Posts Tagged ‘roadside attraction’

Lima, Like the Bean

Apr 30

Friedrich Nietzsche said everything. He really did. Look it up. But for our purposes, what he said about travelers is particularly relevant: “Like tourists huffing and puffing to reach the peak we forget the view on the way up.”  Being a good Nietzschean, I am loathe to argue with the (uber)man; and so, on my way up from the Cincinnati area, I made a necessary stop in Lima, Ohio.

The best way to learn about a place is to either go to an attraction it has that is notable, or, when possible, a museum! There is nothing better than learning while walking (Nietzsche also said something about this, too). Being surrounding by regionally important things is very exciting to me.  The Allen County Museum offers such an opportunity. And a tank!

In 1933, famed bank robber and all around no-good-nick John Dillinger was being held in the county jail in Lima while awaiting trial. Dillinger’s men impersonated state police officers, shot and killed the sheriff, and Dillinger made his escape. A fascinating footnote in history without a doubt. And you’ll find the jail cell where it all went down right here.

Despite the wooden acting, this is not a scene from the Johnny Depp's Dillinger.

But the good people of Lima, Ohio were not satisfied with this one measly exhibit. They wanted a whole museum. So, what’s a town to do? From what I observed: Ask everyone in town to empty their attics and garages, bring it all in, and make yourself a museum! 

An Iron Lung, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Lima".

Along with the above relic, one can observe a collage made entirely of things recovered from people’s esophagi (an unusually large number of Lima-ites have swallowed safety pins); a room size scale replica of Mt. Vernon, an old dentist’s chair, a replica of a ye old storefront, and, my personal favorite: the uniform worn by Paul A. Moore. Paul was an employee of Westinghouse in Lima  for 30 years. In all that time, he only missed 1 day of work.

Good sir, you are a credit to your uniform.

I Can’t Belive It’s A Grocery Store

Apr 21

All of the best things in life start with the word Jungle. The song Jungle Love, by Steve Miller Band. The song Jungle Love, by Morris Day and The Time. The movie Jungle Fever…which wasn’t so good. So, a majority of things that start with the word Jungle are really good. Jungle Jim’s International Grocery Store is no exception.

Jungle Jim's International Grocery Store, Fairfield Oh

Yummm...Fresh Meat!

This is where the good citizens of Fairfield, Ohio get to shop for produce and meat and, well, as it turns out, everything on the planet that is eatable. When Jungle Jim claims that his grocery store is international, he sure means it.

Mexico comes alive and Jungle Jim's International Grocery Store

All the Food in Mexico is Now Here

Now imagine rows like this of British food (yeah, marmite essentially, and some horlicks); German food, Japanese food; Ukrainian food; insert country with food here, food. This endless expanse of groceries and goods from every corner of the world is as exciting as it is dizzying. Things talk. Not living things, but soup cans, and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forrest. It’s as if Graceland  – and 1970s Elvis, I suppose –  had both exploded and began to sell foodstuffs. A quick peak inside turned into a 2 hour detour and a shopping cart loaded with sauces and spices and rubs and other items that would never be found outside their natural habitat.

Also, for no reason, there’s a monorail outside.

Monorail, Jungle Jim's, Grocery store

Hungry Yet?

Oh, it may not work, but who cares? Everything else about Jungle Jim’s does!

Maybe for Easter?

Apr 21

I stopped briefly in Monroe, Ohio to visit an old friend who had been savagely struck by lightning last year. You may remember; I wrote about my visit twice before. In happier days: April 10th, 2010

Sigh. So majestic. And then, the lightning and the fire. All that was left of my old friend was this: August 13th, 2010

I was hoping to see some improvement after a year. With Easter just around the corner, I guess I was hoping for a miracle. This is what I found.

Touchdown Jesus is gone. Struck by lightning. Monroe Ohio

Disheveled, lost, and confused without my Lord

Maybe someday, Touchdown, we’ll meet again. Godspeed.

Deke Slayton Memorial Bike & Space Museum

Aug 30

The only thing more exciting than learning more about one of the original astronauts, is stumbling upon a museum that is dedicated to one. In this case, it is of course, our good friend and previous post subject, Deke Slayton.  His hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin, hosts the museum that bears his name; and, for good measure, throws in the history of the bicycle, mankind’s other form of transportation that isn’t car or boat… or airplane.  Wisconsinites are not only good people, but efficient as well.

Though the museum was closed by the time we arrived, as luck would have it, one of the members of the Board of Directors – which had just concluded a meeting – noticed our out of country license plates.  He exuberantly made his way over to our car, directed us to park, and then insisted upon allowing us to tour the facilities.  As the rest of the Board was filtering out into the street, greeting us eagerly on their way, one woman agreed to stay behind and give us a personal tour.  Her first order of business: handing us a push-pin, and directing us to the map they had at the entrance, where all those who previously visited marked where they were from.  Approaching the map, we now fully understood their response to our arrival: we were the first Canadians to visit their museum.

