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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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 7 of 7: This Americana Life

children's television!

Oscar the Grouch! Mr. Rogers! Howdy Doody! The Flintstones! Rocky and Bullwinkle! Bugs Bunny! Face it, true believer — this museum’s got ’em all!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

After three straight days and several aggregate miles of walking our nation’s capital and one amusement park of questionable safety, we three were wrecked. If you use a DC map to retrace the itinerary of our Tuesday and Thursday excursions, it would look like one of those old Family Circus cartoons where Billy has to walk from the front gate to the front door, and his dotted trail shows you the twenty-seven stops he made along the way first. At the end of it all, our feet were just about in need of sole transplants, and the sunburn around my neck and shoulders was blistering. Anne was slightly better off but carrying her own battle damage. My son, the most resilient of us three, was just pretty tired.

After the subway dropped us off at the Smithsonian station for the last time, we wanted to brave just one more stop that sounded right up our alley: the National Museum of American History. Just one more museum. That’s all we asked.

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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 6 of 7: From Lincoln to Kennedy

Lincoln Memorial!

Giant Lincoln hasn’t been in quite as many films as the White House has, but fans of the Night at the Museum or Planet of the Apes series will recall his big moments there and in too many other films where he’s defaced or destroyed.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

Our Thursday walk led us from the White House to the nearby buildings and statues to the west, to the Vietnam National Memorial, to yet another memorial, one of the many mandatory stops while you’re in DC. Many such famous landmarks and institutions are easily covered within the same convenient walking distance. Not all of them, unless you’re a serious hiker. Or a dunce planning your final day in town using maps not drawn to scale.

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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 5 of 7: From the White House to Vietnam

Anne and White House!

When we showed our photos to family and friends later, we realized Anne had taken so many of them that this shot was one of the very few that proved she was actually there.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

Day Five: Thursday, July 10, 2003. Our last full day in DC would once again be spent walking and walking and walking. We had more memorials and museums to check off, and only so much time to hit them all. We made the most of our options while we still had any energy remaining, and for as long as our feet would hold out after the previous two days’ calisthenics. As we would later find with our two New York City trips in 2011 and 2016, there are some major cities with too many attractions to cover in a single road trip no matter how many days you set aside for it. So we prioritized the number one attraction in the DC area and headed there first.

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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 4 of 7: Mandatory Amusement Park

swings!

Yup, that’s me, back in the days when a guy could wear a backwards cap in public without onlookers casting aspersions on his character or anti-fashion sense.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

Day Four: Wednesday, July 9, 2003. Tuesday and Thursday were set aside for our official Washington DC tourism. We knew my son would need a break from history and learning to do something more overtly kid-like, more indulgent, and arguably more thrilling. The solution was a one-day intermission at Six Flags America, 20 miles east of town and not too far from Baltimore, home of Homicide and The Wire. It wasn’t the best amusement park ever. The security check-in at their front gate was sterner and more invasive than what we’d encountered at the Washington Monument or any other institution post-9/11. More rides were out-of-order than we would’ve preferred. And then there was the anxious moment when one guy got kicked off a ride and expressed his displeasure by tossing a basketball over a crowd’s heads and getting extremely lucky that it didn’t hit any of us.

But hey! Thrill rides on a sunny day!

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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 3 of 7: Flying with Dinosaurs

Kitty Hawk!

The original Wright Brothers flyer dangles overhead with Wright brother simulacrum feigning giddiness.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

After quote-unquote “lunch” on Day Three we headed a few blocks east to visit our first Smithsonian museum. Handy trivia: any show or movie that tells you an artifact or MacGuffin is “in the Smithsonian” is fudging their verisimilitude. The Smithsonian Institute comprises nineteen museums, many but not all of which are in DC. If someone tries faking their Smithsonian familiarity like that, ask them “WHICH ONE?” and tap your foot impatiently till they either answer with credibility or embarrass themselves by answering, “Uhhhhh, the really big one.”

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Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 2 of 7: Bullseye Goes to the Washington Monument

Washington Monument!

The first of several photo ops with our very special guest star. And the boy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth.

Day Three: Tuesday, July 8, 2003. Our first full day in the nation’s capital began with our first ride on a DC subway down to the Smithsonian station to start hitting the major attractions around the National Mall, the densest, most appealing area for tourist attractions and vintage buildings. Many of them were free. Not all of them were open. Several, including the National Archives and Ford’s Theater, were undergoing renovations or simply taking time off during the summer. Two years after 9/11, White House tours were out of the question unless you belonged to a scout troop or other organization of verifiable import. But we tried to make the most of those fabled institutions that rose to the top of our to-do list by dint of not being closed.

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