Roadside America can be about wild ideas, bold attraction concepts that go where none have gone before. It could be a speedy success or a complete wreck. We're amused either way, but it's nice to see a lightbulb wink on and stay lit.
It happened decades ago in Riverside, Iowa. We marvel at how they've held onto bragging rights as birthplace of a fictitious TV show starship captain — who won't be born for another two centuries. They've created multiple landmarks, a museum, and an annual festival. Riverside delivers a flying side kick to the reptilian hulk of lazy thinking, then convinces the computer to self-destruct... and still has time for an out-of-species romance.
Closet of the Spiderweb Lady
Anne Bradshaw Clopton seemed like a nice grandmother — until you saw the inside of her closet. That's where she became the terror of the spiders of Huntsville, Alabama, stealing their webs for canvasses for her bizarre art. Mrs. Clopton is gone, but you can still visit her closet. Can you hear the spiders scream?
Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk
The Captain of the Starship Enterprise will be born in Riverside, Iowa, in the 23rd century — but that hasn't stopped the town from celebrating right now. Visitors can tour the local D.I.Y. Star Trek museum, ponder Kirk's birth site, and even see the spot where Kirk was conceived; it's in the town's only bar.
Parthenon and Statue of Athena
The tallest indoor statue in America is a pagan goddess, she's covered in real gold, and she's in -- the Country Music Capital of the World. Nashville is home to the world's most perfect replica of the Parthenon and statue of Athena because they laid claim to the city long before the honky-tonkers and hillbillies arrived.
Shrine of Christ's Passion and Millennium Mary
34 feet tall, made of stainless steel, Millennium Mary is a weather-defying object of veneration and roadside billboard for the Shrine of Christ's Passion. This outdoor attraction has piped-in music, life-size bronze statues of Jesus and his tormentors, and when it rains you can shelter in the empty tomb with an angel.
Spotted by Tipsters
Swinging Bridges Road: Tipster Sara K. submitted a detailed report of her trip down Swinging Bridges Road in Missouri, including safety tips for crossing the longest and most ominous of its bridges. "Check to make sure there are no missing planks" — that's definitely sage advice.
Billy Graham Center Museum: Frequent tipster John Takao C. visited this under-the-radar attraction on the campus of a Christian college. Famous evangelist Graham is still earthbound at age 97, but the museum's unique "Cloud Room" reveals the endless puffy skyscape he can expect to see in heaven.
International Banana Museum: This crazy attraction has been open for several years, but tipster Tiptop wrote in with a ringing endorsement that really conveys the museum's absurd sense of fun — including a pic of what we'll assume is Tiptop and friends posing in giant banana suits.
For more fun discoveries and updates from the road, head over to the Latest Tips.
The American Bystander is back!
A long time ago, Roadside America authors Doug, Ken, and Mike were wide-eyed contributors to a mysterious print humor magazine, The American Bystander, which published a single "pilot" issue and then disappeared for 30 years. Publisher Michael Gerber has launched a reborn, all-new American Bystander #1 and is toiling to complete #2, featuring cartoons, comics and prose from the folks behind SNL, The Simpsons, The Onion and National Lampoon! And *cough* Roadside America. Pledge at their Kickstarter page to reserve your own laugh-packed issue, and help keep this monster baby growing!
Attraction News from Roadside America
Thanks to two tipsters: Greg L. for letting everyone know that the Smallest Church in America had been rebuilt (after being burned down), and Sherry C. for reporting that Invincible Stewart's Folly had at last proved vincible (It was also burned down). And Muffler Man collector Bruce Kennedy, always welcome, wrote in to announce his latest acquisition: a Mark Cline custom-built Firefighter Giant. Joel at American Giants tells us that his M-Man obsession drove him to start his own statue restoration business.
In other news: George R.R. Martin's sci-fi funhouse, the Meow Wolf Arts Complex and House of Eternal Return, has opened in Santa Fe, while elsewhere in New Mexico the Roswell UFO Museum had its outdoor flying saucer stolen and destroyed by three terrestrial morons in a pickup truck. A Spring makeover is currently underway for Shark Girl, who should return on May 16, and another is scheduled for Urban Light, which will be flipped off until summer.
If you have spare cash and want to make a memorable purchase, several roadside wonders are currently for sale, including the World's Largest Basket in Ohio, the late Dmytro Szylak's Hamtramck Disneyland, and two shuttered theme parks: Dogpatch USA in Arkansas, and the ill-fated Funtown Mountain in Kentucky.
Finally, welcome back Bliss Dance, the 40-Foot-Tall Dancing Woman who debuted at Burning Man, stood for years in San Francisco, and now has moved, supposedly forever, to Las Vegas. And, although this event is many months away, Punkin Chunkin will return to its original pumpkin-splattered field of battle in Delaware after two years in limbo.
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The RoadsideAmerica.com Team