Monday, February 23, 2009

Giant Ten Commandments...Murphy, N. Carolina

The Church of God of Prophecy knew this full well when they built Fields of the Wood in 1945. Its centerpiece is the World's Largest Ten Commandments, a 300-ft wide tableaux occupying a mountainside. Though it is tucked into the extreme and obscure western corner of North Carolina, the immense tablets are visible from orbit ... and heaven.*
This surprising spectacle borders a TVA-protected lake resort area, twenty miles or so from the mountainous region in Tennessee where the 1996 Atlanta Olympics hosted whitewater races. Heading east from TN, with four miles to go, a hand-painted billboard promises we will "See Gigangic Ten Commandments."
After passing through a white archway emblazoned "Fields of the Wood," we are greeted by an array of religious landmarks spread down a little valley, with ample parking designed for church service gluts. A welcome center booth displays a map, helpfully charting everything on the property, from Golgotha to an Airplane Warning Beacon. The brochure racks are filled with religious tracts and leaflets.
Ten Commandment Mountain Mountain faces Prayer Mountain, where more fit members of the congregation can ascend a long curving stairway to the altar at the top. Along the way, there are 29 important teachings of the Bible explained on headstone-like monuments. Photographers climb here to get any a decent photo of the adjacent Ten Commandments.
Over on Ten Commandment Mountain, you can clamber up the 350 steps between the tablets (or just drive up the little service road around back). The five-foot tall letters set in the grassy hillside spell out all ten Laws of God. Pose your parents next to No. IV, your kids next to No. VI, your spouse and/or mistress next to No. VII.
At the top, a giant open Bible, called "The World's Largest Testament" supports an observation deck. You can gaze down upon the Baptismal Pool, the Star of Bethlehem, and hedges cut to read: "Jesus Died for Our Sins."

The All Nations Cross is also optimized for an angelic vantage point -- a prone display that's 115 feet wide and a 150 feet long. Sprouting on poles from the giant cruciform are flags from every nation where the Church of God is established (or at least has a beachhead).

Back at ground level, you can ponder the Golgotha memorial, or discourage children from rolling the circular stone over the entrance to the replica Tomb of Jesus. Fields of the Wood has a decent gift shop selling T-shirts, trinkets, videos, even World's Largest Ten Commandments backscratchers.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wigwams Galore... Cave City KY, Holbrook AZ, Rialto CA

There happen to be plenty Wigwam villages around the US. I happened to stay in the one in Holbrook (#6) back in 2003. It was a great treat on the trip. Since then I've found that it was connected to a lot of other wigwam style Motels around the country...
The original is in gone now but #2 is in Cave City, KY. I passed through there back in the 90's and stopped in to see the cave. Come to think of it I remember seeing it on the side of the road.... Opportunity lost.

Wigwam village #2: Cave City, Kentucky
"Sleep in a Wigwam," the sign promises.

And you won't be disappointed. This Wigwam Village Motel is one of a very few surviving "teepee-style" motels from Tourism's Golden Era (today, we thankfully live in the Cubic Zirconium Era). It was the first, built in 1937 by Frank A. Redford, who found his inspiration in authentic Sioux Reservation teepees and ice cream cone-shaped buildings popping up along highways.
This place is full most nights. We highly recommend a stay here -- the rates are reasonable, and it's in the belly of the Mammoth Cave mecca, with easy access to local cave attractions, Floyd Collins memorabilia, and more.
Fourteen wigwam uwnits are arrayed in a semicircle, facing the a larger gift shop and guest registration teepee. Steam Heat, tile baths, cable TV, large playground, picnic tables and grills, no pets allowed.
Ivan F. John is the current owner, an enthusiastic booster of the wigwam experience. He told us the property sits over a potential sinkhole, so a cave (or cave-in) attraction may be somewhere in the Wigwam's future.

Tour of the Basement
The big Wigwam has a full basement, including heating apparatus and refrigerators from the old restaurant. In the early days, the upstairs was a cafe, and the gift shop was in the cellar. Ivan says that the owner before him gutted everything, sold all the furniture and historic memorabilia at auction by Sotheby's, so there's not much here. A couple of half filled boxes of rocks, some pot holders in wooden souvenir bins. There's a safe in the back of the cellar, but it's locked.

