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Going Nutty for The World’s Largest Pecan(s) in Texas

Texans are proud of their pecans, as are Missourians. And so, for a time, Texas and Missouri engaged in a small skirmish about which state contained the largest pecan-shaped effigy. Texas built the world’s largest pecan first, then Missouri topped it with a larger pecan, then Texas struck back with an even larger one and several smaller ones on wheels, presumably to act as the larger pecan’s posse who just hang out in the background and say “YEAH” in the event of a pecan rumble.

The world’s largest mobile pecan

At the current World’s Largest Pecan in Seguin, Texas, I ran into a family with a young man named Logan. Logan was very interested in my camera, so I showed him how to use it and he took the next six photos–he has a natural eye, don’t you think? 

While Logan had my camera, I snapped some photos with my cell phone of the things that caught my eye in the museum, including the pecan that the world’s largest pecan was based on, and their collection of figurines made from pecans, prominently featuring a very well endowed Minnie Mouse.

This squirrel gonna cut ya

A worship service was setting up inside that Logan and his family were there for and it didn’t feel appropriate to be skulking around the pecan museum behind a religious service, so I prepared to skedaddle. Logan wanted to get a selfie with me so we took one:

and then I collected my camera, made sure I got a snap of the world’s largest pecan, and pointed my rental car in the direction of home, only to be confronted with another mandatory stop: The Berdoll Pecan Candy and Gift Shop. Not only do they have the world’s largest squirrel statue, the fourteen foot tall Ms. Pearl, they also have a pecan vending machine for people passing by after regular store hours (like me) so you don’t have to miss out on, say, an entire pecan pie. I tried to buy some pecan clusters but their card reader was broken and it wouldn’t accept my cash, so it’s more like a theoretical vending machine than an actual 24 hour pecan solution. 

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Ping Pong Paddle in Columbus, OH

No, it’s not right there on the roadside–you’ve got to go inside Pins Mechanical Company to see the world’s largest ping pong paddle, which is totally fine because Pins turns out to be an awesome bar where it doesn’t feel totally weird to get day drunk. In addition to this almost 12′ x7′ behemoth that could crush a smart car like a ping pong ball, Pins has a wide selection of pinball games, duckpin bowling, and has outdoor jenga games capable of reaching such heights that the shorter among us have to climb on a stool to take their turn. In brief, this place is totally cool and I’d definitely come here again. 

Spotted on US 33 in Columbus, OH

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Gavel in Columbus, OH

 

I honestly don’t have a whole bunch to say about this 17,0000 pound stainless steel gavel save for the fact that I want a giant stainless steel Judge Judy to wield it and smash injustice throughout the world. Predatory financial centers whose sole purpose is to grind every cent out of the poor? SMASHED. People who get into public service to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of everyone else? SMASHED. The dude who cuts the cake and distributes the pieces and he clearly saved the best one for himself even though it wasn’t his cake? SMASHED. Cancer “charities” who seem to exist to put their name on everything and use donated funds to aggressively sue other charities who dare to use the word “cure” anywhere in their branding and do fuckall for people with cancer? SMASHED. People who complain about other people posting spoilers but then post spoilers themselves the second after they’ve seen the thing in question? SMASHED. People who CLEARLY know the lane they’re driving in is going to turn into a right turn only lane and wait until the last second to cut in because they’re too good to wait in line like everyone else, now blocking TWO lanes of traffic and making loads more people wait? SMASOK, smashing is a little harsh and would only block the roads further, but you are on notice, buddy. Stainless Steel Judge Judy has her steely gaze on you.

Spotted on S Front St in Columbus, OH

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Chocolate Fall

Not to be confused, of course, with the “World’s Largest Continuous Chocolate Fountain“. I can play this game, too: I’ve got the world’s most widely read mega niche blog written by someone in my neighborhood. Impressive, no?

This neon sign is like one of those magic eye paintings, if you blur your vision just so, the waterfall turns into something much dirtier. As I entered the place, I realized that the chocolate fountain sign could just be a trap set by a clever polar bear to lure in easily-mauled tourists. 

Or, you know, they could have an actual chocolate fountain. It still doesn’t seem nearly as large as the Guinness-certified world’s tallest chocolate fountain, but maybe this one has a larger volume or it’s distinguished in some other small way or maybe it’s a way for a candy store to lure in tourists and their easily-mauled wallets. I don’t know, because if there’s one thing that’s consistent about all of these fountains, it’s that they never let me in there with both hands to take measurements and do chocolate science.

