Corn Fed and Undead
America loves baseball and the undead. The 1989 film Field of Dreams plucked our heartstrings with a story about ghost sports legends walking out of corn rows onto an idyllic baseball field. Of course, it helped that those resurrected players were well-behaved; not interested in brains, only baseball. If only all ghosts could play nice....
In the movie, the Field of Dreams was built by a farmer (Kevin Costner) with an obsession. This dovetails perfectly with its afterlife as a popular roadside attraction. Like many of the best independent museums and snake farms, the Field of Dreams was created without data analysis or focus group testing. It was built simply with the unquantifiable belief that someone would show up. And buy souvenirs.
Museum of Initiation Pranks
Grown men once forced each other to eat rancid meat, endure realistic branding, and spank one another with exploding cudgels. It was fun! The Museum of Initiation Pranks doesn't delve too deeply into the "why" of it, but the "how" is thoroughly explored through what may be the world's largest public collection of joy buzzers, mechanical bucking goats, collapsing chairs, and hilarious gag guillotines.
World's Largest Ball of Twine
James Frank Kotera (who likes being called JFK) has been winding a giant ball of twine in his Wisconsin back yard since 1979. Three other men have claimed to have made a World's Largest Ball of Twine, but JFK is the only one still living, and he welcomes visitors to see him at work. JFK's ball is now over 21,000 pounds! If it isn't already the World's Largest, it probably will be soon.
Lane Motor Museum
We wish auto museums were always this much fun. Jeff Lane has assembled an impressive collection of the world's weirdest cars, and displays them in a former bread factory. See cars powered by propellers and by coal, cars that weigh only 250 pounds, cars so dangerous that even Jeff won't drive them faster than 20 mph. And out back is the 100-ton LARC LK, a vehicle so big it can crush any car ever made.
Ave Maria Grotto
The Pope came, the Pope left, but maybe he'll return one day to see the Ave Maria Grotto. A tiny Roman Catholic monk who never got to Rome built a lot of its buildings, in miniature, out of cement and junk. Brother Joseph labored for over 25 years to build the Grotto, which has been a popular attraction since it opened in 1932, despite the relative paucity of Catholics in its home state of Alabama.
Spotted by Tipsters
Oklahoma Autobots: Optimus Prime and Bumblebee (or just giant robots that kinda look like them) were found by tipster Shelley M. outside two Oklahoma auto body shops. Built overseas, they were upgraded by their new owners to American standards of Transformer excellence.
Millionaire for a Minute: Tipster Signmanjoe came across an unexpected thrill in Arkansas: you can hold $1 million in your hands as part of the regular tour of Little Rock's state capitol. Apparently Arkansas wants everyone to see that its politicians haven't run off with its cash.
Beam Me Up, Jerky: Alien Fresh Jerky, closed for years, has been revived as E.T. Fresh Jerky in alien-friendly Hiko, Nevada -- and tipster Micko has sent photographic proof that its flying saucer photo-op is a worthy destination along the Extraterrestrial Highway.
World's Largest Stuff: Over the past year the town of Casey, Illinois, has gone crazy populating its downtown with "World's Largest" attractions (See World's Largest Rocking Chair below). Tipster Natalie D. recorded the appearance of the World's Largest Pencil.
Another Killer Tree: Humans chop down trees every day, but trees can take down humans, too. Doug D. found the Poppy Plane Crash Memorial, made from the actual tree a plane collided with in 1948. Conveniently, it's already in a cemetery.
Presidential Pie: Left wing Democrat? Right wing Republican? It doesn't matter if a President shows up in your downtown, hungry. Thus the Obama Pie Shrine, found by tipster Darlene in a cafe, is a welcome reminder that politics has its limits, and everyone loves a celebrity.
For more fun discoveries and updates from the road, head over to the Latest Tips.
Attraction News from Roadside America
First, a teary farewell to Ernest Helm, dead at 91, creator of Tiny World. We hope someone continues holiday lighting duties for this backyard treasure.
An appreciative flash of our high beams to the following tipsters: Angelica documented the long-awaited completion of the towering
World's Largest Rocking Chair; Truman E. reported the opening of the equally long-awaited
Civil War Tails museum, which features battlefield dioramas of cats instead of people; Howard let us know of the return of the
Vermont Sea Serpent; Muffler Man collector Bruce K. reported the arrival of his first
Uniroyal Gal; Christopher S. informed us that business cards are messing up
The Gum Wall; and KEH sent photographic proof that
Bernice the Cow is a space alien during her town's annual
In other news: Will Russell's ambitious experiment in post-ironic hilarity,
Funtown Mountain, closed less than three months after it opened.
Dennis the Menace statue was found in Florida nine years after it disappeared, maybe (Some say it's a Dennis the Menace from Florida that also disappeared). The famous Full Throttle Saloon burned to the ground, but its unique
Beer-Hoisting Muffler Man escaped serious injury.
Bishop Castle, whose ownership (and future) was in doubt, was returned to the Bishop family with much rejoicing.
Big Ole, the World's Largest Viking, is undergoing a much-needed makeover (We stopped by on our visit to the neighboring
Runestone Museum). The
Giant Lincoln Head of Wyoming is getting a facelift as well.
Finally, thanks to tipster L Judy, who pointed out that
Pierre the Pantsless Voyageur really does have no pants -- because no Voyageurs ever wore pants. That was news to us!
Follow our Twitter stream o' news: @roadsideamerica
The RoadsideAmerica.com Team