Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our seven-day trip through Ohio, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania in fifty episodes —- July 7-13, 2018. It all comes down to this, per our tradition for every MCC road trip maxiseries: one final collection of alternate scenes, extra details, and surplus attractions along the way that were squeezed out of the main narrative. Enjoy!
We had traveled to the Heinz History Center to view artifacts from the life of Mister Rogers. We amused ourselves with the international catalog of Heinz food products. Elsewhere around the other seven floors, a variety of exhibits told more stories about Steel City’s lives, history, and pop culture.
Last summer Anne and I had the pleasure of seeing the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, in which filmmaker Morgan Neville extolled the virtues of Fred Rogers and the PBS childhood series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that was an integral childhood touchstone, surrogate parent, and best friends for millions of American children (e.g. my lovely wife), many of whom are now adults remembering when civility, friendliness, and neighborly love were virtues rather than optional baggage. To be honest, I was more deeply moved by PBS’ own documentary Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like, aired a few months before Neville’s take hit theaters, but both are worthy in their own ways.
A few days ago I may have gotten a little testy in a way that would’ve disappointed Mister Rogers when I noted that the MCC entry about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? earned exactly zero Likes from other WordPress users. Either my writing about the experience was terrible, or, as I joked in partial self-deprecation, “apparently bloggers hate Mister Rogers. Duly noted.”
If my snark was too on-the-nose and you really do consider Mister Rogers to be an enemy of all humankind and kindness to be obsolete hogwash…then this entry isn’t for you either. You’re loved anyway.
We both like food. Anne likes history. Before we headed home, it made sense to make time for a little food history.
On the road a curious idea for a side project struck me: take pictures of the views from each of our hotel rooms and see what the resulting montage looks like. It would’ve been a much cooler idea if we’d stayed only at the swankiest accommodations with the most breathtaking views outside — say, next to some giant national monuments or rolling New Zealand hills. We’re not affluent enough to stay anywhere we want, but I made our reservations at different price levels for variety and fun just to see what would happen. One of the hotels definitely didn’t disappoint.
Day Six would prove the least exciting day of the week. We were glad to check off two sites on our master list — Valley Forge and James Buchanan’s grave — but otherwise anxious to get through the rest of Pennsylvania and closer to home. We hit that same wall on every trip, when fatigue and homesickness begin to dampen our enthusiasm, when our meal budget is well over halfway spent, and when the impulse to make extra stops along the way loosens its grip on us.
We left a few attractions in store to ensure Day Seven wouldn’t be a featureless slog. But first we had to get Day Six over with.
Day Six would prove to be a long and draining day, but we refused to be swayed from sticking to our theme, even though it meant a detour for the sake of a politician saddled with a “consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst presidents in American history” per one or more Wikipedia editors. Honestly, we’re not in a position to argue with them.
A few weeks after we returned home from this vacation, Anne wore her souvenir Valley Forge T-shirt to breakfast at a Bob Evans. When the cashier asked what that was, Anne spent a few minutes providing a free history lesson while trying not to weep for our school systems. We tend not to buy or collect too many souvenirs, but this became one of the few times she found one useful for educational outreach.
I was out of earshot, so I couldn’t tell you if she also explained how Valley Forge is neither a valley nor a forge.
DAY SIX: Thursday, July 12th.
Hundreds of miles stood between us and our next hotel, as well as Presidential Gravesite #7 and one major historical site. None of the breakfast options within walking distance from our hotel sounded appealing. Instead, the night before, I scoped out a restaurant in a suburb called King of Prussia, some 35 minutes northwest according to that evening’s search results. That didn’t sound like such a long wait for breakfast and required only a slight detour off our original printed directions.
In the morning, we would encounter our biggest, most stressful challenge of the entire week: escape from Philadelphia.
Towns with a long and storied history tend to be big on statues and sculptures. Nothing brings great Americans to life more robustly than three-dimensional stone doppelgängers. We concluded Day Five with one last stroll through Center City Philadelphia, surrounded by art on all sides as the sun retreated into the west.