From my middle school years through high school, my family and I went on a series of cross-country road trips -- down south, out west, further out west (from the East Coast, there’s a lot of west). It was a fantastic adventure, but one thing I remember being distinctly curious (alright, maybe confused) about, was the idea of roadside attractions. Since then I’ve basically accepted them as novelty tourist traps — albeit often very artistic and creative ones! — But BOB has me thinking all over again about one genre of roadside attraction in particular — things that are usually small...but are big now. Here are 5 big Bob-worthy sights for your next trip.
The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle
Let’s start with a pretty famous one. The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle (that’s how it’s spelled on the structure itself, so I GUESS that’s what we’re going with) sits south of Collinsville, Illinois. It’s actually the top of a water tower, painted to look like a larger-than-life catsup bottle, which to this skeptical eye begs the question — can you call yourself the world’s largest catsup bottle if there’s no actual catsup in you? I’ll let greater minds than mine debate. At any rate, the structure is 70 feet tall, sitting on an already 100-foot-tall tower! This feat has even earned it its own fan club website. Yes, there is plenty of merch (including Christmas ornaments and baby onesies), an FAQ page for all of your burning tangy catsup questions, and a sign-up for the email list so you never miss an update.
Just Another Day at the Office
If you’re a basket company, and you don’t build your headquarters to look like a massive basket, you’re doing it wrong. Luckily, the Longaberger Basket Company has nothing to worry about. Their seven stories in Newark, Ohio could fit quite a few picnic hams but instead hold corporate offices -- Roadside America calls it “the grandest monument to the highest pinnacle of achievement by an advanced consumer culture -- the hand-woven gift basket.” Gotta admit, there’s a real charm to it. This definite contender for eighth wonder of the world — AND Illinois’ catsup bottle — are both shining examples of novelty architecture. Another example? The medieval design of a White Castle — the very birthplace of Bob himself!
You know what they say — don’t put all of your giant eggs in one giant basket. Now the largest egg believed to have been ever laid by an animal is the Elephant Bird’s, which clocks in at 13 squawking inches tall — but that pales egg white in comparison to The Winlock Egg, proudly displaying the title of World’s Largest Egg. Now, again...IS it the world’s largest egg...if it’s not actually...an egg. Better egg question: is the world egg losing all meaning to anyone else? Egg egg egg. Featured in Winlock, Washington, this enormous achievement is 12 feet long, and originally symbolized the town’s status as the second biggest egg producer in the 1920s. Over the years, it’s had various paint jobs, including a flag design after 9/11, making it the town’s official memorial for the tragedy.
Some Texas-Sized Hat ‘n’ Boots (that aren’t in Texas)
And you thought we couldn’t get more American than a quaint hand-woven hand basket. Seattle, Washington’s famous “Hat ‘n’ Boots” are all that remains of an old cowboy-themed gas station, the hat having held an office and the boots being bathrooms. They’ve since been moved from their original spot and restored since years of decay, so that whatever giant climbs down the Space Needle from the sky and picks them up will look as fashionable as they possibly can. The hat stands 19 feet tall and 44 feet wide. Yee haw! At one point, the gas station owners wanted to open up a Wild West-themed shopping center around the large accessories. That didn’t pan out, which is a shame, because as they stand Hat ‘n’ Boots are not nearly tacky enough.
The Cawker City Twine Ball
Last but not least large -- One of America’s most famous roadside attractions is the giant ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas. No tricks here -- no water instead of catsup, no yolk-less egg. This beautifully simple monument is all it’s advertised to be: a ball 12 feet in diameter made up of over 8 million feet of twine. It’s no surprise that it’s a beloved local legend, and even gets its own souvenir shop. Frank Stoeber began the ball back in 1953, continuing to roll spare twine he collected over the years instead of reusing it. Almost 70 years later, TEN TONS of twine sit as a symbol of rural American wonder.
There’s something very BOB in the record-breaking size of these objects — a quirkiness, a success, a greatness. It’s why they’re so fun and fascinating. I think if Bob encountered any of these nifty novelties along his journey, he’d admire them -- their legacy. Their picture-taking tourists. The Americana of it all. It’s amazing to think there are over 3 million square miles of the United States, just waiting to be explored…
Thanks to Roadside America for all my roadside attraction research needs (check out the site for a full compendium of wild destinations.) What’s the largest, coolest, or wackiest roadside attraction you’ve ever seen? And have you reserved your tickets to see Bob’s own cross-country quest?
Have a great week, Azuka friends! - Lucas