2020 Road Trip Photos #23: Boot City Outskirts

cattle and cowboy!

Cut ’em out! Ride ’em in! RAWHIDE!

At the end of a long day of road tripping, after hours of walking and perusing and appreciating and photographing and learning and gawping and filling your head with new mental notes about memories-to-be and storytelling to come, sometimes all you want to do is return to the car and head straight home without stopping, not even for bathrooms or snacks.

Then you pass one last roadside attraction that catches your eye and won’t let go. It lassos your brain, sweet-talks your sense of exploration, and hollers like a rowdy bartender, “I reckon y’all could spare us just a few minutes ‘fore ya head for the hills, can’t ya?” Next thing you know you’re piling outta the car and takin’ a look-see at what they wanna show ya, if’n you ain’t yella-bellied and if you don’t get up too much gumption to ask why the voice’s southern accent is more cornpone than Rogue’s dialogue in old issues of Uncanny X-Men.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #14: Peachy Keen!

Anne and the giant peach!

Nothing but respect for my Princess Peach.

When we tell anyone who’ll listen about our annual road-trip tradition, they don’t ask about dignified museums or American history or ordinary nature hikes. They want to know about the kitsch we’ve seen, the outlandish art and eccentric curation and super-sized foods and things beginning with “World’s Largest”. We hadn’t planned any such stops for this vacation, but whenever one happens to stand in our path, far be it from us to veer around like we’re too good for it.

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Birthday Quest 2018, Part 2 of 6: The “Parks & Recreation” Giants

Indian Chief...

“High-five to the first tourists of the day! And possibly the month!”

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)…

From a narrative standpoint in a tale of Garfield statues, it may be counterintuitive to have a Chapter 2 that contains exactly zero Garfields. Our research phase brought up a limited number of bonus attractions in the same general vicinity, but two in particular immediately stoked our interest upon discovery. It’s not often you’re in a small town that can lay claim to an As Seen On TV artifact, let alone two of them. It’s rarer to find such objects related to a TV show we both really, really liked. And we had to be honest: how likely were we to venture out this far again in the near future? Or the oh-so-distant future, even? Why not catch them while we’re up here anyway?

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 24: Outtakes Off I-90 West

Day 6 Devils Tower!

Welcome to Devil’s Tower. I’m your host, TV’s Wilford Brimley.

It’s a time-honored MCC tradition: every road trip concludes with bonus photos I skipped while compiling all the preceding chapters. However, this finale is a little more special than average.

Effective with this very entry, every single one of our annual road trips is now officially available for perusal and literary analysis on MCC from 1999 to 2017. All the major vacations from MCC’s 2012 inception to the present have been housed here exclusively from the get-go. As of today, all our prior travelogues from 1999 to 2011 have now been reposted and reformatted here for our own personal library to be shared with one and all — our lifelong, immutable road trip canon. Some write-ups were reprinted word-for-word, but in several cases extensive rewrites felt necessary and/or fun.

This curatorial project has been years in the making, and has now reached its final major milestone. It’s kind of a nice feeling.

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What We Didn’t Do on Our Summer Vacation

Anne head-tabled.

Anne waiting for paint to dry, glaciers to melt, and dinner to arrive at an Irish pub in Philadelphia.

Our 2018 road trip is behind us at last. After seven days and 2,056 miles together on the open road, Anne and I arrived safe at home Friday night, several hours later than expected and ready to retreat into overnight catatonia. Five out of six previous evenings ended much the same way — with a number of new achievements to our credit, new memories to add to our mental slideshows, new regrets to tally up, new aches and pains to nurse, and new letdowns from the unchecked items on our lengthy to-do list. In some ways that’s a typical vacation for the two of us, but what stings most are a few omissions that weren’t our fault.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 18: Last Exits in South Dakota

Tiny Church!

You say your congregation is dwindling? You haven’t seen a really shrunken church.

Another long day lay ahead — 520 miles of driving, over 370 of that in South Dakota alone. If you’re patient and don’t sleep the whole distance through, points of interest and oddity poke through the panoramas.

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 3: Community off the Turnpike

Giant Quarter!

If only we’d thought to rent a semi so we could tow along hundreds more of these for our turnpike tolls.

Fun fact we learned in 2010: Pennsylvania is really, really, really long. Not as long as South Dakota had been in 2009, but long enough to instill déjà vu. We approached from the west; our target Philadelphia was on its east end. The Pennsylvania Turnpike helps the trip go by faster like magic…but magic comes with a price. Fortunately we saved a little money with every digression that lured us away from the Turnpike.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 13: Seven Wonders on the Way Back

King Kong!

