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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 1: Hayes’ Shade of Summer

Webb Hayes + flags!

Patriotic grave sites: as American as apple pie, but a lot more solemn.

It’s that time again! Another year, another driving marathon, another chance to see sights we don’t have back home, and another MCC travelogue series to record the experiences before I forget them all and Anne gets tired of retelling them to me.

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. 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. 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…

DAY ONE: Saturday, July 7th.

After last year’s disastrous Day One, I made a point of picking up a rental car at our usual Avis location, not the convenient one closer to our house. The latter was no longer an option anyway — they were shut down a few months later. I mourned for exactly zero-point-zero seconds.

Once again I reserved a full-size car months in advance. Once again I arrived on time but was informed they only had SUVs on hand. Once again they didn’t charge me extra for their supply shortage. This time, though, it didn’t hurt my gas budget.

2018 Chevy Equinox!

Our rental SUV, in a teaser image from Day Three.

By my calculation, the 2018 Chevy Equinox averaged slightly over 30 MPG for the entire seven-day trip. It was loaded with gadgets from the future: seats with heating and cooling options; separate A/C thermostats for each half of the car; keyless ignition, though not the kind where you can start it before you sit down; lights on each side-view mirror that warned me if someone was in my blind spot; a radio that gave me a stern pop-up warning if the computer thought I was concentrating more on channel-changing than on driving; a dashboard monitor that reminded me the car was overdue for an oil change every single time I started the engine; and a vibrator in my seat that shook whenever I began to get too close to the car in front of me. Frankly, the sensation was rather relaxing and all but encouraged me to tailgate more.

I have no plans to own or even afford a vehicle this extravagant anytime in the near future. The bells and whistles weren’t the point, though. Our favorite feature is it didn’t threaten to break down on us, old oil notwithstanding. It accelerated quickly. Its maneuverability was above-average for an SUV. It handled mountainous inclines without straining. It was a comfortable place to spend time while waiting for hours’ worth of roads to pass by.

We offered to take my son along, but he opted out once again because by his standards we weren’t going anywhere cool enough. More SUV fanciness for us, then.

We kicked off our vacation the same way we’ve kicked off several previous ones: getting to and through Ohio. The first three hours traversed the same path we’d taken to Motor City Comic Con 2017 but diverged shortly beyond the Ohio border. We stopped briefly in northern Indiana to see if the Garfield statue in Van Buren was back on display so we could complete my 2018 birthday side quest. Alas, as of that morning, no such luck. Someday, Van Buren, we shall meet and we shall have satisfaction.

Our first scheduled attraction was far from interstates (hence its exclusion from our Motor City weekend) and awaited us after much farmland viewed off quiet, unremarkable Ohio highways. If you’ve seen farmland and deciduous trees — with which we’re overflowing here in Indiana — then you’ve seen northern Ohio. Some folks don’t care for interstates, but I prefer them to highways because (a) higher speed limits that suit my driving style, and (b) fewer reasons to stop and waste minutes.

Ohio train!

Railroads serve a critical role in the world of transportation. They’re also an occasional barricade when you least want one.

Four hours from home we found ourselves in lovely Spiegel Grove State Park in the town of Fremont. This plot of land was acquired in 1845 by the man who would be the uncle of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Today it’s run under the auspices of a non-profit organization in conjunction with the State of Ohio, the Ohio History Connection (another nonprofit), and various private foundations. Joggers and strollers shared the paths while we enjoyed some fresh air and light exercise after the long drive.

front gate eagle!

Eagles on the front gates to the grounds, a 1928 gift from the White House.

Spiegel Grove!

Spiegel Grove itself, the estate that President and Mrs. Hayes inherited from that uncle. They moved in full-time in 1873, took a four-year hiatus for his presidency, then moved back for the rest of their days. Their descendants continued to dwell there into the 1960s, well after the surroundings had become a public park.

Hayes trees!

So. Many. TREES.

Squirrel!

So. Many. SQUIRRELS.

Squirrel!

Seriously, on our walk I counted at least four squirrels in the first five minutes alone.

OKC bombing survivor tree seedling!

Among the park’s special features is an elm seedling borne of a survivor tree from the vicinity of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Naturally we had a primary objective here, #1 of nine, toward the south end of the park.

Hayes' grave forest!

Here we are on a leisurely stroll on a bright summer day through a shady park built around a onetime leader of the free world.

Hayes' grave.

President #19, Rutherford B. Hayes, d. 1/17/1893, age 70.

The Hayeses were originally buried in another local cemetery before being relocated here in 1915. Resting beneath them are the family dog and two favored horses. Buried on the other side of them are their son Webb Cook Hayes and his wife Mary.

Webb Hayes grave.

Webb served in three wars, including World War I, and co-founded the company that would later become Union Carbide. Mary served in the Red Cross and during the final year of WWI tended to wounded soldiers in France.

We could’ve simply done that part for free and driven away content, but then we would’ve missed out on Spiegel Grove’s most prominent feature: America’s very first Presidential library (est. 1916), which today doubles as a history museum.

Hayes Museum & Library!

I guess we could’ve mentioned the largest, fanciest part first?

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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