Saturday, May 26, 2007

Your Summer Vacation Guide

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Yes, folks, it's that time of year again -- the time when we start eyeing the calendar, counting the days until that magic moment when we load up the station wagon, SUV or pickup and hit the road looking for adventure and a clean restroom on the Interstate.

And as always, your Humble Columnist is here with suggestions for places to visit that embody the spirit of this great country: innovative, outrageous, and occasionally, just plain weird. So without further ado, here's your summer vacation guide.

*Remember "The Beverly Hillbillies"? Remember that funky old truck they used to drive, the one Jethro tricked out with all sorts of gear when he was trying to become a double-naught spy? Did you ever wonder what happened to that truck? Of course you do!

Well, wonder no more. The truck, donated by Hillbillies producer Paul Henning, is the centerpiece of the Ralph Foster Museum in Point Lookout, Mo., aka the "Smithsonian of the Ozarks." Located just down the road from Branson, on the campus of the world-famous College of the Ozarks, the Foster Museum is a compendium of educational Ozark memorabilia, such as a restored one-room schoolhouse and the barbed wire collection of noted collector Ellis Pentecost. There's also a gun collection that contains the rifle wielded by Pancho Villa and the gun Western lawman Virgil Earp was wearing when he was killed. Oh, and a painting of an elephant, done on the ear of an actual elephant. Really. The ear's hanging on the wall, not attached to the elephant -- which, we may assume, is dead and does not miss it. What this has to so with the Ozarks is anyone's guess.

*Those who'd like to remember America's victory over the forces of Godless Comminism have their opportunities at a couple of places in Las Vegas, Nev., a town which in itself could be considered a giant kick in the teeth of Karl Marx's memory. The Mandalay Bay casino boasts a restaurant/bar called "Red Square," outside which stands an enormous statue of Lenin -- without its head. Down the road is the Main Street Station Casino, which features a piece of the actual Berlin Wall. In the men's room. Now there's some symbolism that's hard to miss.

* Everyone hates spam, that bothersome unwanted commercial e-mail that fills our inboxes with dodgy get-rich-quick schemes and pills for the enhancement of our manly parts. But before there was spam, there was SPAM, the gelatinous and vaguely meatlike pink food substitute created by Hormel. And what better way to learn about the history of SPAM than by visiting Hormel's SPAM Museum in Austin, Minn.?
Marvel at the Great Wall of SPAM, comprised of 3,390 cans of the stuff stacked in the museum lobby! Learn how SPAM helped win World War II, according to quotes by both Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev! Find out how it feels to work in SPAM with the actual interactive simulation of the SPAM production line! Maybe you'll also learn why Hormel always spells the name of the product in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!

* If you're in the neighborhood of Quartzsite, Ariz., and you find yourself with a hankering for something to read, why not drop by the Reader's Oasis, where you can meet the nation's only naked bookseller? Well, not entirely naked; Paul Winer, the proprietor of the Oasis, does wear a thong. Most of the time. And he does post a warning sign so that customers will be aware ahead of time that "they might have to deal with someone naked." Winer claims to have been the "original pioneer male exotic entertainer on the continent," and he carries on the tradition in his emporium. He also features a wide selection of children's books, although he does admit he doesn't get a lot of children in the store. However, he says cheerfully, he gets "thousands upon thousands of grandparents and great-grandparents," buying books for the grandkids.

*What would this yearly column be without at least one freakishly large object? We regret to report, however, that the world's largest badger (40 feet tall!) ain't what he used to be. When the Badger Country gas station and gift store in Birnamwood, Wisc., was closed and turned into a "gentleman's club," the Mighty Mustelid was cut down so that only his head and claws remain, sticking up from a mound of dirt, as if he's clawing his way out of the earth. Just the thing to put you in the mood for a lap dance.

Ah, America. A golden land where naked bookstore owners roam free, museums devote themselves to luncheon meat, and giant angry badgers guard the outside of strip clubs. Wherever you go in this great land of ours this summer, have fun and drive safe.

1 comment:

Indiana Joe said...

"Maybe you'll also learn why Hormel always spells the name of the product in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!"

It's an acronym. The full version is, "Shoulder of Pork and hAM".