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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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 7: The McKinley/Roosevelt Losing Ticket

Roosevelt statue!

Once you’ve heard about some of Teddy Roosevelt’s true-life adventures, it’s hard to find Chuck Norris jokes funny.

Longtime MCC readers are well aware we sometimes fall short of our goals. Sometimes we don’t have time to fit in every possibility we brainstormed for our to-do list. Other times, circumstances block a seemingly simple objective. We’ve had our moments of overcoming obstacles and persevering anyway. We’ve also had those times when we cut our losses and decided the hassle outweighed the potential heroism.

We missed two key items while we were in Buffalo. One could’ve been accommodated if we’d been willing to dawdle more in Buffalo and sacrifice later parts of our itinerary. The other, which according to our research should’ve been an easy click-‘n’-run, threw us a disadvantage with a kind of barrier we hadn’t expected: a surprise street party.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 5: The Man, the Myth, the Millard

Fillmore sign!

If the only thing you know about Millard Fillmore is his mention in The Simpsons‘ “Mediocre Presidents” song…join the club. It’s a large one.

As we ended Day One with a drive through a scenic locale from a previous road trip, so did the following morning commence with another encore of sorts. Last time we were in the city of Buffalo, it was 2004 and we were too enamored of nearby Niagara Falls to bother researching or looking at anything else in the vicinity. We’d barely figured out where any Buffalo restaurants were, let alone their history or highlights.

The locals are especially proud of one famous resident in particular — the gentleman and philanthropist who co-founded Buffalo General Hospital and the Buffalo Historical Society, a self-made man borne of tenant farmers who crawled his way up the class ladder to become a lawyer, U.S. Congressman, and Comptroller of the state of New York.

Also, once upon a time he served as President of the United States. Some folks regard his performance in that workplace a bit differently.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 2: Searching Through Hayes Stacks

Hayes bust!

Attorney. Courtroom defender for runaway slaves. Union Army veteran. Congressman. Social reformer. And, when time permitted, American President.

Not every U.S. President left an institution behind upon their passing. Some have multiple cities named after them. Many have a museum that tells their life story and/or celebrates their contributions to their homelands. Some states are prouder of their famous citizens than others.

A number of our former leaders have eponymous presidential libraries, though most were established in or after the 20th century, well after they and their immediate family died. You’d think the very first fully dedicated Presidential Library would have been in honor of one of the really cool Presidents — the ones who get movies made of their lives, who get to be played by upright actors like Sam Waterston or David Morse.

Nope. This guy’s was first.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 1: Hayes’ Shade of Summer

Webb Hayes + flags!

Patriotic grave sites: as American as apple pie, but a lot more solemn.

It’s that time again! Another year, another driving marathon, another chance to see sights we don’t have back home, and another MCC travelogue series to record the experiences before I forget them all and Anne gets tired of retelling them to me.

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13 Dead Presidents Pocketed: Our 2018 Road Trip Prologue

John Adams!

The earliest President whose burial site we’ve seen so far: #2, John Adams, d. 7/4/1826, age 90. Beneath the United First Parish Church in Quincy, MA. From our 2013 road trip.

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.

Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating. We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America.

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The Benjamin Harrison 2012 Halloween Birthday Special

Benjamin Harrison!

Hi, I’m President Benjamin Harrison! You may remember me from such films as…wait, no, you wouldn’t.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: longtime readers and friends know my wife Anne is a history buff who brakes for Presidential grave sites, a common must-see on our annual road trips. In past entries we’ve so far shared our experiences with twelve dead Presidents of the United States of America as follows:

In the middle of that timeline is one we never got around to sharing: that time we visited the one and only Presidential burial site in our own home state of Indiana.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 14: Rushmore!

Mount Rushmore!

Photo by my son, nailing the “homemade Christmas card” aesthetic.

George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Ted “Theodore” Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. You might remember them from such films as North by Northwest, Superman II, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It’s okay if you don’t remember that last one, but it’s not the last time we’ll mention it in this miniseries.

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Shortest Presidency, Tall Memorial

Harrison's Tomb!

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