I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but the other day, Peter got a song stuck in my head. Normal people get normal songs stuck in their heads; I get “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”.
I make no attempt to hide that I have an unholy love for both Weird Al Yankovic and weird tourist traps in rural America and thus this song is, sadly, one of my favorites.
Then we all just stared at the ball for a while
And my eyes got moist, but I said with a smile,
“Kids, this here’s what America’s all about.”
Then I started feelin’ kinda gooey inside
And I fell on my knees and I cried and cried
And that’s when those security guards threw us out
Sadly, I have never actually been to the real Largest Ball of Twine, in Darwin, Minnesota, but I’ve been to many other weird places. Let’s take a look, in no particular order.
Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. June 2005.
Amarillo was very kind to me, both in roadside attractions and in occupants. I got my chain clip replaced for free in Amarillo (thbbbbbt to the guy in El Paso who wanted to charge me an hour of labor to do the same), plus the Ranch is awesome. I wished I had my own spray paint.
Jolly Green Giant, Blue Earth, Minnesota. June 2005 and June 2008.
I loved the Jolly Green Giant so much that I dragged Peter there again in 2008. The second time I was there, the little shop was open, too, so we got to talk to a Jolly Green Giant docent about corn and green peas. This is the sort of thing that makes me very happy and makes other people not want to ride places with me.
Tacky Touristy Tree Shit, Northern California. Waaaay too often.
I am incapable of going through Northern California without wanting to ride through trees and walk into trees and see Bigfoot carved out of trees and go to Confusion Hill amongst the trees, etc. Everyone who has ever had the misfortune of riding with me up there eventually has the sad and resigned face that Bill does, below, as he finds himself in a touristy tree shit gift shop for the eighteenth time:
Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD. June 2005 and June 2008.
The Corn Palace is the Holy Grail of roadside kitsch. It is a PALACE made of CORN. Everything in it is made of corn, or corn-shaped, or references corn. I adore the Corn Palace and will happily ride way out of my way to go there. Peter was skeptical, but I think even he wound up appreciating the amazing level of sheer random touristy kitsch.
Mukluk Land, Tok, AK. June 2004.
Stephanie and I found Mukluk Land while we were puttering around Tok. It was closed, which didn’t stop us from jumping the gate and running in for some photos before chickening out and running away. I would love to go back some day and really investigate all the kitsch that Mukluk Land has to offer.
Wall Drug, SD. June 2005 and June 2008.
Wall Drug is often called the hallmark of roadside kitsch but, honestly, it’s not really my bag. I have fond memories of visiting it when I was a little kid with my parents, but now it seems too forced. I include it here because I kind of have to…but I like the smaller places better.
Spam Museum, Austin, MN. June 2005.
The Spam Museum is a hidden gem. I found it randomly and stopped by on a whim and it was seriously a highlight of my trip in 2005. The museum is really amazingly well done, to the point where I honestly couldn’t tell if it was all tongue in cheek or if they really did take it so seriously.
The Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere, Groom, TX. June 2005.
From my trip report: “A billboard for this…unique…attraction in Groom, TX proclaimed it to be the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere. I’ve since learned, however, that a similar cross in IL (inspired by this one) is in fact 8′ taller. I feel robbed. By the way, you should see the stuff at this monument that I didn’t photograph. Shudder.”
World’s Largest Gold Pan, Burwash Landing, AK. June 2004.
This is next to the Kluane Museum of Natural History — two birds, one stone!
Sadly, I have waayyyy more, but my pizza is getting cold and I’m sure this entry is getting boring.