Muffler Man.

Muffler Man and Ag Museum Frontier Town

Field review by the editors.

Merced, California

Merced is partway down the spinal cord of Highway 99, where each town offers at least one decent Roadside landmark. It's worth the drive 5 miles east from Merced to the Muffler Man. Keep going on Route 140 and you'd end up at Yosemite National Park -- but no need, there's plenty here.

Merced's fiberglass sentinel stands tethered to a post along a low storefront. He's a classic type Muffler Man, hands empty and in the standard position. He sports a long-handled mustache, but that may change on his next paint job; the sun and seasonal rain have weathered him a bit.

Blacksmith shop.

The bonus is the adjacent labeled "AG Museum," which is purported to depict the "lives of local farmers past." But the same sign also advertises "Whistle Stop Antiques" and "Fruit Basket." We pop in -- the cluttered rooms look like a consignment business of furniture and stuff. A friendly man waves us through, out the back door to what we guess is the Ag Museum. It's a fake frontier town, with old cars, store facades, and absolutely no one else in sight.

Maybe there's a resident expert who would bring it all to life, but not during our stop (we admit, we visited in December -- perhaps the off-season). We wander into a building garage bay, and find an assortment of vintage cars and really interesting crap piled everywhere. An RCA dog statue, a woman mannequin attached to an early hair salon octopus, a rusting Model T with a taxidermied goose lashed over the roof by a string of Christmas lights. A cowboy boot lies on a table next to a miniature tractor, a scary doll leans against some lanterns.

Hair machine of Yore.

Back outside, we peer into the Blacksmith building -- the doors on the other end are open, so all we see is a dense arrangement of long, dangling tools. Enticing, since this is advertised as a working blacksmith shop, but with no blacksmith in town right now, this is only asking for trouble...

The rest of the buildings are Z-Western movie facades, with signs such as "Telegraph" and "Merchantile" -- funny, like how a frontier town would appear in your dreams. Apparently historical interpreters do an occasional program for groups. A couple of big cooking drums hint that the fake town might be used for local cookouts and events, in which case it would be kind of charming...

And all we expected was a Muffler Man, so this was nice. We'll be back, in season...

Muffler Man and Ag Museum Frontier Town

Agricultural Museum

Address:
4498 E Hwy. 140, Merced, CA
Directions:
Agricultural Museum. About 5 miles east of the town on route 140, on the road to Yosemite National Park.
Hours:
Museum Tu-Su 10-4 pm. (Call to verify)
Phone:
209-383-1912
Admission:
Free.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Tallest Roadside Tombstone in the U.S.Tallest Roadside Tombstone in the U.S., Merced, CA - 1 mi.
Mail Pouch Tobacco BarnMail Pouch Tobacco Barn, Merced, CA - 4 mi.
Castle Air MuseumCastle Air Museum, Atwater, CA - 11 mi.
In the region:
American Graffiti Sculpture, Modesto, CA - 40 mi.

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