Masked Riders: A Prologue to Our 2020 Road Trips

Muppet Seat Jazz Hands!

This is no ordinary theater. Those are no ordinary seats.

Whenever we look back on our 2020 vacation photos as we grow older, we will never, ever have to think long and hard to remember what year they were taken.

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It Is July 4th.

American Scarecrow!

Please feel free either to celebrate with this cheerfully American scarecrow or imagine yourself pummeling him if you’re actively looking for a straw man to attack. Call it freedom of art interpretation.

The entry title is not quite a 1990s Print Shop banner hung by a resentful Dwight Schrute, but for now it’ll do because I’m not interested in checking on the internet’s mood swings today to see whether or not it’s cool to openly celebrate the Fourth of July. I’ve managed to avoid Twitter doomscrolling for a full 24 hours and plan to continue that streak until at least Sunday because, all things considered, right now I imagine the last three months’ worth of discussions have devolved into repetitive anti-holiday vitriol that’s about as fun an atmosphere as wading into a chatroom of bitter single straight dudes on Valentine’s Day.

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Restaurants In Memoriam: A Pre-Virus Retrospective

Mediterranean Grill!

Loukoumadis (fried dough), our final dessert at the Mediterranean Grill in Avon, Indiana. Taken in April 2017 on their final weekend in business. If only we’d shared more meals from there…

Midlife Crisis Crossover isn’t an official foodie blog, but restaurants are among the many and varied subjects we touch upon as we refuse to focus on a singular topic. Whether they’ve enlivened our annual road trips, featured in our wedding anniversary celebrations, given us something to do on Super Bowl Sunday instead of watching ads or sports, or simply welcomed us in for one-time tryouts, restaurants are a treasured aspect of our travel experiences, in other states as well as around our own hometown of Indianapolis. As you can imagine, my wife Anne and I are missing a lot of them right now rather intensely.

We’ve shared photos and warm feelings from dozens of eateries over the past eight years. Not all of them lived to see 2020, which in some cases may not be such a bad thing. Regardless, in this moment of wistful nostalgia, here’s a fond look back at some of the places that are no longer with us, who shut their doors after we visited them and didn’t even call us to say goodbye, because that’s not how it works.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 6 of 6: The Birthday Menu

Quintessential Quiche!

The Quintessential Quiche at Eggshell Bistro in Carmel — topped with fresh herbs and filled with applewood bacon, caramelized leeks, roasted tomato, and Comté cheese on a multigrain crust. At least I think that’s the correct dish. It’s been a few months.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Although Prophetstown State Park was the last stop on our one-day road trip before heading home, obviously it wouldn’t have been a satisfying birthday celebration without memorable foods of her choosing. Back in October 2019, restaurants were a readily available luxury where hungry patrons could enter, sit, relax, dine together, hang out, depart at their leisure, and, if they were of sufficiently upright character, make sure to tip the gainfully employed waitstaff. It was, in its own way, a golden age.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 5: Prophets and Poultry

Woodland Indians settlement.

The history aficionado and birthday girl at the replica native settlement.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Upon visiting the centerpiece of our trip, the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum, we covered the Battle of Tippecanoe in a somewhat reductive fashion:

On November 7, 1811, when future short-term President [William Henry] Harrison led an army against a confederation of tribes led by Tecumseh of the Shawnee and the adviser Tenskwatawa, alias “the Prophet”. The tribes weren’t thrilled with the pervasive intruders, the incoming settlers had reason to believe they weren’t safe, and it didn’t help that our old arch-nemesis England was taking steps to ratchet up the tension shortly before things escalated into the War of 1812. Harrison led a thousand men into two hours of combat against several hundred Native Americans. The latter retreated after dozens of casualties were incurred on each side. The following day, Harrison led his men to Prophetstown, where their opponents had been living but fled. On orders from Harrison, Prophetstown was burned to the ground, and the former residents’ supplies either appropriated or destroyed.

The museum and battlefield weren’t far from where the village of Prophetstown once stood. (Fun MCC trivia: they also weren’t far from Wolf Park, which we previously visited on Easter weekend 2008.) The acreage where the village was founded in 1808 and burned to the ground in 1811 is now Prophetstown State Park, established in 2004 with multiple missions — among them, to commemorate the village and to restore the original tallgrass prairies that were the dominant terrain before humanity arrived and redecorated. Or un-decorated, as it were.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 4: The Legacy of Tippecanoe

battle simulator!

