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Archive for January, 2010

You really won’t believe this vacation location (#7) Jan 27

Really! It’s jail.

I heard about this from my geometry teacher when I was in high school (yay Sibley!).

If you read this blog regularly, you will remember there’s a motorcycle club called the Iron Butt Association. They ride long distances, like on a vacation, and take pride in sleeping under humble circumstances.

Okay, this isn’t exactly for everyone, but let’s go back to my geometry teacher. He used to ride his bicycle long distances, on multi-day trips. When he got to a small town toward the end of the day, he would stop at the police station and ask to bed down for the night. They would obligingly lock him into an empty cell, and he could sleep warm and dry for free. In the morning he’d be released, and he’d continue his trip. I can’t imagine that he didn’t have some pleasant and interesting conversations with the local constabulary, and perhaps some free jail food. And some interesting stories to tell his students years later.

The jail in Shelby, TX

Sometimes on a solo trip the evening weather doesn’t lend it to sleeping outside, and sometimes part of the adventure is to spend as little money as possible. I propose that sometimes the Iron Butt Motel (sleep next to the bike) could move into a jail cell, and add come conversation to the trip.

So where’s the humblest place you’ve ever spent the night? Spill it.

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You won’t believe this unconventional vacation location (#6) Jan 26

Well, maybe you will. This one might take a little planning, but it’s worth it. The destination is any small town community festival. Every town in the country must have one, a Farm Days, a Pig Fest, a Pancake Festival, Old Norske days, a Corn Boil, and the more unconventional, the better. You gotta have some way to attract folks…  I got more than 60,000 hits on Google for Dandelion Festival, and for cow pie festival—well, look it up yourself. There’s a cow pie blues festival in PA, driving distance from Serenity Travel. It sounds pretty good, if you’re into blues.

These temporary bits of small town Americana are always fun, relaxing, and interesting. Free food is common, maybe a small carnival, contests, a parade, perhaps fireworks. Tractor pulls in the rural areas. An excellent way to spend a day and an evening.

Planning? If you’re on a road trip or somewhere on business and you have a free day, get online and check the names of the towns near your route or destination. Google them. If there’s a festival, they’ll mention it. Find one with dates that match your itinerary, and schedule it in.

I’ll have to tell you how to play cow pie bingo, last seen by me in North Sioux City, South Dakota.

What’s your favorite small town celebration? We’d like to hear about it.

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Unconventional vacation location 5 Jan 24

Ever been to Detroit Lakes, MN? This little town in the depths of the Minnesota tundra (prairie in summer) serves as an exemplar of a vacation spot you might not think of. Unexpected things fit vacations well, since (as you often read on this site) the essence of a vacation is change (of schedule, and maybe scenery) from your normal routine.

The attraction I have in mind is a municipal museum, and Detroit Lakes has one.

The museum is not open all the time, but if you are visiting someone in town, they might know the guy who has the key, and you might get in (and get a private guided tour) regardless of the official open hours. Then again, maybe not. These museums seem to start when someone with a penchant for setting things in order finds a storeroom full of obsolete municipal hardware, maybe coupled with a prominent citizen who has an interesting collection. Perhaps something of historical significance happened there. Over time memorabilia accumulates, young soldiers are memorialized, the town centennial comes along. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion.

You never know what you’ll find.

The museum in Detroit lakes has, among other things, a collection of ball-and-chain shackles. You know, the things sometimes used as a metaphor for marriage. They never used them on real prisoners, but they did use them. Back during the depression, transients (hobos) coming into town riding the rails became a bit of a problem.  The town hired a few to wear the shackles and break rock near the train station when the trains came in. New hobos coming in would keep going when they saw the state of their compatriots. Hobo problem solved.

Generic ball and chain. DL didn't have any pictures of them on their web site.

The resorts and fishing in the area are pretty good, too.

Have you ever visited an interesting out-of-the-way museum? We’d like to hear about it.

Unconventional vacation spot 4—Wall Drug Jan 18

Serenity Travel is 1621 miles from Wall Drug, and it’s thataway. You can find signs reading “Wall Drug xxxx miles” with an arrow pointing the appropriate direction all over the world. Even in Antarctica (they have a picture to prove it—one of thousands of similar photos from all over.) Even better, here’s the photo:

The story goes that in the 1930′s, during the dust bowl, this young couple bought the drug store in Wall, SD. To encourage people to stop as they drove by on the nearby US highway (back in those days they were routes, marked by signs. The idea was you could get anywhere by following the signs if you knew the route numbers.). They hit on the idea of being cute–they put up signs along the highway advertising free water. It worked, and today the Wall drug store is the grandaddy of all tourist traps. You can pose next to a lifelike statue of a mean-looking cowboy or on a bucking bronco (also a statue). Gifts and souvenirs galore. A decent restaurant. Clothing and crafts. You won’t miss it—the interstate has a string of signs that goes for miles. And you can still get free water.

The locals still use it as their drug store, too

Unconventional vacation destination location 3 Jan 18

How about a dam?

You can drive over lots of dams, and the view downriver can be spectacular. So can the view upriver, but you’re more likely to see boats and waterskiers zooming around. The channel below a dam is typically rather turbulent. If you want to travel from North Sioux City, ND to West Sioux City, NE without going through Sioux City, IA, you have to go several miles west up the Missouri River and cross at the Gavin’s Point dam.

Gavin's Point dam. See the road across the top?

The photo doesn’t show it, but the ND side has a nice game fish museum and aquarium, and you can take tours of the power plant. It could be a nice stop if you’re taking a leisurely trip to the Wall Drug.

Have you ever driven across a dam? Tell us about it.

Category: Adventure  | Tags: ,  | 2 Comments