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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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