601 North Dixie Hwy, Cave City, Kentucky.

Wigwam village #6: Holbrook, Arizona

Frank Redford was the first to put into practice the odd (but correct) notion that Americans would want to sleep in concrete replicas of Indian teepees. He opened his Wigwam Village in Cave City, Kentucky, in 1936 [Why he called them wigwams instead of teepees is a mystery].
Chester Lewis, an Arizona motel owner, visited Redford's village not long after it opened, liked the idea, bought the rights to the design, and erected six more Wigwam Villages over the next two decades. The motel in Holbrook was built in 1950, and is among three that survived and still operate today (The others are the one in Cave City, one in Rialto, California -- and a copycat, but correctly named, Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas.)
The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook closed in 1982, and Chester Lewis died in 1986. His widow and children, however, still believed in Chester's dream, restored and reopened the 15 rooms in 1988, and continue to operate it. His son, John, was there when we spent the night.
Since The Wigwam Motel stands adjacent to what was once Route 66, it draws a lot of business from nostalgia buffs. The Lewis family caters to this crowd by recreating a 1950s-era motel, from seeding the parking lot with vintage cars to not showing up in the office until four o'clock in the afternoon.
Holbrook's teepees are most postcard-esque when only the ringer cars are home. The retro atmosphere evaporates when a couple of SUVs and a boxy car (Ken notes it's the very practical Scion xB) pull in for the night. We suspect these vehicles are part of a growing Route 66 Spoiler movement.
The teepees are snug by today's sprawling standards of interior space, but they are clean and well-maintained. Each is furnished with its original hickory log pole furniture. Keeping with the vintage theme, the motel has no ice machine and the teepees have no telephones (cell phones work fine), and your reservation is scrawled by hand into a battered-looking logbook (Ours was lost for a bit because John couldn't make out the handwriting.). There is no shower gel or three-pronged electrical outlets in the teepees, but the Lewis family has wisely not pursued its retro theme too far, and have outfitted each teepee with cable TV and an air conditioner.
Those who enjoy staying in the Luxor Pyramid in Las Vegas, with its sloping exterior room walls, may also enjoy navigating the challenging convergence of angles in the Wigwam Motel's teepee bathrooms. Hint: in certain spots, it helps to be short.
Overall, spending the night in a concrete teepee is more restful than you might imagine. Our units, back by the railroad tracks, had freight trains rumbling past all night, mere feet from our sleeping heads -- but the whoosh of the air conditioner and the solid stucco walls muffled every sound. Frank Redford had a good idea after all.

811 West Hopi Drive, Holbrook, Arizona.

Wigwam village #7: Rialto/San Bernardino, California

Frank Redford built this one for himself in 1947/49 and not as a franchise. There is a central building that is currently used as an office but it is very spacious inside. There is not one arch of wigwams as with the other surviving villages, but a double row of wigwam guest rooms totaling at 19. There is also a pool, and a base for what seems to be another never completed wigwam in the back of the property.
The motel was for a while very run down and rooms were rented by the hour, aggravated by the sign "do it in a teepee" that is still on site in the back.
Renovated in the last few years intensely by the Patel Family whom were awarded the National Historic Route 66 Federation's 2005 Cyrus Avery Award for their efforts in restoration.[4][5] Attention to detail was the main focus during renovation, as the Wigwams lost their zigzag pattern. Restoration restored the reputation and confidence back to the travelers.
The location of the this village gives cause to discussion and confusion. The address of the motel is in Rialto, but the motel is itself completely located inside San Bernardino. It is located right on the border between the two places so to avoid confusion and discussion both are named here.

It is located on Historic Route 66, 2728 West Foothill Blvd., Rialto, California.

Randy's Donuts... Inglewood, CA

The big doughnut at Randy's Donuts, Inglewood, CA, is a few miles north of LAX Airport off the 405. Trees and brush obscure the freeway view more than they must have in 1953, when the Big Donut Drive-in chain opened. Once up the exit ramp and on the cross-street, the 22-foot diameter snack appears poised to roll off an otherwise uninspired drive-thru store.
Randy's is a destination with Hollywood star status. It appears over and over as movie backdrop or in obliquely angled atmospheric LA montages. The big doughnut needs a regular smog and soot scrub -- a black grime is caked across the top and settled around the texture nubbins. The neighborhood itself is a little grimy.
But.... the doughnuts baked at Randy's are fresh and tasty -- honey-glazed, chocolate drenched, and fat bearclaws acquired at the drive-thru window from friendly staff. Randy's sells souvenir hats, and a T-shirt featuring an illustration of the building.
About ten miles southeast of Randy's, west of the 110, stands Donut King II, which sports an identical though lesser known structure. It's been painted bright yellow with rough red lettering that reads "Donut King II."

