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 #26: Little Park of Horrors

Anne vs. Willie the Whale!

“FEED ME, JONAH!”

If you enjoyed our previous chapters at Shades State Park, Spring Mill State Park, and George Rogers Clark National Historical Park…well, this one’s for all you fans of walks in parks.

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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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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 5: Prophets and Poultry

Woodland Indians settlement.

The history aficionado and birthday girl at the replica native settlement.

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

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Upon visiting the centerpiece of our trip, the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum, we covered the Battle of Tippecanoe in a somewhat reductive fashion:

On November 7, 1811, when future short-term President [William Henry] Harrison led an army against a confederation of tribes led by Tecumseh of the Shawnee and the adviser Tenskwatawa, alias “the Prophet”. The tribes weren’t thrilled with the pervasive intruders, the incoming settlers had reason to believe they weren’t safe, and it didn’t help that our old arch-nemesis England was taking steps to ratchet up the tension shortly before things escalated into the War of 1812. Harrison led a thousand men into two hours of combat against several hundred Native Americans. The latter retreated after dozens of casualties were incurred on each side. The following day, Harrison led his men to Prophetstown, where their opponents had been living but fled. On orders from Harrison, Prophetstown was burned to the ground, and the former residents’ supplies either appropriated or destroyed.

The museum and battlefield weren’t far from where the village of Prophetstown once stood. (Fun MCC trivia: they also weren’t far from Wolf Park, which we previously visited on Easter weekend 2008.) The acreage where the village was founded in 1808 and burned to the ground in 1811 is now Prophetstown State Park, established in 2004 with multiple missions — among them, to commemorate the village and to restore the original tallgrass prairies that were the dominant terrain before humanity arrived and redecorated. Or un-decorated, as it were.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 28: At the Mountains of Fitness

Kennesaw Mountain!

155 years ago, over four thousand casualties were incurred here. Today, the things lost most here are calories.

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.

Before we left Georgia, Anne wanted to see one more mountain. We’d already seen a mountain, but it wasn’t enough. It had a historical significance, a Visitors Center, and a road leading relatively close to the top, presumably for a scenic vantage point and for some value-added historical markers or whatever. Best of all, unlike that other mountain, access appeared to be free. We figured why not. We wouldn’t have time to explore the entire park or the surrounding tie-ins, but a drive to the mountain and possibly a jaunt up its access road seemed doable. How hard can it be to go up a mountain these days?

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 23: One Last Constitutional Before the Convention

Olympic Anne!

One more go-’round at Centennial Olympic Park, for one last quest. No, this photo was not the quest.

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.

DAY FIVE: Thursday, August 29th.

We’d figured in advance that Thursday would serve as a transitional day, when our roles would change from giddy sightseers to geek convention-goers. We’d had three full days to tour Atlanta. We’d hit all the highest-ranking attractions on our brainstorming list. A few of the honorable mentions had varying levels of appeal, but we had only a few hours in the morning before our scheduled walking tour for Dragon Con newbies. As it happened, Anne had one item left on her personal to-do list that we had yet to accommodate.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 5: It Was the Summer of ’96

Olympic rings!

Erected in December 2018, “The Spectacular” is 5000 pounds of aluminum standing 11 feet tall and begging visitors for some selfie love.

Remember that time Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics? They certainly do. They’re one of only three American cities ever to hose the Summer Olympics (an exclusive club they share with Los Angeles and St. Louis), and they will never, ever let anyone forget it.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 29: Crossing the Delaware

Crossing the Delaware block!

Once again our intrepid explorer is hot on the trail of that one really popular President.

The image of General George Washington leading troops in boats across the Delaware River is one of those iconic moments in the Revolutionary War that’s ingrained in the consciousness of every American student at a young age, even if teachers don’t necessarily explain the full context. Like many other scenes from Washington’s life, travelers can visit the area where history happened, tread the same treasured ground our forefathers did, and of course learn more about their feats from whatever museum, park, visitors center, statue, or plaque sprang forth to mark the spot.

