Our 2021 Road Trip #4: Hangin’ with the Hoovers

Herbert Hoover gravesite!

The working title was “Hunting the Hoovers” but that makes me sound like a suspect in their deaths.

Our presence in Iowa this year was an entirely intentional navigation for the sake of pursuing one of our recurring motifs. We could’ve trimmed a few hundred miles off this year’s drive if we’d bypassed it and taken the more direct route up I-90 through Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, one of the many unseen attractions on our to-do lists was in east-central Iowa — small enough that it was unlikely to be a primary destination in itself, and remote enough that the odds of it being “right on the way” to some future Point B were negligible. We’ve missed so many off-path stopovers in years past that we’re tired of missing out and have become a bit more amenable to long detours. Well, the fun kind of detours, anyway, as opposed to road construction detours.

(Prime example of one out-of-the-way challenge that’s stymied us: a complete Laura Ingalls Wilder historical tour would require days and days of backroads, virtually no interstates. Multiple tiny towns have historical homes or museums in her name because Pa Ingalls did a stellar of job of never living near a single Podunk anywhere that grew into a conveniently connected metropolis.)

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 13: Peanuts to President to Peacemaker

Cap and Carter!

Captain America salutes President Jimmy Carter in 1980 near the downswing of America’s energy crisis. Art by Marvel Bullpen staffer John Tartaglione; autograph by Stan Lee.

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.

Longtime MCC readers will recall last year’s road trip focused on Presidential burial sites. Thus far into our travels we’ve seen the final resting places of 22 men who served 23 Presidencies (blame Chester Arthur for making the count so weird). This year we found an opportunity to visit a set of grounds honoring another President at Atlanta’s own Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

Mind you, Carter isn’t dead yet. At age 95 he and his wife Rosalynn, age 92, the two of them now married 73 years and counting, are very much alive and staying far more active than many of us internet dwellers. Sooner or later the Lord will call him home, but for now we haven’t checked him off our list. It’s worth noting this wasn’t our first time visiting the museum of a still-living President. We had a similar experience with Gerald Ford, who didn’t pass away until four years after our 2002 drive to his museum in Grand Rapids. That means Ford hasn’t been checked off yet, either. One day, Grand Rapids, we shall have to meet again.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 49: The Last Dead President

Warren and Florence Harding!

President #29: Warren G. Harding, d. 8/2/1923, age 57.

Our Presidential body count so far on this vacation:

  1. Rutherford B. Hayes, in the verdant park behind his lavish museum in Fremont, OH
  2. Millard Fillmore, in the same well-kept Buffalo cemetery as several Famous Names in Black History
  3. Chester Arthur, in a dusty corner plot in Albany
  4. Martin Van Buren, in an ancient burial ground a mile from his Dutch home church in Kinderhook, NY
  5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the grounds of Hyde Park
  6. Grover Cleveland, alongside his fellow presidents of Princeton University
  7. James Buchanan, alone on a hill in Lancaster, PA
  8. William McKinley, under a seven-story dome in Canton, OH

…and now, two hours from the William McKinley Memorial and 3½ hours from home, we wended our way through a maze of lazy country highways and one construction detour to reach the final American President on our week-long tour. We had not saved the best for last.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 47: The Climb to McKinley

McKinleys with wreaths!

You can tell our next President has a bigger fan base than some of the others in this series — far more wreaths, and his final resting place is indoors.

I realize these chapters have been rather spaced apart and there’ve been so many of them, but we’re technically in the home stretch now. After a quick lunch stop in West Virginia, only one state stood between us and home. We’d already paid respects to one American President from Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes, back on Day One. Two more Presidential gravesites lay ahead on the trail before we would cross the final state border.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 40: The Bachelor of Lancaster

James Buchanan!

President #15: James Buchanan, d. 6/1/1868, age 77.

Day Six would prove to be a long and draining day, but we refused to be swayed from sticking to our theme, even though it meant a detour for the sake of a politician saddled with a “consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst presidents in American history” per one or more Wikipedia editors. Honestly, we’re not in a position to argue with them.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 27: The Princeton President(s)

Aaron Burr!

Hi, I’m Aaron Burr! You might remember me from such works as Hamilton and Michael Bay’s “Got Milk?” ad!

We’ve been to New Jersey before, but usually just passing through. It was a useful costar in our first trip to New York City in 2011. It made a cameo as a launchpad for our visit to the Statue of Liberty in 2010.

2018 marked our first time arriving in New Jersey for the sake of a distinctly New Jersey site. Again, we didn’t make time to dwell at length in any one city, but it was nice to pay tribute to one set of Garden State notables.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 21: Roosevelts’ Relics

FDR abundance quote!

This one’s for the inspirational quote lovers out there.

The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, NY, has many acres and an unwieldy name, but the heart of the complex is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum. It’s filled with genuine artifacts from the lives of President and Eleanor Roosevelt, souvenirs from the turbulent times in which they lived and effected change, and — in a display of candor rarely expressed in single-subject museums — acknowledgments of their flaws, examples of contrasting viewpoints, and mementos of their opponents. FDR was by no means perfect. Some lobbed deep criticisms in his direction, not all of them baseless. But like all the better American Presidents, signposts can be found along his timeline expressing his hopes and ideas of at least trying to improve our nation for the sake of all citizens, not for himself.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 20: A Walk in Hyde Park

Roosevelts statues!

Come have a seat with Eleanor and Franklin in happier times!

I know what some of you are thinking: of the nine American Presidents whose graves we visited on our week-long scenic tour, isn’t it about time we got to a President who had more than twelve fans? First of all, the city of Buffalo thinks people like you should stop being so mean to Millard Fillmore. Second of all, yes. Yes, it is.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 19: Martin the Okay President

Van Buren statue!

This handy 2007 statue and bench let kids and adults alike pretend they’re Van Buren’s Vice President.

It’s not easy to drum up excitement for a President who had to follow a memorable showboat like Andrew Jackson, who inherited a major recession without any tools to deal with it, who got clobbered four years later by William Henry Harrison, and whose Presidential campaign popularized a hand signal that became an acceptable part of American casual communication from two full centuries ago until about fifteen minutes ago last month.

But by dint of the dignity and respect that older generations perceive as inherent in the Office of the President, Martin Van Buren netted himself a place in American history anyway.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 14: Arthur of Albany

Chester A. Arthur!

President #21, Chester Alan Arthur, d. 11/18/1886, age 57.

For those a bit mystified that this vacation was supposed to be all about dead Presidents and are getting impatient because our last Presidential burial site was nine chapters ago: fear not! We’re getting there. They weren’t exactly next door to each other, and upstate New York has so many excuses for detours, we couldn’t possibly pass them all by. The nine-President plan was a goal, not a vendetta.

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