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. Then came 2020 A.D.
Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.
In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…
DAY ONE: Friday, July 3rd.
After a bit of housekeeping and a short visit with one convenient relative on the way, our first stop was loosely inspired by Anne’s childhood. Once upon a time she and her Girl Scout troop visited the town of Crawfordsville, some forty miles northwest of Indianapolis. They had a pair of unusual museums that stuck in her mind all these decades that remain in business to this day. One of them no longer resembles her memories, signifying either extensive remodeling or possibly gaslighting by one of her troop leaders who took the girls to some rich uncle’s house and then claimed it was a museum. We may never know the truth.
Leading off our itinerary was the Rotary Jail Museum, a former part of the American incarceration system opened in 1882. It was among a select few to feature a unique design in which all cells were wedge-shaped parts of a circular whole, which only had a single doorway accessible by rotating the entire jail, like a pie in the hands of a wishy-washy gourmet who can’t decide where to cut the first slice.
Rotary jails seemed like a cool idea to some officials until cell-turning accidents caused too many injuries and amputations to their convicts. Nearly all others nationwide have since been dismantled, but Montgomery County’s still works, albeit as a display piece. The last inmates were transferred out in 1973; the place reopened as a museum and showpiece in 1975. Their official website contains additional historical documentation, including the notorious story of one resident named John Coffee, like the guy in The Green Mile only not spelled the same.
We’d love to provide a more in-depth firsthand account of our Rotary Jail adventure, but we tripped over a gap in our research. For each and every place we’d planned to visit on our vacation, Anne had gone to painstaking lengths to verify with each one as to whether or not they had reopened to the public yet in the Age of Coronavirus. The Rotary Jail passed that test, having unlocked their doors June 17th. However, we forgot to apply one other little test: verifying which places would be open the weekend of July 4th. The jail was closed for the 3rd and the 4th.
…and that’s the story of how our 2020 road trip got off on the wrong foot. One silver lining: nearly a 0% chance of catching viruses from a lockup on lockdown.
To be continued!
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[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 faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]