While I was there, I picked up a number of chocolates with jelly centers made from various Alaskan wild berries–salmonberry, fireweed, mossberries, etc, as well as some birch syrup. That’s right, maple isn’t the only sweet tree gunk game in town. The reason you may not have heard of birch syrup is that it takes many, many more liters of sap to make birch syrup than it does maple, so it’s considerably more rare and correspondingly expensive. The flavor is also strikingly different from maple syrup, with a dark (almost burnt) caramel taste, but slightly more complex and woodsy. It’s a deeply interesting flavor, and I’ve been having lots of fun incorporating it into various dishes–for example, for Halloween this year, I used birch syrup as a flavoring agent in a cheesecake. My original idea was to use it in the crust, but because birch syrup is primarily composed of fructose, whereas the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup is sucrose,  I was concerned it would encourage the crust to hold too much moisture and come off as soggy. Although it was more subtle in the cheesecake than I would have ultimately preferred, I was encouraged by the results, and I have enough left over to continue some new lines of experimenation. It’s also fantastic on coconut pancakes.

The store also had this sort of funny, sort of creepy painting of bears dancing, except for the one on the right, who looks like he’s emulating Louis C.K. 

Then there’s this deserted bus across the street that screams “danger” to any person with sense, the sort of bus you’d journey off in toward your own murder or a horrible picnic with the aforementioned creepy bears. No, thank you!

 

Spotted on Juneau St in Anchorage, AK

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Chili Pepper

 

This 47 foot beast of a chile is planted squarely in front of the Big Chile Inn in Las Cruces. As recently as 2015, there was a wall around the chile and a donation required to get up close, but the chile has since been freed to all comers (#freethechile). Which is just as well, because frankly, a chile just doesn’t seem as grand if it can be contained by mere walls. Weighing in at 5,000 pounds, this chile contains enough concrete capsaicin to take down a t-rex on taco tuesday. And yes, I do want you to say the last part of that sentence three times fast.

 

 

 

Spotted on Picacho Ave in Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Pistachio

Some days you feel like a nut, some days you just stand next to the world’s largest nut. In Alamogordo, that nut is 30 feet tall and would likely even satisfy the Hulk’s salty snack cravings when he’s at his hangriest*.  This roadside monument stands outside Pistachio Tree Ranch, and was dedicated to the memory of its founder, Thomas McGinn. Inside, they have a full tasting bar of all of their different flavored nuts and brittles of which I availed myself of more than a few (and bought more than a few, too, their atomic hot chili pistachio brittle is amaaaaazing) and some wine tasting as well (including pistachio wine) of which I did not partake seeing as how it was something like 10am when I visited and just a little early in the day to be getting my drink on, pistachio based or otherwise.

This giant nut effigy is also where we came to a tentative decision about our post-retirement lives. Sure, it’s still early to be thinking about that, but as anyone who knows me knows, I live nowhere if not in my own head, and I’ve been doing some thinking about my life and its direction. I still don’t know what I want to do in the intervening years, but while we relaxed in the shade of the giant pistachio, an RV pulled up, and a retired couple emerged, holding their dog. Jason nudged me and asked, “Is that us?” I agreed that it was. The two of us, rambling around in an RV, going wherever we want? Sounds good to me.

 

Spotted on US-54 in Alamogordo, NM

 

*I did a quick rough calculation and determined if a regular pistachio is approximately half an inch long and 4 calories, that this giant pistachio is still not made of materials that are recommended for human consumption.

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The World’s Largest Dinosaurs in Cabazon, CA

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It would not be incorrect to say that my blog and thus, my life, is about finding the world’s most disgustingly appealing food and every last damn dinosaur sculpture on the face of the Earth. It may be a slight oversimplification, mainly due to the exclusion of “fart jokes” in that description, but for a sentence with only two descriptors, it’s pretty accurate. Which is why it’s straight up ridiculous that for all the time I’ve spent in southern California, I’d never yet been to visit the largest dinosaurs in the world, the Cabazon dinosaurs. The Cabazon dinosaurs were the dinosaurs of the 1980s, appearing in advertisements, music videos, and (of course) Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

pee wee

Apparently the whole shebang was acquired and turned into a creationist museum of sorts, and though to be honest, I didn’t really notice any overt creationism messages, like a statue of Jesus walking among the dinosaurs, in hindsight, some of the displays inside do make more sense within that context. Like, for instance, the sculptures of lions and other modern mammals mixed in with the dinosaurs. Or that the sign out front says “by design, not by chance”, which I thought was just a weird turn of phrase to say they intentionally built the world’s biggest dinosaurs instead of it turning out that way by accident. What I’m saying is, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Regardless of the message, this place gave me the opportunity to climb up inside a T-Rex’s head for under ten bucks, and that was not an opportunity I intended to miss. Plus, it’s not every day that you can visit a gift shop in a brontosaur belly, and it would be a shame to squander that. What was squandered was my opportunity for a pressed penny, as both of their machines were broken. Why? Whyyyyy?

