Spend any time at all on the American highway and you’ll see one: the world’s largest [fill in the blank].
The Frazee, Minnesota turkey. The Vergas, Minnesota loon. (Giant fowl are popular in MInnesota). The Medicine Hat Teepee in Alberta, Canada. The list is endless; their aficionados, legion.
If you have a very long Airstream you’ll have trouble turning it around—especially if other gawkers pull in behind you—at the site of Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, who makes her home at the top of a steep hill in North Dakota.
While I was up there at dusk with no one but Raven two sketchy-looking guys in a beater compact car arrived and boxed me in. I was concerned—there wasn’t another soul in sight and these two could take their time with my murder and disposal of the body—until I nonchalantly looked in the backseat of their car after they got out. It was littered with, of all things, instructor materials: teacher textbooks, worksheets, and education software manuals. I turned to see them laughing, struggling in the wind to set the automatic timer on their camera, and running up to the base of Sue to strike wacky poses. I figured they were safe. (Famous last words.)
We struck up a conversation when I offered to take their picture with their iPhones and I learned that they are among a not-uncommon group of travelers: people who waste—nay, invest—their summer vacations driving from one world’s largest attraction to the next. We breathlessly compared notes, (“Ooh! Have you been to the praying mantis?”) and swapped Facebook pages.
At Alumafandango I had the honor of speaking to presenter Jeff Kunkle of Vintage Roadside. To my surprise, he lives in Portland AND he has the A&W Family living in his backyard. Jeff concurs: folks build entire trips around visiting weird roadside oddities. (No more pointless than birding, right? And the attractions stay put.)
Speaking of Portland, a hearty “welcome back” to the Ivy Bear on Highway 26 outside Sandy, Oregon, who rejoined the list of world’s largest mega-things after a long hiatus.
A long time ago in a decade far, far away stood a convenience store inhabited by a lady, her son, and their locally famous pet black bear who would drink a Pepsi (or Coke; oral history is divided on this point) when folks would buy a bottle from the store and hand it off to the bear in his cage.
Years later, the poor thing passed away (probably from diabetes) and an enormous wire topiary frame in the shape of a seated bear was constructed across the street in remembrance. Eventually the original ivy-covered construction fell into ruin and the rotted lumber and damaged frame were razed and carted into the woods—but the site has evermore been referred to as The Ivy Bear area.
Fast forward to 2012, when the frame for the 34-foot tall Bear was reconstructed, replanted, and is currently cared for by the good folks at Ivy Bear Pizzaria.
How long will it take for the ivy to fill in again? Local individuals seem to remember that the original Bear took about four years to grow to completion. Be sure to pay a visit to the chainsaw guy next door to learn about the heated politics surrounding the historic Bear, and fulfill all your rustic cabin art needs.