Our Road Trip Checklist

Us.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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college.

In our first four years as travel buddies, our trips took us to geek gatherings, three large and one personal. Since 2003 we’ve been heading in all directions on all the interstates we could reach, never on planes and only once beyond national borders. If we ever start yearning to push into new frontiers, we’ll see where our whims take us. So far America’s proven a multitudinous landscape that hasn’t yet run out of ways to wow, amuse, entertain, educate, impress, or humble us.

The following is a complete list of every annual road trip we’ve taken together from 1999 to the present. Travelogs were posted on my old message board home through 2011. I launched Midlife Crisis Crossover as a grandstand of my own on April 28, 2012, and have posted them here ever since. My long-term plan is to rework those old write-ups and represent them here for a new audience when time and inclination allow. This process will involve rescanning old 35mm photos with better technology than what I used to have and hate, scanning photos that were never included the first time around, and revisiting whatever digital files we can recover in the wake of the heartbreak that was the Great 2015 Hard Drive Crash. Road trips that have been posted or reposted on MCC are broken down below by their individual chapters. Space has been reserved for future special-edition encores of the other road trips still waiting their turn.

All of this is being provided to You, the Viewers at Home, as a courtesy for latecomers to the party, for longtime readers who missed episodes or love reruns, for old friends who remember our trips from back in the day, and for myself as online scrapbooks. Someday after my memory collapses, I’ll have no choice but to reread these pages and experience the joy and stress of every road trip all over again.

Sure, a lot of couples prefer to spend their downtime at the nearest beach, book passage on a cruise, or max out their credit cards on a Paris dream trip. We have our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Digging for gems in unusual places — sometimes geek-related, sometimes peculiar, sometimes normal yet above average.

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

Enjoy! Scroll down for the complete checklist, or click a link to skip directly to a trip of your choosing:

1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | July 2015 | November 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022

* * * * *

1999: Our first Wizard World Chicago

We started small, with a simple overnight trip to our very first Wizard World Chicago. Today it’s become an annual ritual for us. At the time it was an astronomical challenge to our budgets and navigational skills. The complete epic was recounted online for the first time in January 2017, including many photos never before shared online.

Road Trip Origins, Part 1: From Wallflowers to Wanderers
Road Trip Origins, Part 2: Our First Wizard World Chicago

2000: The second and final Gateway Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis, MO

We met cast members from Mystery Science Theater 3000, attended a Q&A with author Terry Pratchett, and, in the first of many live meet-ups with internet folks, had dinner with a couple dozen loveable MSTies I knew from Usenet. We lived to tell and appreciate the tale, relived here in January 2017 in vintage 35mm-o-Rama.

Part 1: Internet Fandom Rendezvous 2000
Part 2: Trainwreck at the Trainwreck
Part 3: The Gateway Attraction

2001: Our first Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL

We made the 300-mile drive to Superman’s hometown four times between 2001 and 2012. We’d love to go again someday, more than once if the stars keep aligning, but every year the second weekend in June invariably has issues for us. I don’t remember ever sharing more than one or two of the photos from 2001 with online friends at the time, but everything we have was uploaded to MCC in June 2015 with all-new narration.

Part 1: The Great City of Metropolis
Part 2: Super-Villains vs. the Super Museum
Part 3: The Roads to Paducah

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2002: Grand Rapids, MI

We visited internet friends in honor of the release of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. We saw it twice on opening day, celebrated my 30th birthday, and found a few other things to do around town. Our memories are fading and our photos are incomplete, but we pieced together just enough for a revisit in February 2017.

Part 1: A Special Sojourn for Star Wars
Part 2: Our First Great Lake
Part 3: The Meijer Garden Department
Part 4: The Meijer Art Department
Part 5: The Day the Vice-Presidents Took Over

2003: Washington, DC

Our original destination was a Trek convention in Baltimore called Shore Leave. When we realized how close it was to our nation’s capital, we figured a side trip to an endless supply of monuments might be in order. Then we realized my son, who’d recently moved in with me, might appreciate such world-famous sights. Then we realized he would hate the convention and decided the proper parental response would be to skip that part. And that’s the story of how we planned our first official “normal” family vacation, in our own way. Dropping by D.C. two years after 9/11 made for interesting times. The first full-length write-up of the milestone was extensively rewritten and extended in February-March 2017:

Part 1: About the Boy
Part 2: Bullseye Goes to the Washington Monument
Part 3: Flying with Dinosaurs
Part 4: Mandatory Amusement Park
Part 5: From the White House to Vietnam
Part 6: From Lincoln to Kennedy
Part 7: This Americana Life
2021 bonus epilogue: The Lost Photos

2004: Niagara Falls

We married on July 17th of that year, took a honeymoon weekend up by Lake Michigan, and the following weekend drove out to the Falls with my son in tow. We saw both Lakes Erie and Ontario, saw a smidgen of Buffalo, and took a one-day detour into Canada, in those halcyon days before passports were required. On the way home we spent several unplanned hours in Ohio due to a comedy of terrors. To this day we hold a mighty grudge against the big fat Buckeye State and refuse to let it go. The remastered version of this tale was first published on MCC in March 2017.

