Unfortunately, the Welcome Center part of the North Carolina Welcome Center was closed. No brochures for me. But I did enjoy this giant folk-art weathervane (pictured above).
The folks hanging out at the Welcome Center seemed like tourists. Lots of jorts (cuffed jean shorts). Lots of people walking their miniature dogs. Thankfully no grifters — the “we need $20 to get back to Erie Pennsylvania” routine gets old quick (I’m talking to you Maryland).
I need an RV. Not now, but someday.
I drove into Arkansas and I was exhausted. I needed something to WAKE ME UP, so I rolled the Silver Muffin towards the first food store I saw.
As I rambled through the isles of the food store looking for Red Bull, I remembered to look for local foods or beverages: stuff I can’t get in New Jersey. Food & beverage brands are pretty much the same from California… all the way to Maine, but every now and then you can find a local brand that is so unique and POWERFUL that it doesn’t get pushed from store shelves by the BIG BRANDS.
On this occasion, I discovered Dickies’ (not sure where to put the apostrophe) Peanut Patties in the 6 count “Family Pack”. I know what you’re thinking: “has Dan had his glucose levels checked recently?” Yes, and they’re a-okay. But seriously, you’re thinking “what is a peanut patty”? A peanut patty is a disc-shaped disc, about the diameter of a hockey puck and the height of the width of a #2 pencil, made of de-shelled peanuts suspended in what seems to be solidified meat-colored sugar. And even though I don’t have a family, I bought that entire family pack.
My original intention was to bring the family-size pack to New Jersey to show off to people, like Indiana Jones bringing back an artifact from some far-away haunted ruins… but I ate them the next day within an hours time. Yes, I realize I ate a portion meant for an entire family. I was hungry.
So, what did they taste like? They tasted like Beer Nuts, or if you don’t know what Beer Nuts are, they tasted like peanuts suspended in subtlely-sweet sugar. You know how a persimmon fruit is sweet but not crazy sweet like a ripe pineapple? It was that kind of sweet: a gentle, classy, refined sweet. Getting the patties out of their wrappers was a unique experience — each patty is shrink wrapped and you have to scrape away at the plastic until an opening is created allowing you to access the candy. If you’re driving while eating the family pack, I recommend breaking them in half using your thigh for leverage. You will also notice peanut patty crumbs covering your t-shirt when you are done eating the entire family sized pack… grab a pinch of your shirt between your thumb and forefinger and SNAP IT, sending all the peanut patty crumbs flying all over the cab of your vehicle…
I give Dickies Peanut Patties a rating of 4.2/5.
Imagine you were a cow. A meat cow. Now ruminate 😉 on what is the one moment in time that led to billions of your species being butchered and eaten every year. According to the legend, that moment came sometime in 1895 when Louis Lunch served the first hamburger sandwich.
Louis Lunch, established in 1895 in New Haven, Connecticut, claims to have invented the hamburger sandwich. Perhaps ironically, Louis did not invent Lunch (but if he did, they’re passing up on perhaps a more impressive claim to fame).
They serve their hamburger sandwich today the same way they did over a century ago: a ground beef patty on toasted bread (not a bun) with NO KETCHUP (caps added for emphasis). They also have Foxon Park Soda — a local favorite.
Outside, you’ll wait online to get in. Inside, you’ll quickly learn that there are no buns or ketchup, and you’ll place your order. You’ll find a spot along the tiny, tightly packed hallway-like rooms — hopefully not around the corner by the restrooms where you won’t be able to hear your order announced. You’ll likely see tourists from places like Japan and Germany; you’ll think “perhaps I’ll try to start a conversation with them”; and then you’ll think “why take the chance”. The kitchen area is tightly packed with the machines that toast bread, and these archaic mechanical meat searing devices that make the patties. The interior, as insinuated before, is microscopically small, and features brick walls and 18th-century wood furnishings (like most of New Haven).
It is a unique experience — even if you’re just getting a Foxon Park soda. If you love eating cattle, this is your Mecca.
Last visited: March of 2012.
The world’s largest Horseshoe Crab is in Blanchester, Ohio. I know what you are thinking: 1) what is a Horseshoe Crab, and 2) why is there a crab in Ohio, which is no where near an ocean?? Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs, but they do live in the sea, and they are arthropods, and they have blue blood, and they look amazing… and the world’s largest one is a giant sculpture.
You’ll find it at the Freedom Worship Baptist Church in Blanchester, Ohio. Read more about it on Roadside America.
Last time visited: 2008.
When you live in a state where personal fireworks are illegal, traveling through states where they are legal can be painful, especially when you have a mild obsession with fireworks. Most males I know develop an obsession with fireworks around the age of 7. Your uncle shows up with a brown bag full of them at a barbecue, hands them out to you and your cousins, and that is when the obsession starts. The ruby red firecracker wrappers and bottle rocket sticks, the fantastic 4 color illustrations on the wrappers, the smell of gunpowder, and even the crinkle of firecracker wrapper paper are an enchanting prelude to the glorious sounds and lights contained within each firework. Then you light the fuse and scramble to a safe distance, and then WHOOOOSHHHH, BOOOOOOM or CRACK CRACK POP CRACK BOOM CRACK CRAACK POP BOOOOOM begins. Each firework is an exquisitely wrapped gift with the present of LIGHT, SOUND, and DANGER waiting inside. Even the red, white and blue confetti of discharged firecrackers are in their own small way, amazing.
