Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 39: Pennsylvania Piques

Madonna of the Trail!

She’s a familiar face to longtime MCC readers…

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…

Day Six was a long haul through the southern half of Pennsylvania, a six-hour drive on country highways if you avoid the expenses of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We drove nearly the entire length of the Turnpike on our 2010 road trip to Philadelphia and on our unforgettable visit to Manhattan in 2011. Between those two vacations, we exhausted several pounds of spare change on tolls in the process. Avoiding the tolls wasn’t our primary objective here, merely a happy benefit. Everything on our to-do list this time was south of the interstate. Fortunately our route through the Allegheny Mountains and/or the Appalachian Plateau was nonstop scenery and points of interest.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 10: The Road to Baltimore

Madonna of the Trail!

A familiar face to longtime readers.

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…

After we descended the far side of South Mountain, our destination Baltimore was just over an hour away. In the late stages of our pre-planning, I realized we might have time for a detour to the southwest before getting back on track. We considered taking the opportunity to veer into Washington DC and checking out one of many sites that didn’t make the cut for our 2003 road trip to the area. Unfortunately by this time it was late afternoon, and we don’t care to arrive at hotels in the middle of the night. Ultimately we made a judgment call and stopped at just one of the chosen options on this leg — the one that represented an open box on one of Anne’s travel checklists.

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Our 2017 Road Trip #2: The Madonna of West Virginia

Madonna of the Trail Wheeling!

She can’t sing or dance or reinvent herself, but she’s gotten pretty far across the country.

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…

But a few states separate Indiana and Maryland. And what more comfortable way to kick off this year’s road trip than to take a short detour toward a historic face we’ve seen before.

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Our 2011 Road Trip #28: Last Call for Roadside Attractions

Flight 93 Born Hero's!

They did it! Congratulations! World’s greatest 9/11 marker! Great job, everybody!

The highway and back roads leading to and from the Flight 93 National Memorial included a few token expressions of belief. This was the most eye-catching. As a Christian, I wanted to cry. And to drive over it. Several times.

Setting aside questions of topical relevance and basic composition (is Jesus trying to catch the plane? or is the plane buzzing disrespectfully by his scalp like Maverick in Top Gun?)…out of all the townspeople it took to assemble and erect this heartfelt expression of free speech, not one of them volunteered to proofread. Or do focus-group duty.

I just…no. No.

Right this way for the penultimate chapter in this special MCC maxiseries!

2013 Road Trip Photos #1: the First of Two Springfields

Each year our family embarks on an American road trip in a different direction. My wife and I snap photos of all things pretty and peculiar. I create a travelogue partly for fun and partly for my own future reference when my memory fails in my twilight years. Someone needs to remind future-me of the good ol’ days. It might as well be present-me.

This year’s journey was a nine-day trip from Indianapolis to Boston and back again, with a few stops in each direction. Regular MCC followers were previously privy to photo-a-day highlights while we were on the road. In a series of non-consecutive entries, I’ll be sharing a plethora of photos from each of our major stopovers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, and upstate New York. Our experience wasn’t always sweetness and smiles, but we did our best to capture the sights and souls of our immediate surroundings.

The links to the full series, including the nine on-the-go entries, will be collected on a new main page shortly, same as was done for our 2012 road trip. Anyone who missed a chapter, joins in progress, or Googles their way here a year from now will be more than welcome to hop aboard. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

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Day One was spent covering half the driving distance between Indianapolis and Boston. Though some families rotate drivers and stay on the road nonstop until they reach point B, we plan our itinerary with a maximum of nine hours’ driving per day. Past experience has taught us that’s roughly the boundary beyond which we can’t stand being trapped in a car with each other and need a time-out from the road.

First tourism-based stop of the day: Springfield, Ohio — home to a few different statues, reason enough for us to drop by. My wife’s primary objective here: this Madonna of the Trail, one of twelve found along the same national highway.

Madonna of the Trail, Springfield, Ohio

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2012 Road Trip Photos #27: Lamar, Colorado — Last Stop, This State

Day Seven of our family’s nine-day road trip kicked off with our last remaining hours in the amazing state of Colorado. After extended visits with the Rocky Mountains, Pikes Peak, the Royal Gorge Bridge, and Smashburger, our time to depart was nigh.

In a rare move for us, we chose to exit Colorado not by interstate, but by ordinary state highway. This is a rare move for us. I’m usually a fiend for the interstates with their higher speed limits and lack of intersection interference. This time, we decided to try something different, as both Colorado and Kansas offered tourist attractions along their southern halves, through which almost no interstates traverse. On the bright side, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their highway speed limits were generous compared to ours back in Indiana. In terms of travel time, I hardly noticed a difference. Better still, Highway 50 through Kansas was all but deserted. The open road was mine.

Before Kansas, though, we had one final haven of roadside attractions to visit in Colorado. The town of Lamar is designed more as a warm Colorado welcome wagon than as a “Good Luck surviving Kansas” outpost, but we enjoyed a few minutes of walkabout anyway.

One of their most famous spots is this building constructed from ancient petrified wood. Originally a gas station, it now serves as a small used-car lot.

Petrified used car lot, Lamar, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #1: Vandalia the Ex-Capitol Presents Lincoln and Madonna

Each year our family takes a road trip to a different part of the United States, takes photos, and provides a travelogue for friends. In the past, my procedure has been to spend months assembling the stories in my head; actually write it once the right set of mental circumstances fall neatly into place (usually about the same time my wife starts asking me, “How much longer?” every other day); and refuse to share a single word of it with any other soul until the entire piece was a complete work from start to finish. The process was arduous and drawn out, but often fun and usually worth it.

Note how the careful use of adverbs in the previous sentence belies my reasons for trying a fresh approach this year. This year, with laptop in hand I wrote on the go, spending the last few hours of every evening capturing our day’s journey in print as thoroughly as I could, then posting them here on a nightly basis for nine consecutive entries. It meant sleeping a lot less than I normally do on vacation and temporarily relinquishing the entertainment/news aspect of my brain that sparks my writing impetus more often than not, but I enjoyed the immediacy of the experience and appreciated the support of those readers who graciously followed along.

In several non-consecutive entries, I’ll be sharing the photos of our experiences from our nine-day semi-adventure, which took us from Indiana, via Illinois and Missouri, to Kansas and our primary destination of Colorado. The trip had its ups and downs just as any road trip does. Even in the worst of times, we thought some of the pics were keen.

The photos will largely be presented in chronological order, but not slavishly so. Front-loading this with all the shots of breathtaking mountain scenery is tempting, to be sure. We’ll get there.

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Day One was a nine-hour marathon from home to Topeka, with only one certified sightseeing stop in the small town of Vandalia, Illinois. My wife had one particular item on her agenda: their Madonna of the Trail statue.

A Madonna of the Trail

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