Monday, June 7, 2010

Our Epic Giant Day

Today we did an activity that I've been planning for a while. We called it "Giant Day". This summer I've become an avid visitor to the website "Roadside America". It features wacky, zany, off-the-beaten-track type of touristy things that are definitely worth a visit if for nothing more than its randomness. You just type in your hometown and a list of attractions will follow. My hometown of Sandy, UT has one such attraction, the Mayan Restaurant (which despite having lived there since its opening, I have still not gone to). By some wonderful twist of serendipity, St. Louis is jam-packed with these, 44 entries in total. Now some of these are duplicates, and some are now defunct, but there are at least 20 individual things to go see and do in St. Louis. A common type of attraction is a larger than life version of something regular. St. Louis is home to many "giant" objects including the world's largest wrench, the world's largest Amoco sign, the world's largest set of teeth, largest pencil, largest pair of men's underpants, etc. etc. It also boasts fun to look at big things, even though they may not be the biggest in the whole world of their category.

I plotted a group of the rather non-commital attractions (the teeth require a tour, the pencil is part of a larger museum, etc.) and made a route that would take us on a loop of the city, stopping at six points that boasted giant sights. It was estimated to take one hour and forty minutes on MapQuest, the whole adventure ended up taking us about an hour longer, but it was a blast. Here are the highlights of our "Giant Day".

Stop 1--The World's Biggest Wrench

13 miles from our home sits Skyway Auto Repairs, home of the world's largest wrench. It is big. It was built by Branden Strange about five years ago in an effort to promote the auto repair shop. It is 25 feet long, its ends are six feet tall, and it is 10 inches thick. Parking was easy for this one and aside from running across the street to get better perspective on our photos, our lives were not really risked at all. We came, we saw, we marvelled, and we moved on.

Stop 2--The Giant Vess Soda Bottle

OK, we got a little turned around on this one and headed the wrong way for a while, which cost us five minutes of driving time. We had tried and failed to get to this one once before. The pictures online show it lit up at night, and we headed to it at night several weeks ago. We found it, but it wasn't lit, and since certain roads were closed we couldn't get to it without walking through a creepy abandoned worksight in downtown at 12:30 at night. Kortney's vote was no on the one, and I had to respect her wishes. Now we were back. In broad daylight, and coming from the opposite direction to avoid all the pesky closed roads. This one still ended up being the most challenging one to get to.

We pulled off the interstate and certain roads our sometimes-trusty GPS seemed to believe existed ended up being figments of its digital imagination and we found ourselves with no way to turn off from a road that took us on a bridge over the Mississippi and into Illinois. We about-faced and came back to Missouri as fast as we could. We ended up at the same dead-end as we had two weeks ago, facing the same creepy abandoned work sight. This time we were on a mission. We parked and walked.

The Giant Vess Soda Bottle seemed to be in disrepair, which to me was surprising. After some poking around, I discovered that this location was the bottle's second home. At its last location it actually spun around and was lit by neon piping. This made it the largest spinning, neon-lit bottle in the world. This of course is a dubious honor since it suggests there a both larger spinning bottles, and larger neon-lit bottles, and this particular Vess only qualifies for the honor under very specific criteria. Sadly, in its new home it is neither lit, nor spinning, and seems to be well passed its prime.

The good news is, its future is bright. Its new home is a soon-to-be-developed entertainment district, complete with restaurants, casinos, and clubs (none of which are yet built) that will bear the name "The Bottle District". Hopefully during all the construction they will take the time to fix up the neon lights that were missing in many places along the letters of the bottle's label. And while they're at it, maybe they could even make it spin...

Stop 3--Giant Cherokee Indian

This one was a wild card, only about 10 minutes away from the Vess bottle, it was the only one of the six that I hadn't seen a picture of. Only a vague description exists on Roadside America and so it was naturally steeped in a lot of mystery and we drove with great anticipation into the rougher part of town. Apparently the area that the Indian is located in is called Cherokee Station. This statue was commissioned by local businessmen in honor of the name. It was made by Bill Christman whose work is all over Roadside America. This would be our first experience with him.

The only thing that seemed remarkable about this Indian is that it is UGLY. The website said so and we concur. In fact, Christman is quoted as having said "To my everlasting mortification I was the sculptor of that". Well, we found it. Looked at it, and couldn't help but feel pity for Christman. We plan on visiting his studio later on in the summer.

Stop 4--Giant Farmer Fred and his son Clyde

This was a step up from the Indian, although they still kind of look creepy. The history behind these two iconic landmarks is quite interesting. According to legend, a giant creepy clown used to have their spots and vandals actually burnt it down. Supposedly, the locals were actually pleased with the destruction since noone cared much to have a giant creepy clown watching the town 24/7. Mysteriously, these two farmers just appeared and noone knows from where. Anyway, they are pretty cool. We really got a kick out of these two. They are definitely worth a visit.

Stop 5--The World's Largest Amoco Sign

This one we actually came upon yesterday as we were touring Forest Park but we needed gas anyway and we wanted to do it justice. In the context of the day, the sign actually impressed us a lot more than it did the day before. It is seriously HUGE. Not even joking. We had a tough time getting to a good place to take pictures since its right off a freeway exit and we at this point running kind of low on time. But we made it. After filling up the car, we hit the road for the last stop of our Giant Tour.

Stop 6--Giant Shoe of Shoes

Wow. If anything is worthy of a visit, this giant shoe made out of regular-sized shoes is most definitely worthy. We had actually done this once before since its the closest one to our apartment but since we didn't have our camera with us, the return trip was a welcome one. We had about four minutes to spare if I was going to make it to work on time so we booked it. Coming back to it was seriously like seeing an old friend again. This thing is freaking cool. I am a huge fan of this type of thing (giant versions of something made from its regular counterparts) and this one is just so perfect. I want to see more of this type of thing. Definitely an amazing way to end the day.

We zipped home and made it at exactly 12:02, which is the latest you can legally arrive within being counted late. Perfection.

1 comment:

  1. Wow... y'all had a really "BIG" day!!! :o)