2014 Road Trip Photos #1: Welcome to the Kingdom of Cheese

Welcome to Wisconsin!

Once we were beyond the Indiana border and free from Chicago gridlock, then we knew our next road trip had begun.

Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. My wife and I like to seek out new lifeforms and civilizations, and then we photograph them into submission. I create a travelogue partly for fun, partly for writing exercise, and partly for personal future reference in those hopefully distant years when my aging brain begins deleting memory files without warning. My wife keeps meticulous scrapbooks in her own fashion, but retaining my own impressions is kind of important to me, too. Someday I’ll look back on this and think, “Ah, yes, I remember when I used to be able to type, before arthritis turned my hands into insensate stumps.”

Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. He’s now an official adult and a sophomore in college who’s developed his own ideas about how he prefers to spend his downtime between semesters, and he’s by no means under direct orders to attend our outings. By the end of one particularly serious discussion over dinner in Jamestown, NY, we all knew and agreed our 2013 road trip would be his farewell tour with us. We were cool with that, if a bit emotional in our respective ways.

I’m finding it tough to follow that delicately phrased paragraph with a declaration of “2014 EMPTY-NESTER PARTY! WOOOOOOO!” But. Well. There it is and there we were. When the summer of 2014 arrived we were fully prepared to shift gears from “family vacation” to “romantic getaway”. Without gloating too loudly, of course, and in our own jointly unique fashion.

At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. Something about the atmosphere, creativity, and Midwest nuances spoke to me in ways that are hard to articulate. I don’t want to say “like Indiana, but smarter” or “like Illinois, but kinder”. There’s some proper analogy a few millimeters beyond my grasp. All I knew for sure was, I wanted a do-over.

To shake things up a bit, because every sequel has to be different and bigger in some way, we added an overnight detour into one state we’d never visited before. In yet another milestone for the occasion, this was also our first vacation in I-don’t-know-how-long that included zero stops at McDonald’s.

Sure, many couples with this sort of freedom would make a beeline for 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.

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Empty Nest Update #3: Handling Our First School Shooting

Purdue shooting black ribbon, 1/14/2014

For Andrew Boldt and family. Our prayers and thoughts are with them tonight.

Today during the course of one of our usual workday back-‘n’-forth email volleys, I thought it odd when my wife sent me another, separate email with a new title: “Purdue Shooting”. She knew she’d have my full attention.

Within the same minute that I opened her email, my son the Purdue freshman texted me. In case I heard about a shooting at Purdue, he wrote, he wanted me to know he was fine, even though he’d been in the same building where and when the shooting occurred.

That disrupted my concentration for a while.

In case you missed the news…

Empty Nest, Week 6: a Mission of Mercy and Meat

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in mid-August my son moved into his own apartment up at college, living alone for the first time. Naturally we underwent various bouts of grief, panic, pacing back and forth, imagined scenarios of endless possible disasters, and a sort of loving numbness that I wouldn’t necessarily call acceptance.

Last weekend my wife and I paid him a visit and took him out to lunch at a local joint recommended by people we trust. Thus we declared Saturday burger time at a local oxymoron named the Triple XXX Family Restaurant.

Triple XXX Family Restaurant, West Lafayette, Indiana

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Three-Week Progress Report from Our Newly Empty Nest

moving van, moving day

Three weeks ago on a milestone Monday, this was the scene in our driveway. Our morning was spent using our combined physical forces and my amazing Tetris powers to cram all my son’s possessions into a U-Haul truck for his big move up to college. (We also tossed in a few pieces of bonus ugly furniture for his meager quality-of-living peace of mind that we won’t miss anyway.)

Instead of the standard dorm experience that I’m told millions of Americans thrive on each year, his domicile of choice for the next four years or until catastrophe strikes will be a modest, off-campus apartment. This sort of drastic lifestyle change would require more than a few suitcases and tote bags.

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In Honor of the Final Guy Night

July 9, 2013: dinner at the Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston’s Chinatown. Most likely my son’s final vacation with us.

[Tonight’s centerpiece is a previous MCC entry dated October 18, 2012. The photo, intro, and epilogue are new additions for follow-up purposes in light of upcoming major events.]

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My Son: Day One

babyI remember when this tiny baby wasn’t ready for college.

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