Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 49: The Last Dead President

Warren and Florence Harding!

President #29: Warren G. Harding, d. 8/2/1923, age 57.

Our Presidential body count so far on this vacation:

  1. Rutherford B. Hayes, in the verdant park behind his lavish museum in Fremont, OH
  2. Millard Fillmore, in the same well-kept Buffalo cemetery as several Famous Names in Black History
  3. Chester Arthur, in a dusty corner plot in Albany
  4. Martin Van Buren, in an ancient burial ground a mile from his Dutch home church in Kinderhook, NY
  5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the grounds of Hyde Park
  6. Grover Cleveland, alongside his fellow presidents of Princeton University
  7. James Buchanan, alone on a hill in Lancaster, PA
  8. William McKinley, under a seven-story dome in Canton, OH

…and now, two hours from the William McKinley Memorial and 3½ hours from home, we wended our way through a maze of lazy country highways and one construction detour to reach the final American President on our week-long tour. We had not saved the best for last.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 47: The Climb to McKinley

McKinleys with wreaths!

You can tell our next President has a bigger fan base than some of the others in this series — far more wreaths, and his final resting place is indoors.

I realize these chapters have been rather spaced apart and there’ve been so many of them, but we’re technically in the home stretch now. After a quick lunch stop in West Virginia, only one state stood between us and home. We’d already paid respects to one American President from Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes, back on Day One. Two more Presidential gravesites lay ahead on the trail before we would cross the final state border.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 40: The Bachelor of Lancaster

James Buchanan!

President #15: James Buchanan, d. 6/1/1868, age 77.

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.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 27: The Princeton President(s)

Aaron Burr!

Hi, I’m Aaron Burr! You might remember me from such works as Hamilton and Michael Bay’s “Got Milk?” ad!

We’ve been to New Jersey before, but usually just passing through. It was a useful costar in our first trip to New York City in 2011. It made a cameo as a launchpad for our visit to the Statue of Liberty in 2010.

2018 marked our first time arriving in New Jersey for the sake of a distinctly New Jersey site. Again, we didn’t make time to dwell at length in any one city, but it was nice to pay tribute to one set of Garden State notables.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 20: A Walk in Hyde Park

Roosevelts statues!

Come have a seat with Eleanor and Franklin in happier times!

I know what some of you are thinking: of the nine American Presidents whose graves we visited on our week-long scenic tour, isn’t it about time we got to a President who had more than twelve fans? First of all, the city of Buffalo thinks people like you should stop being so mean to Millard Fillmore. Second of all, yes. Yes, it is.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 19: Martin the Okay President

Van Buren statue!

This handy 2007 statue and bench let kids and adults alike pretend they’re Van Buren’s Vice President.

It’s not easy to drum up excitement for a President who had to follow a memorable showboat like Andrew Jackson, who inherited a major recession without any tools to deal with it, who got clobbered four years later by William Henry Harrison, and whose Presidential campaign popularized a hand signal that became an acceptable part of American casual communication from two full centuries ago until about fifteen minutes ago last month.

But by dint of the dignity and respect that older generations perceive as inherent in the Office of the President, Martin Van Buren netted himself a place in American history anyway.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 14: Arthur of Albany

Chester A. Arthur!

President #21, Chester Alan Arthur, d. 11/18/1886, age 57.

For those a bit mystified that this vacation was supposed to be all about dead Presidents and are getting impatient because our last Presidential burial site was nine chapters ago: fear not! We’re getting there. They weren’t exactly next door to each other, and upstate New York has so many excuses for detours, we couldn’t possibly pass them all by. The nine-President plan was a goal, not a vendetta.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 5: The Man, the Myth, the Millard

Fillmore sign!

If the only thing you know about Millard Fillmore is his mention in The Simpsons‘ “Mediocre Presidents” song…join the club. It’s a large one.

As we ended Day One with a drive through a scenic locale from a previous road trip, so did the following morning commence with another encore of sorts. Last time we were in the city of Buffalo, it was 2004 and we were too enamored of nearby Niagara Falls to bother researching or looking at anything else in the vicinity. We’d barely figured out where any Buffalo restaurants were, let alone their history or highlights.

The locals are especially proud of one famous resident in particular — the gentleman and philanthropist who co-founded Buffalo General Hospital and the Buffalo Historical Society, a self-made man borne of tenant farmers who crawled his way up the class ladder to become a lawyer, U.S. Congressman, and Comptroller of the state of New York.

Also, once upon a time he served as President of the United States. Some folks regard his performance in that workplace a bit differently.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 1: Hayes’ Shade of Summer

Webb Hayes + flags!

Patriotic grave sites: as American as apple pie, but a lot more solemn.

It’s that time again! Another year, another driving marathon, another chance to see sights we don’t have back home, and another MCC travelogue series to record the experiences before I forget them all and Anne gets tired of retelling them to me.

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13 Dead Presidents Pocketed: Our 2018 Road Trip Prologue

John Adams!

The earliest President whose burial site we’ve seen so far: #2, John Adams, d. 7/4/1826, age 90. Beneath the United First Parish Church in Quincy, MA. From our 2013 road trip.

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.

Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating. We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America.

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The Benjamin Harrison 2012 Halloween Birthday Special

Benjamin Harrison!

Hi, I’m President Benjamin Harrison! You may remember me from such films as…wait, no, you wouldn’t.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: longtime readers and friends know my wife Anne is a history buff who brakes for Presidential grave sites, a common must-see on our annual road trips. In past entries we’ve so far shared our experiences with twelve dead Presidents of the United States of America as follows:

In the middle of that timeline is one we never got around to sharing: that time we visited the one and only Presidential burial site in our own home state of Indiana.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 3: The Original Thomas and Martha

Thomas Jefferson Burial Site!