How we used to make lit-up battle simulators in the days before computers.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

On some of our past road trips we’ve visited battlefields at Antietam, Gettysburg, Saratoga Springs, and Chattanooga. The farther east we drive, the more battlefields become a tourist attraction, tragic parts of our nation’s history commemorated either with small markers or with full-fledged parks, depending on the enthusiasm of their local historical societies and the performance of their fundraisers.

Indiana doesn’t have quite the same wartime history as, say, Virginia or New York or Pennsylvania. Back in the early days when we still had land wars on American soil (or future American soil, as it were), not many armies wanted to march or drive out this far just to pick fights with large gatherings of opponents en masse. This was centuries before our vast highway system was invented to enable racist posses, drive-by shootings, interstate serial killers, and the occasional militia.

Indiana has one (1) Civil War battlefield down near Kentucky. We also have a handful of markers noting minor battlefields here and there, many of which involved assorted tribes who were there first, and a disproportionate number of which also involved William Henry Harrison. One of them has a museum.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 3: Drifting Around Downtown

Washington pediment!

A limestone pediment featuring George Rogers Clark, George Washington, and Tecumseh, three people who have never been in our kitchen.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

One of our favorite simple pleasures of any visit to a new town is the stroll around their downtown, Main Street, town square, or whatever they call the heart of community commerce, whether it’s a presently vibrant neighborhood or a nostalgic patchwork of quaint artisans and hollowed foreclosures. Located at a remove from the Purdue campus on the other side of the Wabash River (which factored into a Jeopardy! clue the other night), downtown Lafayette showed signs that everyday life persists, just…maybe with a quieter ambiance on Homecoming weekend.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 2: The Works on the Walls

Biggie & Cobain!

Scene from an alternate timeline where Biggie Smalls and Kurt Cobain lived to cover “Ebony and Ivory”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Once we escaped Purdue’s Homecoming weekend crowds, we headed east across the Wabash River to downtown Lafayette, where we simply wanted to walk around and take in the scenery. While most locals and students busied themselves with the main event across the river, downtown was deserted except for a small farmers’ market that was wrapping up their morning shift by the time we walked up.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 1: The Astronaut Alumnus

Neil Armstrong statue!

Why did my wife want to go to college for her birthday? To see Neil Armstrong.

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking.

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The Delaware Problem

Pixar Collection!

Once upon a time Pixar was so bulletproof that I aspired to a complete collection as each new film was released. You’ll note there are now intentional gaps as well as one pretender that speaks to why there are gaps.

Collections. Series. Runs. Seasons. Sets. Discographies. Filmographies. When geeks love a thing, they’re often overwhelmed with the desire to consume or possess all of that very thing. It’s not enough to say you’ve done some or many or several or a lot of a particular thing. Whatever you did, watched, read, listened to, or owned, what matters most is you managed all of it.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 31: The Season Finale Outtakes

Bottlecap kiosk!

DAY TWO: Bottlecap kiosk outside the World of Coca-Cola. We got yelled at when we tried posing behind the unmanned information desk.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our eight-day trip to Atlanta in general and Dragon Con in particular — August 25th through September 1, 2019. It all comes down to this, per our tradition for every MCC road trip maxiseries: one final collection of alternate scenes, extra details, and surplus attractions along the way that were squeezed out of the main narrative. Enjoy!

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 30: Puppet Outtake Island

Fraggle Rock cast!

I grew up in a family unable to afford HBO, so I’ve never seen a single episode of Fraggle Rock. Here’s some cast members you might recognize that I don’t!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our eight-day trip to Atlanta in general and Dragon Con in particular — August 25th through September 1, 2019. Here in our penultimate chapter we present a selection of additional exhibits from the coolest stop of the year as voted upon by me, the guy in charge of typing.

To wit: the Center for Puppetry Arts, which was one-half loving tribute to the many dimensions of Jim Henson, one-half history of puppets around the world, and one temporary exhibit returning guests to the world of The Dark Crystal. I tried to be choosy when curating the previous chapters to a manageable length apiece, so the following gallery represents highly honorable mentions, some of which were perhaps unfairly cut. Enjoy!

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 29: The Last Outpost

giant guitar!