Episode -1: Raggedy Anne and Randy: Our 2004 Road Trip Wedding Prologue
Episode 0: Sand Getting Everywhere: Our 2004 Road Trip Honeymoon Prelude
Part 1: Erie and Grey
Part 2: Niagara Falls!
Part 3: Another Great Lake, Another Gray Sky
Part 4: The Cannons of Niagara
Part 5: Soaking in the Cave of the Winds
Part 6: Bathing with the Maid of the Mist
Part 7: Mandatory Amusement Park
Part 8: A Mere Taste of Canada
Part 9: Canadian Critter Cavalcade
Part 10: Our Ohio Odyssey

2005: San Antonio

Even in our first comfy rental car, driving from Indianapolis to the deep heart of Texas was grueling and dehydrating and frequently miserable and I can’t believe we ever thought seven days would be enough. While in the areas we stepped into Arkansas and Oklahoma for our first and only times to date, and — in an extremely rare feat for us — visited relatives on the way. The remastered version of this tale was first published on MCC in April-May 2017.

Episode 0: My Diet Year: Our 2005 Road Trip Prelude
Part 1: Southern Fried Greece
Part 2: In Search of the Southern Sasquatch
Part 3: Deep in the Heart of Texas
Part 4: Mandatory Zoo Visit
Part 5: Remembering the Alamo
Part 6: Riverwalk Wanderlust
Part 7: Total Texas Taxidermy
Part 8: Dr Pepper Picked a Place for Prepping Peppers
Part 9: Oklahoma!
Part 10: Familiar Gateways

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2006: Wisconsin and Minnesota

2006 was the year I upgraded from my old Kodak EasyShare to a Canon, while my wife held tightly onto her modest 35mm camera for a bit longer. In mid-2014, the year we staged a sequel, I revised large portions of this series with a George Lucas Special Edition Editing Hammer and represented it here for MCC followers, along with many photos that we’d never shared publicly before. Back in 2006 I hated our scanner and never cared for the available photo-editing software. With the help of slightly newer technology, I’ve now compensated for my past lazy reluctance.

Photos #1: Our Milkman’s Chariot Awaits
Photos #2: This is Our Hill and These Are Our Beans
Photos #3: Milwaukee for Art’s Sake
Photos #4: Appointment in Alligator Alley
Photos #5: Scaling Down Mount Olympus
Photos #6: The Worst Pirate-Themed Anything of All Time
Photos #7: Last Hurrah in Wisconsin Dells
Photos #8: The Rock in the House
Photos #9: A Pit Stop for Half-Pint
Photos #10: We’re Gonna Make It After All
Photos #11: Mandatory Zoo Visit
Photos #12: Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
Photos #13: Like the Minnesota Zoo, But Stiffer
Photos #14: The Road to Superior
Photos #15: Superior!
Photos #16: Another Hick in the Mall
Photos #17: The Season Finale and the Lost Outtakes

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2007: Florida

Our primary target was Universal Studios, but we found plenty of stops along the way in Tennessee, Georgia, and other parts of Florida’s upper half. This year wasn’t just six dozen shots of my son enjoying some supercharged carnival rides. The remastered version of this tale, featuring dozens of previously unshared photos, was first published on MCC in May-June 2017.

Part 0: The Class Upgrade: Our 2007 Road Trip Prelude
Part 1: When Dinosaurs Ruled the South
Part 2: Signs of Georgia
Part 3: Mandatory Zoo Visit
Part 4: Florida is for Explorers
Part 5: Gobblin’ Gobblin’ Gators
Part 6: The Universal Experience
Part 7: Space, So Near Yet So Far
Part 8: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Part 9: All Drive and No Play
Part 10: Murky Mountain Hop
Part 11: Chattanooga Rock City
Part 12: Outtakes for the Ride Home

2008: Virginia Beach

The worst vacation we’ve ever taken for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons were medical. We thought our biggest regret would be the one-night stay in West Virginia, but no, that was the least of the drawbacks. The remastered version of this tale, featuring dozens of previously unshared photos, was republished on MCC in January-February 2018 at nearly double the original length.

Part 1: Hanging with the Hillbillies
Part 2: Doing the Charleston
Part 3: The Original Thomas and Martha
Part 4: An Appalachian Trail But for Non-Hikers
Part 5: Mr. Robertson’s Neighborhood
Part 6: By Neptune’s Trident!
Part 7: Wet Blankets at Virginia Beach
Part 8: Washed Up on Virginia Beach
Part 9: Busch-Whacked
Part 10: Sinking Feelings on a Battleship
Part 11: The Jamestown Compromise
Part 12: Walk with the Animals, Balk at the Animals
Part 13: Seven Wonders on the Way Back
Part 14: Like a Bridge Away From Troubled Waters
Part 15: Outtakes for the Drive Home

2009: South Dakota

This travelogue was the last to be remastered from its original internet pubclication because it’s one of our all-time favorites. So. Many. LANDSCAPES. Also featuring stopovers in Chicago, Omaha, and Iowa. The MCC version was worked through May-July 2018.

Part 1: The Chicago Prelude
Part 2: One Great Big Magic Bean
Part 3: The 99th Floor, Brought to You by Sears
Part 4: Jurassic Park Meets the Mummy
Part 5: Harry Potter and the Magic of Science
Part 6: How Green Was My Giant
Part 7: The New Cornographers
Part 8: 350 Miles of Pretty American Wasteland
Part 9: Into the Badlands
Part 10: Bonus Badlands Bonanza
Part 11: The Wall Drug Trip
Part 12: Burros Barge in Where the Buffalo Roam
Part 13: Warrior in Progress
Part 14: Rushmore!
Part 15: Cold Shoulders from the Cold-Blooded
Part 16: Bedevilment at Devils Tower
Part 17: Deadwood’s of Hollywood
Part 18: Last Exits in South Dakota
Part 19: Mutual in Omaha
Part 20: Omaha’s Wild Kingdom
Part 21: 2 Wild 2 Kingdom
Part 22: The Town on the Edge of Forever
Part 23: 300 Miles from Steak to Cake
Part 24: Outtakes Off I-90 West

2010: Pennsylvania

My wife the history buff demands a do-over on this one someday. Anne’s original concept had been a direct drive to Philadelphia for a miles-deep dive into endless fascinating American history. However, the long distance between here and there gave us so many other attractions to see along the way that we ran out of time for Philly itself and barely scratched the surface of this original colony. We did a lot, mind you, but the unchecked items on our to-do list were quite a shame. On the other hand, one of the detours took us to Liberty Island, which was such an awe-inspiring experience that we knew our next vacation would have to be a sequel. The MCC revamping of our Philadelphia story was posted in March-April 2018.

