2020 Road Trip Photos #23: Boot City Outskirts

cattle and cowboy!

Cut ’em out! Ride ’em in! RAWHIDE!

At the end of a long day of road tripping, after hours of walking and perusing and appreciating and photographing and learning and gawping and filling your head with new mental notes about memories-to-be and storytelling to come, sometimes all you want to do is return to the car and head straight home without stopping, not even for bathrooms or snacks.

Then you pass one last roadside attraction that catches your eye and won’t let go. It lassos your brain, sweet-talks your sense of exploration, and hollers like a rowdy bartender, “I reckon y’all could spare us just a few minutes ‘fore ya head for the hills, can’t ya?” Next thing you know you’re piling outta the car and takin’ a look-see at what they wanna show ya, if’n you ain’t yella-bellied and if you don’t get up too much gumption to ask why the voice’s southern accent is more cornpone than Rogue’s dialogue in old issues of Uncanny X-Men.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #22: The Skelton Keys to Comedy

pratfall stage!

Hey, slapstick fans! Learn how to pratfall in three easy steps! Practice several times on this very stage until you can do it without breaking any bones, just like a professional Hollywood stuntman or classic entertainer!

One of my favorite stops on our 2020 vacation was the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy in his hometown of Vincennes. The exhibits cover his seventy years in the entertainment business from early theater to post-retirement art, provide context for visitors with little to no knowledge of The Way Things Used to Be in Hollywood mass media, and, if you string enough leftover photos in just the right sequence, build your own template to a successful comedy career. All you need is patience, talent, and/or an idol to copycat. That’s not how Skelton did it, but he isn’t around to stop you, now is he?

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2020 Road Trip Photos #21: Legends of the “I Dood It” Guy

TV Weekly cover!

The many faces of Red Skelton covered an October 1967 edition of the LA Herald-Examiner‘s TV section. Art by Bob Bentovoja.

Throughout our years of travel we’ve visited a variety of specialized museums off the beaten paths, institutions of all sizes that focused intensely on subjects we know a little about, subjects firmly within our respective wheelhouses, and subjects about which we know next to nothing. We’ve enjoyed quite a few opportunities for education, for eye-opening, and for amusement. Despite our ever-advancing ages we still have a lot to learn about any number of subjects and personalities whose heydays were well before our time. If they should happen to provide broader context in some of the past movies, books, and TV shows we’ve consumed over the years, so much the better.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #20: On the Banks of the Wabash

Lincoln Memorial Bridge!

The Lincoln Memorial Bridge spans the Wabash River from Indiana to Illinois.

As a consequence of my unusual workplace situation, I’m basically not allowed to leave the state of Indiana until and unless killer nanobots hunt The Virus to extinction or my employers exile me to work-from-home, which would pose problems to multiple parties. 2020 is the first year we haven’t crossed the state line since at least 1998. It may have been longer, but we’ve been to Kings Island in Ohio so many times that I’ve lost track of which years were which.

The closest we’ve come to exiting Indiana since New Year’s was the city of Vincennes. Standing between us and Illinois was the Wabash River, known locally as the star of our state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”. You’d think our state song would be “Back Home Again in Indiana”, which Jim Nabors used to sing before the start of every Indy 500, and which they actually taught us to sing in grade school. “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” was a big hit on the pop charts in 1897, long before there was pop, charts, hits, or catchy electric guitar hooks, and is sung today in the occasional State Fair hootenanny and nowhere else. I just now listened to it for what I’m reasonably sure was the first time in my entire 48 years, and I suspect I’ll forget it by morning. Not on purpose, mind you. But I know how my brain works.

Our view of the Wabash itself, by contrast, should prove eminently more memorable. Vincennes likewise had its share of nifty imagery about town, from fixtures to food.

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10 Timely Tips for Pandemic Fine Dining in Peace or Panic

Duck & Duck!

Oakleys Bistro in Indianapolis presents their “Duck & Duck”, two modest portions of sliced duck served with a rosemary duck confit arancini, charred broccoli spinach puree, pickled cherry relish, coriander crema, and leek puree.

Has pandemic fatigue got you down? Are you sick of subsisting on the two-year bulk-food supply you overstocked in your basement back in March? Could you use an hour-long break from staring at the same walls seven days a week? Have you become so annoyingly restless and loud that your family wishes you’d stop putting the “rant” in “quarantine”? Are you worried your favorite restaurant may collapse and die like Uncle Ben while you stand there like Peter Parker doing nothing about it? More importantly, can you afford to eat out right now? Most importantly, are you safe for other humans to be around?

