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13 Dead Presidents Pocketed: Our 2018 Road Trip Prologue

John Adams!

The earliest President whose burial site we’ve seen so far: #2, John Adams, d. 7/4/1826, age 90. Beneath the United First Parish Church in Quincy, MA. From our 2013 road trip.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating. We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America.

Since 2003 we’ve seen the final resting places of thirteen American Presidents. Anne is a major history buff whose vacation research leans heavily to famous American people, places, events, and artifacts. In the early days, a few Presidents just so happened to be located near sites we were seeing for other reasons, or on the way there. As we diversified our directions over time and expanded the scope of what we considered a “point of interest”, the late leaders of our nation kept ranking on our to-do lists. Earlier this year I whipped up a crude map of the ones we’d seen so far and the ones we’ve yet to.

Presidential Burial Sites!

Gray numbers indicate Presidents checked off; red numbers were future travel stops (Lord willing).

After much staring and staring and staring, a pattern began to emerge: a surprising number of unseen gravesites were in upstate New York. We played a mental game of connect-the-dots with them, added a handful of Presidents from contiguous states, and presto: we had ourselves a vaguely circular route to different cemeteries and crypts of various sizes, ages, and erosion damage levels. Much as we spent my birthday weekend this year following the Garfield Trail to view eleven statues, our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles. That last number didn’t weigh on us till we got home late in the evening of the final day and I did the odometer math while half-asleep.

Before we launch our next big MCC road trip series, here’s a visual rundown of the sites we’ve seen so far, in order chronologically by presidency, starting with John Adams in our lead photo and moving onward through the centuries…

Anne + Jefferson!

President #3, Thomas Jefferson, d. 7/4/1826 (a few hours before John Adams), age 83. On the grounds of Monticello. From our 2008 road trip.

John Quincy Adams!

President #6, John Quincy Adams, d. 2/23/1848, age 80. Two tombs down from his father — same basement room, same road trip, same chapter, but in a previously unused outtake.

Jackson's Tomb!

President #7, Andrew Jackson, d. 6/8/1845, age 78. On his own plantation, The Hermitage, east of Nashville, TN. From our 2015 road trip.

Harrison obelisk!

President #9, William Henry Harrison, d. 4/4/1841, age 68. In a small park in an average neighborhood west of Cincinnati, OH. On the way home from Cincinnati Comic Expo 2016.

Polk Crypt!

President #11, James K. Polk, d. 6/15/1849, age 53. On the lawn of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. From our 2015 road trip.

Taylor Mausoleum!

President #12, Zachary Taylor, d. 7/9/1850, age 65. In his family plot at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, KY. From our 2015 road trip.

Grant's Tomb!

President #18, Ulysses S. Grant, d. 7/23/1885, age 63. In the colloquially well-known Grant’s Tomb in Manhattan, NY, a few blocks south of Harlem. From our 2011 road trip.

Garfield's Tomb!

President #20, James Garfield, d. 9/19/1881, age 49. In Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. From our 2013 road trip.

Benjamin Harrison family!

President #23, Benjamin Harrison, d. 3/13/1901, age 67. In Crown Hill Cemetery here in Indianapolis, IN. From Anne’s 2012 birthday trip.

Harry S Truman!

President #33, Harry S Truman, d. 12/26/1972, age 88. In the center of the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO. An outtake from our 2012 road trip.

Dwight Eisenhower!

President #34, Dwight D. Eisenhower, d. 3/28/1969, age 78. On the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Center in Abilene, KS. From our 2012 road trip.

The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame.

President #35, John F. Kennedy, d. 11/22/63, age 46 (my age now!). At Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, DC. From our 2003 road trip, when we were still using 35mm film.

We’ve missed a few Presidents over the years that we’ll have to backtrack to catch eventually. We had no idea William Howard Taft was also in Arlington National Cemetery till years after the fact. George Washington and other Virginians were deemed out-of-scope for our 2008 trip. Woodrow Wilson was cut from our 2017 trip at the last minute due to driving delays. Most inconveniently of all, when we visited his museum on our 2002 road trip, Gerald Ford was still alive. Call it a timing issue.

We’ll see about living and writing those stories when the times come to plan future vacation. In the meantime, join us for nine new gents just added to our list, as well as other tales along the way, won’t you?

Call it the Dead Presidents Tour. To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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