Part 1: The Big Bad Burger
Part 2: Steel Glances
Part 3: Community off the Turnpike
Part 4: The Land of Chocolate
Part 5: The Chocolate Factory
Part 6: The Zoo That Chocolate Built
Part 7: Sweet Land of Liberty
Part 8: Give Me Liberty
Part 9: New York, Not Yet
Part 10: Our Independence Day
Part 11: Liberty and Death
Part 12: Mandatory Zoo Visit
Part 13: Streets of Philadelphia
Part 14: Philly Prison Blues
Part 15: Sandwich Kings
Part 16: The Art of Pittsburgh
Part 17: Outtakes for the Drive Home

2011: Manhattan

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Manhattan “Best Vacation Ever!” I want to redo New York City over and over again until I die. I’d drop by annually if my wife would let me, but a lot of other states are still waiting for their turns with us. We also found a couple of places in New Jersey that don’t deserve to share the brunt of two hundred years’ worth of New Jersey punchlines. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we arranged a sequel vacation in July 2016. For the occasion I reprinted and overhauled this series for MCC followers from its original online publication, adding thousands of new words and many, many photos never shared publicly till now.

Part 1: The Road to New York

Part 2: The Harrisburg Highlight
Part 3: New Jersey Gothic
Part 4: You Can’t Spell Times Square Without “Mess”
Part 5: Toys R Us Kicks

Part 6: “Today” is the Greatest
Part 7: Not Necessarily the NBC News
Part 8: Shadows of the Empire
Part 9: Natural History Repeats Itself
Part 10: If Only Central Park Had Central Air

Photos #11: Seeing Hamilton for Free
Photos #12: Freedom Under Reconstruction
Photos #13: The Brooklyn Bridge and Enough Gold to Buy It
Photos #14: Chinatown!

Photos #15: Grant’s Tomb Raider
Photos #16: Bright On Broadway

Photos #17: The Empire State Building on $0.00 a Day
Photos #18: A Day at the Met
Photos #19: The Long Road to the United Nations
Photos #20: Welcome to Our World of Toys
Photos #21: Grand Central to Fifth Avenue and Back Again

Photos #22: Winnie the Pooh and Ghostbusters Too
Photos #23: Peanut Butter and Dragon Fruit
Photos #24: Washington vs. Columbus
Photos #25: Our Last Times Square Parade

Photos #26: Hamilton’s Final Show
Photos #27: Sacrifice-That-Was and Salute-That-Would-Be
Photos #28: Last Call for Roadside Attractions
Photos #29: The Season Finale — NYC Outtakes

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2012: Colorado and Kansas

Our first full engagement with the magnificent Rocky Mountains was our first road trip to be written up exclusively for MCC after it launched on April 28, 2012. The diversions in Kansas weren’t 100% boring, either. I submitted one live text-only update every evening to my precious few followers from our hotel while we were on the go, then shared the photos in installments over the subsequent months.

Notes on the Go, Day 1: Trumans and Burgers
Photos #1: Vandalia the Ex-Capitol Presents Lincoln and Madonna
Photos #2: Truman’s Grave, Bobo’s Drive-In, and Our Intro to Smashburger

Notes on the Go, Day 2: the Plains, the Plane, the Hills, and the Bill
Photos #3: Abilene Presents the Eisenhower Museum and a Perplexed Bear Drowning in Chocolate
Photos #4: Between Topeka and Denver — Buffalo Bill, Black Copters, and MegaVanGogh

Notes on the Go, Day 3: Misty Mountain Marathon
Photos #5: Red Rocks Amphitheatre Under a Dull Gray Sky
Photos #6: Fossils and Folly at Dinosaur Ridge
Photos #7: the View from Buffalo Bill’s Memorial on Lookout Mountain
Photos #8: Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 1 of 2: Panoramas on Parade
Photos #9: Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 2 of 2: Small Stuff at the Feet of Giants

Notes on the Go, Day 4: Dallying in Downtown Denver
Photos #10: Denver Presents the Molly Brown House and What a Mile Feels Like
Photos #11: An Hour Inside the Denver Art Museum, Part 1 of 2
Photos #12: An Hour Inside the Denver Art Museum, Part 2 of 2
Photos #13: Denver’s 16th Street Mall, with Good Money After Bad

Notes on the Go, Day 5: Beauty and Breakdowns
Photos #14: Morning in the Garden of the Gods
Photos #15: Romping Through the Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Photos #16: On the Way to Pikes Peak
Photos #17: Powerful Panoramas from the Pinnacle of Pikes Peak
Photos #18: Coming Down from Pikes Peak, Physically and Emotionally

Notes on the Go, Day 6: Waters Running Deep
Photos #19: Seven Falls, Part 1 of 2 — Falls Upon Falls
Photos #20: Seven Falls, Part 2 of 2 — That Critically Acclaimed Canyon
Photos #21: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 1 of 3: the Bridge Over the River Arkansas
Photos #22: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 2 of 3: Animals and Apparatus
Photos #23: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 3 of 3: Voyage to the Bottom of the Gorge
Photos #24: War Memorial on the Edge of the Rockies
Photos #25: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 1 of 2: Return of the Arkansas
Photos #26: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 2 of 2: Art of the Riverside

Notes on the Go, Day 7: Toto, I Think We’re in Kansas Forevermore
Photos #27: Lamar, Colorado — Last Stop, This State
Photos #28: Kansas Flatland Interlude
Photos #29: Boot Hill Museum, Part 1 of 2: Paupers’ Graves of the Old West
Photos #30: Boot Hill Museum, Part 2 of 2: Dedicated Hobbyists of the Old West

Notes on the Go, Day 8: Salt, Space, and Route 66
Photos #31: Underground Salt Museum, Part 1 of 3: Into the Mines of Morton
Photos #32: Underground Salt Museum, Part 2 of 3: To Preserve Man
Photos #33: Underground Salt Museum, Part 3 of 3: Hollywood Under Glass
Photos #34: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 1 of 2: Starship Graveyard
Photos #35: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 2 of 2: Starship Parts Catalog
Photos #36: Little Museum on the Prairie
Photos #37: Tow Mater Welcomes You to Route 66
Photos #38: the Landscape of Joplin-That-Will-Be

Notes on the Go, Day 9: the Season Finale, with Car Crashes and Dynamite
Photos #39: Prolonged Missouri
Photos #40: The Season Finale: Look Back in Outtakes

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2013: Boston and Cleveland

Two cities older than our hometown. One filled with history, the other with pop culture. Sounds like a travel agent booked it specially for her and me, really. Featuring special guest stars Pennsylvania and upstate New York, plus a cameo by Connecticut’s bad side. MCC followers were treated to one preview photo per day while we were on location.

Notes, Day 0: the Master of Last-Minute Cramming

Photos #1: the First of Two Springfields
Photos #2: Punxsutawney, Part 1 of 2: All Hail Phil
Notes, Day 1: Surprise Groundhog Festival
Photos #3: Punxsutawney, Part 2 of 2: All the Groundhogs of the Rainbow
Photos #4: Travel Bits from Day One

Photos #5: Mark Twain’s Words in the Walls
Notes, Day 2: Square Pegs in a Roundhouse

Photos #6: Freedom Trail, Part 1 of 3: the Departed
Photos #7: Freedom Trail, Part 2 of 3: Statues
Photos #8: Freedom Trail, Part 3 of 3: the Town
Notes, Day 3: Garden of the Ducks
Photos #9: In the Green of the Boston Public Garden

Photo #10: Counting the Blessings While the World Races Past
Photos #11: Inside the Adams Family Crypt
Photos #12: the Adams Family Church
Photos #13: Adams Family Real Estate
Notes, Day 4: Refuge in a Gated Community
Photos #14: It’s Chinatown!

Photos #15: Cape Cod, Gateway to Whales
Photos #16: Parts of a Whale
Notes, Day 5: Cape Cod Cloudburst a-Comin’
Photos #17: Open Sea, Infinite Horizon
Photos #18: A Monument for Thanksgiving
Photos #19: Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride

Photos #20: Salem, Part 1 of 2: Besides the Witches
Photos #21: Salem, Part 2 of 2: All the Quote-Unquote “Witches”
Notes, Day 6: Though the Hakken-Kraks Howl
Photos #22: Springfield is Grinch Town

Photos #23: An Attraction Not Only of Sight and Sound But of Mind
Notes, Day 7: Signs of Life Before the Internet
Photos #24: Rod Serling and His Hometown All-Stars
Photos #25: Paying Respects to Lucille Ball
Photos #26: the House That Vitameatavegamin Built

Notes, Day 8: Pink Nightmare Family
Photos #27: Christmas at Ralphie’s House
Photos #28: More to Rock-’n’-Roll Than Elvis and the Beatles
Photos #29: Rock ‘n’ Roll, Never Forgotten
Photos #30: Man of Steel, Sons of Cleveland
Photos #31: James Garfield and Friends
Photos #32: the Great American Splendor

Notes, Day 9: Back to Our Cells
Photos #33: The Three Investigators and the Case of the Abandoned Prison

Photos #34: Outtakes, Part 1/3: More Freedom Trail
Photos #35: Outtakes, Part 2/3: More Massachusetts
Photos #36: Outtakes, Part 3/3: the Season Finale

Epilogue: Happy Easter! Here’s a Scene After Our 2013 Road Trip End Credits

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2014: Wisconsin and Minnesota II

For our tenth wedding anniversary, our first vacation alone together since 2002, Anne allowed me the privilege of choosing a direction. I settled for a sequel to our 2006 trip because I loved the upscale-Midwest ambiance and I thought we gave the Twin Cities short shrift. For a little variety we tacked on a digression into southeastern North Dakota.