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2020 Road Trip Photos #19: War Mementos (Miscellaneous Wars Edition)

Time v Hussein!

Time gives the kill order on Saddam Hussein.

War. What is it good for?

For inspiring movies, TV shows, novels, video games, a few board games, protest songs, and museums about war.

Your move, Edwin Starr.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #18: War Mementos (WWII Edition)

Time v. Hitler!

Time gives the kill order on Adolf Hitler.

Anyone who really knows Anne is well aware of her long-standing interests in American history in general and World War II in particular, with an intense specialization in the European theater. When opportunities arise to learn more about it and to view its remnants in person, those tend to rise near the top of our travel to-do lists. And so it went in Vincennes.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #17: War Machines

TM-76B Mace!

A TM-76B Mace cruise missile, previously stored at Air Force bases in Warner Robins and Orlando, welcomes you to the Indiana Military Museum!

I consider myself generally antiwar, but when faced with collections of giant machines larger than cars, some part of my brain interprets them not as armed conflict tools or purveyors of bloody destruction, but as really cool, super-sized toys. Maybe it’s some primeval boyhood attachment to the Matchbox and Hot Wheels collections I gave away in junior high. Maybe I subconsciously perceive sleek steel mechanisms as an extension of 1980s macho action flicks. Maybe the part of me that loves fast driving yearns for some opportunity to sit behind the controls of any fantastical vehicle that can exceed 100 mph without legal retribution or instant crashing. All I know is it’s fun to look at planes up close.

Longtime MCC readers have seen airplane galleries from past vacation stops such as the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, the National WWII Aviation Museum in Colorado Springs, and the USS Intrepid Museum in Manhattan. But we didn’t have to leave our home state to see more examples of vehicles our nation’s massive defense budget purchased throughout the last century.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #16: Xavier’s Church for Gifted Soldiers

Christ cross runway.

This statue of Christ on a cross with its own runway is actually part of a cemetery.

One of our biggest regrets about our annual road trips is we always fail to make time for church services on Sunday. Occasionally we’ll happen near a church that’s built up enough exterior decor that it counts as a tourist attraction, but we’re never in a position to attend services. We’ve visited such houses of worships in New Orleans, Colorado Springs, and New York City, among others.

So it went in Vincennes as our walk took us slightly adjacent to George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, where we found holy grounds whose history predates Clark’s arrival in the area, not to mention the American Revolution itself. It was a Tuesday and we aren’t Catholic, but we appreciated a chance to spend a few minutes with our minds pointed more toward God.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #15: The Savior at Sackville

George Rogers Clark!

This place has everything: murals, markers, dioramas, statues, American history, and a guard with a mask!

I’m assuming the tradition continues today, albeit in virtual mode among the saner schools out there, but back in the ancient times of my childhood, every fourth-grade social studies class here in the Hoosier State had to include at least one full unit of Indiana history. We learned about the famous personalities who contributed to our formative years, and covered happenings from the tribal lands that white guys renamed the Northwest Territory to our official statehood in 1816. We sighed a bit to hear about severe underdog William Henry Harrison. Then we skipped a lot of locally uneventful decades until we got to more interesting subjects such as sports legends, Michael Jackson, and the original One Day at a Time.

In that semester’s specialized curriculum, teachers made sure to cover a Revolutionary War hero named George Rogers Clark. He may not mean much to most states, and he didn’t mean much to us after fourth grade, but we were told we needed to know about him anyway because he was on the test. Naturally there’s a memorial for him.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #14: Peachy Keen!

Anne and the giant peach!

Nothing but respect for my Princess Peach.

When we tell anyone who’ll listen about our annual road-trip tradition, they don’t ask about dignified museums or American history or ordinary nature hikes. They want to know about the kitsch we’ve seen, the outlandish art and eccentric curation and super-sized foods and things beginning with “World’s Largest”. We hadn’t planned any such stops for this vacation, but whenever one happens to stand in our path, far be it from us to veer around like we’re too good for it.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #13: Dark Summer at Bluespring

boat and photog.

Summer life underground.

