It’s fun turning our vacations into extended travelogs threaded with a sometimes weird, often self-deprecating personal narrative that ensures I’ll never be invited to write for a travel magazine. This year I thought I’d also toss in our answers to a question no one asked: “How did the world look from the vantage point of our middle-class accommodations?”
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.
Interstate traffic in the major cities we visit tends toward one of two prevalent modes: perpetual gridlock or expert death race. I prefer the latter, but I can deal with either. Atlanta on a late Sunday afternoon was the latter. The drive from Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park on I-24 East to I-75 South was swift and painless in a good way, measured by my criteria. Anne kept herself distracted from the derby around us by taking a few shots of downtown as we headed toward our hotel.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I attended our second Chicago entertainment convention of 2019, a scant three weeks after the last one. Before and after each day’s festivities we found a few opportunities to see more of the Windy City that we hadn’t checked out on our last several trips. Convention centers may capture our attention for most of our Chicago trips, but if we can sneak in better food and light art for extra credit, so much the better.
On the road a curious idea for a side project struck me: take pictures of the views from each of our hotel rooms and see what the resulting montage looks like. It would’ve been a much cooler idea if we’d stayed only at the swankiest accommodations with the most breathtaking views outside — say, next to some giant national monuments or rolling New Zealand hills. We’re not affluent enough to stay anywhere we want, but I made our reservations at different price levels for variety and fun just to see what would happen. One of the hotels definitely didn’t disappoint.
I’m typing at you live from downtown Albany, New York, one of the stopovers on our 2018 road trip, where our hoteliers have gone overboard in assigning accommodations that appear far beyond our means, either because it’s an extremely slow night for them, or because either Anne or I resemble one of their local politicians. Probably Anne.
Pictured above is half our room. Well, almost half.
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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
In our travelogues we rarely share in-depth about our hotel experiences. The three-diamond service level that usually fits our vacation budget doesn’t lend itself to many five-star anecdotes of above-and-beyond awesomeness. If we mention the hotel in context other than as a basic setting, that’s not always a good thing. Exhibit A: the Hyatt Place where we stayed in Baltimore. Our check-in process on Day Two was one of our Bottom 5 hotel experiences to date. And the drawbacks didn’t end with that single evening full of hitches. A week after we returned home from this trip, I reviewed my credit card bill and found that the Hyatt charged us a second time for the five nights we’d prepaid through AAA, and charged us full price rather than the agreed-upon sale price. It took me a month of negotiations between the two companies to get the larger, erroneous charge off my bill, long enough for it to incur a finance charge while I waited.
Thankfully our final hotel stay on our 2017 road trip was the complete opposite of our Baltimore Hyatt letdown.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: back in April my wife and I attended C2E2 in Chicago. Rather than stay in the adjacent hotels where all the drunken partying happens, which has nothing to with us, instead I found a nice deal through AAA to stay at the positively luxurious Swissotel Chicago, just north of Millennium Park. Our 26th-floor room had the largest windows we’ve ever seen in a hotel room from the inside. To the northeast of us, that’s the Chicago River down below. In the distance you’ll note the Ferris wheel at the Navy Pier out on on Lake Michigan. Grandiose stuff.
Greetings from busy, action-packed Illinois! After several hours spent at Day 1 of C2E2, my wife and I are glad to relax at last, off our feet and without our backpacks burdening us any longer. So far we’ve had a delightful experience, met several comics creators and a few Star Wars actors, acquired a few freebies and several quality items, and made plans for Day 2 on Saturday. Until then we’re enjoying the quiet ambiance of a particular hotel that’s treated us well before, up in the scenic village of Rosemont, down the street from the Donald E, Stephens Convention Center.
Careful readers, and anyone with a passing knowledge of the Chicago geek convention scene, may notice a discrepancy: C2E2 is being held at McCormick Place, a different convention center in a different Chicagoland section altogether, nearly twenty miles away. According to conventional convention wisdom, we’re doing it wrong.
We don’t mind. We have our reasons: