Our 2021 Road Trip #13: Dignity Where the Roadside Meets the Riverside

Dignity statue!

We are but worms at the feet of the statue of Dignity.

The three-hundred-mile stretch of I-90 through southern South Dakota is vast. Really, really vast. Until and unless you reach the Black Hills and the Badlands to the west, the flattened landscape across the central and eastern portions can lose their visual novelty to even the most innocent traveling yokel after about the first five or ten miles. Roadside attractions blessedly break up that monotony here and there — some ironically and some with utmost sincerity. It’s more rewarding when you feel compelled to stop for the sake of art appreciation than out of car-happy desperation.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #12: Corn Again in the Kingdom of Cob

jazz hands corn!

Photo taken on my phone by some strangers. In exchange, Anne agreed to take pics of the next fifteen or twenty strangers with their respective devices.

Your typical, most famous tourist attractions tend to be singular experiences. You make the trip, you see it the one time, you Instagram it with a trite affirmation tacked on, and you’ve seen all you need to see of it for the rest of your life. The Empire State Building doesn’t add all-new stories on top with all-new features. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t entice repeat customers by changing into different dresses like the World’s Largest Barbie. Mount Rushmore doesn’t rotate the Presidents’ heads and cycle through all 45 of them, because the logistics would require science fiction tech and sooner or later you’d end up with a non-star lineup of Van Buren, Harrison #1, Tyler, and Polk, and attendance would plummet, like that one year the Best Picture Oscar nominees were four art films and a three-hour Brad Pitt nap.

Some attractions benefit from forward-looking designers who realize flexibility is a virtue and construct their dream edifice using a medium that lends itself to creative renewal. Such was absolutely the case for our next stop, a sight both familiar and revamped.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #11: When Art Show Animals Attack

black-capped chickadee nest!

Which of these creatures is scarier, the real bird or the imagined dragon? The answer might surprise you!

We knew a trip to Yellowstone would mean live animal sightings sooner or later. We also knew tourists and animals sometimes don’t get along and mistakes can be made by one party or the other. Rest assured if we’d suffered one of those debilitating bear attacks that grab news headlines on slow news days or trend heavily on YouTube, I would’ve written about it here by now. Bears, in fact, made a point of hiding from us all vacation long. We spotted nary a real bear the entire trip, not even in captivity.

That doesn’t mean all our wildlife encounters were amicable. Apart from driving up and around rainy mountains on Day Four, our scariest moment occurred in, of all places, an outdoor art walk.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #10: The Little Falls Before Sioux Falls’ Big Sioux Falls

me and waterfalls!

Please enjoy this bubbly moment of nature partially obscured by a doughy guy.

It sounds confusing but it’s perfectly simple. The city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is named after the waterfalls that are part of the Big Sioux River, around which local civilization sprung up. They built an entire city park around the prettiest part of the river and named it Falls Park, of course after the city’s own natural namesake. That stretch of the Big Sioux has numerous falls of varying sizes along its length. Depending on how far you walk, you can see all or merely some of those falls and enjoy natural beauty in a portion size of your choosing. If you’re short on time, a falls sampler is better than no falls at all.

Also, if you saw a limited portion of the falls and felt you’d seen enough, and nobody had the unsolicited courtesy of mind-reading skills to run up and tell you, “But wait! There’s more!” you might get all the way home from vacation, let three months pass by, revisit your photos, compare them to online resources, and then discover you missed the best parts of the park.

Not that we’re bitter.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #9: Remember the South Dakota

USS South Dakota sailor man!

It’s a battleship. It’s a museum. It’s a battleship AND a museum. It’s a battleseum!

When you’ve taken as many road trips as we have, sooner or later you find yourself in states you’ve seen before. The big planning question is: do you revisit the best attractions you’ve already seen or find new places you missed the first time around? When the encore under discussion is in a state filled with countless options from end to end, it’s cool when you can respond to yourself with: why not both? For our return to South Dakota, we began with column B.

