Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quest for Quirky Americana Pop Culture Landmarks III: Week 1

Day 1

Saturday, August 8

As I departed the old homestead in Newtown Square, the wagon queen family truckster's odometer was reading 91, 256. Today was not so much trip stuff, just a day of traveling. I had to get to my sister 's wedding in North East MD. Pam and Sam's wedding was rather nice. It was held at Elks Neck State Park, in a little chapel that they have there. After the wedding and reception a rather large group of family and friends went back to our camp site.

We had two kegs of Sam Adams, needless to say I don't remember much. However, my sister did lock the keys in the truck of her car, we called AAA. As the guy was picking the lock, everybody came over and told him a different story on how it happened. Not a good thing when you are trying to pull a fast one off on AAA. Anyway the guy got in and we gave him a trip.

Some good news came in today. I found out that this whole trip and the web site has earned the unsolicited Seal of Approval from the very prestigious organization of Heather Kelly CDCB.

Day 2

Much to my surprise I woke up at 6:00 AM with only a little hangover. I pulled out of the camp site at 8:12 and headed south on I-95 to Baltimore. For the record, I was wearing my official road trip shirt which I received from the President, (and only member) of the Off The Map Fan Club, Phyllis from TX. Thanks again Phyllis for the shirt....

The trip across MD and up through PA was rather uneventful. As usual the Pennsylvania Turnpike was in a complete state of disrepair, or should I say a state of repair. As soon as one construction area ended, another one started.

The one and only stop scheduled for today was Mystery Hill in Marblehead, OH. I have read about these places where you put your car in neutral and a force pulls, or pushes, you up the hill. THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO SEE. Mystery Hill turn out to be the mother of all tourist traps, second only to Plymouth Rock. After I paid $6.75 to get in, that included the dinosaur exhibit also, I found Mystery Hill to be nothing more than a shack built almost on its side, on the side of a hill. Once inside you think you see water run uphill and a chair stuck way up a hill, but you're not.

They had a level at the first site to show you that the blocks where level. Once inside the house, I asked If I could go back and get the level from the outside and bring it in, they would not let me. I purchased some post cards and the lady told me that they where from the OLD mystery hill, I asked what happened to the old mystery hill, and she would not tell me.

The only thing that I found to be a Mystery at that hill, is how can the police let them rip people off for over 50 years.

The Dinosaur world sucked real bad. The where only plastic models. Big yes, but did they do anything: NO. The only thing that was not plastic was the Woolly Mammoth. But he was not woolly either. He was more like the Steel Wool Mammoth. I swear I think they glued SOS pads to his shell.

As I was leaving Marble head I came across my first Giant Muffler Man in Lakeside, OH. He was in sad shape. Some one had added a chef's hat to him and his arms were missing. Other parts were falling off him also. I guess in reality today I saw the World's only giant double amputee.

7 post cards mailed today with two of them going to "B".

Day 3

My first stop today was the Indiana/Ohio border. Every time we go on these trips, we stop and take our picture in front of all the "welcome to…" signs at each state, we also write our names and the date on the back on the signs. Much to my dismay, by the time I get back to see that sign again, they have repainted the back of it. Last year Peter had the right idea and wrote on the front of the signs.

I drove clear across Indiana and did not stop at all. I have learned from previous stops in this state, that Indiana sucks!

The CD player has not skipped once the whole trip, but as soon as I entered Illinois, with the great care they give the roads, the damn thing was skipping so much I had to turn it off. After clearing Chicago my first mission was to find the Pyramid House in Wadsworth, IL. It was rather easy to find. It is a five story house shaped like a pyramid. It also has a three car pyramid next to it. It was hard to see, its located on the back of the lot about a football field away from the road. It has a wall going around the property that has Egyptian heads on it. On the left, they have two, well I'm not sure what they are, but they looked Egyptian to me. In the center of the property there is a giant statue of a mummy with Sphinx's on each side of it.

Located outside the gate next to the NO PARKING sign that I was parked next to, was a sign that said for more information go to the Adventure Hotel and it gave directions. As it turns out, Mr. Onan of Onan enterprises owns the house and the adventure hotels which has three different themes, for those people who need more that just a bed to sleep. You can rent the house (his family says their with you at no extra charge) or just the property for weddings and parties.