Photos #1: Welcome to the Kingdom of Cheese
Photos #2: Fonzie and the Ducks
Photos #3: Art of the Milwaukee Riverwalk
Photos #4: Scenes from the Milwaukee Riverwalk
Photos #5: You Can’t Spell “Psychedelic” Without “Deli”

Photos #6: Shiny Happy Madison
Photos #7: Another State, Another State Fair
Photos #8: Our Favorite NWSF Animals

Photos #9: Another Hick in the Mall, Part 2
Photos #10: The Enterprise Incident
Photos #11: The Flour That Blooms in Adversity
Photos #12: Urban Serenity Along the Mississippi
Photos #13: Parks & Ruination

Photos #14: Sitting Here on Capitol Hill
Photos #15: Under the Dome
Photos #16: Nice Park, Charlie Brown
Photos #17: Around the Science Museum on $0.00 an Hour
Photos #18: Twin City I: St. Paul
Photos #19: Twin City II: Minneapolis

Photos #20: Monkey Donuts and the Rest Stop Lake
Photos #21: Fame and Fargo
Photos #22: Platter 9 from Outer Space
Photos #23: North Dakota Flatland Interlude
Photos #24: American Doomsday Machines
Photos #25: An Evening Stroll Through Downtown Fargo

Photos #26: Voyage Like a Viking
Photos #27: The Lovely Minnehaha Shuddered
Photos #28: The Last Visions of St. Paul

Photos #29: The Fast and the (in)Famous
Photos #30: Roger and Me

Photos #31: Outtakes on the Way
Photos #32: Outtakes, Minnesota
Photos #33: Season Finale, Last Call for Outtakes

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July 2015: New Orleans and Alabama

This one began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans — home to jazz, voodoo, Cajun and Creole cuisine, fresh seafood, beignets, Mardi Gras, alcoholic revelry, Emeril, Harry Connick Jr., HBO’s Treme, NCIS New Orleans, Swamp Thing, The Princess and the Frog, great moments in American history, and horrifying moments in severe storm damage. We’d never been to Louisiana itself, let alone the world-famous Crescent City, but there was something about the idea of seeing New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina that stuck with me and wouldn’t let go. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. This would prove to be our deepest journey into the heart of the South.

Prologue: Our Accidentally Topical Vacation
#1: Up Close with Taylor the Swift
#2: Supping on the Shoulders of Giants
#3: The Welcome Rocket
#4: Cheese ‘n’ Knackered

#5: Signs of the Revolution
#6: Faces of the Revolution
#7: Spirits of the Revolution
#8: The Other Birmingham Park
#9: Murals and Falls
#10: Birmingham’s Art Museum on $0.00 a Day
#11: Lights of Birmingham
#12: Southern Seafood Showdown, Round 1
#13: Up the Mountain to the God of Fire
#14: The Road to New Orleans

#15: Jazz After Sunrise
#16: War Relics
#17: War Ordnance
#18: War Wheels
#19: War Wings
#20: “Beyond All Boundaries” (NOTE: not a full photo gallery.)
#21: Mardi Gras in July
#22: Everything Floats Down Here
#23: Southern Cooking Showdown, Round 2
#24: New Orleans State of Mind
#25: The Other End of the Mississippi

#26: Ornate for the Divine
#27: Jackson Square in Another Light
#28: The Spirit in St. Louis
#29: The Market and the Mint
#30: The Jazz Shopper
#31: NOLA History Trilogy
#32: Southern Seafood Showdown, Round 3
#33: Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

#34: Stately Davis Manor
#35: Broiling Beach Memoirs
#36: Shopping With Sharks
#37: Biloxi Views
#38: Battleship!
#39: Scout’s Honor
#40: Southern Cooking Showdown, Round 4

#41: Black History on Montgomery Streets
#42: Walking, Not Marching, to the Alabama State Capitol
#43: Jefferson Davis Rules
#44: A Very Special “Chopped” Anniversary

#45: The Twenty Dollar Man
#46: Presidential Flowers Are Prettiest
#47: The Dukes of Hazzard Confederate History Month Holiday Special
#48: Noontime in Nashville

#49: The Week in Cityscapes
#50: Outtakes, Alabama
#51: Season Finale, Last Call for Outtakes

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November 2015: Colorado II

From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. Neither of us had ever flown before, largely because we each grew up in families too poor for such extravagance. We’ve also never taken two week-long vacations in a single year. Thanks to our unforeseen circumstances, we were shocked to find such things no longer inconceivable.

Strictly speaking, this wasn’t a road trip per se (except for the wide detour we took on Day One), but by our standards it’s a sufficiently major event for us to merit inclusion alongside our other vacations.

Prologue: Everything We Know About Air Travel is Wrong, We Hope

Live on location, Day 1: Airport ’15: The First One
Photos #1: Intro to Aerodynamics
Photos #2: Sunday in Estes Park
Photos #3: Rocky Mountain Higher and Higher
Photos #4: Quest for Snow
Photos #5: From the Mountains to the Prairies

Photos #6: America the Beautiful Park
Live on location, Day 2: One of Several Rockies
Photos #7: Views from the Cave of the Winds
Photos #8: Munchies in the Mountains
Photos #9: Rollin’ ‘Round Red Rock

Photos #10: Nature Near NORAD
Photos #11: Meerkat Man
Photos #12: A Merry Mountainside Menagerie
Photos #13: The Will Rogers Fan Site
Photos #14: Colorado Cookery
Photos #15: A Most Vibrant House of Worship
Photos #16: The Air Force Academy Is…
Photos #17: Bowling for Fish
Live on location, Day 3: Top 10 Captions for Your Inflatable Armed Snowman

Photos #18: Colorado Comics Cavalcade
Live on location, Day 4: A Second Get-Together for Second Breakfast
Photos #19: The Denver Museum of Nature & Science on $0.00 a Day
Photos #20: Three Cities, Much Rock

Photos #21: Lithic Landscape Lollygagging
Live on location, Day 5: Missing the War
Photos #22: War Wings II
Photos #23: War Relics II
Photos #24: Circles of Sugar and Joy
Photos #25: Colorado Cookery II, or “Snacks and a Plane”

Photos #26: Mission in Manitou Springs
Photos #27: Clocking Out of Cloudy Colorado
Photos #28: Farewell, Colorado
Live on location, Day 6: Airport ’15: The Second One
Photos #29: Outtakes, Colorado

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2016: Manhattan II

Emboldened by our first successful foray into air travel with the previous November 2015’s partly funded trip to Colorado Springs, we decided to give my son his own first chance to fly the friendly skies by planning our long-awaited sequel vacation to Manhattan. This time we avoided all other states, dipped our toes into at least one other borough besides Manhattan, and tried a few NYC-specific experiences that eluded us the first time.