Of course, there are those not enchanted by DANGER, the folks who will project their own fears upon you, and tell you that you’ll blow your fingers off or set the roof on fire. So you end up with a state where personal fireworks are illegal. Cowards. Ben Franklin said, “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.” Well, perhaps those who sacrifice firecrackers for 10 working fingers deserve neither… or maybe they just need to lighten up.
Every Phantom Fireworks I pass is a reminder of where I live and what I desire.
On this Independence Day, here’s to the States where you can still purchase and detonate even the smallest of fireworks.
Don’t worry too much about me — I still get to see some of the professional fireworks. I saw these across the street from my apartment a few years ago.
Fireworks in Sea Bright NJ on July 1st, 2013 from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.
While staying at the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn, I developed a strong hankering for nourishment, and whatever candy bars or snack crackers the hotel vending machine offered would not suffice. Certainly, the near-by gas stations had plenty of snacks, but I wanted a meal, and hopefully a meal that had a little bit of local flavor. Fortunately, there was a Huddle House in the same parking lot as the hotel.
A Huddle House is similar to a Waffle House or Denny’s in that they serve hot, delicious, stomach packing food, however, the Huddle House has its own unique vibe. It is decorated like a stereotypical 1950s diner, using the colors red, white and chrome. The kitchen is open (not behind a wall) and you can see it from any point of view. The visibility of the kitchen and the bright, sparkly colors, provide the diner (me) with an overall feeling of ease that the Huddle House care about cleanliness and order.
What really made my Huddle House experience shine was Rusty the maitre’d/waiter/restaurant manager/cashier. Rusty was like the operating system of the Huddle House: seating people, taking orders, checking on the status of orders, doing his best to keep everything flowing. It is kind of fascinating being able to watch all the employees work together to make your dining experience as perfect as possible. It is like removing the back of a fine watch and observing how all the parts work together to provide the time.
I had the fried green tomatoes. They are the perfect combination of sour and crispy, and the Huddle House prepared them perfectly.
Last visited: May 23rd, 2015.
In case you didn’t believe that I purchased Kryptonite and Kryptonite rock candy at the Super Museum in Metropolis, Illinois, here is photographic proof:
They will be stored in a lead box, just in case.
The Superman Museum (37.152684, -88.732646), or technically the Super Museum, in Metropolis, Illinois, is both a museum dedicated to Clark Kent/Superman and a comic book store/souvenir shop.
Outside the brightly-colored (red, blue & yellow of course) brick building you’ll find a phone booth (just in case Clark needs to change), a green car reminiscent of the car on the cover of Action Comics #1 (the debut of Superman) and some contraptions that let you take a photo of your head on Superman or Supergirl’s body.
Inside you’ll find a museum, and a comic book store skewed towards Superman and DC Comics. The best purchasable items are the glow in the dark Kryptonite rocks and the Kryptonite candy.
This Super Museum is worth a visit if you’re in the area, and I suppose it would be a must-visit destination for super-fans of Superman.
In late May 2015, I went on a POWER VACATION! What is a POWER VACATION, you ask. Let me tell you.
These are the rules of POWER VACATION!
- You must visit more than one state or province per day. I visited 16 states in 8 days.
- You should have a pre-planned itinerary before departing, but you must deviate from your plans at least once.
- Never pre-book lodging. Use your cunning and the internet to find reasonably priced, and interesting lodging along the way.
- Take photos of the things you might never see again: roadside attractions, the sun setting over your hotel, a strange bug, the Doubletree warm-cookie van.
- You must pump your own gas. Except in New Jersey!
- Make massive mixtapes! Listen to an entire iPod of music. Fill a Flash thumb drive with 32GB of music, and listen to it all.
- Talk to strangers. Treat everyone you meet as a friend, even though you might never see them again in your life.
- Sample unique, local foods. This might mean a strange candy or confection at a truck stop grocery store.
- Bring some Energy Drinks and 5 Hour Energy bottles. After driving for 9 hours in a row, you will need them. This kid has reviews of energy drinks.
- If you get sleepy while driving, pull over ASAP. Don’t put people’s lives at risk.
- Make sure your vehicle is road-worthy. If it’s your car, get it serviced before you depart. Make sure the spare tire is inflated.
- Make sure you have an assortment of things to listen to. Fast music for driving fast. Slow music, podcasts, and audiobooks for slow traffic.
- Keep your car clean. Don’t let energy drink cans and gum wrappers accumulate. Throw them out along the way.
- Stay alert to weather changes, and take precautions.
I’ll probably add to these lists, but you get the idea.