The exhibits themselves were a treasure-trove of both the early history of Astronaut Slayton and NASA itself.  On display were photos of Slayton as a child, letters to him and from him,  and artwork made by and given to him by a Cosmonaut he had befriended on a joint space mission with the Soviet Union. Deke Slayton’s story did have a happy ending after all: He was finally given medical clearance and went aboard the Apollo Spacecraft in 1972.

Along our tour, we also learned our tour guide, a lovely woman named Joan, was a life-long Democrat who voted for McGovern, had a son attending school in the state capital Madison, knew Slayton’s sister-in-law (who was also a board member), and knew one other Canadian who was on her son’s baseball team (although he clearly was one of those lazy Canadians who never bothered to make it into the museum because we were there first!)

The original Mercury Seven space suit Deke Slayton wore was on display.  This was an impressive coup for the small-town museum, as it is only one of five original NASA suits remaining in the world. The Smithsonian has asked for it many times.  The answer is always no.

There was a moon rock, a scale which tells you what you weigh on the moon (I’m 20 pounds!* Sign me up for the next mission!), and Joan wanting to know if we had already made arrangement for accommodations because if not, she could help us. As the tour came to a close, we were handed postcards and other souvenirs of our visit. Our entrance fee was waived, but the experience would have been worth far more than the $3.00 usually required.  We made an appropriate donation instead.

This first encounter with the people of Wisconsin certainly left an indelible impression on us.  Not only would we enthusiastically recommend the museum to all who wished to broaden their knowledge of space (and bicycles), but Wisconsin is worth the trip just for the hospitality of the Wisconsinites themselves.

*Oh Mr. Obama. Why not continue exploration of the Moon?  Since matter weighs far less there, can’t we both satisfy our lust for discovery and exploration, while at the same time, eliminating our problem with obesity?  It’s this kind of connective thinking Obama’s administration needs.  I will be handing in my resume  – and strapping on my svelte space suit – post-haste.  Blasting off…

Mark me as SPAM™!!!

Aug 28

What?  You don’t like Spam™?  What’s wrong with you?  Spam™ is the single greatest food-type item that has ever been created in the history of the world!  The world!!! Not convinced?  Then you have to – absolutely must – go to the Spam™ Museum in Austin, Minnesota! 

Spam™ is important enough to have a whole museum dedicated to its greatness: are you?  Well I haven’t been to yours but I have been to the one for Spam™ and let me tell you I am convinced about Spam™.  The All Good and All Giving Hormel company that is responsible for making Spam™ has its headquarters here in Austin, and the sweet smell of Spam™ begins to call out to you the moment you turn onto the street.  All streets should smell like Spam™!

Once inside the museum, you are greeting by two unbelievably friendly boosters of the product of Spam™. These two senior citizen cheerleaders for Spam™ bring you inside a wide, open corridor filled with images of Spam™ in cans (complete with an entire wall of 3500 cans of Spam™ called their Spam™ Wall).  You are welcomed with open arms, given a map of the museum, and invited to play one of the interactive Spam™ games just behind where you are now.  Wander and enjoy is the theme of the attraction. And how could we not enjoy this?!? (you too can play the interactive games on their website

As we made our way around this intoxicating celebration of squared, pink pig flesh in a can, we dressed as Spam™ factory workers and pretended to make Spam™ (Spam™ is actually cooked in its own can! Fascinating!!!)

A conveyor belt of cans of Spam™ revolves overhead as you play a mock game show designed to show-off your knowledge of Spam™, and also as you read the displays showing the history of Spam™.  Spam™.  They even have a TV set up which plays the Monty Python Spam™ skit on continual loop. There is so much Spam™ here, it’s akin to Disney World™, but about Spam™. And admission is free! Take that, Disney™!

At the end of the tour you are in the gift shop where you can buy Spam™ in different flavo(u)rs (like hickory smoked, garlic, cheese, and REAL BACON), and we did buy lots of Spam™ and bumper stickers and shot glasses and I almost bought a hoodie and…

It takes about 15 minutes of driving away from the Cult of Spam™ before you start to realize: what the hell are we going to do with all this Spam™? 

Deprogramming and re-assimilation into non-Spam™ society will be hard, but worth it. A few knocks to the head and a salad should just about do it.

Ho Ho Ho!!!

Aug 27

It’s not about Santa. Not everything is about Santa. Santa gets enough attention. He certainly doesn’t need mine; and in the middle of August, no less. Stick it, Santa. I’m talking about the other jolly Ho ho ho-er we all know and love. This one gives us nature’s gifts of peas and corn all year round. You all know who I’m talking about. He’s big, and green, and jolly and 55 feet tall in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Can’t figure it out? The Jolly Green Giant ring any bells?

