The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 3: Woodland Signposts

trail 5 pink hat!

“Hi, I’m Posty the Trall Post! It looks like you’re trying to take a walk! Can I help you choose a direction?”

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 we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Well, at least we did before 2020. Anne turned 50 this year, but for work-related reasons involving the Age of Coronavirus, I’m currently not allowed to leave the state of Indiana for the foreseeable future. Anne did some local travel research, a longtime hobby of hers (you have no idea how many of our future road trips she’s already mapped out), and came up with a few things she thought would be fun to do on a Saturday in autumn. Naturally we had to start with a long walk around someplace with millions of leaves changing colors. When you live in Indiana, it’s what you do. After picking up some sugar for breakfast, our first attraction of the day was McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis…

…which was a pleasant place to hang out and get some exercise, but also oddly had far more signs than the average state park. Someone in charge thought, what better way to liven up nature than by footnoting it every few hundred feet?

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The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 2: Ambling in Autumn

Anne in autumn!

The birthday gal poses for senior pictures.

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 we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Well, at least we did before 2020. Anne turned 50 this year, but for work-related reasons involving the Age of Coronavirus, I’m currently not allowed to leave the state of Indiana for the foreseeable future. Anne did some local travel research, a longtime hobby of hers (you have no idea how many of our future road trips she’s already mapped out), and came up with a few things she thought would be fun to do on a Saturday in autumn. Naturally we had to start with a long walk around someplace with millions of leaves changing colors. When you live in Indiana, it’s what you do. After picking up some sugar for breakfast, our first attraction of the day was McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis…

After our tour of the park’s Nature Center, we ventured out on yet another wooded trail to add to our 2020 collection. Once again we consulted the park map and made sure not to pick a rugged path that might murder one of us like that time at Shades. We chose one trail that appeared to have a few features marked on the map, sights that would break up the monotony of trees and leaves and trees and leaves and trees and leaves and trees and leaves. Those might be enough for most folks, but if we could find more, so much the better. Fortunately we picked a warm, beautiful day for it…until other visitors began to trickle in and threatened to become full-blown crowds.

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The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 1: Nature Under One Roof

vulture!

2020 is hereby declared the Year of the Vulture. Choose your own joke-reading into that.

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 we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Well, at least we did before 2020.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #31: Farm Fresh Air

Eagle Creek bubbling!

A happy creek bubbling through a happy forest filled with happy trees. Happy!

Yes, this one’s about yet another walk through grass and trees and fields and then more grass. I wasn’t kidding about walks and exercise being a recurring motif. If we can find ways to prolong our existence on this mortal plane and keep having road trips and comic cons and other good times together, while also appearing slightly more photogenic in future results, then yes, long walks are in order. Preferably around pleasant scenery. Live animals are extra credit.

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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 #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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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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2020 Road Trip Photos #4: Flowers for Hur

BEE kind!

The best among Anne’s multiple attempts to catch a busy bee.

Not every chapter of every road trip tells a story. Sometimes it’s nice to relive the evocative imagery on our path. Sometimes it’s a nice change of pace not to elaborate. Sometimes pretty flowers are just pretty flowers.

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2 Hours of Jazz, 40 Minutes of Animals: Indy Zoo Revue #10

lemur concentrating!

A ring-tailed lemur trying really hard to concentrate despite distracting humans.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our family has been to our Indianapolis Zoo several times over the years. Now that my son is an adult and we’ve seen most of the animals a dozen times each, attendance for us isn’t an annual tradition, but we’ll drop in from time to time for special occasions.

Last week my wife Anne and I availed ourselves of a five-week event series called “Animals and All That Jazz”. Each Thursday evening a different jazz band has been invited to play a concert in their pavilion. Concert tickets cost a bit more, but they included zoo admission and the show lasted until after normal closing time. With a gracious one-time special discount through my employer, the two of us decided to check it out. It was a pleasant getaway from our current restlessness that has us pacing back and forth while waiting for our vacation week to arrive.

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An Autumn Walk Through Woods in West Baden

arches and autumn!

Gateway to a previously un-shared photo gallery…

Twice each year my wife Anne and I drive down to southern Indiana. Usually it’s for the sake of visiting relatives, helping family keep in touch, doing something nice for others, that sort of thing. Usually it consists of one three-hour drive down slow highways behind lackadaisical drivers, four to six hours of sitting and chatting and letting the older folks enjoy each other’s company while we might or might not nod off, then another three-hour drive home. We’re adult enough to accept not every weekend can be a convention or even a trip to the movie theater.

Dateline: October 24, 2015. My aunt suggested we break routine and get together for a bit of Indiana tourism. We headed out to the twin towns of French Lick and West Baden. When I was a kid we drove through them frequently but rarely stopped in either of them except for gas. Fast-forward four decades later, and now each town has a special attraction to boast as their own. For West Baden, it’s the enormous West Baden Springs Hotel, a structure with a history dating back to 1855 filled with frequently changing ownerships, periods of disuse, extensive restoration funded by multiple donors, and a new life today as a premier getaway in the southern Indiana area.

Once upon a time in the early ’80s my aunt took us inside for a quick look around. As I recall, beneath its large dome was a massive rotunda exquisitely detailed by proud artisans in styles hearkening to ages of yore. Back then we didn’t carry cameras around. We have no record of that visit. I thought it was a wonderful idea to return and see what’s been done with the place.

