Our 2021 Road Trip #37: The Oversize Otter and His Feathered Friends

Otto the Big Otter!

In the proud tradition of other famous otters like Emmet Otter, one-half of Daxter, and Mrs. Otterton from Zootopia, we give you…Otto!

North Dakota may have entertained us with their trifecta of World’s Largest animals, but they’re hardly the only state with titanic bragging rights. The fun with flesh-‘n’-blood wildlife didn’t end when we left Yellowstone, either.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #36: Kaiju Americana Trilogy

Jamestown giant buffalo!

If all real buffaloes had been this size, the history of the American frontier would’ve gone very differently.

One of the all-time greatest songs about road trips is an album track by “Weird Al” Yankovic called “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota“. It wasn’t one of his classic pop-single parodies, just a wacky 7-minute riff on ’70s lite-country crooners that aptly captured the essence of roadside attractions in all their abnormal Americana glory. Over the past twenty years we’ve seen our share of eccentricity and ingenuity on the run, but in one respect we’ve found the reality comes up a bit short: there are not garish, campy, world-record-setting colossi standing in all fifty states. We’ve seen a lot of “big”, but not much “biggest”.

Clearly we should’ve driven more deeply into North Dakota sooner. A 131-mile stretch of I-94 through the heart of their unassuming state skirts past no less than three such mega-animals in three different towns. Sure, their national park was pretty and a few statues of historical figures were fine, but they shriveled in comparison to the frivolous joy of this towering trio, none of whom have ever been invited to star in their own Syfy Original Film.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #15: Badlands Backdrop Bonanza

Badlands goats!

Goats on the run from paparazzi.

Onur first visit to South Dakota’s Badlands National Park back in 2009, it was hard to stop taking photos. The same held true with our return engagement, which is why they’re getting two galleries. This one features a key difference from the other one: signs of life in the photos besides rocks, nature, and geological beauty. Animals! People! Literally signs! And more!

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Our 2021 Road Trip #11: When Art Show Animals Attack

black-capped chickadee nest!

Which of these creatures is scarier, the real bird or the imagined dragon? The answer might surprise you!

We knew a trip to Yellowstone would mean live animal sightings sooner or later. We also knew tourists and animals sometimes don’t get along and mistakes can be made by one party or the other. Rest assured if we’d suffered one of those debilitating bear attacks that grab news headlines on slow news days or trend heavily on YouTube, I would’ve written about it here by now. Bears, in fact, made a point of hiding from us all vacation long. We spotted nary a real bear the entire trip, not even in captivity.

That doesn’t mean all our wildlife encounters were amicable. Apart from driving up and around rainy mountains on Day Four, our scariest moment occurred in, of all places, an outdoor art walk.

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Indiana State Fair 2021 Photos, Part 5 of 5: And the Rest

Indy sign and Ferris Wheel!

It isn’t Anne’s first time posing next to an “NDY” sign, but it’s our first shot with one that also includes a Ferris wheel and a duck hat.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. At least, normally we attend every year. You can guess why there was no 2020 edition…

It all comes down to this: all the other stuff and things we encountered that didn’t receive their own chapters. A few of these subsections could’ve been expanded into individual entries, but the State Fair ended last weekend and is now well past its internet shelf date. Let’s wrap this up before Anne and I embark on our next potentially exciting endeavor later this very week, what say?

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Indiana State Fair 2021 Photos, Part 2 of 5: The Darling of the Duck Dash

My wife gives a duck.

Yep, there’s the woman I love and other birds of a feather.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. At least, normally we attend every year. You can guess why there was no 2020 edition…

In addition to the nonstop celebration of food, our State Fair also loves its live animal activities. Folks can attend 4-H livestock judgments, wander stenchful barns, pet a few benign critters, pay quarters to help overfeed them, gag while watching live veterinary surgeries, and more, more, more. Sometimes when a smaller-scale event promises animal action, we might go take a gander, as we did at the Great American Duck Race.

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The Spring Birthday 2021 Trip, Part 1 of 8: The Animal Refugees

Turtle in a pond.

It’s TGIF every day when you’re a turtle.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. Last year my birthday trip was among the billions of traditions ruined by the pandemic, all of which paled in significance to the millions of lives lost (and still counting). This year is a different story. Anne and I have each received our pairs of Pfizer shots and reached full efficacy as of April 24th. This past Friday and Saturday the two of us drove out of Indianapolis and found a few places to visit in our eminently imitable road-trip fashion…

…beginning Friday the 14th, when we headed southeast of Indianapolis for some sun, nature, fresh air, nature, and walking space. Over the past year all our favorite physical activities were shut down one by one, from the miles-long marches through and around convention centers to my brisk lunchtime strolls around our once-bustling, once-safe downtown. We have out-of-state vacation plans coming up soon and we really need the walking practice. We figured, why not do it somewhere pretty.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #30: Farm Fresh Fowl

henhouse wheels!

Quickly, robins — to the Henmobile!

As our miniseries approaches its final chapters, local followers may notice all the remaining locations aren’t that far from our house and barely qualify as “road trip” stops. I debated whether to call this miniseries “2020 Vacation Photos” or something similarly bland. Ultimately I sided with what passes for my “brand” and titled it consistently with previous miniseries rather than kowtowing to strict semantics. The indisputably road-tripping days of this week still outnumber the convenient central-Indiana explorations.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #10: Untitled Goose Gallery

Untitled Goose Photo!

“Okay, fine, I’ll say the stupid line: HONK. HONK HONK HONK. There, ya happy? Can I go now?”

No disrespect intended to Gus Grissom or those who made Spring Mill State Park possible, but our most fascinating moment on the park grounds was that time we hung out at the beach with a goose.

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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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