Head east to La Puente to admire our final California doughnut landmark.

805 West Manchester Avenue
Inglewood CA 90301

The Big Muskie... Hayward, WI

The world's largest fiberglass sculpture is also the world's largest fish -- a fearsome muskie -- and the centerpiece of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Over four stories tall and as long as a Boeing 757, it is the biggest thing in a very small town. If the muskie were alive it could swallow a bus -- a bus that would probably be filled with awestruck freshwater fishing fans, over 100,000 of which visit the Hall of Fame every year.
The Hall is the "keeper of the world record fish of North America," a task that had been neglected until the Hall's inception in the 1970s. Its early survival is credited to the Jim Beam Company, whose ten-year program of collectible fish whiskey decanters netted the Hall of Fame a quarter-million dollars in licensing fees. The scale and scope of the place has grown ever since.
A door in the tail of the muskie offers visitors entry to its innards. Inside is the Shrine to Anglers, whose walls are lined with the names of thousands of the Hall's charter members. Here, too, is a memorial exhibit to Herman the Worm, a sickly Canadian night crawler that was nursed back to health by a freshwater fisherman and eventually made a guest appearance on The Tonight Show.
A stairway up the muskie's gullet leads to an observation platform in its toothy, open mouth. From here, visitors have a good view of the Hall's six-acre spread and its "Sea of Fishes," a sculpture garden populated with oversized perch, bluegill, and other freshwater game. In front of the fiberglass bass (which is eating a fiberglass frog) is a plaque: "In Loving Memory of Marjorie Anne Pazik Herrewig 1948-1983: The smallmouth was her favorite fish." The rainbow trout comes with an attached rod and reel for gag photos.
The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame has over 3,000 entries in its world record book. Its museum displays 5,000 fishing lures, 200 rods and reels, 400 mounted fish, and a room of outboard motors. We noticed a showcase of minnow buckets, an ice spearing exhibit, a tackle box panorama, and a memorial wall "In Memory of Those Gently at Rest in God's Landing Net." In one room, two hairy Bigfoot dummies are tagged "The Primitive Fisherman" and "The Primitive Fisherman's Son," which probably draws a big laugh from the fishing-friendly crowd.
Emmet Brown, the executive director of the Hall of Fame, showed us the outboard motor room. It's packed with 300 motors, several small boats, and smells like a garage. "Most people, when they look at the motors, they say 'Wow,'" Emmet told us. "This is definitely the largest collection of outboard motors available to public viewing. No doubt in my mind about that." We stared, without really comprehending, at a 1947 Western Auto Wizard and a 1935 Montgomery Ward Sea King. Emmet directed our attention to the 1909 Evinrude, which he said was the world's first production outboard motor. "This is probably our gem," Emmet told us.

The Big Duck... Flanders, NY

In 1931, Riverhead duck farmer Martin Maurer built this 20-ft. tall, 30-ft. long eye-catcher using concrete (technically, "ferrocement") applied over a wooden frame. Taillights from a Model T Ford became its eyes, glowing red at night. Maurer sold ducks and eggs from the shop in its belly.
Maurer drew his inspiration from odd structures he had seen in California, especially a building shaped like a >giant coffee pot. Shrewdly, Maurer patented his fowl creation, and the Duck became the darling of locals and travelers. This may explain why, in the world of architecture, any building shaped like its product is referred to as a "duck." Not a "coffeepot."
Maurer is long dead, and the Big Duck has shifted locale a few times. When the land was earmarked for development, giant duck preservationists and the Friends for Long Island's Heritage campaigned to save it. The owners donated the Big Duck to Suffolk County in 1987. In 1988 it moved from Flanders to Hampton Bays along Route 24 at the entrance of Sears-Bellow County Park. The shop still operates -- now as a tourism center for the East end of Long Island, selling duck souvenirs to flocks of city weekend-trippers.
Big Duck at Christmas time.
Each year, (the first Wednesday in December) the Suffolk County Parks Department sponsors the Annual Holiday Lighting of the Big Duck. Local school children sing "Duck" carols, and warm refreshments including hot chocolate, cookies and doughnuts are served. Visitors join in singing the duck carols while awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, transported by the Flanders Fire Department. Once Santa arrives, the switch is flipped and the Big Duck lights up for all to see.
October 2007: The houses were never built, and so after 19 years the Big Duck has been moved four miles northeast, back to its old location in Flanders. The town reportedly plans to bring back the duck farm and open it and the Duck as a combined tourist attraction.