whymypiggy

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In order to climb up inside the T-Rex, you need to purchase admission to the park. You can go into the bronto belly gift shop outside of the park proper, because they don’t want to deny anyone the opportunity to buy a souvenir if they really, really want one. The park itself, while it contains many dinosaurs, is a little janky, in the way that many dinosaur parks are a little janky. Sometimes, the sculpts are a little derpy. Sometimes the paint jobs are funky. Sometimes the proportions are weird in relation to other sculptures. Sometimes they just go ahead and throw in a few lions or komodo dragons or whatever else among the dinos because they were part of some discount bundling deal. Sometimes they put them behind some really sad netting that comes across a little less “Jurassic Park” and a little more “mini golf hazard”. This park had a mix of all of the above.

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cabazon (22 of 56)Now that I think of it, this sculpt is exactly the same as one I saw at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center, which begs the question, where are they ordering these dinosaurs from and how do I get one or ten of them for my front and/or backyard?

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cabazon (27 of 56)This one is one of the na’vi dinosaurs visiting from Pandora. Or so I can only assume.

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cabazon (29 of 56)“Oh, hello there. You startled me. I definitely wasn’t using my tiny arms to rifle through some old old timey dino porno.”

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radicalThere was nothing I could do to this photo to make it not look like a completely photoshopped 80’s postcard, so I decided to take it to its logical conclusion.

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The important thing was that I was eventually able to make my way to the mouth of the T-Rex, which was actually somewhat terrifying. At first, there are normal flights of stairs, but as I got up into his neck, the stairs turned into a tight metal spiral staircase with very little in terms of handholds or visibility, especially as I was descending and feeling for the next step with my foot. Then there’s the mouth itself, which wobbles ever so slightly in the wind and/or with my movements and made me wish I’d eaten just a little less for lunch, because I really don’t want the news article about my death to be how my morbid obesity snapped the head off a T-Rex that subsequently rolled into the freeway, killing thirty others. Just as an example. Other notable ways I would prefer not to go include but are not limited to: sending a car off the highway due to some horrendous odor expelled from my body, causing the driver to black out, sinking a cruise ship from a scrape with one of my ragged toenails like it’s an iceberg slicing through air pockets, or somehow ruining commercial space travel for everyone, possibly involving lack of supervision and a giant red button that says “do not push”. Again, just some examples of broad categories of humiliating ways I could go, and certainly not limited to those alone.

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For now, however, Mr. T-Rex’s head remains attached and your highways remain safe. For now.

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Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Paper Cup

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Originally constructed to promote the Sweetheart paper cup manufacturing plant, the world’s largest paper cup now sits beside a furniture liquidator without even so much as a sign to tell the world of the wonder they’re witnessing. At least now I have a photo for reference when I make a hand gesture at the movie theater to tell the employees that I want a diet coke “this big”*.

 

*To clarify, at the movie theater, this size is known as a small, so maybe Riverside doesn’t have the world’s largest paper cup after all.

Spotted on E Citrus St in Riverside, CA

The Dole Plantation: Home of the World’s Largest Permanent Hedge Maze

The Dole Plantation is one of those sorts of glorious tourist traps that can only exist when a ubiquitous brand decides to further trade on that brand recognition and help families make each other miserable on vacation. Located in Wahiawa, Oahu, The Dole Plantation has roots all the way back to the fruit stand James Dole opened in this location in 1950. A friend who had visited before described the experience as “worse than hell,” but I was not deterred, and was in fact so eager to begin my pineapple experience that I managed to arrive half an hour before they opened for business. A solitary employee eyeballed our group suspiciously, no doubt wondering how sheltered our lives had been that we were frothing at the mouth to learn about pineapples, and she was right to do so.

The Pineapple Express

pineapple express

Before you can board The Pineapple Express, a helpful employee photographs your group holding a pineapple (a rare opportunity, and something you certainly could not do for free at any grocery store in the nation).  With our group of three, it looked like nothing so much as a family outing with our au pair and our pineappley baby. While we were waiting to embark on our journey through time, space, and pineapples, I realized I had seen this train before, over 2500 miles away.  Finally, we were here, at an orchard owned by Dole.

standee horse dole plantation

plantation workers

tanada reservoir

The Pineapple Express takes you on a two mile loop through the property, and lasts just long enough to print off your pineapple photos in multiple sizes and formats–about twenty minutes. As it turns out, twenty minutes is a lot of time to fill talking abut pineapples alone, so they took frequent breaks to play music, some pineapple related, some not.