My next stop was in Lake Delton, WI. But first some good news and some bad news. The bad news is I got lost and found myself in Milwaukee, WI. The good news is that I made great time getting there. I made a big left and was off the Wonder Spot" in Lake Delton. I know what you are thinking. If he bashed the "mystery hill" so much, why did he go to an other one. Easy it was on the way. As I was driving I noticed a lot of Signs for "Noah's Ark in the Wisconsin Dells" It had peeked my curiosity, so I stopped in. First thing I found out is that "Noah's Ark" was not owned by some guy named Noah, and more importantly it was not a ark. Had It been a petting a zoo or something close I would had not bitched but it was a water park that was selling gas for $1.17, yet an other reason to bitch.

Anyway back to the trip. The Wonder Spot was conveniently located behind a combination T shirt Shop and religious book store. They only wanted $3.00 to see there mystery spot, so off I went. They had a much better story to explain what was happing here. In 1948 when the shack was built it got pulled down the hill to its location. Geologists came from the University of Wisconsin and blamed it on the high consecration on igneous rock on the other side of the hill. ( we were in a small valley).

The original mystery spot was also torn down, but here the explained it by saying they rebuilt the shack with its odd angles to exenterate the feeling of the mystery spot.

Back on I-94 around Exit 69 I found the "Truck on a Stick". Well actually it was an 18-wheeler on it's end with a Standard Gas sign on top of it. Nevertheless it does fall into the truck on a stick category.

I arrived at The Mall Of America around 6:15 local time. Wow, what a big place. I started walking around and ended up at Camp Snoopy. I went on the roller coaster and the Kite Eating Tree. I was going to go on the log flume, but out of the corner of my eye I spotted the Lego Land store. They had Lego's all over the place and a car building and down hill race track area. After about an hour in there I left. They got a little mad at me when my car kept on winning the races

Around 9:00 pm I arrived at the food court to eat dinner. I went to Jonny Rocket's and they messed up my order not once, but twice.

I am now at a KOA, please forgive me Pam, but I had to pay this time. Also 10 postcards, three to "B"...

Day 4

As I left the KOA this morning, I realized that the exit that I need to take was the same one that I got off at the night before. I took it as a sign from above. I should of taken it as a sign from below, today was not a good day. After I got gas, the next intersection I came to was selling gas for 5 cent cheaper a gallon.

I was 5 miles from Ackeley, MN and all I had to do was make a right. The road was closed for rebuilding and required a 37 mile detour around. Then came a little good news, in the town of Backus, MN I found the first of its kind, Travel Trailer on a stick. Later I found out that the camera was not loaded right so the picture will never turn out.

I found my way to Ackeley and Paul Bunyan. It was Paul on one knee with an out stretched hand to sit on and an ax in the other. They had no information in its size, but for the record his boot was as tall as me. That's 6ft for those of you who've never met me. After taking a bunch of pictures, I then realized that I had no film in the camera, lucky I was still in town.

I left Ackeley and headed up MN 64 about 4 miles out of town the car stopped, in the middle of the road way. After a little pushing, I got it off to the side of the road. If I let it sit for 10 minutes it would run for 30 seconds. So I flagged down the first car going back to Ackeley. The guy drove me to the one and only gas station were he dropped me off. I went inside and told them my story. He called a tow truck to go and get it and told me it would be around 30 minutes. So I went for a walk and came back.

As it turns out, the guy at the gas station is the fire chief and he and his wife were rather nice to me. The car arrived by a beat up old tow truck. Cootter got out and drop the car off the back. Much to my surprise it only was a $15.00 tow. One of the mechanics came out and popped the hood, started looking around, he was under the hood, under the car, he even sniffed the tail pipe. He tried starting it, and was back under the hood. He looked at me and said "I hate working on these Fords"; I didn't have the heart to tell him it was a Chevy. The fire chief came back out and looked around some more and they decided that it was either the fuel filter or the fuel pump, either way he said "you screwed because I don't have either one". Well, they got it to run and let me go without a bill.