Notes on the Go #1: Old Man Yells at Bulbasaur: My First Day of Pokemon Go
Photos #1: Welcome to New York (reprise)
Photos #2: The Kitchen and the Kitchen
Notes on the Go #2: Our View for Six Nights in Hell’s Kitchen

Photos #3: One World, Many Views
Notes on the Go #4: New Jersey from a Minimum Safe Distance
Photos #4: Refuge with St. Paul
Photos #5: Central Park Walkathon
Photos #6: Central Park Statue Stalking
Photos #7: Manhattan Mealtimes

Photos #8: Washington Clocked In Here
Photos #9: It’s Chinatown! Again! Yes, AGAIN.
Photos #10: Waiting for Colbert
Photos #11: Time Yet Again for Times Square
Notes on the Go #3: Ten Lessons Learned at Our “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Taping
Photos #12: Manhattan Mealtimes II

Photos #13: The Intrepid Walk at Dawn
Photos #14: War Wings III
Photos #15: Shuttles in Starshine
Photos #16: The Museum of Intelligent Designs
Photos #17: Art Museum as Art Itself
Photos #18: 20th Century Art Faire
Photos #19: Ultimate Manhattan Mealtime

Photos #20: Imagination in Motion
Photos #21: Motion Picture Makings
Photos #22: Back on Broadway
Notes on the Go #5: Ads of Darkness, Ads of Light
Photos #23: Times Square for Old Times’ Sake

Photos #24: Mandatory Zoo Visit
Photos #25: Yesterday’s World of Tomorrow
Photos #26: Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?
Photos #27: Queens of the Modern Age
Photos #28: The Last Manhattan Mealtimes

Photos #29: NYC Outtakes II
Photos #30: Leaving New York (reprise)

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2017: Baltimore

Our return to annual road-tripping took us to the home of The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street, and multiple movies by John Waters, Barry Levinson, and a host of other filmmakers proud to be from the oft-maligned city. A combination of colonial history and overt tourist attractions kept us busy for three days, while the roads there and back again allowed for stops at two Civil War battlefields, numerous panoramas, one of the best hotels ever, and at one point a lot of elephants.

Prelude: A Bridge Across the Monongahela
Part 1: Avis Presents the 100-Mile False Start
Part 2: The Madonna of West Virginia
Part 3: Mountain State Mealtime

Part 4: Morgantown RFD
Part 5: Miles of Maryland Mountains
Part 6: Civil War Monuments, All the Rage
Part 7: The War on Antietam
Part 8: Coming Up on Crab Country
Part 9: The Washington Monument, Mark I
Part 10: The Road to Baltimore

Part 11: Inner Harbor, Spoiler-Free
Part 12: Broad Stripes and Bright Stars
Part 13: Standing by the Sea
Part 14: See the Constellation
Part 15: I Saw Three (More) Ships
Part 16: The View from Another World Trade Center

Part 17: Mornings with Miss Shirley
Part 18: Visionary on the Outside
Part 19: Visionary Edibles
Part 20: Everything’s Visionary
Part 21: Visionary Mementos
Part 22: The Commuters Cometh
Part 23: Camden Yards on $0.00 a Day
Part 24: The Pop Station
Part 25: Bountiful Bites of the Bay
Part 26: All Around the Aquarium
Part 27: The Lives Aquatic
Part 28: Jellyfish Heaven
Part 29: Looks at Books in a Tower of Power
Part 30: The Dragon Experiment

Part 31: The African-American Experience
Part 32: Broad Stripes and Bright Stars II
Part 33: “Homicide” Hometown
Part 34: Tour of Little Italy
Part 35: Farewell, Inner Harbor

Part 36: Winners at Gettysburg
Part 37: The Rest of Gettysburg
Part 38: The Elephants in the Room
Part 39: Pennsylvania Piques
Part 40: A Night at the Omni

Part 41: A Meeting on Mount Washington
Part 42: Welcome to Our World of Toys
Part 43: No, Welcome to OUR World of Toys
Part 44: Food, Folks and Flood

Part 45: The Museum of Outtakes
Part 46: The Season Finale – Last Call for Outtakes
Epilogue: R.I.P. Geppi Museum

2018: The Dead Presidents Tour: upstate New York and more

Instead of focusing on attractions in one area, we plotted a course using one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. This trip effectively had the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles.

