The Road to Dragon Con 2021, Part 1 of 8: Firefight Club

1922 Model T fire truck!

Our lovely model Anne shows off a 1922 Model T fire truck, a one-ton, double-tank exemplar of first-responder innovation for its time. Also, a photobombing Dalmatian.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in downtown Atlanta, even went so far as to make it the centerpiece of our annual road trip. Their long-running, multi-site extravaganza may be the closest we’ll ever get to immersing ourselves in a mind-blowing geek gathering with anything approaching the size, depth, and logistical magnitude of San Diego’s fabled own. We were so blown away that we executed an encore presentation in 2021, which was a similarly amazing experience even with strongly enforced pandemic precautions in place. It likely won’t be our last time in town.

Alas, we regret we’ll be opting out of D*C 2022 for a variety of reasons despite numerous temptations, but we’re trying to content ourselves with the next best thing: constantly taking turns asking each other, “Hey, remember that time we did Dragon Con? That was awesome!” While we loiter on Memory Lane offline, here on MCC I’ll be indulging in the next-next best thing: sharing the previously untold tales of our two-day drive down to Georgia and the sights we caught along the way. Because if there’s one lesson I’ve learned from J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Vince Gilligan, the Minions, and whatever CBS energy vampire spawned Young Sheldon, it’s that it’s perfectly okay to make a prequel nobody asked for. And anything they can do, I can do worse.

DAY MINUS-ONE: Wednesday, September 1st.

Indianapolis to Atlanta is an 8½-hour drive if all goes well. My car is a decade old and showing no signs of slowing down, but for longer trips over the five-hour mark, I prefer to save on wear-‘n’-tear and rent some wheels. Back in those halcyon days of one whole year ago, auto rental was so feasible it didn’t require a separate loan application. (Unlike, say, staying in a downtown Atlanta hotel over Dragon Con weekend, which has never been and will never be cost-effective in any sense unless you split a room between seven other fans. The big, overwhelming inflation fad of 2022 hasn’t helped. At all. I peeked at prices and hyperventilated and am dead now.)

To that end we lined up a reservation through Avis (as always, free unlimited mileage!) and were shocked to be handed the fob to a genuine Toyota Prius for the weekend.

2021 Toyota Prius!

Newer and shinier than the one Andy Bernard ran into Dwight with on The Office.

Far as I could recall, I’d never driven an electric car or even a hybrid before. The rental guys didn’t show us how to use electricity instead of gas, which was okay by us. I promise I won’t dwell on this exciting large toy beyond this paragraph, but I have receipts confirming that for the full 1,130-mile round trip plus extra pit stops, digressions, and rush-hour traffic jams, all of that took us three (3) fill-ups which at September 2021 gas prices cost a grand total of $70.22. (Hey, remember when gas was only $2.79/gallon? That was awesome.)

After picking up the fancy chariot we couldn’t possibly afford to buy for real, we left town and sped south for a couple hours. Before crossing the border into Kentucky we planned for a few stops in Jeffersonville, one of several cities clustered around the last few miles of I-65 South near the Ohio River. Destination #1 was the vintage Fire Museum, one of those deep-dive specialty museums that have been a hallmark of our annual road trips for a good 20+ years and counting.

Vintage Fire Museum!

To answer your most burning question (no pun intended): yes, they have Dalmatians. No, not live ones.

The Vintage Fire Museum opened its doors in 2009 to showcase vehicles, tools, paraphernalia, memorabilia, and other adjacent devices and artifacts from the wide world of firefighting. The heart of the museum is the original impressive collection of one Fred Conway, a New Albany businessman who passed away in 1999 before his own dream of such a museum could fully take off. Numerous additions and volunteers have expanded on that dream and kept it going ever since.

Dalmatian #2 and fire wagon!

Another Dalmatian shares this fire wagon with a fundraising boot.

At Wednesday before lunchtime, we largely had the place to ourselves along with an extremely kindly docent who gave us the full guided tour and handed us free firefighter literature even before he’d had a chance to get started. One other employee left shortly after our arrival, and one friend of our docent’s stopped by only briefly. Otherwise it felt like an exclusive engagement. At other times they’re happy to welcome not just stray tourists like us, but field trips from local schools, which give kids a chance to learn the basics of fire safety and see large old-time vehicles up close without parents around to shoo them away.

1756 Colonial Hand Pumper!

Among the oldest pieces is a 1756 Colonial Hand Pumper, built in London and originally stationed in New Hampshire.

1850s Philadelphia-style pumper!

An 1850s “Philadelphia-style” pumper. We have not fully mastered the anti-fire arts and don’t know what that means.

1900 copper & brass chemical engine!

A 1900 copper and brass chemical engine. There’s far more to putting out fires than mere water.

1930 REO Pumper!

A 1930 REO Pumper, too large to fit into the frame given the crowd of surrounding exhibits.

1950 Chevy fire chief car!

A 1950 Chevy fire chief car.

1922 Model T pedals!

Anne’s POV of the pedals in that 1922 Model T in our lead photo.

Native trim!

Trim details from another vehicle.

Dalmatian #3!

Yet another Dalmatian hiding amid the vehicles.

William Penn #18!

In lieu of 101 Dalmatian statues, a few mannequins substitute in the drivers’ seats.

oi fire bobby!

Ringo Starr, Fire Cop!

What Is It Like Being a Woman in Firefighting!

Among the reason we’re not falling back on the classic “fireman” job title: the requisite salute to What Is It Like Being a Woman in Firefighting.

WWII women's auxiliary firefighter helmet!

A WWII women’s auxiliary helmet (from neighboring Louisville, as I recall).

water main!

An old, old, old-school water main made from a tree trunk, ages before someone decided these should be replaced with lead pipes.

fire alarms!

An assortment of fire alarms. You are not encouraged to run up and pull them all as a prank.

fire bells!

Even older examples of fire bells.

firefighting badges and accessories!

Firefighting badges and pins.

fire hose nozzles!

A history of fire hose nozzles. I’m currently playing Fallout 3, where these can be specifically useful.


Whosoever masters all of these rope maneuvers shall earn the title Don of Knots.

firefighter trampoline and extinguishers!

A trampoline that’s seen action and doubtlessly saved lives.

fire chief hotline!

The aforementioned late Mr. Conway and a fire chief hotline, rotary-style like you probably just saw in Stranger Things.

Fire pinball!

Also from the Department of Inventions I Grew Up With: a suitably themed pinball machine.

statues or liquor bottles!

Firefighter statues or liquor bottles? Learn which is which on the upcoming Netflix game show Is It Booze?

Tom Cruise fireman suit!

High commendation for an authentic movie prop in their collection: a firefighter’s suit worn by Tom Cruise in the first Mission: Impossible. Nothing on hand yet from Ron Howard’s Backdraft.

After we ended the tour and exited the museum, Anne and I lingered in the parking lot for a few minutes, taking a few more pics and collecting our thoughts on our next steps. As we chilled out, our docent came out, thanked us yet again for stopping by, and handed us yet another round of firefighting literature for the road. Consider the Vintage Fire Museum granted highest possible marks for variety and friendliness absolutely worth talking about.

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 2: Sweets for Your Sweet
Part 3: The Ohio River Runs Through It
Part 4: Louisville Sluggish
Part 5: The Stones River Runs Through It
Part 6: A Taste of Tennessee
Part 7: The Atlanta Outtakes
Part 8: The Welcomes Back

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