In the case of this particular moment in time, visitors also need to make sure which “Washington Crossing” park they want to see.

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The Chicago 2018 Birthday Weekend, Part 2 of 4: Gray Friday, Windy City

Buckingham Fountain!

I’m told Grant Park’s Buckingham Fountain is pretty when the waters are working and beautiful when lit up at night. We got neither.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for Anne’s birthday celebration this year, we headed up to Chicago for yet another weekend — this time mostly to attend the inaugural Ace Comic Con Midwest at Navy Pier, and partly to see if downtown Chicago contained any sights we hadn’t already seen and/or shared. In past years we’ve shared pics of the Lake Michigan shoreline, the Magnificent Mile, and scenic Navy Pier, among other locales you can find with MCC’s “Chicago” tag alternating in between their frequent conventions.

Sooner or later we expect to run out of reasons to keep exploring the Mile and the Loop again and again, but we did what we could with the hours allotted and the ugly autumn weather against us. Temperatures were in the 40s all day Friday and light rain turned the early afternoon into a bit of a bummer. We walked around for a few miles anyway to spend time with each other and to kill time before the con began at 4 p.m.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 4: Return to Presque Isle

seagull walks!

A lonely seagull watches the sunset, ponders the meaning of its existence, and/or stays on the lookout for fish to murder.

We often look back at our old photos and wish we could return to many of the places we visited on our earlier road trips for further adventures or at least better photos. Our travelogues are frequently imperfect and in need of reshoots because of our own inexperience. our limited resources, or uncontrollable circumstances at the time. We do what we can with the tools and skill sets available. Our innumerable rough edges are among the many reasons MCC will never be a commercial success or The Greatest Blog of All Times.

Most years, we’d rather keep pressing forward to new places we haven’t seen, but every so often an opportunity for a do-over shows up on or near a path we’ve charted. This year’s trip happened to offer quite a few second chances. Our next stop was one of them.

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Birthday Quest 2018, Part 4 of 6: A Cat at the Heart of Matter

A Person is a Person!

“A person is a person no matter how small…” — wisdom from Dr. Seuss.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

My wife Anne and I have a tradition of spending our respective birthdays together on one-day outings to some new place or attraction — partly as an excuse to spend time together in honor of our special days, partly to explore areas of Indiana (or in neighboring states) that we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

In brainstorming my options this year, I returned to the idea of the Garfield Trail. Thirty to sixty minutes northwest of Jim Davis’ offices at Paws Inc. near Muncie, a dozen Garfield statues stand in front of various businesses in nine cities and towns as tributes to his entertainment value, to his merchandising power, and to some of the personal accomplishments that make those locales proud. In my mind the Garfield Trail was not just a basic road trip to view some roadside attractions, but a live-action side quest. No controllers, no trophies, no monsters to fight, the rules are made up and the points don’t matter —- just the two of us, a series of “levels”, and a checklist of eleven items to “collect” (minus one Garfield down for repairs)…

Last time we showed you three Garfields in the city of Marion. But Marion has four Garfields. Between the hospital and the golf course, we found another Garfield in an unexpected wonderland of public art.

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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 2009 Road Trip, Part 1: The Chicago Prelude

Chicago Crown Fountain!

Welcome to Chicago. Big Sister is watching you.

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions 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. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

2008 was by far our least favorite road trip to date, and still holds the ignominious title as of 2018. Driving out to Virginia Beach to see the ocean seemed like a good idea at the time. We weren’t prepared for the medical issues that plagued me all week long. We were disappointed with the beachfront tourist-trap economy. Worst of all, we learned the hard way that we’re simply not beach people. Our next vacation had to be better. Step one was plain enough: we looked at Anne’s brainstorming list of future road trips and chose the one that screamed “dream vacation”.

