Our Retroactive “Nomadland” Vacation Memories

Frances McDormand and friend in "Nomadland"/

“We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood / And these Badlands start treating us good…”

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. One of my few accomplishments in 2020 was at long last filling a gap in my list by catching the elusive 1996 nominee Secrets and Lies, which had been out of print for ages but of course is just now scheduled for a Criterion physical release at the end of this very month. Regardless, having crossed that off, I can now say I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt, Secrets and Lies enthusiastically included.

The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge. In a standard Oscar season, the Best Picture nominees would be re-released to theaters for a limited time, I’d run out and see each one, and that would be that, a bit costly but easy-peasy. Since March 2020 I’ve walked into theaters exactly twice (which each left me frustrated and disappointed) and haven’t been eager to test those revolutionary new air filtration systems or the other patrons’ pandemic manners. Using my four-step listicled viewing method helped calm my fears and, I think, helped not to get myself or my family killed, so it wasn’t all for naught. I’m not sure how many more times I feel like tempting fate. Getting fully vaccinated would allay all remaining concerns, but as my schedule happens to be working out, I won’t reach peak immunization (i.e., 14 days after my second Pfizer shot) until literally the day before the Oscars.

By the end of 2020 I’d seen Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7 of my own accord. Two weeks prior to the nomination announcement on March 15th I caught a third nominee in advance, certain that it was a lock for a nomination based on its universal critical acclaim — Nomadland, the one with Two-Time Academy Award Winner Frances McDormand, from the director of Marvel’s eventually forthcoming Eternals. The Powers That Be were kind enough to release it on Hulu as well as in theaters. I appreciated the humane gesture, and was surprised to see several scenes were filmed in locations familiar to me and to longtime MCC readers who’ve followed along on our road trip experiences.

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Our 2003 Road Trip: The Lost Photos

Yosemite Sam statue at Six Flags America.

Hanging out at Six Flags America with Yosemite Sam and avoiding the fashion police in my backwards cap, fanny pack, and souvenir T-shirt from our 2000 road trip to a sci-fi convention in St. Louis.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

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.

Sure, a lot of couples prefer to spend their downtime at the nearest beach, book passage on a cruise, or max out their credit cards on a Paris dream trip. We have our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Digging for gems in unusual places — sometimes geek-related, sometimes peculiar, sometimes normal yet above average. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

We’ve shared stories and photos from all our annual excursions here on MCC. The experiences that predated this site were recaptured in hindsight from the photos, memories, and previous online write-ups at our disposal. In a few cases our archival searches were disappointing, as we could’ve sworn we took more photos than what we found. Once I’d finished reposting every single vacation, I assumed that was that and moved on. Then a few months ago, Anne happened to be combing our library for something and stumbled across a pair of forgotten, small, old-fashioned photo albums that had been buried behind or beneath other albums and scrapbooks in some overshadowed nook. Within those mini-albums we rediscovered a secret stash of unused pics from our 2003 road trip to Washington, DC. Suddenly my completed online project had a gaping hole in it.

Mind you, they’re not the best photos ever. They were taken by amateurs on cheap cameras using 35mm film before we switched exclusively to digital photos in 2009. No one was filling our inboxes with requests to revisit our road trips. But in my mind, now that I can see these did exist after all, the omission of these unintentional outtakes leaves the original MCC miniseries incomplete. And the older we get, the more excited we get at the thought of restoring missing memories, grit and blurs and all.

Presented here, then, are bonus images from that time my best friend and I drove my son out to DC, learned a bit of American history, found a lot of places shut down for post-9/11 renovations, walked too many miles, and came to hate Subway sandwiches because it was the only cheap restaurant we could find near our hotel.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #35: The Season Finale Outtakes

Anne in the trench!

DAY THREE: Anne finding her own path of glory in the simulated WWI trench behind the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through six non-consecutive days of travel from July 3rd through the 11th around various locales within our home state of Indiana, the best we could do with out-of-state travel forbidden to me for work-related reasons during the Age of Coronavirus. It all comes down to this, per our tradition for every MCC road trip story: one final collection of alternate scenes, extra details, and surplus attractions along the way that were squeezed out of the main narrative. Enjoy!

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2020 Road Trip Photos #34: Threnody in Plywood

Downtown Comics!

That time Downtown Comics replaced all their smashed windows with white boards and invited artists to come redecorate.

Every vacation ends with a homecoming. Inevitably we have to return to reality, relinquish the perks of living outside the box for a week, resume our routines, and readjust to our not-so-exotic environments. Sometimes when we’ve run ourselves ragged to the point of exhaustion, it can be almost comforting to slip back into familiar robes and roles and ruts.

At the end of our 2020 experience, “home sweet home” didn’t have quite the same ring to it. More of a Chopin dirge than a ring.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #33: The Market Underground

Please Watch Your Step!

Do you dare enter…the CATACOMBS OF CREEPINESS? (If you do, watch your head.)

Once again we flout MCC’s “road trip” branding on this miniseries, as the final tourist attraction of our 2020 vacation was a five-minute walk from my workplace. It’s been on our local to-do list for years, but was tough to schedule because it’s held rarely, sells out quickly, and goes forgotten for months at a time till one of us randomly remembers it. This year we had the foresight and a perfect slot in our schedule for all the wrong reasons.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #32: Farm Fresh Feast

Cheese Board!

A fancy cheese board straight from the cows’ udders. Plus or minus some intermediaries.

We’ve not far now until the end of the miniseries. One last mealtime wraps up the Hoosier culinary side of things.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #31: Farm Fresh Air

Eagle Creek bubbling!

A happy creek bubbling through a happy forest filled with happy trees. Happy!

Yes, this one’s about yet another walk through grass and trees and fields and then more grass. I wasn’t kidding about walks and exercise being a recurring motif. If we can find ways to prolong our existence on this mortal plane and keep having road trips and comic cons and other good times together, while also appearing slightly more photogenic in future results, then yes, long walks are in order. Preferably around pleasant scenery. Live animals are extra credit.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #30: Farm Fresh Fowl

henhouse wheels!

Quickly, robins — to the Henmobile!

As our miniseries approaches its final chapters, local followers may notice all the remaining locations aren’t that far from our house and barely qualify as “road trip” stops. I debated whether to call this miniseries “2020 Vacation Photos” or something similarly bland. Ultimately I sided with what passes for my “brand” and titled it consistently with previous miniseries rather than kowtowing to strict semantics. The indisputably road-tripping days of this week still outnumber the convenient central-Indiana explorations.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #29: The Week in Breakfast

Knead the Dough haul!

Can YOU name your favorite flavors seen here? Good, because I forgot to write them down.

Restaurant photos are naturally a frequent part of our travel experiences. However, one practical benefit of using your own home as your road-trip command base is you don’t have to eat out for every meal every day. A few times on this vacation, we settled for ordinary home-cooked breakfasts that let us unwind for a few extra minutes before takeoff to faraway towns. On three vacation mornings this year we incorporated early pit stops into our itinerary because sometimes we do need a change of pace from our groceries. This was especially true during the Age of Coronavirus, which may have been an ideal setting for the sedentary homebody in me but has been nonstop frustrating for the lover of new experiences.

Or at least relatively new. Donuts don’t exactly qualify as rare exotica. But this trilogy of breakfast mini-galleries isn’t all about donuts.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #28: Kokomo-a-Go-Go

Barack Obama alley art!

Flashback to calmer times. Alley art by Jules Muck, a.k.a. Muckrock.

I like art. I like very specific kinds of shopping. I like taking walks around non-bland areas. Downtown Kokomo held opportunities for all that and then some.

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