One little problem: upon our arrival we learned the entire facility had been rented out for the day for a fancy wedding. No uninvited visitors were allowed inside.

So this Saturday afternoon exploratory jaunt turned into a brisk autumn walk around the grounds, viewing the exterior features and digging the fascinating colors that nature shows off in southern Indiana every year ’round this time. Not quite the full West Baden Springs experience, but it would have to do.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 24: Outtakes Off I-90 West

Day 6 Devils Tower!

Welcome to Devil’s Tower. I’m your host, TV’s Wilford Brimley.

It’s a time-honored MCC tradition: every road trip concludes with bonus photos I skipped while compiling all the preceding chapters. However, this finale is a little more special than average.

Effective with this very entry, every single one of our annual road trips is now officially available for perusal and literary analysis on MCC from 1999 to 2017. All the major vacations from MCC’s 2012 inception to the present have been housed here exclusively from the get-go. As of today, all our prior travelogues from 1999 to 2011 have now been reposted and reformatted here for our own personal library to be shared with one and all — our lifelong, immutable road trip canon. Some write-ups were reprinted word-for-word, but in several cases extensive rewrites felt necessary and/or fun.

This curatorial project has been years in the making, and has now reached its final major milestone. It’s kind of a nice feeling.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 16: Bedevilment at Devils Tower

Devils Tower!

Many onlookers only know Devils Tower from that one time it worked with a young Steven Spielberg.

As of this writing I’ve visited 32 of our 50 United States. Anne has seen a few more thanks to her grandma, who drove her to Maine one time back in the ’80s. We’ve had the chance to luxuriate and wander several of those at length. Some of them were one-stop wonders, states adjacent to others that weren’t a main focus in a given trip, but were easy enough to cross off our lifetime to-do list if we could think of a reason to get out of the car and say hi. Perfect example: on our 2013 drive to Boston, we visited a Connecticut museum in our path (and weren’t enamored enough of that sketchy neighborhood to explore any further), but we couldn’t find an easy way to work Rhode Island into that year’s itinerary.

Since we were at the westernmost end of South Dakota anyway, we had wondered if we could find an excuse to hop over into its neighbor Wyoming. About two minutes of research brought us to an obvious option of inescapable prominence, by which I mean that gargantuan protuberance up there.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 15: Cold Shoulders from the Cold-Blooded

tortoise!

“Do I look hungry? Do I look to you like someone who needs fed like a baby?”

In the early years when my son tagged along on our travels, we made a point of including at least one amusement park or zoo on every road trip. That requirement faded as we got older, but we were happy to make time for animals if we found any interesting habitats along our paths.

Technically we’d already filled our 2009 quota at Custer State Park. We found it wasn’t South Dakota’s only wildlife habitat, and were curious to see if the Mount Rushmore State had other animals to offer besides panhandling burros and jaywalking bison.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 12: Burros Barge in Where the Buffalo Roam

burro!

That time we came under scrutiny from the South Dakota Burro of Investigation.

In the early years when my son tagged along on our travels, we made a point of including at least one amusement park or zoo on every road trip. That requirement faded as we got older, but we were happy to make time for animals if we found any interesting habitats along our paths.

In one South Dakota state park, it was the animals’ turn to come up and stare at us.

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 12: Mandatory Zoo Visit

Panamanian golden frogs!

Panamanian golden frogs — critically endangered, rather poisonous, and adorable hanging together from their little leaf shelter.

Before writing this chapter, Anne and I watched the first episode of the BBC’s inspiring, horrifying, utterly gorgeous Planet Earth II on Netflix, and now I’m ashamed of every inadequate animal photo we’ve ever taken. But let’s proceed with another batch of zoo memories anyway.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 14: Like a Bridge Away From Troubled Waters

Natural Bridge!

At long last: the one and only Natural Bridge!

If you’ve been following this miniseries up till now, you’ll know this wasn’t our best week. Between my infirmities and our frequent bouts of disappointment from half the attractions we visited, this was not Best Trip Ever. At all, in any way imaginable. Least of all from the Natural Bridge area, from their zoo to the Visitor Center.

Until we got under the Bridge.

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Cumberland Falls in the Fall

Anne + Falls!

Our lovely spokesmodel Anne welcomes you to “the Niagara of the South” according to the locals!

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Indy Zoo Revue Finale: Habitats & Handicraft

Orangutanorama!

This one’s for the orangutans. Just the orangutans.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

We conclude these galleries with a look at the scenes behind the animals — the spacious, sometimes lavish enclosures provided for the various residents at our zoo. When I was a kid, the old zoo on the east side was all about stacks of metal cages, concrete floors, and tightly crowded wildlife as depressing sideshow. My family has seen a number of zoos around the country over the past dozen years and appreciate those that defy the obsolete paradigm. If they can tuck in a few works of art around the edges for value-added visual flair, so much the better.

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Indy Zoo Revue #7: Last Call for Critters

Giraffe Head!

To their credit, giraffes sound absolutely nothing like David Schwimmer in person.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

In today’s chapter: one last miscellaneous mammalian menagerie — all the remaining animals that caught our eyes and got caught on camera just right.

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