Our 2022 Road Trip #30: The Cleveland Wahlbergs

Anne with a huge smile hoisting a mug of orange Creamsicle. On the table is a Wahlburgers menu.

After a long week Anne enjoys the refreshing taste of an orange Creamsicle float. (Nonalcoholic, natch.)

Once we again we’re winding down another travelogue with chapters nowhere near as exciting as the ones in the middle. The very design of our vacations and my insistence on chronological storytelling together mean pretty much every MCC miniseries ends anticlimactically. Not once have we driven 4-to-20 hours out of town and scheduled the biggest and best attraction as the very last thing we do on our way home. If you’ve remained a longtime reader, I trust you understand the nature of the pastime.

Cleveland first appeared in our lives in 2004, when my car broke down on our way home from Niagara Falls. C-Town had a stronger costarring role in our 2013 adventures, replete with stops at a rockin’ museum, a Christmas movie house, an iconic comic-book legend’s house, the second-tallest Presidential burial site we’ve seen to date, and a memorial statue I helped fund. That was a good set of experiences.

This year, Cleveland was an anticlimax again. In some ways it wasn’t their fault. Some ways.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #29: Room for Jell-O

Two old "Jell-O Fun Barbie" sets, mint in box with dolls, Jell-O packets, and pink molds.

Barbies love the taste of Jell-O! One of many pop culture icons to embrace Jell-O corporate synergy throughout the years.

We had several hours of driving to do on Day Seven, but it’s no fun to spend an entire day only driving. After we’d finished having our kind of fun in Utica, our next stop down the road was a four-mile digression off the New York State Thruway with a very special museum that we hoped would entertain us for at least a few minutes. In that sense our timing estimate was pretty accurate. But hey, they say there’s always room…

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Our 2022 Road Trip #28: Utica’s Golden

A shiny gold dome amid several tall buildings on a cloudless day.

New York has a cool gold dome like numerous other states, but it’s neither in their capital nor on their capitol.

Fun trivia: billboards have been banned in Vermont since 1968 — one of four states to do so, along with Maine, Alaska and Hawaii. Among other benefits, their lawmakers’ efforts definitely helped improve all those Green Mountains pics we’ve posted throughout this series. Alas, not long after we crossed the border back into the east end of New York State, we found ourselves in the middle of another batch of mountains covered in lush forests from peak to base, but with one (1) great big Denny’s ad in the middle, jutting out like a zit newly erupting on a teenage forehead an hour before prom night.

Moving past that, upstate New York had more sights we actually wanted to see, including a return engagement with a city that got short shrift on one of our previous road trips.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #27: Rutland on the Way Out

A mural painted on a brick wall depicting Batman busting through the wall. Flying next to him is a griffin with a superhero-stylized "G" on its chest.

Detail from the mural Batman vs. Griffin by Kathryn Wiegers.

As a comics collector since age 6, I’d love it if every single one of our vacations made time for at least one comics-related stop. Sadly that’s a rare theme among those who start up new tourist attractions that aren’t amusement parks. Once upon a time, our next stop in Vermont used to have deep connections with the wild world of superhero comics. I’d hoped to enjoy evidence of that, but we got the impression the place just isn’t the same anymore. The same, I’m sure, could be said of many places we’ve been, but my hopes were perhaps a bit too high going in.

Because I insisted we make time for it, Rutland ended up as the last city we visited before we left Vermont. It was not our favorite.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #26: Country Time with Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge's tombstone has two tiny flags and some pink flowers standing in front of it; evergreen bushes behind it.

Part 25 also led off with a tombstone, but this one is real.

Longtime MCC readers may recall one of the recurring motifs in our past vacations was the final resting places of Presidents of the United States of America. In fact, one trip was dedicated specifically to the task of spotting nine such gentleman in a row. They’re not all winners, but they went down in American history as official Presidents, for better or worse, so they count. Prior to 2022 we’d visited the gravesites of 23 U.S. Presidents in all. When last we left off, in 2021 we visited Herbert Hoover’s final resting place in Iowa and compiled a list of all the Presidential gravesites we’d seen up to that point. As it happens, Vermont has one that we had to visit before we headed home.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #25: 10 Ben & Jerry’s Flavors That Deserved to Die (And 5 That Didn’t)

Vermonty Python ice cream tombstone

Exempt from competition because it has my favorite epitaph, it’s Vermonty Python: “Coffee Liqueur Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Crumb Swirl & Fudge Cows”. I expected Spam and elderberries.

We had a grand old time at the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory tour, but the fun didn’t end at their threshold or at closing time. On the way to the parking lot is a special outdoor tribute we’ve never seen any other company attempt: a mock graveyard in which every tombstone represents a discontinued product. When was the last time you visited a McDonald’s with its own chapel where you can light a candle for the Cheddar Melt or the McLean Deluxe?

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Our 2022 Road Trip #24: Ben & Jerry’s Very Merry Dairy

The Ben & Jerry's logo painted big and brightly on an indoor wall.

The men, the myth, the legends, the logo.

As storied Vermont institutions go, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is one of the most beloved and possibly the Vermont-iest of them all. Their factory in Waterbury offers free tours and ranked high on our to-do list the moment we’d chosen Vermont as this year’s destination. Thanks to the pandemic, it very nearly didn’t happen for us.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #23: Moseying Around Montpelier

Downtown Montpelier as seen from the highway bridge coming into town. An above-average number of steeples poke upward.

We’d had plans to get a better view of Montpelier, but that didn’t work out.

We’re not high-end shoppers who get caught anywhere near boutiques, jewelers, perfumeries, fashion trendsetters, or home decor artisans unless they happen to be next door to the retailers we’d rather visit. And by “we” I especially mean “I”. Anne’s collecting habits are modest bordering on spartan, whereas I’m the one on the lookout for brick-and-mortar purveyors who cater to my hobbies and pop culture interests. Fortunately Montpelier had just the district for us.

Apropos of Vermont, that entire paragraph is recycled from the downtown Burlington chapter from the day before. The sentiments nonetheless apply here. If it ain’t broke, and so on.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #22: Little State, Big State House

The Vermont State House on a gray day, gold-leaf dome shining and citizens hanging around.

The old leaf dome of the Vermont State House shines through a gray post-rainy late morning.

In our early traveling years we didn’t make a point of visiting every state capital or capitol building along our route because, well, we hadn’t really considered collecting them like trading stamps or Beanie Babies. In later years we’ve regretted bypassing a few that were within reach (e.g., Richmond, Frankfort, Jackson) and/or those capitals we did visit but skipped their capitols (Little Rock, Topeka). In more recent times we’ve upgraded their priority level and included them where so inclined and doable. Montpelier, VT, is America’s smallest state capital, but it was easy to reach from our planned path, and an engaging addition at that.

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Our 2022 Road Trip #21: The Bridge Over the Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge Dam, which is by a pond, and it was about to rain, so the lighting is weird.

Quechee Gorge Dam with rain clouds overhead. Perfect timing for weird lighting.

We felt we’d be remiss if our first trip to Vermont didn’t include a stop at one of their 55 state parks. Our vetting process led us to one that put the “gorge” in “gorgeous”.

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