You know you’re in road-tripping territory when you start seeing giant-sized objects straight out of 1950s Batman comics.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

After Kennesaw Mountain effectively rebuffed us, all that stood between us and home were eight hours, 500 miles, two more meals and whatever other biological imperatives got in our way. With no further sightseeing intended, we knew our Sunday drive would be long and mostly boring. Lunchtime proved to more of one than the other.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 28: At the Mountains of Fitness

Kennesaw Mountain!

155 years ago, over four thousand casualties were incurred here. Today, the things lost most here are calories.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Before we left Georgia, Anne wanted to see one more mountain. We’d already seen a mountain, but it wasn’t enough. It had a historical significance, a Visitors Center, and a road leading relatively close to the top, presumably for a scenic vantage point and for some value-added historical markers or whatever. Best of all, unlike that other mountain, access appeared to be free. We figured why not. We wouldn’t have time to explore the entire park or the surrounding tie-ins, but a drive to the mountain and possibly a jaunt up its access road seemed doable. How hard can it be to go up a mountain these days?

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 26: Hearts in Atlanta

CNN Jazz Hands!

We’re coming to you live from CNN Center, where everything is FABULOUS!

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Sooner or later, every stay in a city far from home must end. After our days at Dragon Con were up, it was time to pack our bags and hit the road Sunday morning. Atlanta left us with a treasure trove of new memories, photos, experiences, successes, regrets, and idea what to do next time we’re in town. That may not be anytime soon, but I’ll die dissatisfied if we never return. Before we move onward toward the inevitable miniseries finale, here’s a gallery of various sights that caught our eye around town, including a few outtakes and one surprisingly happy accident.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 25: Dining with Dragons

Yami Yami line!

Food courts: America’s unsung heroes in times when we need convenience most..

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover 2½ months ago:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

After fifteen entries dedicated to our Dragon Con experience, there’s one aspect we’ve left unmentioned till now. In the numerous conventions Anne and I have attended over the years, one of our biggest struggles has been finding palatable food sources on location. Regardless of our excitement levels, we learned from Wizard World Chicago 1999 that we can’t simply eat a modest breakfast, then walk miles and miles for the next twelve hours while fasting. There must be lunch.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 24: Dragon Con Cosplay Parade Special Bonus Encore

Bluepool and Dancing Girls!

Alternate shot of Bluepool and the Captain America: The First Avenger Dancing Girls Costuming Group.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover 2½ months ago:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

Upon our return home, I did my best to post our photos of the experience as quickly as possible, twelve chapters’ worth plus prologue and epilogue. Seven of those galleries were devoted to their gargantuan cosplay parade through the streets of Atlanta

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 23: One Last Constitutional Before the Convention

Olympic Anne!

One more go-’round at Centennial Olympic Park, for one last quest. No, this photo was not the quest.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

DAY FIVE: Thursday, August 29th.

We’d figured in advance that Thursday would serve as a transitional day, when our roles would change from giddy sightseers to geek convention-goers. We’d had three full days to tour Atlanta. We’d hit all the highest-ranking attractions on our brainstorming list. A few of the honorable mentions had varying levels of appeal, but we had only a few hours in the morning before our scheduled walking tour for Dragon Con newbies. As it happened, Anne had one item left on her personal to-do list that we had yet to accommodate.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 22: International Southern Hospitality

spring rolls!

Pork and shrimp spring rolls primped up a bit at Hsu’s in downtown Atlanta.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Those of you who’ve been following this miniseries from the beginning may be a tad disgruntled by the complete lack of food pics from our vacation. We covered a few mealtimes, but we’ve been setting aside much of the culinary side…until now.

Some dishes were simpler than others. All were served with utmost congeniality. Only one took a little longer than we would’ve preferred. But the most important trait of all is not a single one of them barred us from entering due to dress codes. It’s cool being accommodated rather than shunned.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 21: A Limited Who’s Who in Georgia History

Jimmy Carter!

Once more, with feeling: Jimmy Carter! Sleeves rolled up, ready to work.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Our walk around the Georgia State Capitol took us through ornate architecture, near the seats of government, and past packed displays that provided a number of perspectives on local history and issues. As with many other such buildings, we also saw statues all around the grounds commemorating notable politicians and contributors to society — some of them well known on a national or even international level, some not so much. But someone thought their faces were worth carving into metal or stone.

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