Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 15: Outtakes for the Drive Home

Charleston & Biker!

DAY 7: Retracing our path up I-64, once again passing the West Virginia State Capitol. And a biker dude.

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, marvels, history, and institutions 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. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

Our 2007 drive down to Orlando had one personal milestone for me: my first contact with the Atlantic Ocean. My moment lasted about ten minutes before thunderstorms chased us away from the coast. As Atlantic beach experiences go, Florida gave me a lousy first impression. For 2008 we decided a second try was in order. Rather than take back-to-back trips to the same state, we researched other east-coast beach options, judged them by their nearby attractions, adjusted for our modest budget that couldn’t possibly afford upper-class oceanfront accommodations, and settled on what we hoped would be a suitable sequel.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Virginia Beach!

…and then we came home and I finally got medical attention.

But first: the final day of our trip. Also, a value-added bonus — a selection of photos we skipped in previous entries for various reasons.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 14: Like a Bridge Away From Troubled Waters

Natural Bridge!

At long last: the one and only Natural Bridge!

If you’ve been following this miniseries up till now, you’ll know this wasn’t our best week. Between my infirmities and our frequent bouts of disappointment from half the attractions we visited, this was not Best Trip Ever. At all, in any way imaginable. Least of all from the Natural Bridge area, from their zoo to the Visitor Center.

Until we got under the Bridge.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 13: Seven Wonders on the Way Back

King Kong!

KING KONG SMASH PUNY PLANES! IF PLANES WOULD DO KONG FAVOR AND FLY CLOSER TO GROUND! KONG NOT HAVE SKYSCRAPER HANDY!

Roadside attractions are naturally part of our road-tripping experience. We won’t necessarily drive fifteen miles out of our way to see a Paul Bunyan statue in an area that has absolutely nothing else of interest, but if one just so happens to be standing across the street from a Presidential burial site, we might make time for a cheesy cameo along the way.

We’re more susceptible to oddball sights when we’re on our way home, have hours to kill, and need our monotony broken up. In the case of our westward trek across Virginia, monotony wouldn’t be a problem for long.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 12: Walk with the Animals, Balk at the Animals

wildcat!

A teenager taking a reluctant wildcat on a walk. What’s the worst that could happen?

When my son was younger and first began tagging along on our road trips in 2003, we tried to include either one zoo or one amusement park on each itinerary as a concession for his sake. We’d already fulfilled the 2008 quota with an entire day spent at Busch Gardens Europe. On our way home we ran across another zoo we hadn’t considered, that hadn’t shown up in our review of mainstream Virginia brochures. We were in the area, the timing was convenient, and the sign out front promised tourists could have their pictures taken with live tiger cubs, presumably small and furry and adorable. That part sounded fun.

I mean, sure, we wound up having one of the most frightening moments in our entire 18-year road trip history. But hey: happy fun animals! Well, some of them. Sorta. The ones that weren’t bitter, at least.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 11: The Jamestown Compromise

Anne + rigging!

Years after the fact I’m just now noticing the coincidence of scheduling two quite boat-forward attractions on the same day. Go figure.

As part of our social studies curriculum, school systems throughout central Indiana used to send all their fourth-graders on a field trip to Conner Prairie as part of their mandatory Indiana history lessons. This well-known living history park up on the north side of the city recreates 19th-century Hoosier living with knowledgeable cosplayers in a recreated olde-tyme town filled with replica props and other learning opportunities about the Way Things Were.

I’m not sure if all our present school systems can still afford field trips nowadays, but back in our time, sooner or later everyone went to Conner Prairie. It was a local universal experience. The only memories I carry with me from my own field trip are of the fresh mud everywhere and of the re-enactor’s Q&A at which I found I was the only kid in my class who knew that horses’ feet were called “hooves”. True if depressing story.

