Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Tacky

Welcome to Vermont!

Summer is once again upon us. If we're lucky, we will be venturing out of our homes, and sometimes our comfort zones, to see the world around us. We will carefully photograph what makes each place unique and worth visiting. We will eat the local foods, hear the local dialects, and try to grab a fleeting impression of what it would be like to live a different life in a different place. We'll peruse our photos next winter, not wanting to forget even one moment of our fabulous travels.
But we may find that the thing we remember the most surprises us! One of the very best parts of travel when you are a kid ( and come on - for us too) is the glorious, kitschy, over-the-top, stupendous ridiculous waster-of-money - THE TOURIST TRAP! Is there anything more American?

Luis Aury
legendary pirate of Fernandina Beach

When I was little, our family vacation, more often than not, was a three day car trip to Florida. In the days before seat belts, Dad would strap the suitcases on top of the car, and lay our sleeping bags out in "the way-back" of the station wagon. During the day Mom had a bag up front filled with little treasures that she would dole out when we became fidgety - those tile puzzles that you slide around to make a picture; that magnetic bald guy whose beard you would drag on with a metallic pen; new crayons, COLORFORMS! We'd play endless games of "I packed my suitcase and in it I put...", but our favorite thing by far, was watching for signs for "South of the Border!"

Wikipedia image of Pedro

Those of you who didn't live in the east have missed being part of the greatest marketing campaign to date! When you drive I-95 from New York to Florida, you will pass a roadside attraction (actually more of a glorified truck stop) in Dillon South Carolina called "South of the Border." But that is really the anti-climax. Starting 200 miles before that you will begin to pass billboards telling you to come and see Pedro. There are currently no less than 120 billboards running through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In the past, there were 250 signs between Philadelphia and Daytona. Each one was unique making terrible puns about Pedro, ("pedro says, 'Our honeymoon suite is heir conditioned!') and touting all the wonderfulness he had to offer!

What kid could resist begging their father for 200 miles to puhleeszzze stop! We never really got Dad to buy into it. The closest we got was a bathroom stop, and a box of Stuckey coconut patties bought at the roadside giftshop in front of the fence. But we could see people leaving with bags of fireworks (legal there), wearing sombreros, and we could see the large statue of Pedro peaking over  the fence at us. Oh how we dreamed of what must be back there as we tucked into those sleeping bags, and were rocked to sleep by the motion of the car, the quiet voices of my parents up front, and the comforting clicking of the blinkers.

Hot Dog Johnny

I caught the moose above on the border of Vermont last summer. The pirate lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida, near my parents. I never pass up "Hot Dog Johnny's" near the Delaware Water Gap, and Lucy the Elephant is classified as historic at the Jersey Shore.

Lucy The Elephant
(also Wikipedia)

What ridiculously tacky pit-stop resides where you live? Show us in our Flickr pool today - the tackier the better! Give us a slice of Americana to set the mood for our summer travels! Oh, and here's Pedro's forecast for your vacation :

"Chili today, Hot Tamale!"


AFishGirl said...

What a wonderful story of your childhood. Your writing made it come to life for me.

heyjudephotography said...

I so remember the 200 miles of South of the Border billboards! And my Dad never stopped either! But I could tell it was veryyyy anti-climatic! Love your images. Love your story.

terriporter said...

Lucy! Oh, thanks for sharing her! I recently read Harlan Coben's "Stay Close" where a couple had meetings inside Lucy. So good to see what she actually looks like! A vivid memory that I have of a tacky pit stop is the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend, AZ. There's a big flying saucer out front for their sign and we would pass by it every summer on the way to and from San Diego. Not sure if the rooms were "space age" or not, as we never stayed there, but it definitely is an iconic image of our travels. I also remember seeing signs for miles about visiting "The Thing" but we never stopped so I'm not sure what it is. My father was also one who never stopped! Fun post, Carol!

Dotti said...

Such a fun post, Carol! Some of the tacky touristy things that come to my mind are the red bird house with black rook and the letters "See Rock City", all the way to Chattanooga, TN from KY and probably other places as well. In Upstate New York I remember all the gaudy signs to Secret Caverns. We used to have a huge steer here in town but he's gone, not sure what purpose he served. And, of course, going to Smoky Mountains, TN, there are numerous Indian chiefs and other assorted signs and figures. This is not something I've thought about recently so I'm going to have to rattle my memory bank.

