I was the kid who always wanted Dad to pull the Pontiac Land Yacht over so I could see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.
Of course, he was the guy who probably left the car door open that day when he peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon and remarked, “It looks like a big ditch to me.” But that’s my mother’s story.
Actually, it doesn’t matter if the signs refer to a haystack, bubble gum, rubber bands, an animal, plate juggling, body parts, food, a hole in the ground – I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that includes hyperbole in the title: Most Amazing, Only Living, First Ever, World’s Smallest, Internationally Known.
It doesn’t get much better than the World Famous Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo – where hyperbole meets food meets eclectic décor. You can even get a free steak – that is, if you consume all 72 ounces of it AND the sides in an hour. The six-ounce sirloin was enough for me but what an adventure just to see the inside of that place. J
Despite the pricey admission tickets and against My Better Judgment, I took my kids a few years ago to a Ripley’s Believe or Not Odditorium in Grand Prairie, Texas. Ripley’s, after all, has been “proudly freaking out families for over 90 years.”
So, for the Original Combo price of $21.99 each, which included Louis Tussaud’s Palace of Wax, we walked through the 10,000 square feet of objects labeled “oddities.” We gazed at the greasy wax reproduction of the World’s Tallest Man, a variety of shrunken heads, a barbaric electrocution chair, an extensive collection of torture mechanisms, a couple of mummies. We followed the Warning for Those Faint of Heart signs to a blackened room, where some sort of ninja swinging a really big sword jumped out at us. (I screamed; the kids were fine.) We learned a lot of stuff, too. Like, if you never cut your nails, they will grow to about 13 feet by the time you are 80. Stuff like that.
Even attractions billed as historical or educational often turn out to be oddities. My son was 6 when we did all the tourist stuff in San Antonio. “Mom, the gift shop is bigger than The Alamo!” he exclaimed as he ran to the plastic weapons.
If you've ever walked through any of those massive traveling exhibits – Star Wars, King Tut, Titanic – you know you always end up at the same destination – a really big gift shop full of junk stamped Made in China. Only the main graphic on the T-shirts changes.
Because you never know what oddities you’ll find at local events, I go to as many as possible. The requirement: “Fest” or “Fair” or “Cook-off” or “Day” must be in the name: Red Earth, Western Heritage, Chili, International, Cowboy, Car, May, October, Balloon, Films, Arts, Stilwell Strawberry, Medieval, Rush Springs Watermelon, Watonga Cheese, Grape, Family, Great State. (Anyone found a Bacon Fest yet?)
It’s all about the journey. So, if you spend any time with me, be prepared to stop and smell, uh – stop and stare – at the oddities along the way.