Why fly when you can see America’s finest attractions?
Once again, our family is going to make the Dreaded Trek Back East so we can sizzle in triple-digit temperatures, melt in double-digit humidity and – oh, yeah – attend a family reunion.
This trip wouldn’t be so bad if there were an alternate route, say, one that circumvents Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Over the years, we have learned that each of these states has its own quirks, like road construction, roadkill and roadside attractions.
It’s those roadside attractions that keep us on the road, and not up in the air in a fast, sleek, air-conditioned airplane.
If not for the World’s Largest Gopher in Nebraska, the Itchy Stop and Scratch Flea Market in Kansas and the Bathroom of the Millennium at a Conoco gas station at Exit L, we wouldn’t get to see the heartland of America. And that, to us, is what vacation is all about.
This year, we plan to take a northern route, preferably through the Yukon. We realize we’ll be sacrificing our blood to mosquitoes, but what is life if not an adventure? Right? Hello?
To guide us on our merry way, I perused the Internet in hopes of finding unique attractions to visit.
We’ve done the Barbed-Wire Museum, the Interactive Cow’s Stomach display, the Cockroach Hall of Fame and the Petrified Wood Park in North Dakota, where a full city block features a castle, wishing well and waterfall, all made of petrified wood. Even the town fathers say it looks like a poorly designed miniature golf course.
First stop: the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. You know: a little bit of Russia in the heartland of America. It’s not made of corn, but every spring, its exterior is covered with thousands of bushels of native South Dakota corn, grain and grasses that are arranged into large murals. Is this exciting stuff, or what?
From there, it’s on to the Cat and the Fiddle, in Lemmon, S.D. The proud folks there describe this feature as “dozens of pointed cones of petrified wood, some 20 feet tall, that litter the grassy lot. They are mixed with large petrified wood stumps that appear to have just been dumped. Paths exist but aren’t helpful; visitors wander wherever they please.”
We’ll be spending a bit of time in Minnesota, if its travel brochures are any indication. I mean, who could pass up a tour to the Hormel Meat’s Spam Museum in Austin? There, Hormel has on exhibit (best-if)-forgotten curiosities like Hormel Dog Dessert in a tube or Wimpy’s Hamburgers in a Can. Or the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis?
On to Ontario, a province in North America that proves once and for all, how easy it is to make jokes about Canadians. For instance, there is a large, red, four-poster bed in Cambridge – God only knows what college kids have tried to do there. There’s the world’s largest Adirondack chair on a roadside in Gravenhurst. And my favorite, no matter where it’s located: the Shoe Tree in Minden.
Then we’ll head south, to West Dover, Vt., where a 12-foot-long grinning bee greets people in a guy’s backyard. It was built by folks at the Honey Museum in Wilmington to attract tourists. It didn’t, so they sold it.
We have to hit the Allendale Shopping Center in Coltsfield, Mass., if for nothing else than to see the the boat sinking into the parking lot. And a trip to the National Plastics Center and Museum – the birthplace of the pink flamingo – is a must for anyone traveling through Massachusetts.
We’ll dip into Connecticut, an overdeveloped, overtaxed state crawling with rich people who’ve forgotten how to have fun. We made this deduction after learning that they demolished one of the coolest things created in that state: the Ghost Parking Lot in Hamden. There, they’d parked a variety of 1960s and 1970s junker cars – and paved them over with tar to capture what they see as “typical ingredients of a suburban shopping center, automobiles and asphalt, transformed into another frame of reference.”
From there, we believe, things will just get weirder, as we participate in Christmas in July – Christmas tree, wreaths, turkey and all – in Pennsylvania.
What else are relatives for?
Jane Stebbins can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s true,
she will be on vacation and National
Lampoon might want the material.
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