He gets his name on the obelisk. Hers is down on the base. To be fair, he lived at Monticello longer than she did.

[Historical pre-note: our 2018 road trip is in the early planning stages, and so far Anne and I know only one thing for certain: it’s time to visit another Presidential burial site or two. We’ve seen 13 of the 38 to date, nearly one-third of the way through the list. Back in 2008, our visit to Thomas Jefferson’s scenic Monticello was only site #2 for us. They were never meant to be a recurring travel motif, but here we are.]

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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 6 of 7: From Lincoln to Kennedy

Lincoln Memorial!

Giant Lincoln hasn’t been in quite as many films as the White House has, but fans of the Night at the Museum or Planet of the Apes series will recall his big moments there and in too many other films where he’s defaced or destroyed.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

Our Thursday walk led us from the White House to the nearby buildings and statues to the west, to the Vietnam National Memorial, to yet another memorial, one of the many mandatory stops while you’re in DC. Many such famous landmarks and institutions are easily covered within the same convenient walking distance. Not all of them, unless you’re a serious hiker. Or a dunce planning your final day in town using maps not drawn to scale.

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Shortest Presidency, Tall Memorial

Harrison's Tomb!

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Our 2011 Road Trip #15: Grant’s Tomb Raider

Grant's Tomb!

Literally the closest we’ve ever been to Harlem, which was a few blocks northeast of here.

There’s that wife of mine, once again on her quest to catch ALL the dead Presidents. It would require our longest subway ride of the week, but a special treat was waiting for us at the end of the line.

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

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2015 Road Trip Photos #48: Noontime in Nashville

Nashville State Capitol!

Twelve American state capitals have State Capitols without domes. Tennessee’s 1859 version is one of them.

When last we left Nashville, we’d stopped there for lunch on the first day of our 2005 road trip to San Antonio. We ate at our first Jack in the Box nearly a decade before they finally came to Indianapolis; we saw their version of the Parthenon, a World’s Fair tribute to their old nickname “the Athens of the South”; and then we moved on. Ten years later, we returned once again for lunch and spent slightly longer there this time than last time.

One last state capital before returning home to our own. One last Presidential burial site. One last sign of Confederacy fandom. One last pretty garden. One last Andrew Jackson statue. One last official Southern meal. Our midday stroll around downtown Nashville was like a symbolic highlight reel of our entire road trip.

Right this way for the final city walkabout of the series!

2015 Road Trip Photos #45: The Twenty Dollar Man

$20 Bill Y'all!

Anne takes her rightful place in the American economy just as soon as I’m appointed Secretary of All the Monies. But we’re cool with Hamilton keeping the $10 bill.

Day 7. The grand finale of our 2015 road trip. All that stood between us and home was five hours and a handful of stops. We woke up in Nashville with one last to-do list before we’d let I-65 guide us home.

We’d hoped to see a thing or two the evening before, but traffic coming into Tennessee on Day 6 had been stop-‘n’-go most of the way, made all the more disconcerting as we listened to radio reports of that day’s tragic shootings in Chattanooga, just a couple hours southeast of us. So we weren’t at our best on Friday morning. That buzz to keep seeking out new experiences was playing tug-‘o’-war with our yearning to return home to comfort and familiarity.

First stop: following in the footsteps of President Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory. King Mob. The Hero of New Orleans. He tied our week together nicely.

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2015 Road Trip Photos #1: Close Up with Taylor the Swift

Mini-Zachary Taylor!

All the best road trips start with a stop. Sure, you could drive fourteen continuous hours from Indianapolis to New Orleans with pauses only for gas, food, bathrooms, and traffic jams. Or you could break up the monotony of hundreds of miles of forested interstate scenes with some creative opportunities for learning, thinking, or gawking. Some say the journey is better than the destination, but why settle for just one destination?

After an aggravating forty-minute delay due to hometown road construction that saw a three-lane interstate reduced to one backed-up single-file BMV standstill, we were all too relieved to escape town and head south toward open roads, sunny skies, fresh air, American freedom, and pure vacation joy.

Our first stop: a Presidential burial site. Say hi to mini-Zachary Taylor.

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2013 Road Trip Photos #31: James Garfield and Friends

Day Eight in Cleveland continued southeast from the Siegel and Shuster boyhood homes to Lake View Cemetery, one of the hilliest and most scenic cemeteries I’ve ever seen. My wife’s penchant for locating Presidential burial sites in other states led us here to visit the final resting place of Cleveland’s own James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States of America.

He died five months after his inauguration, so I didn’t expect the James A. Garfield Memorial to be much more than a decent tombstone with a fence around it, not unlike Thomas Jefferson’s flowery but impassable plot in Monticello. In reality, Garfield’s mausoleum is a little shorter than Grant’s Tomb in Manhattan, but much larger than our house.

James A. Garfield Memorial, Cleveland

This way to see the President…

2013 Road Trip Photos #11: Inside the Adams Family Crypt

Once we were safely and successfully on the road again after the morning’s mechanical failure, our Day Four officially commenced due south of Boston in the town of Quincy. (Official blending-in tip for outsiders: it’s pronounced “Quinzy” by the locals, because that’s how the eponymous family pronounced it.) In the basement of the United First Parish Church lies a very special room open to any and all visitors, though they do suggest a donation, and — based on the bizarre, unexplained incident we witnessed — will turn you away at the door if you prove yourself a local, recurring, foul-mouthed nuisance.

Inside that bunker-esque room lies the final resting places of four noteworthy historical figures: John Adams, second President of the United States; his wife/First Lady, Abigail; his son, John Quincy Adams, our sixth President; and his wife/First Lady, Louisa.

John Adams presidential crypt

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