Flanders Road, Flanders, NY [Show Map]
I-495/Long Island Expressway, Exit 71. Turn right at CR-94 East/Edwards Ave/RT-24 East for 4.3 mi. At traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto Flanders Rd/RT-24 East 2.4 mi. Duck is on the left.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Crater Lake... Oregon

Like No Place Else on Earth
Crater Lake has inspired people for hundreds of years. No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It is a place of immeasurable beauty, and an outstanding outdoor laboratory and classroom.
Crater Lake is located in Southern Oregon on the crest of the Cascade Mountain range, 100 miles (160 km) east of the Pacific Ocean. It lies inside a caldera, or volcanic basin, created when the 12,000 foot (3,660 meter) high Mount Mazama collapsed 7,700 years ago following a large eruption.
Generous amounts of winter snow, averaging 533 inches (1,354 cm) per year, supply the lake with water. There are no inlets or outlets to the lake. Crater Lake, at 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep, is the seventh deepest lake in the world and the deepest in the United States. Evaporation and seepage prevent the lake from becoming any deeper.

The Steel Visitor Center-Open all year
Nov - Mar 10:00 am - 4:00 pm - Daily (except Christmas Day)
Mar - Nov 9:00 am - 5:00 pm - Daily

Rim Village Visitor Center Hours
Jun - Sep 9:30 am - 5:30 pm
May - Jun 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Month of Sep 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Phone - 541-594-2211 ext. 41

Crater Lake, Oregon 97604
Visitor Information
(541) 594-3000

Milk Bottle... New Bedford, MA

In 2003, Scott and Crystal Vurpillatte bought the vintage Frates bottle on Achushnet Avenue in New Bedford, renamed the place after their young daughter Tali, and seem determined to make this place again a great little restaurant and ice cream parlor. They want to keep the best of the old and bring in new traditions too. Crystal says the workforce is very different now.
The main attraction, the bright white bottle stands 52-feet tall.
But it's reassuring to find a young couple with strong entrepreneurial spirits ready to shake up a wonderful old structure with new ideas and high butterfat ice cream. Don't drive through New Bedford without stopping by.The New Bedford Bottle is 52' tall and was built in 1930. It still serves 43 flavors of ice cream. There were new owners in 2003 who renamed it "Tali's Place" but, as of 2005, I understand the building is closed and up for sale again.
It served for years as an ice cream parlor. The New Bedford bottle has a sister bottle in Raynham, both erected by Frates Dairy. They were designed by Les Labrose and painted white with a cream color close to the brim, which was the way milk came back then -- cream was on the top.
The New Bedford Bottle is now owned by G&S Pizza and will be serving ice cream soon (but the cream is gone from the top of the bottle -- they painted over it

Shoe House... York, PA

The Shoe House, built in 1948, was by far "Colonel" Mahlon N. Haines' most outlandish advertising gimmick. It is a wood frame structure covered with wire lath and coated with a cement stucco. It measures 48 ft. in length, 17 ft. in width at the widest part and 25 ft. in height. The interior consists of five different levels and contains three bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and living room.
This giant structural advertisement was originally used as a guest house. In the first year after its completion, elderly couples were invited to stay for a weekend and live like "kings and queens" at Haines' expense.In the spring of 1987 the Shoe House returned to the Haines family when a granddaughter of the "Shoe Wizard" (Ruth Miller) purchased the building.

197 Shoe House Road near the Hellam exit of U.S. 30.
Take PA Rt. 462 east off of I-83 to the town of Hellam.
Turn north (left) off of Rt. 462 on to Shoe House Road.
The Shoe House is located approximately 4 miles east of York, PA on PA Rt.462

Summer Hours - June, July & August Wednesday through Sunday - 11:00 - 5:00
Fall Hours - September & October Saturday & Sunday - 11:00 - 5:00
Winter & Spring - November through Mays Hours are by appointment