The Road to Dragon Con 2021, Part 3 of 8: The Ohio River Runs Through It

McAlpine Dam with greenery!

Man tames nature at Falls of the Ohio State Park.

In advance of our grand plan to spend two days walking and walking and walking and walking around uphill downtown Atlanta and the convention’s host hotels, we thought it might be nice to plan another walk in advance, less about geek shopping and more about nature, outdoors, fresh air, history, and so forth. Funny thing is, at out next stop we took more photos indoors than outdoors. In our defense, its name oversells the goods.

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. 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.

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 sharing the previously untold tales of our two-day drive down to Georgia and the sights we caught along the way. It’s perfectly okay to make a prequel nobody asked for…

After dallying in Jeffersonville but before pushing on toward Louisville, we digressed a few miles west into Clarksville, where Falls of the Ohio State Park sits along the shore of the Ohio River and offers a scenic view of Kentucky on the far side. The park’s location was chosen for its significance to Indiana history, centered as it is around the former homestead of the explorer George Rogers Clark, whose name was a mandatory subject in Indiana fourth-grade social studies classes when we were kids. We touched upon his story in a previous summer vacation and dodged around the question of how his encounters and relations with the indigenous on his travels may not have aged well into the current era of ceaselessly rethought and re-rethought topicality. Nevertheless, Clark still has things named after him to this day.

That same home of his would also become a key meeting place between his brother William Clark and fellow explorer Meriwether Lewis. The duo would go on to navigate their expedition across thousands of miles west into the lands that would become the western half of these United States. Last year we got to see William Clark’s autograph writ large, which was fun. Nearer to my heart, Lewis and Clark would go on to costar in the partially fictionalized Image Comics series Manifest Destiny, which will be wrapping up its lengthy tale of discovery, unity, monsters, hallucinations, ghosts, racism, and murder most foul later this year.

Kids and school groups can come attend organized fossil hunts. Random tourists who show up like us with no real agenda or exercise regimen can walk up and down the shoreline or investigate their interpretive center. We did a little of both.

Falls of the Ohio welcome sign!

Later chapters in this series will be heavy on welcome signs. The welcoming starts here.

Lewis and Clark statue!

Lewis meets Clark: the statue.

Lewis and Clark historical marker!

Lewis meets Clark: the historical marker.

Lewis and Clark marker!

Lewis meets Clark: the historical marker,’s extended director’s cut.

Lewis or Clark statue!

Lewis or Clark meet the locals: the statue.

George Rogers Clark plaque!

Lewis and Clark Origins: the George Rogers Clark extended historical marker.

Special park features of course include the Ohio River, as well as McAlpine Dam. Built in 1881, the dam has nine gates leading to a hydroelectric station and apparently creating the eponymous “falls”. We hadn’t expected Niagara Falls, but the long-distance view and their low, man-made heights cost them some points in the final rankings of park features.

path to riverside.

The path to the riverside. Some parts were more rugged than others.

blue bird sculptures!

Wingless heron sculptures along the way.

Ohio River and bridges!

Behold the Ohio River, as well as the bridges of I-65 and other thoroughfares linking Indiana and Kentucky.

McAlpine Dam!

The gates of McAlpine Dam and their falls.

dammed rapids!

A closeup of the bottom of the falls, our attempt to wring an ounce of majesty from the sight.

Louisville that-a-way!

A few steps farther east reveals a bit more sand and slightly more of downtown Louisville.

A few miles farther west yet within the park borders, George Rogers Clark had a home in the area that was destroyed in 1854. A replica was built in 2001 that anchored the park’s historical narrative until it was burned down in May 2021, four months before our visit.

George Rogers Clark fireplace remains.

As of September 2021 all that remained was the George Rogers Clark replica fireplace.

McGee Cabin!

Several feet away and spared the same fate is McGee Cabin, a replica of the separate dwelling of Venus and Ben McGee,

(Depending on which website you cite for source material and which Twitter circles you twirl around in, the McGees were either his “indentured servants”, his “two enslaved African-Americans”, or, as we would’ve called them back in fourth grade if anyone had bothered to mention them, his “slaves”.)

Far more fun was to be had in the park’s interpretive center, which was built in 1990 to the tune of $4.9 million. As you might understand, admission is not free. Its contents are one part Indiana history and one part natural history museum.

Falls of the Ohio interpretive center!

A lot of curators would kill to get a fraction of that budget for their own museums.

mammoth fossil!

Mandatory mammoth fossil greeter. Never build your natural history exhibits without one.

Dale Chihuly sculptures!

A pair of Dale Chihuly sculptures for value-added foyer ambiance.

Dunkleosteus terrilli skull!

A cast of the skull of a late Devonian Arthrodire Fish (Dunkleosteus terrelli). The original is at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

young George Rogers Clark!

George Rogers Clark, age 19.

Shawnee in the corner.

Someone put Shawnee in the corner.

plastic squid!

Plastic underwater life, minus water.

bison head!

We haven’t visited any roadside attractions with taxidermy in years. Let’s start with a bison head.

stuffed woodpecker!

Stuffed woodpecker.

stuffed bald eagle!

Stuffed eagle and fellow bird of prey, doing action shots for the camera.

stuffed raccoon!

Stuffed raccoon and squirrel pose for the cover of their next acoustic album.

stuffed beaver!

Stuffed beaver, like the one that cameoed in The Naked Gun.

Lego Smokey the Bear!

Lego cardinal is the state bird of Lego Indiana. His friend Lego Smokey the Bear reminds us only YOU can prevent Lego forest fires.

After we left the park, Anne wanted to make one last stop in Indiana before we crossed the Ohio. Not far away from the park is one of Indiana’s more notable roadside attractions, the Colgate Clock. Built in 1906 in New Jersey and transplanted to Clarksville in 1924, it sits atop a former Colgate factory that was originally a state prison. Colgate shut down the factory circa 2007 but left the clock behind for all to see. The developers who bought the building in 2011 have thus far done diddly-squat with it, so in June 2022 Clarksville city officials threatened to invoke eminent domain and take possession of the historic site before it deteriorates any further.

Until and unless someone makes the next move, the forty-foot-diameter timepiece remains on watch as one of The World’s Largest Clocks. We spotted its New Jersey brother — younger yet larger — on a previous road trip in 2010. Anne was excited to see this one closer up and complete the set.

Colgate clock Indiana!

You may also have glimpsed its cameo in Michael Mann’s The Insider.

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

Part 1: Firefight Club
Part 2: Sweets for Your Sweet
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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