Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 1: Southern Accents

Bojangles chicken sandwich!

Bojangles tosses its hat into the great internet chicken sandwich war of 2019 with their new Cajun Filet Biscuit, a spicy patty topped with pimento cheese.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, there was a prologue:

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…

We’ve already shared the fun true story of our very first Dragon Con in twelve excessive parts, seven of which were devoted to Best Parade Ever. We have a few outtakes tucked away for later use, but for now we’re ready to move on, a week after everyone else already did.

Before we went to Dragon Con, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

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A Donut Run on the Way Back from Turkey Run


Clockwise from top left: chocolate/Reese’s Pieces; chocolate/Cinnamon Toast Crunch; caramel/sea salt; and caramel/peanut.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For years my wife’s family has held their annual reunions at Turkey Run State Park, a ninety-minute drive from our suburban HQ and well outside the range of my phone carrier’s coverage. For the space of one Sunday afternoon it’s an opportunity to unplug from the internet and all its problems, experience fresh air, enjoy good weather live and in person (Lord willing), catch up with loved ones that we’ve been too preoccupied to visit, exchange pleasantries with distant relatives whose names we’ll never remember, test which family members will still commit to a long drive for any of these purposes, and remember how to mingle in large, awkward groups without access to Words with Friends as our consolation playmate.

This year’s shindig went far better than last year’s, which was canceled altogether due to dangerous storms. After we said our farewells to the family, Anne and I decided to make a quick stop on the way home even though we were still stuffed from the reunion pitch-in. Such is our dedication to finding new pastry purveyors whenever we’re out of town and remember to check around.

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Indiana State Fair 2019 Encore: 2 Fair 2 Food

deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich!

My rich, creamy Dulcinea.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context…

We trudged back to the working world on Wednesday morning disappointed that we’d missed so many of the “Taste of the Fair” new dishes and annoyed that my primary objective, the deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, was nowhere to be found. We chatted a bit and mulled over the possibility of a return engagement. Two unexpected developments sealed the deal:

1. Anne did some online digging, found the official Facebook page for the vendor allegedly carrying the deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and asked them point-blank where the heck they were at the fairgrounds. Where all the State Fair’s materials and resources had failed us, an exemplary moment of customer service on the vendor’s part got us the exact answer.

2. On Friday my employer announced a deal to get discount State Fair tickets, for cheaper than our first set of tickets.

Emboldened and empowered, Saturday we drove once more out to the east side and enjoyed a 4-hour whirlwind do-over. We split a deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich between us. We tracked down a few other “Taste of the Fair” offerings that hadn’t made the cut on Tuesday. We photographed a few more exhibits we’d overlooked or skipped the first time around. And we ended up with enough material for three bonus chapters in this very special, unexpectedly extended miniseries.

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Indiana State Fair 2019 Photos, Part 1 of 6: Our Year in Food

Relleno de Papa!

Frying! It’s what’s for dinner!

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food. Each year a new lineup of “Taste of the Fair” offerings showcases new ideas from assorted food vendors in hopes of luring in foodies and/or impressing attendees who want to do more every year than simply eating the same tenderloin again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Not Put Asunder, 15 Years and Counting

Heart Walk 2010!

File photo of us from 2010, when we participated in the occasional miles-long charity walk.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.

Sometimes on these annual entries I’ll use a photo from our recent road trip, but this year’s edition of that much-needed break from the rat race won’t be till the end of August. The wait is killing us, as is Father Time, which is another reason I went retro and dug into our personal archives for a younger photo of the two of us. This week some 150 million FaceApp users are out there having all their selfies converted to elderly “Have You Seen This Nursing Home Escapee?” mug shots and letting overseas marketers data-mine them into so much digital chattel, while I’m here swimming upstream toward youthful times. But, y’know, for love.

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Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago: A Birthday Intermission

Diet Root Beer!

A restaurant proudly serving its own house brand of diet root beer? My kind of place.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours walking and walking and stopping and gazing and contemplating and walking and walking and walking. Halfway through those hours we had to pause the art patronage and go feed ourselves.

Plan A for lunch had been Terzo Piano, a fine-dining restaurant conveniently within the Art Institute itself. The cuisine sounded fascinating and the prices were well within what we’d budgeted. But we hit a snag. After I made online reservations through OpenTable, the confirmation notice came back with fine print I’d overlooked on their site and hadn’t thought to seek out: Terzo Piano enforces a “smart casual” dress code. Neither of us had heard that phrase before.

I wager it’s common parlance among the upper class. Some quick, increasingly distressing Googling confirmed my “business casual” comfort level is a few rungs below “smart casual” and isn’t haughty enough to qualify. At the same time, “smart casual” doesn’t have to mean tuxedos or prom dresses. Several sites provided long lists of clothing articles within the “smart casual” scope. Neither of us owned any of them. I got the general impression it’s ambiguous velvet-rope code for anything worn by fashion bloggers, doctorate holders, chic magazine designers, and other citizens in loftier American castes than ours. The snazzy couture of trendsetters who can afford to shop at Magnificent Mile clothiers, sleek tastemakers who don’t feel right leaving the house until their mirror confirms they’re fit to be extras on The CW, or wannabe social media influencers who run up five-digit credit-card debt to emulate all of the above.

If we wanted into their restaurant, we’d have to spend more on new wardrobes than on lunch itself.

This is not who we are, as dozens of our past jazz-hands convention photo-ops have testified. “Business casual” comes easily to me. “Yacht owner in repose” is not among my character skins.

I canceled the reservation and found us a Plan B. If nothing else, our pre-rejection gave us an excuse to see more of downtown Chicago. Yet again.

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