Finally, the post many of you have been waiting for, or dreading, as the case may be. The unusual stuff that caught my eye during my recent solo road trip.
The stuff falls into two categories. First, attractions I’d noted in advance thanks to RoadsideAmerica.com, “Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions.” The Muffler Men are some of my favorites, so we’ll start there.
A tribe of fiberglass titans, 14 to 25 feet tall, stands watch along the vibrant roadside landscape. The first statues that we spotted held big car mufflers, so we named them “Muffler Men.”
To learn more, go to RoadsideAmerica.com’s Muffler Man Home Page.
After two days on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), absorbing much natural splendor and scenic beauty, reaching Cherokee, North Carolina was a bit of a treat. Cherokee is what I refer to as a gateway city, i.e., a town that’s adjacent or at least closest to a national park entrance. Gateway cities are typically FULL of kitsche as that’s how the myriad establishments (motels, eateries, souvenier shops, etc.) attracted folks back in the day. Sadly, that “day” has sorta passed, so many of these gateway cities are a bit rundown.
Fortunately for people like me, who appreciate this charming bit of Americana, many of the surviving icons are lovingly maintained.
There is also some real artwork on display in Cherokee, like this Whispering Giant.
One has to see one of the Toth giants up close to see the detail and appreciate the artistry of one of these lovingly sculpted works of art. It’s a majestic piece that evokes emotion while viewing. I hope you are lucky enough to see one one day.
Here’s another work of art, the Eagle Man in Cherokee.
Sorry I didn’t get a better picture of this one. I’d planned on returning the next day, but after a sweltering ride, I just didn’t have the energy left for more photo captures.
It really is quite nice in person, despite my lousy pics.
More kitsche I HAD to see…
This guy is billed by RoadsideAmerica.com as the “Indian Death Tiki of Awesomeness.”
You can see that the quality of the carving is nowhere near that of the Whispering Giant shared above, which is what puts this one solidly in the roadside kitsche category.
It may not be “art,” but I still like him. 🙂
Here’s another Muffler Man spotted during my trip. He’s my favorite.
That cool-ass burger dude is mounted atop a Pal’s location in Kingsport, Tennessee. Pal’s Sudden Service is a fast-food chain with locations in southwest Virginia and east Tennessee.
Many Pal’s locations are built using this model. Most that I saw had that architectural style.
Another fun spot in Kingsport is the Purple Cow ice cream shop.
It was hot so, even though there was lots more fun stuff to see in Kingsport, I had to pick and choose what I saw. The herd of purple cows and muffler man were musts for me.
Now for some other fun stuff I just happened to see along the way.
On Sunday, I stopped at Mount Mitchell State Park in NC. It’s located along the BRP. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, it’s also home to a swarm of weevils.
I did not like the gazillion flying bugs, but did find this sign entertaining.
Though harmless, they are EVERYWHERE. They really are about the size of a dog tick. Everyone visiting the summit was covered with weevils. Since I was traveling alone, I had to ask some unknown woman to brush them off of my back.
Here’s a weevil I happened to notice on a rhododendron pic I’d captured.
My radiator caught more than a few weevils during the course of the journey.
If we still had a little cabin in the woods, I would have bought one of those for sure. Getting it home may have presented a challenge, though.
Things like that are the norm in many rural gas stations, which also serve as hunting supply and tackle shops, weigh-in stations, general stores, sandwich shops, etc. Really.
I probably would have had more images of oddities to share had it not been for the unrelenting heat and humidity, which was far worse when stopped. So I didn’t stop nearly as much as I would’ve liked to AND avoided more-populated areas with traffic that would have forced me to travel at a slower pace. When it’s above 80 and you’re wearing safety gear, it’s important to keep moving at a relatively brisk pace.
I hope y’all enjoyed seeing at least some of the fun/unusual stuff I saw along the way.
I have lots more pictures of not-so-unusual stuff to share, too. Stay tuned…