Prologue: 13 Dead Presidents Pocketed

Part 1: Hayes’ Shade of Summer
Part 2: Searching Through Hayes Stacks
Part 3: Mealtimes with Sara and Chud
Part 4: Return to Presque Isle

Part 5: The Man, the Myth, the Millard
Part 6: Far Beyond Fillmore
Part 7: The McKinley/Roosevelt Losing Ticket
Part 8: Erie’s End
Part 9: Suffrage Central
Part 10: Tea Time for Activists
Part 11: Sleepy Time in Syracuse

Part 12: Not Just Another New York Art Museum
Part 13: The Terrific Traitor at the Saratoga Party
Part 14: Arthur of Albany
Notes on the Go: Welcome to the Hotel Impostor Syndrome
Part 15: The Actual New York State Capital
Part 16: The Actual New York State Capitol
Part 17: The Great Western Staircase
Part 18: Upstate Monday Mealtimes

Part 19: Martin the Okay President
Part 20: A Walk in Hyde Park
Part 21: Roosevelts’ Relics
Part 22: War Relics III
Part 23: Mistakes on the Hudson
Part 24: Admitted to West Point
Part 25: West Point Cemetery
Part 26: Two West Point Chapels

Part 27: The Princeton President(s)
Part 28: Princeton Americana
Part 29: Crossing the Delaware
Part 30: Our Constitutional Sights
Part 31: They Forged a Flock of Founding Fathers
Part 32: Broad Stripes and Bright Stars III
Part 33: Scenes from a Revolution
Part 34: Independence Mall: Resurgence
Part 35: Streets of Philadelphia II
Part 36: Big Game Hunting
Part 37: Streets of Philadelphia III

Part 38: Down the Rabbit Hole
Part 39: Washington’s Wartime Winter
Part 40: The Bachelor of Lancaster
Part 41: Tunnel Visions

Part 42: The Week in Donuts
Part 43: The Week in Hotel Windows

Part 44: 57 Varieties, Not All of Them Created Equal
Part 45: A Neighborly Day in This Beauty Wood
Part 46: Pieces of Pittsburgh
Part 47: The Climb to McKinley
Part 48: One Last Museum Before Home
Part 49: The Last Dead President
Part 50: The Last Roads Home

Part 51: The Museum of Museum Outtakes
Part 52: The Season Finale Outtakes

2019: Atlanta and Dragon Con

Anne and I commemorated the twentieth anniversary of our annual road-trip tradition with a return to Atlanta, which we barely glanced at in 2007, and with our first visit to Dragon Con, one of the largest entertainment conventions in America and probably the closest we’ll ever get to an event the size of San Diego. We divided our eight-day trip into half-Atlanta sightseeing and half-comic con, with stopovers in Tennessee as bookends. Serialization of our Atlanta tourism results ran from September to November 2019.

Prologue: 20 Years of Road Trips, 2 Lifetimes of Geek Culture

Part 1: Southern Accents
Part 2: The Chickamauga Saga
Part 3: Welcome to Atlanta
Part 4: Piquant Platters at Pittypat’s Porch

Part 5: It Was the Summer of ’96
Part 6: This Is CNN!
Part 7: Silly Yonkers and the Coca-Cola Factory
Part 8: Celebrities Love Coke
Part 9: Soda Pop Art Productions
Part 10: Know Your Rights

Note on the Go, Day 3: “The Dark Crystal” Puppet Parade
Part 11: Master of Muppets
Part 12: Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head
Part 13: Peanuts to President to Peacemaker
Note on the Go, Day 3: Hollywood Comes to Georgia
Part 14: Hollywood, Georgia
Part 15: A History of Nonviolence
Part 16: The Park and the Church of MLK

Part 17: The Stone-Faced Sentinels of Slavery and Secession
Part 18: Eighty Stories Over Georgia
Part 19: The Hobbyist’s Shopping Interlude
Part 20: Under the Dome, Georgia Edition
Part 21: A Limited Who’s Who in Georgia History
Part 22: International Southern Hospitality

Part 23: One Last Constitutional Before the Convention

Dragon Con Part 1: The Stars Our Destination – our usual roundup of actors and jazz-hands
D*C Part 2: Cosplay on Parade
D*C Part 3: More Cosplay on Parade
D*C Part 4: Still More Cosplay on Parade
D*C Part 5: Still More Cosplay on Parade Continued
D*C Part 6: Still More Cosplay on Parade Continued Yet Again
D*C Part 7: Deadpool Presents the Deadpool Cosplay Parade Starring Deadpool
D*C Part 8: Ultimate Final Cosplay-Parade Climax Endgame Finale
D*C Part 9: No Parades, Just Cosplay
D*C Part 10: Last Call for Cosplay
D*C Part 11: The Dragon’s Lairs
D*C Part 12: Who Else We Saw, What Else We Did
D*C epilogue: Three Thoughts After Our First Dragon Con

Part 24: Dragon Con Cosplay Parade Special Bonus Encore
Part 25: Dining with Dragons
Part 26: Hearts in Atlanta

Part 27: Times to Make the Doughnuts
Part 28: At the Mountains of Fitness
Part 29: The Last Outpost

Part 30: Puppet Outtake Island
Part 31: The Season Finale Outtakes

2020: Indiana in the Coronavirus Age

Among the less catastrophic but no less frustrating COVID-19 complications, we were stuck in Indiana and had to back-burner our plans. Rather than stay home and sulk, we wandered our own home state, visited museums and parks in cities and towns where we’d never stopped before. A shorter road trip is still a road trip. We wore masks everywhere and stayed away from folks as much as possible. So far no casualties related to our travels have been reported. This experience was serialized from July to October 2020.

