Our 2021 Road Trip #17: A President on Every Corner

GWBush statue!

George W. Bush and Barney, his Scottish Terrier, making a living as traveling restaurant critics.

Longtime MCC fans have seen photos of more U.S. President statues in these pages than the average citizen will ever see in their entire lifetime. When your wife is a big history aficionado and the two of you share an inclination toward roadside attractions, Presidential art is an inevitable objective in all your vacation itineraries. But prior to 2021 we’d only seen statues commemorating a handful of Presidents — mostly the popular ones, plus a handful of lower-tier Commanders-in-Chief whose museums, preserved homes, gravesites, and peculiar fan bases we’ve visited. One American city was bold enough to ask: why not bring all of them to life?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen 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. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

Downtown Rapid City’s most prevalent art installation is the City of Presidents, an ongoing, privately funded project since 2000 to adorn their street corners with statues of every single President — long-term or short-lived, love ’em or hate ’em, regardless of party affiliation or alleged crimes or offensive proclivities or final fates or bad hair. Each statue generally includes props and details specific to their lives — some obvious, some obscure for the Presidential trivia buffs out there. They typically wait until each officeholder has transitioned out before commencing work on their bronze simulacrum. The most recent one, Obama’s, was unveiled in June 2019, over two years after the fact. As of January 2021 the project managers confirmed the next one is underway and they have some design ideas in mind.

In this chapter we present 20 of those 43 statues occupying 43 street corners, those I felt most compelled to share first. If anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to post the other 23 as well. Just say the word. Feel free to speak up! Anytime! Not just about this! We’re always listening! Enjoy either way!

FDR statue!

FDR addressing the masses. Behind the podium, his cane leans against it out of sight.

Benjamin Harrison statue!

Indiana’s own Benjamin Harrison, waiting to make friends at the bus stop like Forrest Gump.

Rutherford Hayes statue!

Rutherford Hayes strolling down Abbey Road.

Barack Obama statue!

We previously shared a different angle on Barack and Sasha Obama back in July. Anne took nearly all of these pics because I forgot my camera back at the hotel.

Richard Nixon statue!

I kinda wish we could’ve taken this tour the night before and shined a spooky flashlight under Richard Nixon’s face.

Ronald Reagan statue!

Come on down and hang out with Ronald Reagan at the Silver Spoon, where…I’m sorry, no, this is just too easy.

George Washington statue and Starbucks!

Sure, we’ve photographed some 6,000 George Washington statues on our travels, but this is our first Washington statue in front of a Starbucks, one of the many gargantuan international corporations his heroic deeds made possible.

Jimmy Carter statue!

With his sleeves rolled up and his work never done, Jimmy Carter was among the few Presidents who gained the greatest respects for the things he did after he left office.

Thomas Jefferson statue!

I’m torn between the dueling impulses of (a) listing Thomas Jefferson’s contributions without which America might not have been made possible, and (b) wondering aloud if in this moment he’s struggling to remember the names of all his slaves.

Gerald Ford statue!

Today I learned Gerald Ford’s Presidential pet Liberty was an AKC-registered Golden Retriever with the full name Honor’s Foxfire Liberty Hume. I, uh, I just wanted to share a good doggie.

William Henry Harrison statue!

William Henry Harrison wishes to be remembered as a war hero and not as a fragile guy with the lifespan of a Squid Game contestant.

Zachary Taylor statue!

Zachary Taylor trying to look manly even though he only lasted a year and four months longer than Harrison.

Andrew Jackson statue!

Andrew Jackson, demonstrating diminishing returns on the “manly man” ideal, overshoots the mark in his superhero costume.

Harry Truman statue!

Harry Truman never leaves home without his favorite bathroom reading material.

John Tyler statue!

The Fiddler, a classic Justice Society of America villain, portrayed here by John Tyler.

Abraham Lincoln statue!

Abraham Lincoln is another famous face we’ve seen carved into a thousand blocks of stone. His sons, not so much.

James Buchanan statue!

Colin Mochrie IS James Buchanan!

Teddy Roosevelt statue!

The first of the three(!) Teddy Roosevelt statues we saw on this trip Collect the entire trilogy!

JFK statue!

Lincoln and his son have a statue. John F. Kennedy and his son have a statue. For your homework tonight, write a 200-word essay why this parallel holds weird conspiratorial meaning.

…so do I stop there or finish the complete set? 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 faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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