Our first venture into the state of Iowa left a lot to be desired, but it was a milestone in our travels: the first time we ever visited the birthplace of a famous personality before they were born.
Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen 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. From 2004 to 2011 we recounted our experiences online at length for a close circle of friends. From 2012 to the present we’ve presented our annual travelogues here on Midlife Crisis Crossover for You, the Viewers at Home, which I’m grateful includes some of those same friends. (For newcomers to the site, our complete road trip checklist will direct you to hundreds of previous entries covering our explorations, including remastered retellings of our pre-MCC outings in 2001, 2006, and 2011.
Every tradition begins somewhere. As longtime friends and readers might expect, ours began with a convention.
A battleship turned into a museum was a fascinating concept in itself. Their vintage aircraft collection was a value-added bonus. But for our money the greatest exhibit of all aboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum was a premium exhibit space on the upper deck showcasing the great-granddaddy of the American Space Shuttle program, the one that started it all, the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
Parked beneath the Enterprise is a second vehicle: one of the shuttles used in filming episodes of the original Star Trek series during its 1966-1969 run. Because someone among their ranks has dual senses of humor and awesomeness, we have the Enterprise shuttle and an Enterprise shuttle, basking together with an aura of simulated starshine for ambiance. Call them the Astrodynamic Duo.
Thirteenth time’s nearly the charm for the long-running film series, which needed to make up for the ground lost by JJ Abrams’ 2013 superfluous Wrath of Khan remake. This time around the Powers That Be went with a different style of director — Justin Lin, mastermind behind four Fast and the Furious entries, including the one where nearly all the heroes teamed up and became the AAA Avengers with their very own Fast and Furious Cinematic Speedway. Lin knows a little about diving into established universes, and a lot about spectacularly timed whiz-bang action sequences. I assumed sight unseen that Star Trek Beyond would therefore have some of the best starship battle sequences in all of Trekdom (or at least it had better), but would he be capable of the kind of cerebral depth that the old-time fans demand from their Enterprise crew?
My wife and I once, and only once, stood in the same area code as Leonard Nimoy. On Thanksgiving weekend 2001, Nimoy was one of the most special guests at Indianapolis’ annual Star Trek convention, during the dark-ages period when it was run by a notorious out-of-state company. The autographs and fleeting moments with all non-Nimoy actor guests were included in the ticket price, years before al-a-carte autographs at skyrocketing prices became the industry norm. In-person autographs from the esteemed Mister Spock were permitted only to VIP attendees who paid extra for the Saturday evening “Dinner with the Stars” gathering; all other attendees like us received non-personalized pre-signed photos with admission.
That’s ours scanned and shown above. At the time Anne and I were best friends with separate low-rent apartments and not much disposable income to pool together. The VIP package was beyond our means, but we were thrilled simply to inhabit the same building as the greatest science officer in pop culture history.
We had terrible seats at his Sunday Q&A, near the back of the long, long ballroom. We have no live photos of him from this occasion because our primitive 35mm cameras were useless against the vast gulf of heads between us and the stage. And yet…what mattered most was we were in the same room as The Leonard Nimoy.
Captain’s Log, stardate 2114.198, Day Three of our trip. Our time frame, destination, and course were all charted months before our missions were chosen. During the itinerary process we discovered one optional assignment that was not indigenous to our target area, but had been established in the Twin Cities area a mere two months before our arrival. While surveying the metropolitan areas themselves was our primary objective, my First Officer and I agreed this might be the sole opportunity of our lifetime to take advantage — not only as a recreational side quest for the sake of our crew (both of us), but as a fact-finding investigation for our colleagues back at HQ.
So that’s why we returned to the Mall of America: not because we love shopping (meh), but because we figured such excellent timing obligated us to check out the traveling museum tour known as Star Trek: the Exhibition.