Prologue: Masked Riders

Part 1: Stay Out of Jail Free
Part 2: And Man Created Ben-Hur
Part 3: Hur-Story of the World Part II
Part 4: Flowers for Hur
Part 5: A Moment of Truth in Little Mexico
Part 6: Shades of Death

Part 7: Palookaville
Part 8: The Hometown Astronaut
Part 9: Spring Mill Summer Stroll
Part 10: Untitled Goose Gallery
Part 11: My, My, Mitchell Mealtime
Part 12: The Neighborhood Corner Rocket
Part 13: Dark Summer at Bluespring

Part 14: Peachy Keen!
Part 15: The Savior at Sackville
Part 16: Xavier’s Church for Gifted Soldiers
Part 17: War Machines
Part 18: War Mementos (WWII Edition)
Part 19: War Mementos (Miscellaneous Wars Edition)
Part 20: On the Banks of the Wabash
Part 21: Legends of the “I Dood It” Guy
Part 22: The Skelton Keys to Comedy
Part 23: Boot City Outskirts

Part 24: Plentiful Planes Parked in Peru
Part 25: Fight and Flight Responses
Part 26: Little Park of Horrors
Part 27: Mega Mantis and the Magic Mart
Part 28: Kokomo-a-Go-Go

Part 29: The Week in Breakfast
Part 30: Farm Fresh Fowl
Part 31: Farm Fresh Air
Part 32: Farm Fresh Feast

Part 33: The Market Underground
Part 34: Threnody in Plywood
Part 35: The Season Finale Outtakes

2021: Yellowstone National Park

As of June the pandemic wasn’t over, but two Pfizer shots for each of us paved the way for a 3500-mile overcompensation for the previous year’s modesty. The way to Old Faithful and back featured our first foray into Montana and offered glimpses of towns new and previously seen in Iowa, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Illinois. Serialization of this ten-day outing was relayed at my leisure from July 2021 through April 2022.

Prologue: Six Teaser Images on the Go

#1: Return of the Roadside
#2: Sandburg History Theatre
#3: 4-Wheel Gawks in an 18-Wheel World
#4: Hangin’ with the Hoovers

#5: Guy Walks Into an Airport With Thirty Bottles of Liquid
#6: From the Studio That Brought You “American Gothic”
#7: American Nothic
#8: The Art of the City of Five Seasons

#9: Remember the South Dakota
#10: The Little Falls Before Sioux Falls’ Big Sioux Falls
#11: When Art Show Animals Attack
#12: Corn Again in the Kingdom of Cob
#13: Dignity Where the Roadside Meets the Riverside
#14: Back to the Badlands
#15: Badlands Backdrop Bonanza

#16: Rapid City Remainders
#17: A President on Every Corner
#18: More American Presidents Cornered
#19: Oh, Give Me a Dump Where the Buffalo Jump
#20: The Wyoming Way
#21: Camp Cliffs Notes

#22: Prelude to Yellowstone
#23: Follow the Yellowstone Road
#24: Old Faithful!
#25: Burning Biscuit Basin
#26: Grand Prismatic Spring Fever
#27: From Gibbon Falls to Willow Park
#28: From Sheepeater Cliff to Mount Everts
#29: Goodbye Yellowstone Road

#30: Restaurants Rundown

#31: The Montana Montage
#32: A Celebrity Signing in Sandstone
#33: Valley of Gold, Valley of Shadow

#34: The Rough Rider’s Roofless Rumpus Room
#35: North Dakota Statue Stopover Trilogy
#36: Kaiju Americana Trilogy

#37: The Oversize Otter and His Feathered Friends
#38: The Viking Diaries
#39: Chasing Royalty Across State Lines

#40: It’s Not You, Wisconsin, It’s Us
#41: Sock Monkeyshines

#42: Ten Days, Nine Hotel Windows
#43: Black Hawk Up

#44: Restaurants Rundown Redux
#45: Overdue Outtakes
#46: The Final Five Photos

2022: Vermont

Compared to our Yellowstone journey, Vermont was closer, smaller, much greener, slightly cooler, and ultimately cozier, though we drove through roughly the same number of mountains and spent far more on hotels because that’s the 2022 economy for you. The opposite of our 2021 road trip crossed another New England state, another capitol building, and another Presidential burial site off our assorted to-do lists. Long-term serialization of this eight-day affair took from August 2022 through June 2023 because no one ever begs me to hurry or holds me accountable for deadlines anymore.

Part 1: The Accidental Convention
Part 2: A Night Off for Steel City Sports
Part 3: We Shot Andy Warhol
Part 4: Warhol & Friends

Part 5: A George Bailey Family Christmas in June
Part 6: Women’s Rights the Day After Dobbs
Part 7: Harriet Tubman vs. the Empire
Part 8: Stylin’ Syracuse Sustenance

Part 9: Von Steuben in the Woods
Part 10: The Enterprise Docked at Starbase Ticonderoga
Part 11: A Trek Tech Trove
Part 12: The Armies Sacked at Fort Ticonderoga
Part 13: The Peak of Defiance
Part 14: A Night at the Old “Newhart” Place

Part 15: Behind the Boathouse
Part 16: Obligatory Vermont Maple Syrup Intermission
Part 17: Bernie and the Bears
Part 18: Champlain Happy
Part 19: Buy Buy Burlington
Part 20: Green Mountain Medley

Part 21: The Bridge Over the Quechee Gorge
Part 22: Little State, Big State House
Part 23: Moseying Around Montpelier
Part 24: Ben & Jerry’s Very Merry Dairy
Part 25: 10 Ben & Jerry’s Flavors That Deserved to Die (And 5 That Didn’t)

Part 26: Country Time with Coolidge
Part 27: Rutland on the Way Out

Part 28: Utica’s Golden
Part 29: Room for Jell-O
Part 30: The Cleveland Wahlbergs

Part 31: Cuyahoga, Gone
Part 32: The Final Four Photos and the Outtakes

March 2023: [coming soon]

Watch this space!

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