Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Post: A Brit at life of riles

Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. Last week I put out an open call for guest bloggers, and I'll be running posts from the kind souls who took me up on the offer the next couple of weeks. There's still time to get in on the guest posting thing if you're interested, so don't be shy.

My first guest is David Macaulay from Brits in the USA. David is one of the first bloggers I followed way back when I started hanging out in BlogWorld. His writing is funny, insightful, and quite often poetic. If you aren't following David, stop by his blog and become a follower as soon as possible. David sent along something that he had previously posted that fits nicely with my last Fast Five about moments from the road. Feel free to leave David a comment and maybe share some of the quirky places you've come across in your travels.

I always love to find a naff tourist attraction so imagine my joy on the way to Williamsburg today when I took a wrong turn and found Presidents Park.

The site of a collection of gigantic white heads in a wooded glade was enough for me to cut across a few lanes of traffic clutching my camera, almost causing a six vehicle pile up.

Presidents Park closed down last September when it ran out of money. I assumed it had been there for decades but apparently it only opened up as a tourist attraction in 2006.

In presidential terms it would be William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States who decided not to wear a coat or hat when he took the oath of office on a rainy day and made a two hour speech. A month later he died of pneumonia.

On a sunny March day the heads were quietly gathering mold and bird droppings in silence while the fence around them was steadily rusting away. Nobody cared about these big old presidents gathered in beffudlement under the trees. I was amazed by the size of the busts but less so by their craftsmanship.

As one reader rather drily described Presidents Park beneath an article describing its demise it was like "Easter Island for the lame."

Apparently there are 43 giant busts in the park and that of the 44th president lies unfinished in a workshop somewhere.

Owners of the park said failure to secure the 44th bust was a tipping point, and the Obama statue, would have been a huge boon to the business, possibly even saving the park.

Oh really. It's not as if Barack Obama is ever on TV is it?

The mind boggles about what the park's owners are going to do with these giant busts. It's not your average member of the public who will say: "Forget the garden gnome Mavis. Let's get a 20 foot high bust of James Polk for the rockery."

Ever since the Griswalds went on the hunt for the world's largest ball of string, I've been somewhat fascinated by America's strangest and naffest tourist attractions, not to the point of obsessing at 4 a.m. or anything.

The string ball was fiction but apparently the world's largest twine ball can be seen in Darwin, Minnesota. When in Minnesota and all that, I guess.

More correctly it's known as the "World's Largest Twine Ball Rolled By One Man" because a rival twine ball in Cawker City, Kansas, is regularly added-to by visitors and townspeople. Darwin feels that this is cheating.

Someone should perhaps have told twine man to get a life. But obviously he didn't. Apparently the creator died of emphysema, and the townsfolk figured 30 years of exposure to twine dust, did for him.

Other gems are contained in a website of the worst tourist attractions in America. They include Seattle's wall of brightly colored chewing gum, the world's largest ball of paint (sadly the world's largest hairball disintegrated, after choking a few dozen cats), The Barbed Wire Museum in Texas, The National Museum of Funeral History (another naff Texas museum), and South Dakota's Corn Palace which looks like a mosque but is a veritable shrine to corn.

You have to be a special kind of person to want to visit these places, either that or you have to live in somewhere like South Dakota.

All of which makes those busts of presidents or the tedious model villages I used to be dragged around back in England as a kid, suddenly seem like a great day out.


  1. I, for one, love gigantic white heads.

  2. Squilla's AuntJuly 6, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    This made my day. Just the type of thing that I love. I'll contribute one suggestion, for anyone who is happens to be in Dallas. In the northwest corner of the city, in a strip mall, lies a typical Mexican restaurant. EXCEPT....on Thursday nights, Domingo, the Mexican Elvis, performs. And let me tell you, that is naff (to use your word - I had to look it up). In fact, last year's Christmas card featured me with Domingo. Not flattering was the number of people who called me to ask if he was my new boyfriend.

  3. David is a great blogger and journalist. I want one of the busts for my garden.

  4. thanks for running Tim and thanx Lidia (as always) I have first dibs on the heads...

  5. Great post! I'm with Nubian, I want one of those busts :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)