KING KONG SMASH PUNY PLANES! IF PLANES WOULD DO KONG FAVOR AND FLY CLOSER TO GROUND! KONG NOT HAVE SKYSCRAPER HANDY!

Roadside attractions are naturally part of our road-tripping experience. We won’t necessarily drive fifteen miles out of our way to see a Paul Bunyan statue in an area that has absolutely nothing else of interest, but if one just so happens to be standing across the street from a Presidential burial site, we might make time for a cheesy cameo along the way.

We’re more susceptible to oddball sights when we’re on our way home, have hours to kill, and need our monotony broken up. In the case of our westward trek across Virginia, monotony wouldn’t be a problem for long.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 38: The Elephants in the Room

Dumbo ride!

Dumbo may be among the more high-profile pachyderms, but he’s not the only one out there pounding the pavement for peanuts.

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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

We left the Gettysburg Battlefield area after a late lunch and were heading northwest when, barely a mile down the road, we pulled over for our next diversion. In a complete change of pace from solemn reminders of our bloodied American history, we perused a unique little establishment, a seller of myriad sugary snacks that boasts an assortment of over twelve thousand elephants. Because they can.

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Slices of Life After the Tennessee Fireworks Fire

Titan missile!

Thankfully this wasn’t a real missile or the incident would’ve made even bigger headlines.

We’ve seen missiles sitting next to interstate exits before, but we’re not yet jaded enough to pass them by without wondering what their story is.

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Scales of Danger!

Big Green Dragon!

Is there such a thing as “jazz talons”? If so: nailed it.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last weekend my wife Anne and I drove down to Knoxville, TN, for an entertainment convention, but made a few stops on our way back for ordinary sightseeing. I nearly described it as “conventional” for the sake of wordplay, but we saw nothing conventional about this giant scaly monster looming over the interstate.

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Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 2: Signs of Georgia

Giant Peanut!

Behold the World’s Largest Peanut, according to the good people of Ashburn, Georgia. Also possibly the World’s Most Hypoallergenic Peanut.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

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. For 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, my son was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!

When most people think “road trip” in the fanciful sense, they imagine a long drive through a scrolling sideshow of creative oddities, specialized museums and giant-sized objects and whatnot. Some American interstate landscapes are boring and not worth treasuring — the grassy plains, the heavily commercialized thoroughfares, the forests that look exactly like ours back home, those scenery-censoring noise-canceling barriers that have become the norm in cities whose residents have grown sick of hearing or looking at cars. In some unfortunate areas you can drive hundreds of miles between points of interest while your camera lies undisturbed and nestled in your pocket lint.

We still need to devote a vacation to Georgia itself someday rather than just passing through like we did in 2007. But even in passing, the way south didn’t lack for eye-catching displays.

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Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 1: When Dinosaurs Ruled the South

T-Rex Attack!

“CALM DOWN, KID! I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU HOW YOU CAN SAVE 15% ON YOUR CAR INSURANCE.”

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. The next few vacations worked for all of us as a family to varying degrees, but for 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, he was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!

Today we kick off yet another special MCC miniseries representing the original travelogue from our 2007 drive from Indianapolis to Orlando, Florida. Some hindsight editing will be included along the way as part of the “special edition” processing. Enjoy!

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Our 2011 Road Trip #28: Last Call for Roadside Attractions

Flight 93 Born Hero's!

They did it! Congratulations! World’s greatest 9/11 marker! Great job, everybody!

The highway and back roads leading to and from the Flight 93 National Memorial included a few token expressions of belief. This was the most eye-catching. As a Christian, I wanted to cry. And to drive over it. Several times.

Setting aside questions of topical relevance and basic composition (is Jesus trying to catch the plane? or is the plane buzzing disrespectfully by his scalp like Maverick in Top Gun?)…out of all the townspeople it took to assemble and erect this heartfelt expression of free speech, not one of them volunteered to proofread. Or do focus-group duty.

I just…no. No.

Right this way for the penultimate chapter in this special MCC maxiseries!

Road Trip Clip Show: a Salute to Vacation Days, Part 2 of 2

Continuing my stroll down Memory Lane to revisit the spirits of road trips past, while looking forward to the spirit of road trips yet to come.

2009: South Dakota and friends

Our longest drive to date, our first foray into the Mountain Daylight Time zone, and our introduction to South Dakota, land of a thousand casinos. There’s more to see than mere impressive Mount Rushmore.

The Badlands greet you on your way into Rapid City, major tourism hub.

Badlands of SD

Custer State Park, located in the Black Hills, is inhabited by animals accustomed to being spoiled rotten by tourists. They have no compunction about invading your personal space, and may be the secret masters in charge of the park. Notice how Intrusive Burro is very intrusive.