That’s what led to our long, long drive out to the farthest reaches of South Dakota and beyond. If you know anything about American tourism, you know some of the most iconic landmarks and attractions located way out there. South Dakota would be our most ambitious trip yet. At nine days it was the longest we’ve ever taken. The farthest point of 1,180 miles made it the longest drive of our lives. It would be the farthest west we’d ever been up to that time. It was also our first vacation using exclusively digital cameras to record the experience, leaving behind the 35mm film of our childhoods forever. They weren’t expensive cameras for their kind, certainly not the most advanced as of 2009, but we did what we could with the resources and the amateur skill sets available to us.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

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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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Our 2004 Road Trip, Part 1 of 10: Erie and Grey

Danger No Swimming!

Scenes like this are why no one lets us design travel brochures.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: once upon a time in 2004, Anne and I got married and had a honeymoon! A week later, we (and my son) embarked on our fifth annual road trip.

Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our first vacation as a capital-F Family: a drive northeast from Indianapolis up to see the watery wonders of Niagara Falls and its adjacent tourist traps. Some hindsight editing will be included along the way as part of the “special edition” processing.

Prior to 2006 all our amateur photography depended on 35m cameras, back in the day when finished film rolls had to be dropped off for developing and whose pics then had to be scanned using the terrible tech available on our low budget at the time, then uploaded via miserable AOL 56K modem. For years I hated hated HATED scanning under those conditions, which means our oldest internet friends who already read what Anne and I wrote have never seen any of the photos that’ll be newly shared throughout these ten chapters. Very little about these entries will approach 1080p quality. Back in our day, this is what history looked like. When these were first posted, they were as much about the writing as they were about the pics. That’s why two of the ten chapters will contain more words than pictures, if you need such an advance warning. They’re our stories to tell nonetheless, captured in our memories if not by our shutter clicks.

Enjoy!

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Sand Getting Everywhere: Our 2004 Road Trip Honeymoon Prelude

Anne in Sand!

At last, no more squabbling relatives, no more ritual expectations, no more formal wear, and best of all, no more wedding planning ever again. NEVER EVER EVER.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: twelve years ago, before we went on vacation, Anne and I got married!

The guests had left earlier than expected and effectively canceled the scene where we were supposed to walk to my car through a hail of blown bubbles. After cleanup the bride and groom made a hasty retreat, dropped off all the gifts at home, then sped north to our honeymoon destination that was absolutely not an exotic tropical island resort, though portions of it bore faint resemblance to one in our humble eyes.

Ours was a most economical wedding experience partly by circumstance but mostly by preference. Neither of us comes from families in a position to drop several thousand bucks in one place on any object or experience ever. Anne’s dress, which I adored to pieces, was a great find at JCPenney. My attire was cobbled together piecemeal at Value City, as I’ve never owned a full, matching suit in my life, not even now in 2017. Our wedding rings were a Black Friday purchase I’d scored a month before I proposed. Everything from church to flowers to wedding planner to all the other mandatory expenses –- which I can’t remember because I was the groom –- added up to a few hundred at most. Anne and I already each had a failed marriage on our respective rap sheets and were absolutely in agreement and okay with taking the lo-fi route all the way. I promise you it can be done, kids.

Our big honeymoon plan was to revisit our old friend Lake Michigan, last seen on our 2002 road trip to Grand Rapids. And we knew at least one place on the Indiana side with a beach and a view.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #6: Central Park Statue Stalking

Sherman Statue!

General Sherman prepares to depart Manhattan and rampage all over those Confederate flag sites we saw on our 2015 road trip to the South.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

And in our last chapter:

On our 2011 vacation we saw maybe 5% of the total square footage of Central Park, if that. We saw a feature or two, but were so drained by the time we got there that the oppressive summer heat burned away the last of our energy reserves along with any drive for exploration. After we finished with St. Paul’s Chapel, we decided another, longer tour through Central Park was in order. All told, our Central Park walk took us from Grand Army Plaza at 59th and 5th to just behind the Met at 81st Street.

A few Central Park art fixtures were at the top of Anne’s must-see checklist. We encountered more than twice as many statues as we expected before we reached the two she was looking for at the end of our trail.

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