I’ve been traveling America’s highways and byways all of my life, first as a little kid riding in the back seat of my Dad’s old Hudson, as we moved from one place to another or made our annual pilgrimage back to Ohio to visit family.
Later on, as a teenager I remember hitchhiking through several states, back in the days when hitchhiking was a safe and even accepted mode of travel. As a young soldier without any money, I “rode my thumb” across dozens of states to get to wherever I wanted to go.
Over the years I have traveled from coast to coast and border to border, on and in everything from motorcycles to automobiles, and now in a motorhome. There’s a reason I named our publication the Gypsy Journal; I know if I had been born 200 years ago, I’d have been a pioneer coming through the Cumberland Gap, in search of whatever lay over the next hill and across the next valley.
So I’ve covered a lot of miles in my time, and I’ve seen a lot of tourist traps along the way. You know what I mean, those hokey places offering “Real Indian Jewelry” and the opportunity to see “Live Rattlesnakes” or, in the case of the famous Wall Drug in South Dakota, just “Free Ice Water.”
Who knew you could build a business recognized around the world by giving away water? The folks at Wall Drug knew, and they did it! I don’t think you can drive any highway west of the Mississippi and north of Oklahoma and not see a sign for Wall Drug.
I have a love-hate relationship with tourist traps. I know that whatever they’re advertising to draw me in is probably not nearly as good as they promise, but who can drive past The Thing in southern Arizona, or the Jack Rabbit Trading Post up on Route 66 in the northern part of the state and not want to stop?
For those of you who have always wondered, but never stopped, the Thing is a mummified Indian found in a cave somewhere in the Southwest. But for the low admission price, you also get to see some other oddball things, including strange sculptures, and a Rolls Royce that supposedly once belonged to Adolf Hitler.
Of course, roadside tourist traps are not just a Western phenomenon. There are plenty to explore in the eastern half of the country, from the massive South of the Border on Interstate 95 in Dillon, South Carolina, where you can find trinkets and trash, along with some decent food and even a South of the Border theme park called Pedroland. How politically un-correct is that? I love it!
Just down the road from us here in Titusville, Florida is another famous tourist trap, called Jungle Adventures, which boasts the World’s Largest Alligator. As it turns out, that would be Swampy, a 200 foot long alligator shaped building that houses the ticket counter and gift shop. Not exactly what I wanted to see if I’m expecting the real world’s largest alligator. Still, Swampy’s toothy grin was quite inviting. I’d hate to have to pay his orthodontist bill!
Thought For The Day – Everyone thinks his own goose is a swan.