It puttered along getting worse every mile. I got to Bemidji, MN coasting in the curb lane. I ended up at Dondelinger's Chevy dealer. I went in and told the service guy that my car was blocking the entrance to his dealership and that I could not get it to move. I told him the my story and what I was doing. He told me that he can fit me in on Friday. I asked very nicely if he could look at it today, and his response was what difference does it make " you're stuck here till I fix it and you can't do anything about it."

After telling him where to go and what to do, I left with the Wagon Queen Family Truckster blocking the entrance and walked a half mile until I found SPAULDING's GM, Pontiac, Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Honda. I told them the same story and before I could finish, Wade and Karen at the service desk, sent two mechanics to get the car. With frayed tow rope in hand they got in a truck and within minutes they were back. Earnest and Chris, with lighting speed found the problem and got to work.

They did not have a new fuel pump in stock so they sent another guy of the local parts store to get one. It was now getting close to five and Ernest had to leave, but Chris Pickett rearranged his schedule at home with his wife and kids to fix my car. After he got it all back together it ran great. Chris did smell gas, as it turns out the fuel pump was bad, the parts store was closed, I was to spend the night in Bemidji. They helped me find a hotel and drove me here, they will pick me up in the morning for breakfast. I can not say enough good things about the fine people who work at SPAULDING MOTOR SALES INC.

After checking into the hotel, I was off to find Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. I was thumbing a ride when a car pulled up and ask me were to, I told him the Blue Ox and he said hop in. As Jamie was driving he asked what I was doing in Bemidji. I told what I was doing and after a small lag of disbelief, he asked ask if I was going to the see the Giant Fish. I told him I did not know about it and he offered to drive me to it. The big difference between Bemidji Paul and the rest, is that it was the first. If you look in the encyclopedia under Paul Bunyan it shows and tells about this one.

After the Blue Ox we went off to Bena, MN where we saw, to the best of my knowledge, the world's biggest Pike. It's at the Pike Inn, a Super Club. It measures 65 ft long and 15 ft high. It was once an old drive in burger place

Jamie Ketelsen drove me to the Bemidji Fire Department, I was unable to trade shirts as all mine were in the back of the car, locked in the dealership. Jamie then drove me to the local quickie mart and back to the hotel. With the exception of the dingle berry's at the Chevy place, Bemidji is filled with nice people....

Day 5

Add 7 postcards; 2 to "B" at the end of day 4.

After they fixed my car I was off and headed north to the town of Black Duck, MN to see Paul Bunyan's Riffle. Everyone in Bemidji said they did not know the riffle was there, but they did have a big black duck.

Once I arrived, it did not take me long to realize that everyone here has gone Daffy over Ducks. The first duck was next to the Fire Hall and was the original duck built in 1934 by the Civic Association for the winter Canaveral in Bemidji. The duck was in a sitting position and it measured 12 feet long and 8 feet high, not including its pedestal. black duckThe other duck was in the center of town and was built by the Rotary. Why two ducks? The only reason I could find was the Rotary and the Civic Association did not get along. This duck was coming in for a landing and was the same size as the other one, but had a wing span of 17 feet.

Still, I could not find the riffle. I did find a picture of it in the Information Center. The lady said that no one in town liked it so they got rid of it. Not happy with the answer, I was now on a mission to find the riffle. My first stop was City Hall where I met the one and only Police Officer. Both he and the city manager had no clue as to the location of the riffle. As I was trading police patches with officer Mark, the Mayor came in. He said that the riffle was in his garage a while ago, but he did not know were it was now. With little prodding Mayor Milton Beck was in the front seat of the car and we drove off to start searching garages in town.

Milton was kind of shocked that I knew about the riffle, and that I traveled over 1,700 miles to see it. The first one turned up nothing, as we were leaving the second one, out of the corner of my eye, in the back, on the ground lied Paul Bunyan's Riffle! We pick it up and took it outside. It was over 8 feet long. The barrel was on old sewer pipe and the stock was made out of wood. After a few pictures I asked him if it was for sale. Despite my ability to horsetrade, I could not buy the gun. Having the only recent picture, I was off...

Next was the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby ND. Back in the 30's the US geographical department figured out that if you were flatten out all the hills and valleys in North America the center would be in Rugby. On the left side of town they have a big marker made out of stones from all 50 states. That left me with a few questions. In the 30's the USA did not have 50 states, and if it's North America where were the stones from Canada and Mexico?