First of all, Blue Earth? Awesome name for a town. Located off of Interstate 90 in Minnesota, Blue Earth was home to a canning plant for Green Giant peas and corn. In the 1970s, a local DJ used to interview visitors to the town, giving them the parting ‘gift’ of a can of peas or corn. What these visitors really wanted, however, was to see the Jolly Green Giant. If you really think about that, it’s kinda crazy. I mean, the Jolly Green Giant isn’t real. How did they expect to see him? But, like with all crazy ideas, someone stepped forward to make it happen. So, in 1978, the 55ft fibreglass statue was erected. The Jolly Green Giant had finally found a home. In Minnesota. Take that, Santa!!!

(You’re my) Wonder Wall Drug

Aug 26

Ever wonder how roadside attractions got to be, well, roadside attractions?  Where exactly did they gain their popularity?  When will I stop asking you questions and start giving you answers?  Right now, my faithful friends!  And we’ll start at the beginning:  Wall Drug, in the town of Wall, South Dakota.

Beginning as a small pharmacy in a small town (the town population at the store’s founding in 1931 was 231), the wife of the store’s owner had what was, at the time, a revolutionary idea.  The store would capitalize on the new tourist rush towards Mt. Rushmore and offer travelers free ice water.  Without the benefit of coolers or bottled water, this stroke of genius caught on with travelers, and the store’s popularity grew exponentially.

Not being shy of self-promotion, Wall Drug placed billboards -both large and small- for hundreds of miles in either direction throughout South Dakota and its neigbo(u)ring states.

The popularity of these signs grew to the point where people would ask for copies of them to take home.  Eventually, signs promoting Wall Drug started to appear in Europe.  These signs are now scattered throughout the world.  Even at the South Pole; where, frankly, I find it hard to believe they really need ice water.  But I suppose you never really know when you’ll get a craving for it in non-snow form.

Today, Wall Drug is a dizzying shopping cent(r)er occupying several blocks of space.  Still serving up free ice water and coffee for a nickle, it also boasts many tacky souvenir shops, amusement park like games, a splash park, 400 seat restaurant (where you can order Buffalo and something delicious called Sour Cream and Raisin pie), a chapel where weary travelers can worship, and a six foot jackalope.*

The first roadside attraction is always the best!

*A jackalope is a fierce mythical creature in North American legend.  It is half jackrabbit, half antelope, and all man!  Which is probably why, if they did exist, they all died out.

King of the Corn

Aug 20

Just when I thought it was safe to stop writing about corn, we happened upon Mitchell, South Dakota.  Mitchell boasts The Corn Palace; the Largest/Only Palace/Arena Facility made from – wait for it – Corn!!!  Ah, corn.  Not just a food, not just a fuel alternative*, it’s also good for building murals.

Built in 1892 as a symbol of the fertility of the soil of South Dakota, it was also thought to be an attractive advert for those wishing to move to the state, especially around the area of construction.  The population of South Dakota is just over 800,000, so you be the judge of how that worked out.  Imagine how little it would have been had there been no palace.  Regardless, the building itself is an intricate piece of work, and Kenny Rogers is playing a concert inside the arena later this month.  Now that’s worth it! 

*Gas here is about $0.63 a litre. Or $0.54 if you get E85…  made from corn.

In Loving Memory

Aug 13

This new blog is lovingly dedicated to our old friend from Ohio, Demi Jesus.  The subject of one of my inaugural posts, Demi Jesus, or Touchdown Jesus as (H)he is known to the public, was struck by lightening close to a month after our visit.  (H)he will be missed.

You’ll always be the touchdown of our hearts.

A Place to Call Home

Apr 30

Remember our friend, the Giant Half-Jesus from Ohio on the first leg of the trip? If not, I shall give you a moment to refresh yourself by enjoying again that terrific post…

Ready?  Okay.  Well, our Friendly Giant has finally found a place (H)he can put H(h)imself up for the night.  It’s in a place called Effingham (hee) Illinois.  Driving on the highway headed towards Indianapolis, our eyes could hardly believe it.  On our left, we had the fortune to see the World’s! Largest! Cross!  Oh yes; standing at 198 feet tall, and 113 feet wide, Half Jesus would be proud to call this place H(h)is own. 

The cross is circled by a list of the Ten Commandments.  But these are not the boring display of Commandments one usually encounters.  These had audio.  With just the touch of a button, you can hear the voice of, someone, give you a full explanation of what each of these Commandments really mean in light of today’s modern world.  For example, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery: no pornography, as pornography is about fun and that is not what G(g)od had intended for the physical act of love.  Thou Shalt Not Kill: don’t drive drunk, or recklessly, as these acts are willful acts capable of killing. 

I learned a lot about my lifestyle that overcast day in Effingham.  Mostly, I learned that my life is probably leading me straight to hell…but, after conferring with Rob, hell is not on our agenda.  I guess we’ll make it to Indianapolis afterall.