Hill’s rest stop had been kaput for a time because the politicians in charge hated spending money on quality-of-life special features. We didn’t pause this time, but I understand it’s now up and running so other wanderers can have the same chance we did, though some of its museum pieces were relocated elsewhere and not returned.
To be continued!
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