Next was the World's Largest Turtle in the heart of the Turtle Mountains in Dunseith, ND. It was made of old tire rims, over 2,000 of them and was over 2 stories high. It was built as a tourist attraction by the man who owns the store next to it.

My last stop was the International Peace Park located on the US/Canadian border. I found the place a little to artsy for me. I'm in Brandon, Manitoba. We had a hail storm a bit ago, I am now getting eaten a live by the mosquito's...

Due to the speed of Canada's mail, no postcards until I get back to the USA...

Day 6

With all that happened the last few days I forgot to mention the fire...

While driving west of Grand Forks, ND a fast moving 18 wheeler rear ended a slow moving line painting truck. The diesel tanks ripped open starting fire on the roadway and the field around the accident. The line painting truck had 755 gallon drums of paint on the back which was now all over the road and the driver of the 18 wheeler. He was white from head to toe. Some 45 minutes later the Petersburg fire dept. showed up. The diesel fuel and field fire had burned out by this time but the trucks were still blazing away. With one booster line and 800 gallons of water, in a t-shirt and shorts, I put the fire out. Video to follow when I get home.

The camp site last night was rather close to Trans Canada and trucks keep on waking me up. Anyway, Sheldon Kennedy, who plays hockey in the NHL is roller blading across Canada to raise money for abused kids. It was his brother's camp site that I stayed at last night and today I passed him as he was roller blading along TransCanada.

As I was driving across Trans Canada, I found out the highway turns into a two lane road. It was the flattest straight ride in my life. I did come across a convoy of 10 mobiles homes all from PA. It took me over an hour to pass them all. I pulled into Indian Head, SK to find the World's Largest Indian Head. It was 11 feet high, 11 feet long, and 11 feet wide.

My next stop was the RCMP Headquarters in Regina, SK. It wasn't what I was expecting. Why does the Police academy have its own golf course?

As I was approaching Moose Jaw, SK I could see from the distance the head of the World's Largest Moose. Its was 32 feet high with a rack 30 feet across and weighed over 10 tons. $41.00 later the tank of the Wagon was filled and I was off. By the way….. How many liters to a gallon?

I pulled in to Medicine Hat, Alberta for dinner. There were these very nice signs with the CAA logo on them telling about the Great Wall Of China. I followed the signs, this was going to be an unplanned surprise. The sign lead me to a broken down building, I drove around it looking for the wall. I started to think how great can it be if I can't see it. So, I parked and went inside for directions. The lady told me that Great Wall Of China was in the building. She pointed me down the hallway. As I turned the corner their it was: The Great Wall Of China…Pottery and other thing made of clay. As the lady was telling me that the items are for sale, I flipped her the bird and walked out.

I'm now in Calgary at the Home of my Cousin Mary and her family Dan and Dan Jr. planning the rest of my trip.

Day 7

BanffThe end of week one and I'm in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada. After I left Mary and Dan's this morning, I went to Olympic Park, site of the XV Winter Olympic Games in 1988. They are trying to get them again in 2010. Try as I might, I was unable to find the Saddle Dome, but found everything else.

Arrived in Banff around lunch time. Its much different then I expected. In the middle of the Park is the town of Banff. A lot of high priced stores and a Hard Rock Café and T shirt stand. This place is a lot like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and The Badlands all rolled into one. Speaking of the Badlands they have this area here called the Hoodoos. When I first saw the sign for it, it was with a pictogram of a guy with binoculars. Being the ugly American that I am, I thought the Hoodoos was French for scenic overlook, how was I to know that they are a national treasure? My Mother would be so proud. Turns out that the Hoodoos are a lot like the buttes in the Badlands.

I just finished the Official "Off the Map and Amuck in America" dinner: Oodles of Noodles and hot dogs, cooked at the same time and in the same pot.

Going to see the Warden's show tonight, more to follow on that in the A.M. Contemplating either white water rafting or going to lake Louise on Saturday.

Any way at the end of week one I have traveled 3,045 miles, 4 of which were on the back of a tow truck. This far north the sun sets around 9:30 PM kind of weird. If you are in the Banff area stop by and visit. I'm at Tunnel Mountain One site G-12. BYOB A lot of post cards purchased, but none sent.

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