News from the offbeat tourist attraction landscape of Roadside America.
Sightings Vol. 11, No. 5 - July 2, 2015

Titanic Thoughts...

The sloping decks of summer travel are upon us -- and we're here to make certain you slip-n-slide into fun, rather than tumble into a dark, drippy grave of missed opportunities.

Excitement? There's the reliable payoff of in-your-face attractions offered at ocean-liner-sized tourist destinations. Yet we seek a balance, lest we capsize our vessel of delights. There's the quiet, bizarre symmetry of alien-skewed yard topiary; the epiphany of vehicles shaped like dinosaurs; the geolocation mystery of a disputed presidential birthplace; the simple gift of underpants from Elvis Presley.

All are available; all you need to do is get in your car and drive to them with us as your guide.

The three classes of Titanic passengers mingled only in its aftermath; let's not make the same mistake with our all-too-brief spurt of summer travel. Slant, slant, more slant -- we're on our way, wheee! It's good!


Tennessee's Doomed Ship

Titanic.A titanic replica of the world's most famous doomed luxury liner (half of it, anyway), is permanently anchored in the landlocked Smoky Mountain foothills as an "immersive" attraction. How long can you stand on a sloping deck, or hold your hand in sub-freezing water? Costumed crew members help make sense of the calamity, and Titanic relics make it genuinely museum-like (there's another half-Titanic in Branson, MO).


Dino-car.Years before Transformers filled our heads with visions of morphing machines, an obscure artist in Ohio was exploring the prehistoric alter egos of vehicles. Stegowagen-volkssaurus and Triceracopter were the work of Patricia Renick, who literally transformed an old VW Beetle and a Vietnam War helicopter into life-size metalloid dinosaurs.

That Again: President's B-place In Question

Andrew Jackson Birthplace.Andrew Jackson was long regarded as one of America's best presidents. Now some people say he was so bad he should be kicked off the $20 bill. No matter: he'll always be loved in the border region between the Carolinas, where each state has a monument claiming his birthplace: one in the North, one in the South.

Elvis Has Stayed In The Building

Elvis Museum.Before Graceland ever opened as an attraction, the Elvis Museum in Pigeon Forge was wowing fans with one-of-a-kind personal items. The Museum lives on: the only place where you can see Elvis's last pair of sunglasses, his Frisbee, his underwear, and the car Jerry Lee Lewis crashed into The King's pink Cadillac.

Coast to Coast: Bronze Ron

Reagan in Sacramento.Two bronze statues of Ronald Reagan, 3,000 miles apart. His official likeness has just been unveiled in California's state capitol (although it is in the basement). On the East Coast, an unofficial Reagan eats an invisible potato pancake, a creative choice by a sculptor who didn't want to block The Gipper's trademark grin.


Spotted by Tipsters

Hay bale minions.Elusive Minions: Tipster Janet R. spotted some hay bales cleverly painted to look like Minions from the "Despicable Me" movie franchise -- but can't remember exactly where they were. A tire store? A garden center? Their precise location remains a mystery....

Mormon UFO.Mormons From Space: Up on a pole, a cartoony dome-topped flying saucer is piloted by two shirt-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionaries. One is a blue-skinned alien with antennae sticking out of his head. Sculpted by Brook Robertson, spotted by tipsters Nicole R. and Jo-Ann M.

Mr. Hobby.Mr. Bendo Now Mr. Hobby: For 50 years Mr. Bendo, a Muffler Man, stood atop a car repair shop in Chicago (For the last five, only his legs remained). Free Time Hobbies informed us that Mr. Bendo is now in Georgia as Mr. Hobby, completely refurbished, and instead of a muffler he holds a P-51 model airplane.

House of Mugs.House of Mugs: Two separate tipsters, C. Ritch and Dina B, reported on this rural caffeine-fueled attraction on the same day: an entire home, inside and out, including its fence and archway, covered with tens of thousands of coffee mugs. If you can find an empty nail, you can add your own.

Population center.Off-center?: Tipster Stacie C. pointed out that the town of Plato, Missouri, which claims to be the 2010 USA Population Center, has a rival -- Tebbetts, Missouri, which says that it's the "Unofficial" (but true) 2010 center, and has erected a big sign next to main road in town proclaiming its centeredness.

For more fun discoveries and updates from the road, head over to the Latest Tips.


Latest News on Roadside America

Cave City's Guntown Mountain is now officially Funtown Mountain, with some attractions open and more to come. Jim Bishop, one-man builder of Bishop Castle, has been sick, but the castle's "new owner" (Jim disputes this) has pledged to keep it open. The World's Largest Beatles Statues have been temporarily stored in preparation for a move to a new public area in Houston.

Uniroyal Gal.The Uniroyal Gal formerly of Mount Vernon, Illinois, is on the move to Hayward, California. RIP Dmytro Szylak, creator of Hamtramck Disneyland, which his neighborhood hopes to preserve. The mysterious Westford Knight has been enhanced with a life-size bronze likeness at its outdoor display. Signmanjoe reports that the Lightning Portrait of Startled Lady Bather has been replaced with a painted portrait, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of visiting it. Tipster NMatson reports that the Fast Food Alien of Roswell has abandoned its KFC job and is now working for Domino's Pizza. The Shawshank Redemption prison is now home to Ohio's official electric chair. Xanadu can be yours: Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is for sale, as is Flintstones Bedrock City. The Atlanta Cyclorama has closed, will be disassembled, and then moved to a new location in 2017. The World's Largest Teapot is undergoing repairs in preparation for Teapot Day later this summer. Local tribes want to take Devils Tower and rename it "Bear Lodge." And Leonardo DiCaprio is to star in an awards season 2015 film "The Revenant," based on the currently obscure Monument to a Man Mauled by a Bear. Visit it before the mobs clog the roads!

Follow our Twitter stream o' news: @roadsideamerica


Thanks for letting us rearrange your deck chairs!
The Team

On the Web

Roadside America iPhone app

We've launched mobile-friendly improvements on the Roadside America web site. View a page in a smaller browser window (or on a mobile phone or tablet), and tips, stories, maps, etc. flexibly reshuffle for better readability.


Apps & Tools

Roadside America iPhone app Roadside America for iPhone
11,000+ USA/Canada offbeat attractions, including new research targets, interactive "Near Me" maps.

$2.99 on the App Store (incl. access to 1 region); addtl. regions or "All Access" unlock is optional in-app purchase.
iPhone, iPod touch (iPad compatible)


Roadside Presidents App for iPhone
Find US Presidents, VPs, First Ladies, even dastardly assassins -- where they lived, worked, played, died!

$2.99. iPhone, iPod touch, (iPad compatible). Available on the App Store.


Roadside America iPhone app My Sights Route Planner - FREE! Save places you read about on Roadside America to your computer desktop, create a trip, and then email it to friends or export a .cvs file to upload onto a GPS device (Garmin, TomTom, etc.). Learn more and try it!


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Main image: Titanic, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.