Traipsing Through Tourist Traps
Moving on is the way of all interns, but we here at IT have never been very good at dealing with the departure of our key allies in the war on boredom (i.e. blogging). After all, one of us was a Traveler
intern who managed to never leave; why can’t all the others follow suit? In order to alleviate some of the pain caused by intern Katie Howell‘s departure, we’re running one of the blog entries she bequeathed us before beetling off to Turkey:
In my former life as a geology grad student, I found myself crisscrossing the continent several times in search of fabulous rock outcrops and out-of-the-way mountain ranges. In doing so, I spent many a long day seeing only tumbleweed as scenery. My solution to fight eight-hours-on-an-interstate boredom: Stop at every side-of-the-highway tourist trap that came along. So I’ll admit, I’ve seen a few: the world’s largest ball of twine, a Davy Crockett statue in a town he never set foot in, and a creepy wax museum in Natural Bridge, Virginia, to name a few. Needless to say, when I get bored on a long drive, it doesn’t take much to lure me off the interstate. Here’s a rundown of my favorite tourist trap detours.
Graceland Too (200 East Ghoulson Avenue; +1 662 252 2515) in Holly Springs, Mississippi, is situated roughly halfway between two Elvis meccas: his birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi, and his adult home at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.
Graceland Too owner Paul McLeod is most likely the world’s biggest Elvis fan, and has devoted more than 40 years of his life to collecting anything and everything Elvis. Inside an antebellum home in Holly Springs, a tiny town about 50 miles from Interstates 40 and 55 in Memphis, MacLeod houses and showcases his collection and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year to show off his life’s work. Walls, ceilings, and floors are plastered with pictures, newspaper and magazine clippings, and continuously running TV and movie clips of the King. The shrine is home to an enviable collection of rare Elvis albums and other memorabilia. Next time you’re cruising through Memphis at 2 a.m. and in need of a truly bizarre pick-me-up, head down Highway 78 to Holly Springs. You won’t be disappointed.
America’s Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire, is the U.S.’s answer to mysteriously placed rock structures, though notably not as old nor as auspiciously endorsed as its cousin
across the pond. America’s Stonehenge is about 45 minutes from Boston and is thought to represent an accurate astronomical calendar. The owners are also avid alpaca
breeders, so a zoo of llamas and alpacas hiss at you as you walk up the hill to the main site, which really adds to the charm of the place—as did the people performing some sort of weird ceremony on one of the rocks while I was there.
For some reason, creepy rock worshippers and llamas didn’t turn me off from Stonehenge knock-offs, so when I saw the sign for Carhenge north of Interstate 80 in the Nebraska panhandle, I was magnetically drawn. And boy was I glad I stopped. Imagine a life-size replica of Stonehenge, made entirely out of up-ended and precariously perched, gray-painted 1950s sedans rising out of the wheat fields, and you can see how I killed a good hour here: gawking.
In all my travels, the best advertised pull-off-the-road tourist trap is the famous Wall Drug close to Mount Rushmore in western South Dakota. Skip it. Opt instead for the more modestly publicized Corn Palace in Mitchell.
You won’t be disappointed. Made entirely out of corn, grain, grasses, straw, and wheat, the facade of the building is updated each year by local artists to depict the “bounty of the South Dakotan soil.” The inside isn’t really interesting, but seeing Lewis and Clark’s 20-foot (six-meter)-tall mugs made entirely out of cornhusks was worth the trip.
- Nat Geo Expeditions