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Dragon Con 2021 Photos #12 of 12: The All-Star Saturday Grand Finale With Wall-to-Wall Paneling

Dragon Con Badge 2021!

The fun thing about attending Dragon Con fan panels is you can collect ribbons from them that can be affixed to your badge to make it, like, even badgier.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021 several cons made their comeback plans, but Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held…

It all comes down to this: Saturday, September 4th, our final day at Dragon Con 2021 before we spent all of Sunday driving home. Well, not all of Sunday — Labor Day Eve traffic was so light and unsupervised that, after adjusting for pit stops, we made it from Atlanta to Indianapolis in less than eight hours. We actually had extra time to ourselves when we got home, which was nice. But that was the next day. This is the day.

September 4th was also the week before the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, which has no relevance here whatsoever but very nearly counts as fun trivia, except it isn’t.

We’ve covered a large chunk of our Saturday activities already. I promise this installment won’t take nearly as many words as the last one. Thanks to the amazing colossal Dragon Con app, which includes an archive of your past shows, this one was easy to organize by time stamp.

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Dragon Con 2021 Photos #11: Day One

Sleestak skull, Land of the Lost!

The hard part about preserving a Sleestak skull is finding a caveman who’ll sell you enough lye to cover an entire severed Sleestak head.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021 several cons made their comeback plans, but Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held…

The first official day of our first official convention since the official start of the official pandemic eighteen months ago had its awkward parts, its mild discomforts, and its spots of disappointment. By all rights, everyone should’ve forgotten how to do conventioning and disasters should’ve abounded. But everyone figured it out because, hey, at least we got to have a convention. Despite the challenges and worries, the established Dragon Con ecosystem adapted to the necessary changes and thrived at a reduced level. Life found a way.

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Enjoy Every Sandwich

Bacon Quiche!

The most bacon-forward quiche we’ve ever ordered. The salad and fruit cup bring a lightening balance and make the whole meal seem more responsible.

Some folks patronize blogs for the words. Some are just here for the pictures. Words and pictures are often meant to interlink hand-in-hand, but authorial intent is not truly in charge of the reader’s experience. Consumers can exercise their freedom to ignore one half of the storytelling in favor of the other. Comics have sold for years using a similar dichotomy.

Sometimes my connections between words and pictures are tenuous, but they’re no less real or visible to me. In this very entry, for example, food aficionados can appreciate glimpses of one August morning at a lovely little eatery in Zionsville called Rosie’s Place, the last time we hit up a local establishment that wowed us enough to remember to take photos. Previous Zionsville visits have been a treat every time, no matter which of their establishments we’ve visited.

While that photo gallery is in progress around me, readers who don’t mind my characteristic verbosity can see me fumbling for the right words in a moment of grief and rage.

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Dragon Con 2021 Photos #10: Day Zero

Dragon Con line selfie!

Plenty of time for a selfie while waiting in the line to get into the line that would let us into all the other lines.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021 several cons made their comeback plans, but Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held…

Once nice thing about dragging out a convention photo-gallery miniseries for weeks after the fact is, strangers have stopped searching for anything relevant that we might’ve had to offer them in the way of memories or cosplay photos that intersect with their own, so I can ease down, scale back, and touch on the smaller and more personal stories no one else cares about except us. Our arrival in Atlanta, for example, marked our return to comic-con life for the first time since November 2019. In many ways Dragon Con was easier the second time around if we disregard the parts most drastically affected by the endless pandemic.

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Dragon Con 2021 Photos #9: Winding Down the Parade

Seed and Feed Marching Abominable and Jessie!

Marching bands: not just for normal people anymore!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021 several cons made their comeback plans, but Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held…

Okay, so last time when I said, “It all comes down to this,” I meant cosplay in general. But there’s far more to D*C’s annual parade than the costumes. They have marching bands! Geek cars! Community groups! Special guests! And more, more, more! Except we already covered all the “more”. Now we’re down to just bands, cars, groups, and two special guests. Then I can move on. Probably. Enjoy if you will!

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