It’s extremely rare for anyone to pay a second visit to Conner Prairie. Sometimes adults will when it’s their turn to chaperon their own kids’ field trips. Living history museums are consequently not an activity we look for in our annual road-trip itineraries. Anne and I get the gist of the interactive playacting learning experience. We pass. Except this one time.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 10: Sinking Feelings on a Battleship

Wisconsin wide!

Battleship! Not from Milton Bradley!

Given that America’s east coast is the home of numerous military hot spots, it followed that the Virginia area would offer touring options for at least one of them. Our warcraft of choice was a bit of a drive from Virginia Beach, but seemed like an interesting idea at the time. We might remember it more fondly if it weren’t for my ongoing physical issues, and if hadn’t taken us two tries to gain battleship access.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 9: Busch-Whacked

Apollo's end!

When the roller coaster warning sign says “People with medical conditions should not ride,” it’s not a medical condition if it hasn’t been diagnosed by a trained professional yet, right? Asking for a friend.

With each respective chapter of all our annual road trips, I have memories remaining from every stop to varying degrees. We’ve completed so many and I’m so old that I can recall some in greater detail than others. Our 2008 visit to Busch Gardens is very nearly an exception. I’ve spent months straining to summon those images from the recesses of mental storage, but I remember virtually nothing. Not the rides, not the snacks, not the animals, and thankfully not the physical pains I brought with me. For reasons that’ll be apparent by the end of this chapter, that day is largely a blur.

I say “largely” because, as I worked through the “Historical Notes” section, a couple of repressed scenes came back to me. Now I wish they hadn’t.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 8: Washed Up on Virginia Beach

Mini-Golf Course!

I might be willing to play real golf if they made entire full-scale golf courses exactly like this.

I’ll always remember Virginia Beach as the place where I checked off and “frolic on a sunny, legitimately oceanside beach” from my bucket list. Two of Earth’s treasures are inaccessible here in Indianapolis and are a bit glamorized — possibly even mythologized, given our muted responses in the moment. It’s not the first time I’ve had my first encounter with something beloved by billions of other humans throughout world history only to discover my personal response is “I don’t get it.”

Moving forward from there, we turned to the rest of the Virginia Beach and sought other forms of fun, meaning, and/or bang for our buck. Results continued to be, um, mixed.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 7: Wet Blankets at Virginia Beach

nipple!

I understand beaches are usually family-friendly, but there’s a chance sooner or later you’ll see a stray nipple.

I have a coworker whose vacations are the exact opposite of ours. Her day-to-day life is so much nonstop on-the-go never-ending battle against the forces of entropy and laziness that her ideal getaway involves laying out at the beach, catching up on her reading, surely having drinks at her side, and nothing else if at all possible. I understand her story is normal, as beach lovers are a majority among vacationers. One time in Virginia, we tiptoed into their world to see what the fuss was about, and to see if the idea might catch on for us.

Mild spoiler: nope.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 6: By Neptune’s Trident!

Neptune + turtle!

Beware the power of my trusty trident and my TERROR TURTLE!

In designing and composing our travelogues, we pride ourselves on capturing the narrative that we lived through. Sometimes we find ourselves in a state of zealous motion, pausing only for fleeting glimpses of our surroundings. Other times, a notable sight will stop us in our tracks and invite closer examination, sometimes indulging in variations on a theme like the following mini-gallery. Such was the case when we approached Virginia Beach, where a certain King of the Sea towers over the boardwalk and commands the attention of anyone with an eye for detail who isn’t in a hurry to go get sunburned.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 5: Mr. Robertson’s Neighborhood

700 Club Ticket Stub!

Scrapbooked souvenirs are the best souvenirs.

One of MCC’s more enduring entries from the past two years has been that time we attended a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on our 2016 NYC vacation. That wasn’t our first time attending a live TV recording. That milestone was set nine years earlier, in a studio that met much the same criteria — admission was free but required tickets anyway; no photos were allowed during all the best parts of the experience; and the biggest name in the house was a famous figure in the American political arena who we were forbidden to approach, and who once announced a Presidential campaign but wasn’t taken seriously.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 4: An Appalachian Trail But for Non-Hikers

me at overlook!

