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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Our 2021 Road Trip #12: Corn Again in the Kingdom of Cob

jazz hands corn!

Photo taken on my phone by some strangers. In exchange, Anne agreed to take pics of the next fifteen or twenty strangers with their respective devices.

Your typical, most famous tourist attractions tend to be singular experiences. You make the trip, you see it the one time, you Instagram it with a trite affirmation tacked on, and you’ve seen all you need to see of it for the rest of your life. The Empire State Building doesn’t add all-new stories on top with all-new features. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t entice repeat customers by changing into different dresses like the World’s Largest Barbie. Mount Rushmore doesn’t rotate the Presidents’ heads and cycle through all 45 of them, because the logistics would require science fiction tech and sooner or later you’d end up with a non-star lineup of Van Buren, Harrison #1, Tyler, and Polk, and attendance would plummet, like that one year the Best Picture Oscar nominees were four art films and a three-hour Brad Pitt nap.

Some attractions benefit from forward-looking designers who realize flexibility is a virtue and construct their dream edifice using a medium that lends itself to creative renewal. Such was absolutely the case for our next stop, a sight both familiar and revamped.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #11: When Art Show Animals Attack

black-capped chickadee nest!

Which of these creatures is scarier, the real bird or the imagined dragon? The answer might surprise you!

We knew a trip to Yellowstone would mean live animal sightings sooner or later. We also knew tourists and animals sometimes don’t get along and mistakes can be made by one party or the other. Rest assured if we’d suffered one of those debilitating bear attacks that grab news headlines on slow news days or trend heavily on YouTube, I would’ve written about it here by now. Bears, in fact, made a point of hiding from us all vacation long. We spotted nary a real bear the entire trip, not even in captivity.

That doesn’t mean all our wildlife encounters were amicable. Apart from driving up and around rainy mountains on Day Four, our scariest moment occurred in, of all places, an outdoor art walk.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #10: The Little Falls Before Sioux Falls’ Big Sioux Falls

me and waterfalls!

Please enjoy this bubbly moment of nature partially obscured by a doughy guy.

It sounds confusing but it’s perfectly simple. The city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is named after the waterfalls that are part of the Big Sioux River, around which local civilization sprung up. They built an entire city park around the prettiest part of the river and named it Falls Park, of course after the city’s own natural namesake. That stretch of the Big Sioux has numerous falls of varying sizes along its length. Depending on how far you walk, you can see all or merely some of those falls and enjoy natural beauty in a portion size of your choosing. If you’re short on time, a falls sampler is better than no falls at all.

Also, if you saw a limited portion of the falls and felt you’d seen enough, and nobody had the unsolicited courtesy of mind-reading skills to run up and tell you, “But wait! There’s more!” you might get all the way home from vacation, let three months pass by, revisit your photos, compare them to online resources, and then discover you missed the best parts of the park.

Not that we’re bitter.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #9: Remember the South Dakota

USS South Dakota sailor man!

It’s a battleship. It’s a museum. It’s a battleship AND a museum. It’s a battleseum!

When you’ve taken as many road trips as we have, sooner or later you find yourself in states you’ve seen before. The big planning question is: do you revisit the best attractions you’ve already seen or find new places you missed the first time around? When the encore under discussion is in a state filled with countless options from end to end, it’s cool when you can respond to yourself with: why not both? For our return to South Dakota, we began with column B.

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Indiana State Fair 2021 Photos, Part 5 of 5: And the Rest

Indy sign and Ferris Wheel!

It isn’t Anne’s first time posing next to an “NDY” sign, but it’s our first shot with one that also includes a Ferris wheel and a duck hat.

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…

It all comes down to this: all the other stuff and things we encountered that didn’t receive their own chapters. A few of these subsections could’ve been expanded into individual entries, but the State Fair ended last weekend and is now well past its internet shelf date. Let’s wrap this up before Anne and I embark on our next potentially exciting endeavor later this very week, what say?

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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 2021 Road Trip #7: American Nothic

Jimmy Carter Gothic parody.

President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn on the January 1977 cover of Punch shortly before his inauguration. Art by Wally Fawkes, a.k.a. “Trog”.

Sure, you could Google parodies of Grant Wood’s American Gothic and see six million of them online, or you could support the arts by driving hundreds of miles and paying museum admission to see a fraction of them in person. Well, not the original artwork itself, mind you, just old copies of the publications and merchandise that have used some. And one monitor slideshow of countless others, some copied-and-pasted from online and others possibly drawn by local DeviantArt account holders for fun. But that still counts as an art exhibition of sorts, I rationalize.

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