Custer's Bad Burro

When you’re done with Rushmore, you can visit the other massive stone monument in the area, the perpetually in-progress Crazy Horse statue. The ongoing project is taller than Rushmore and funded entirely with private donations. The nearest approach is even more distant than Rushmore’s observation area, but you can do what I did for an extreme closeup: max out the digital zoom on your camera, pop a quarter into the stationary viewers, jam your camera lens into the viewer eyepiece, and snap away.

Crazy Horse, zoom within a zoom

Since we were only a few dozen miles away anyway, we spent one day on a diversion into neighborly Wyoming, home of Devil’s Tower, the free-standing mesa As Seen On Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bring your own mashed potatoes.

Wyoming's Devil's Tower

2008: Virginia

Our primary destination was Virginia Beach, but I spent the week under the weather and trying my best not to dampen our spirits. The three of us also discovered something unanimous about ourselves on this vacation: none of us actually enjoy beaches. Consequently, many of our stops on the way to and from Virginia Beach were more interesting to us.

Largest of those was the U.S.S. Wisconsin, decommissioned and moored in Norfolk. Tours are guided by retired veterans proud to be serving as tour guides even when the weather is in the triple digits.

The USS Wisconsin

One of the nicest looking places in the area was Natural Bridge, great for scenic photos and some of the most unusual roadside attractions nearby. One caution: if you love animals, you might want to skip their zoo.

Us at Natural Bridge

All photos are excerpted from lengthy travelogues that I wrote for each of our last several vacations for fun and posterity. If it weren’t for humility and concerns about copyright issues (will theme parks really throw a tantrum if their mascots appear in your published photos?), I’d consider compiling them into a genuine Book, also for fun and posterity.

Road Trip Clip Show: a Salute to Vacation Days, Part 1 of 2

Once all the necessary errands are run and all defensive countermeasures are in place, we’ll be taking off this weekend for our annual road trip. Each year we drive hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to other states to view their museums, witness amazing works of God and man, check out roadside attractions of varying degrees of imagination and quality, and generally see firsthand what lies beyond Indiana.

Our 2012 road trip will take us through Kansas to Colorado, including a circuitous route through Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. With the Waldo Canyon fire now 70% contained as of today and the other extant fires being beyond the scope of our plans, we’re feeling less intrepid and more emboldened to sally forth toward the Rockies and whatever they might surround. We’re challenging ourselves to find good points about Kansas as well.

In honor of Independence Day, one of America’s busiest traveling holidays of the year, and in honor of the fact that I have less free time this week because of vacation preparations and mandatory family-holiday quality time, I present a cursory look back at our road trips from previous years, select snippets of a few of my favorite faraway things.

2011: Manhattan

Our first time in New York City became my favorite vacation to date. The sights, the sounds, the subways, the cleanliness, the overwhelming density of activity options — it was like three vacations packed into one and then marinated in adrenalin.

Naturally we photographed Times Square too many times. We attended The Lion King, found ourselves blown away and wishing the other shows had been inexpensive enough to attend four or five more.

Times Square ad frenzy

Most people view the city from atop the Empire State Building. For a few dollars less, and with no haranguing from enthusiastic street guides, you can ride to the upper floors of 30 Rockefeller Center and see most of the same rooftops. At that height, the view plus or minus a few stories isn’t appreciably different, unless we missed something really cool on 30 Rock’s roof.

the view from 30 Rock

A couple of New Yorkers we know thought it odd that we included Grant’s Tomb on our itinerary. My wife the history buff insisted after reading his autobiography. This seemed like an awful lot of building just to provide a tomb for two, but I was happy to oblige.

Grant's Tomb: Conveniently on the Way to Harlem

2010: Pennsylvania via Ohio

Our primary destination was Philadelphia — again, because of history — but our attention wandered to numerous other sights along the way.

My personal favorite: Eastern State Penitentiary, a former famous prison that’s now a “stabilized ruin” you can visit and view from within. Most notable features include a cell once occupied by Al Capone and a self-guided audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi.

Eastern State Penitentiary, second floor

Diverging from the Pennsylvania Turnpike for several miles allowed us opportunities for small-town roadside wonders such as this giant quarter in Everett, created as part of a local contest.

Everett's giant quarter

On the way to Pennsylvania, we stopped for lunch at the Thurman Cafe in Columbus, a certified As Seen on Man v. Food pit stop. Below is the Thurman Burger, which is larger than some house pets. Not even in my overeating college days could I leave a clean plate after this meal.

Thurman Burger, Thurman Cafe

More to come tomorrow!

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