I’ve been a fan of kitschy roadside stuff for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it started with the big Yogi Bear statue at the Jellystone Park campground my family frequented in the mid- to late-1970s. It was about 20 feet tall and, like the one pictured on the right, included a basket into which people could climb for photo ops. (I’ll have to dig to see if I can find one of those pics.)
Even before I saw that Yogi, I remember seeing and being delighted by those trashcans at amusement parks topped with lids that were made to look like the head of a clown, lion, bear, or other animal so that you could “feed” your garbage to whatever critter topped the can. Anyone else remember those? If I am not mistaken, some even were equipped with some sort of device that created suction, like a vacuum cleaner, so that when you held trash close enough to the mouth it got sucked in.
I don’t know why the stuff amuses, intrigues, and delights me, it just does. I’m not just talking about big statues of men and animals, but all of the goofy Americana stuff that was once used to advertise and/or make a business stand out. Like Muffler Men.
You knew I was headed there, didn’t you?
Like I said, I’ve always liked these big guys, along with other roadside oddities, but it wasn’t until I met Fuzzy (aka Rachael) that I learned these big guys have names and, even better, a following. Other people think they’re important, too.
Recently, I learned about American Giants, a very interesting and well-done series of videos featuring Muffler Men in various locations produced by Joel Baker (a Muffler Men hobbyist) and his crew. I learned a lot from those videos, which made me appreciate Muffler Men even more. If you want the back story on these big guys, read this article and/or visit the American Giants — Muffler Men website to learn more. Of course RoadsideAmerica.com has a Muffler Men Map within the section of their site dedicated specifically to Muffler Men.
Anyway… I actually saw two giants on my recent loop through Virginia and Maryland.
I HAD to visit the Big Viking of Chincoteague before leaving the island. Currently, he is on his back in a field beside what appears to be a property owned by a “collector.” RoadsideAmerica has a picture of the Viking taken in 2008.
Apparently, the property where he was stood was purchased by someone who didn’t want The Viking. So he was rescued and is being stored here until a new home can be found.
I don’t often get a chance to see one of these giants up close and personal like this.
He may be down, for now, but hopefully someone will give him a new home soon.
Old Friend Revisited
Since I was sort of going to be in the neighborhood, I figured I’d stop in Ocean City, Maryland on the way home to visit this guy, who has been at the Jolly Roger Amusement Park since 1964.
I’d seen him before and have always thought him to be very cool. But I wanted a closer look now that I know he’s an authentic International Fiberglass creation.
New Kid on the Block
To reach Ocean City from Chincoteague, I opted to go through Berlin, Maryland to say hi to this new guy.
RoadsideAmerica.com describes him as…
…a 21st Century Muffler Man, made by Virginia’s Mark Cline. Shorter than the classic model, with too-tight jeans, but muscular arms to heft his impressive vanilla swirl cone.
I’ve seen these mini Muffler Men before. They’re actually called Soda Jerks and Mark Cline, a fiberglass sculptor from Virginia, is the guy behind their resurrection. There’s a great Soda Jerks background piece on the American Giants blog if you’re interested.
I don’t usually get as excited about seeing these guys since they’re sorta new, but I should. I mean, they’re the new generation of Muffler Men. And Mark Cline, who I absolutely MUST visit one day, deserves some credit for keeping the muff alive.
Other Fun Stuff
Finally, some miscellaneous fun images I captured while meandering toward home on Sunday.
Also at Frontiertown with the Soda Jerk pictured above is an actual prop from the JAWS movie.
Another reason to stop in Ocean City was to buy some fresh Dolle’s Caramel Popcorn. That stuff is the best!
Menacing shark at Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
This over-the-top mini-golf course caught my eye on the way to Jolly Rogers.
Miniature golf establishments have always been a mecca of oddities. In a place like Ocean City with numerous putt-putt establishments, over-the-top is sort of required.
There was another place with aliens where I should have stopped, but didn’t. I was getting tired. If you’re curious, use Google Images to search for “Lost Galaxy Golf Ocean City Maryland.”
Anyhow, that concludes the re-cap my latest adventure or non-adventure as some folks may see it. 🙂