Our 2022 Road Trip #2: A Night Off for Steel City Sports

Willie Stargell statue!

Ladies and gentlemen, Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell!

Longtime MCC readers are well aware we’re not into sports. We don’t actively hate them, but they’re not among our hobbies and we only attend games if we’re handed free tickets. Sports-related tourism pops up on rare occasions in our trips — like that time we loitered around Camden Yards back in 2017 — but we don’t go out of our way for it. When it’s directly in our path and we have the free time…eh, why not take a gander.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #36: Kaiju Americana Trilogy

Jamestown giant buffalo!

If all real buffaloes had been this size, the history of the American frontier would’ve gone very differently.

One of the all-time greatest songs about road trips is an album track by “Weird Al” Yankovic called “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota“. It wasn’t one of his classic pop-single parodies, just a wacky 7-minute riff on ’70s lite-country crooners that aptly captured the essence of roadside attractions in all their abnormal Americana glory. Over the past twenty years we’ve seen our share of eccentricity and ingenuity on the run, but in one respect we’ve found the reality comes up a bit short: there are not garish, campy, world-record-setting colossi standing in all fifty states. We’ve seen a lot of “big”, but not much “biggest”.

Clearly we should’ve driven more deeply into North Dakota sooner. A 131-mile stretch of I-94 through the heart of their unassuming state skirts past no less than three such mega-animals in three different towns. Sure, their national park was pretty and a few statues of historical figures were fine, but they shriveled in comparison to the frivolous joy of this towering trio, none of whom have ever been invited to star in their own Syfy Original Film.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #35: North Dakota Statue Stopover Trilogy

Young Theodore Roosevelt statue, Dickinson, North Dakota.

Taken together with other Presidential statues in this series, we see the Young Teddy/Old Teddy gap is nowhere near as wide as the one between Young and Old Elvis.

Tired of endlessly pretty panoramas from the Western U.S.? You say we should get back to some roadside art? Have we got some chapters for you!

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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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Indiana State Fair 2021 Photos, Part 4 of 5: The Year in Art

stained glass Captain America shield!

…the red and the white and the blue’ll come through / When Captain America throws his stained-glass shield!

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. At least, normally we attend every year. You can guess why there was no 2020 edition…

Anne and I are at that age when we’re more interested in visiting the exhibit halls than we are in discomforting or injuring ourselves on the Midway rides. We enjoy seeing what new works of paint, photography, building blocks, and science have been offered up for the various competitions. The State Fair holds its massive celebrations on behalf of our farmers, but Indiana has no shortage of artists, either. They come from all demographics, work in multiple media, bring ideas from pop culture as well as from their own home life, and all contribute in their own ways to the Hoosier State hometown legacy.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #8: The Art of the City of Five Seasons

Emperor Augustus bust, Cedar Rapids.

Fires wave behind a bust of the Emperor Augustus, sculpted circa 25 B.C.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is nicknamed “The City of Five Seasons” courtesy of an advertising agency hired to boost their image back in 1968. The fifth season is not a specific calendar range, but rather an ambiguously conceptual phase in which a Cedar Rapidsian ostensibly kicks back and enjoys the other four. That’s not as loose a paraphrase of my sources as you might think. Perhaps one must attain a certain meditative state in order to transcend the space-time continuum and enjoy spring, summer, winter, and fall as a four-way point in time, a singular melange of all their sensations, and Cedar Rapids is the one true nexus of all seasonal ley lines whereupon arcane Iowan magic manifests the sensory cross-section of freezing sunshine, fiery snow, plants blooming bright orange, and year-round pumpkin spice.

Maybe you just have to be Of The Rapids to get it. Or maybe the real fifth season was the friends we made along the way. We forged no new friendships in the big C-R, but we enjoyed perusing their copious art flourishes, from their art museum to the surrounding area.

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Indiana State Fair 2021 Photos, Part 3 of 5: The Year in Lego

Lego snow leopard!

Lego snow leopard!

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. At least, normally we attend every year. You can guess why there was no 2020 edition…

In addition to the nonstop celebration of food, for some reason Lego is a frequent sight at our State Fair. 4-H kids and competitors in other art contests routinely turn in works of Lego as their favorite sculpting medium. There’s nothing emphatically Hoosier about them. To my knowledge we have no Lego factory and no Legoland theme park. Indiana was not a beachhead for Danish explorers. The Lego Indiana Jones sets have nothing to do with us, much as we might wish to contrive otherwise. But at our state fair there’s always room for Lego.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 21: A Limited Who’s Who in Georgia History

Jimmy Carter!

Once more, with feeling: Jimmy Carter! Sleeves rolled up, ready to work.

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

Our walk around the Georgia State Capitol took us through ornate architecture, near the seats of government, and past packed displays that provided a number of perspectives on local history and issues. As with many other such buildings, we also saw statues all around the grounds commemorating notable politicians and contributors to society — some of them well known on a national or even international level, some not so much. But someone thought their faces were worth carving into metal or stone.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 11: Caveat Sculptor

Pelican!

Emmanuel Fremiet, Pelican, 1896.

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 with our eyes wide, minds open, heads tilted, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

All around the galleries are sculptures filling the wide gaps of floor between the walls. Some were easy to overlook as we found ourselves transfixed on the two-dimensional classics hanging from the perimeters, but we braked here and there for a few three-dimensional delights — some from famous names; some from anonymous, untraceable antiquity. And yes, there were nudes.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 1: The Grounds Alone

Right Lion!

Sculptor Edward Kerneys named this lion “stands in an attitude of defiance”. I just call him Right Lion.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:**

It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.

For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself…

…and then we were released from service. The following weekend, after a brief overnighter at Fair Oaks Farms, we returned to Chicago for our third time this year after memorable trips for C2E2 and Star Wars Celebration Chicago. (It was our fifth total within the past twelve months. Frankly, we’re growing a little tired of that three-hour drive and are fairly certain 2019 won’t lure us back there yet again. Probably. We think.)

In my defense, this trip was all but preordained months ago. Continue reading

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