Whenever a long drive through vast panoramas threaten to turn dull, break up the pretty monotony with a stop at a scenic overlook! Then quickly get back in the car and floor it.

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, marvels, history, and institutions 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. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

Our 2007 drive down to Orlando had one personal milestone for me: my first contact with the Atlantic Ocean. My moment lasted about ten minutes before thunderstorms chased us away from the coast. As Atlantic beach experiences go, Florida gave me a lousy first impression. For 2008 we decided a second try was in order. Rather than take back-to-back trips to the same state, we researched other east-coast beach options, judged them by their nearby attractions, adjusted for our modest budget that couldn’t possibly afford upper-class oceanfront accommodations, and settled on what we hoped would be a suitable sequel.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Virginia Beach!

The morning drive through the West Virginia mountains was beautiful, and not just because the traffic was light and I made great time. Their wilderness panoramas are many and vast and spacious and layered and wondrously three-dimensional.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 3: The Original Thomas and Martha

Thomas Jefferson Burial Site!

He gets his name on the obelisk. Hers is down on the base. To be fair, he lived at Monticello longer than she did.

[Historical pre-note: our 2018 road trip is in the early planning stages, and so far Anne and I know only one thing for certain: it’s time to visit another Presidential burial site or two. We’ve seen 13 of the 38 to date, nearly one-third of the way through the list. Back in 2008, our visit to Thomas Jefferson’s scenic Monticello was only site #2 for us. They were never meant to be a recurring travel motif, but here we are.]

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Road Trip Clip Show: a Salute to Vacation Days, Part 2 of 2

Continuing my stroll down Memory Lane to revisit the spirits of road trips past, while looking forward to the spirit of road trips yet to come.

2009: South Dakota and friends

Our longest drive to date, our first foray into the Mountain Daylight Time zone, and our introduction to South Dakota, land of a thousand casinos. There’s more to see than mere impressive Mount Rushmore.

The Badlands greet you on your way into Rapid City, major tourism hub.

Badlands of SD

Custer State Park, located in the Black Hills, is inhabited by animals accustomed to being spoiled rotten by tourists. They have no compunction about invading your personal space, and may be the secret masters in charge of the park. Notice how Intrusive Burro is very intrusive.

Custer's Bad Burro

When you’re done with Rushmore, you can visit the other massive stone monument in the area, the perpetually in-progress Crazy Horse statue. The ongoing project is taller than Rushmore and funded entirely with private donations. The nearest approach is even more distant than Rushmore’s observation area, but you can do what I did for an extreme closeup: max out the digital zoom on your camera, pop a quarter into the stationary viewers, jam your camera lens into the viewer eyepiece, and snap away.

Crazy Horse, zoom within a zoom

Since we were only a few dozen miles away anyway, we spent one day on a diversion into neighborly Wyoming, home of Devil’s Tower, the free-standing mesa As Seen On Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bring your own mashed potatoes.

Wyoming's Devil's Tower

2008: Virginia

Our primary destination was Virginia Beach, but I spent the week under the weather and trying my best not to dampen our spirits. The three of us also discovered something unanimous about ourselves on this vacation: none of us actually enjoy beaches. Consequently, many of our stops on the way to and from Virginia Beach were more interesting to us.

Largest of those was the U.S.S. Wisconsin, decommissioned and moored in Norfolk. Tours are guided by retired veterans proud to be serving as tour guides even when the weather is in the triple digits.

The USS Wisconsin

One of the nicest looking places in the area was Natural Bridge, great for scenic photos and some of the most unusual roadside attractions nearby. One caution: if you love animals, you might want to skip their zoo.

Us at Natural Bridge

All photos are excerpted from lengthy travelogues that I wrote for each of our last several vacations for fun and posterity. If it weren’t for humility and concerns about copyright issues (will theme parks really throw a tantrum if their mascots appear in your published photos?), I’d consider compiling them into a genuine Book, also for fun and posterity.

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