Giant Red Wing Boot, Bay Point Park, Red Wing, Minnesota,
August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights
We didn’t travel much when I was growing up. Maybe a weekend trip to the beach in Charleston or Savannah. Or taking a drive through the Great Smoky Mountains along winding roads of the Tennessee hills to visit my grandparents over Easter. But for the most part, we stayed close to home.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started to criss-cross the country by Ford Econoline van, vintage Karmann Ghia, yellow Mercury Capri, and powder blue VW Squareback. Those were the years I discovered my wanderlust and the uniquely American, Roadside Attraction. Though their heyday may have been the 1950′s and 60′s, if you keep your eyes peeled, Roadside Attractions still pepper America’s highways and byways.
In Minnesota, they might take the form of an 18 foot tall, 2 1/2 ton Paul Bunyan, and 5 ton Babe the Blue Ox. South Dakota has the Corn Palace (thanks to Bo’s comments for the great postcard link). And Texas has Cadillac Ranch creating by eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh, 3 who in 1973 invited a San Francisco artists’ collective called the Ant Farm to help him turn 10 used Cadillacs into a landscape work of art.
Are car and seed art not your cup of tea? Head East and check out the Giant Koontz Coffee Pot in Bedford, Pennsylvania (built by Bert Koontz in 1927). In 2003, rather than have the coffee pot meet an untimely demise, Bert’s great nephew Dick Koontz, and a group of Lincoln Highway supporters, relocated the Pot to the Bedford County Fairgrounds across the street. Or perhaps your direction is West; you might explore the haunted Garnet Ghost Town at the head of First Chance Creek, 6,000 feet up in the mountain forests east of Missoula, Montana.
Ping-pong back to the Midwest for a gaggle of giant boots dotting the Minnesota landscape near the southern river town of Red Wing (named after a distinguished Indian Chief named Hupahuduta, meaning a swan’s wing dyed in red). Red Wing shoes were the 1905 vision of Charles H. Beckman. The Red Wing No. 16 boot was issued to World War I soldiers; during the Great Depression, the factory workers burned scrap leather to stay warm.
For their 100th Anniversary, Red Wing spent $100,000 and 1 year building a supersized “638-D” replica of their classic work boot No. 877. The world’s largest shoe, it’s 16 feet tall, 20 feet long, and required 80 cowhides, 1,200 feet of rope and 300 pounds of adhesives. The shoelace is 104 feet long (here’s a shot of Norm Coleman next to the boot).
Do you have childhood memories of a favorite Roadside Attraction? Big Critters, 2-Story Outhouses, the Jolly Green Giant? Where was it located? What age were you when you visited there. Who was with you? Have you passed a giant Mauston Mouse and just had to stop and take a photograph?
Or maybe you seek out Roadside Attractions wherever you travel like the creator of one of the best sites I’ve found on the subject, Debra J. Seltzer’s Roadside Architecture. Debra travels around the country documenting disappearing Roadside Attractions (she’s heading to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in March).
Flip-Flop Travel Bug, Red Wing Palms, Bay Point Park, Red Wing, Minnesota, August 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Get out your pens and do a timed Writing Practice on Roadside Attractions. Using all the senses, write down as many details as you can. Choose a specific amount of time — 10, 15, 20 minutes — set a timer, and Go!
Stop when the buzzer, bell, or alarm goes off; read what you’ve just written out loud to yourself. You might be surprised at what you discover. And if all else fails, there’s always the Tom Robbins version of life on the road — Captain Kendrick’s Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve in Another Roadside Attraction.
Resources & Inspiration:
- Roadside Architecture – Debra J. Seltzer’s wonderful roadside site, created in 2000. No ads or pop-ups. Check out her Flickr sets from across America. She’s got passion for this subject!
- World’s Largest Roadside Attractions – Roadside Attractions from around the world. Based in Minnesota. No ads or pop-ups.
- Roadside Photos — Great photographs and postcards. Site of Doug Pappas with no advertising. Another person with passion for the road.
- Roadside America – Lots of ads but some good info there.
- Legends of America – Again, lots of ads. But good detail in the descriptions.
-posted on red Ravine, Friday, February 20th, 2009