Oh, yeah ... my dad never stopped either. Nor did we when we were the 'rents.


Deanna said...

well this just made me giggle...we didn't do many vacations when I was a kid, don't know why, but your story of Pedro and the anticipation was priceless. What I do remember about traveling on the highways was the signs for Burma Shave....
Shaving brushes
You'll soon see 'em
On a shelf
In some museum
I think this made it to the Smithsonian...

Anonymous said...

I felt like I went on a family vacation with you while reading this! The fun, tacky, touristy traps are what I remember the most from my childhood. So fun!

Kim Stevens said...

We didn't go on many trips when I was a kid, except to the lake, and not much touristy stuff on the way there. But I will say that as an adult and on our way to Chicago from Texas, I am always drawn to the "cavern" cave signs....those seem to suck me in, but I can never get my husband on board with me! lol

Carol said...

Ah - lunchtime at work - a nice break to read your comments. Thanks for the kind words!

Carol said...

I was hoping some of the East Coasters would remember them! But see - you were wise to realize to realize the anti-climax - no one could have convinced me it wasn't cool in there!

Carol said...

I just heard about that book - did you enjoy it? Lucy is really cool - but I'm about 40 minutes from the shore and I didn't have time to get down there once I thought of this idea. Hurray for wikipedia!
The space ship sounds like a riot! Somewhere out west my ex-husband and I went to some little town's "Own Old Faithful." what a rip-off. $15.00 to see some little spit puddle in some guys back yard! Live and learn. We've laughed about it many times since!

Carol said...

I've seen those signs for the caverns - wonder if they're any good? Does it involve getting on your hands and knees, I wonderZ?? Have fun thinking about the others you'[ve seen and let us know if a funny one emerges. Wikipedia is quite fun for fillig those missing meories!

Carol said...

Oh common Deanna - we're not THAT old , are we? The SMithsonian!? (I think you're right tho!)

Carol said...

Nice to have you along, Leigh! Thanks for the comments

Carol said...

OK that makes three of us seeing the cavern signs! One of us is just going to have to stop!

Carol said...

You know Canada cracks me up too. Last year my sister and I were on Highway 4 , the blue attraction signs on the high near Gananoque said , Hotel/Gas /Pickles! Still wondering what that's all about?! Are pickles an attraction in Canada??

Linda said...

I remember Stuckey's from my childhood road trips! Once we were parents, we had a suburban and folded down the second row and left out the 3rd seat and put blankets and pillows for the kids (or the non-driving parent!) and a TV/VCR that plugged into the lighter for the kids. Yes, we were so high tech!
The only place we stopped with our kids was Dairy Queen. We would hit up every Dairy Queen we came to on our drives to the Texas gulf coast! And talk about tacky gift shops! They are everywhere down there! Shark tooth necklace anyone?
Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


stephmull said...

What a fun post, Carol! I haven't seen any of the places you mention (haven't spent much time along the east coast), but I felt like I was right there with you! thanks for the mini vacation, while in the comfort of my own home!

Claudia@DipityRoad said...

Lets just say when I popped on this evening to see all the comments (including mine) Let me just say I was FRUSTRATED that my comment didnt show up. (i posted at work on my ipad) apparently unreliable.

But what a wonderfully fun post. You had me laughing just picturing the all the fun. I doubt I will take a vacation this summer so, thanks for the outting :)


Carol said...

I'm glad you had fun. I have a family wedding in sept in Maine , so that will be my outing So I was tavelling via memory lane too. it was fun to think about this part of my childhood

Carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Desiree said...

What a great post! It got me thinking about my childhood summer hot spots. We always went to Cowtown Rodeo in Woodstown, NJ. Coming from a passionate horse family, it was expected that there is where we would wind up with the other South Jerseyans! I always had to hide my eyes when the calf roping event was on. Those poor babies. Part of you was always hoping that the cowboy would stay on the enraged bull but the other part was looking forward to the bull chasing him down and the rodeo clowns racing in to save the day. Afterwards, it was always a stop at Richmond's for ice cream. It makes me wonder what my kids will think of when they reflect upon childhood summers.

Carol said...

Wow Desiree! that's not a story I expect to hear from a Jersey Girl! I've never even seen a rodeo but you bring it to life!

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