We’d spent much of our morning with the summertime sun trying to light our skin on fire. We were still in the mood to spend more time with nature. We also would have loved some air conditioning or something like it. Anne had a brilliant idea that combined the best of both whims. So we went underground.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #12: The Neighborhood Corner Rocket

Grissom Monument!

Mitchell putting the “rock” in “rocket”.

We had one last stop planned in the town of Mitchell before we moved on. As it happens, the Virgil “Gus” Grissom Museum inside Spring Mill State Park isn’t their only tribute to the hometown legend who was chosen to become one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts in America’s fledgling space program. When the place you’re from thinks that highly of you, sometimes one salute isn’t enough.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #11: My, My, Mitchell Mealtime

Anne and tenderloin!

Of all the vacation pics we shared with friends and family at the time, this was the favorite — Anne and an entire batter-fried animal on a bun.

Remember the good ol’ days when the most lethal forces you had to worry about at any given family restaurant were calories, fat, carbs, grease, and sugar? And not uncontrolled international pandemics whose rampaging microbes could destroy your organs from within like an exotic assassin’s poison made from extinct jungle predators? One nifty little cafe in the town of Mitchell sure does.

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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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2020 Road Trip Photos #9: Spring Mill Summer Stroll

Anne and waterfall!

That’s us chasing waterfalls. Why stick to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to?

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. Then came 2020 A.D.

Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.

In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…

We’d come all the way to Mitchell to see the Gus Grissom museum at Spring Mill State Park. It seemed a shame not to enjoy the park itself while we were there. Despite our debilitating incident at Shades State Park, we still had use for more exercise. This time we chose the least rugged trail possible, a gentle lap sketched around Spring Mill Lake. Best of all, nary another human came within a hundred yards of us on our serenely maskless expedition.

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Calculated and Recalculated Risks

Before and After!

Even with clippers, with fullest safety measures observed it took a good thirty minutes to deescalate my hair status from Tom Waits to Bob Mould.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: among the many and varied complications arisen from the nonstop tension that is life during the interim normal, I went 5½ months between haircuts. I had hoped to go a full six months to round off that total, but when it came time for our 16th anniversary dinner, I decided to impress my wife with a seemingly heroic act of basic grooming.

It worked. Anne knows how jittery I’ve been lately and knows that I didn’t enter into it lightly. She’d gotten her own post-winter haircut a few weeks earlier and managed to avoid major illness, thanks in large part to the multitude of precautions taken on both sides of the salon cape. To an extent I was just following her lead. Haircuts shouldn’t need life-or-death deliberation, and yet here we are.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #8: The Hometown Astronaut

Gemini III space suit!

Gus Grissom’s space suit from the Gemini III mission.

On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 1984, give or take four years, my family decided to take a two-hour Sunday drive and visit a museum that I might think was cool. The only thing I remember about that day is my petty bitterness at missing out on my friends’ annual tradition of listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the radio in our backyards. Of course it was a year that our favorite driver Rick Mears won again. At the time I resented the imposition and refused to enjoy myself.

Thirty-six years later I tried again, but in a much better mood.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #7: Palookaville

Joe Palooka!

The other day I tried explaining Joe Palooka to someone, then realized I was actually describing Bazooka Joe. It’s just as well because they probably didn’t know him, either.

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. Then came 2020 A.D.

Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.

In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…

DAY TWO: Monday, July 6th.

Overly analytical readers may notice a discrepancy in dates between this entry and the start of Day One. We had already planned to spend July 4th and 5th at home because we’re big fans of relaxing holiday weekends. After the way things ended on Friday, we also needed it for medical recovery. Anne’s pains had displayed themselves in media res and took the better part of that weekend to subside. My aches waited till Saturday morning to manifest and made me feel like a boot camp victim for much of the same time span. By Monday we were ready to hit the road again.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #6: Shades of Death

Anne and log!

My lovely wife while she was still smiling.

One major item on our travel agenda was more exercise. Long walks are a staple of nearly all our vacations. They’re our favorite form of exercise. Lord knows we needed them now more than ever. If you compile our past several years’ road-trip photo galleries into a flipbook omnibus, you can see us growing grayer and larger over time. We’ve been trying to get outside for more neighborhood walks, but the surroundings have become routine and repetitive. All we ever see are the same houses and sidewalks over and over again out here in cookie-cutter suburbia, which at times can feel like a Hanna-Barbera background. It’s much more fun to walk around unknown places, see new sights, and change up our terrain.

Well, usually it’s much more fun.

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