The Pineapple Express

The Pineapple Express

The ride so nice

You’ll ride it twice

The Pineapple Express

 I’ve fudged the lyrics somewhat because between the frankly godawful static-y speakers that buzzed in and out and the high pitched squeal of the train on the tracks, I can’t be certain of anything I heard on this journey to the center of pineapples. Here are some facts that I may have heard or may have thought I heard or may have made up:

*Pineapples do not grow on trees, but on bushes

*Pineapple plants are all planted and harvested by hand, and the plants are so covered with sharp spikes and a straight “I will fuck your shit up” attitude that harvesters need to wear special goggles and gloves to keep from also harvesting an eye and/or a lot of blood

*After a pineapple has tasted blood, it will never be satisfied with regular iron fertilizers. However, those who are routinely fertilized with blood are also the juiciest, so it’s a trade-off

*The soil in the area is so red because of volcanic ash, and not because of routine blood fertilizing…or so they want us to believe

*It is the pineapple’s urge to kill that leads many top scientists to believe that the pineapple originated in Australia

 

The Hedge Maze

pineapple hedge maze

The Dole Plantation is the current record holder for the world’s largest permanent hedge maze, which means that The Berry Barn‘s claim to the same title is straight full of crap. After we paid, we were given maps and admitted to the maze, passing by another rare opportunity to be photographed holding a pineapple. The maze is in the shape of an aloha shirt (again, much larger than the world’s largest), and as the intrepid leader,  I immediately set off for the armpit region.

map

After taking a few turns in the maze, I finally paused to wonder what exactly our purpose was considering the entrance and the exit were the same. Why wouldn’t we just turn around and walk out? What was there to solve? What are those red dots, anyway? Restrooms? Opportunities to be photographed with pineapples? Places they’ve found corpses? Jason proffered the tickets from his pocket, and all was made clear–it wasn’t about finding your way out, but finding your way to specific points in the maze. Whoops.

timestamp

abandoned card

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Sheer force of will got us through that maze. All around us was evidence that others had just given up, thrown down their tickets and left, but not us. It was hot. So hot. So much hotter than it was outside of the maze. We sweated, and swore, and took advantage of routes that may or may not have been official pathways, but damn it, we did it. Exactly one hour later, we emerged from the maze, triumphant and desperately thirsty. The fastest time on record for the maze is seven minutes, and I can only assume that not only did that person take advantage of a shortcut or two, but also went at a time where they’d have to dodge fewer double-wide strollers and basic bitches splashing around their starbucks drinks.

The Gift Shop That May Be Larger Than All Of The Other Activities Combined

Holy hell. It’s hard to describe this vast sea of pineapple products, from pineapple coffee to pineapple chocolate macadamia nuts to pineapple shirts and lip balms and cookies and dog treats and stuffed animals and everything else you never realized existed and still don’t want. There were approximately twelve different pressed penny machines inside the building; I kept turning around and finding new ones. There were like four “pick an oyster” stands on the grounds which is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was that I somehow got sucked in to one, and let me tell you, if I thought the vendor at the one in Las Vegas was giving me the stink eye for choosing a cheap pearl setting, that was nothing compared to how much they straight to-your-face hate you for buying the pearl and no setting. I’m thinking that the “cheapass crumbum death glare” must be part of their training. All I’m saying is, when you chum the water with coupons, you shouldn’t be surprised when you attract cheapasses.

I expected that this would be the one place in Hawaii where I was practically guaranteed to be able to eat or drink something out of a pineapple. I’d mandated before I left for Hawaii that I would eat or drink nothing that didn’t come served in a pineapple or a coconut, but recanted early in the trip when I realized that meant I’d probably die of thirst on day three. The restaurant did offer one option served in a pineapple–a thirty dollar ice cream split. For thirty dollars for one dessert, I’d better get enough ice cream to fill a kiddy pool and/or it ought to be covered in gold flakes and come with a pony ride.

And Now, This

dole whip stand

dole whip  There’s always money in the pineapple stand, Mellzah.painted barkRainbow eucalyptus      sorbet ombre flowers   water in a plant

dole plantation The pineapple garden pineapple centipedeThe pineapple centipede red pineappleA pineapple that’s been enriched with blood baby pineappleBaby pineapple! fat little pineappleFat baby pineapple! one big fat pineappleOne big fat pineapple! hula monoboob

jason hula

jason pineapple

jason plumeria

plumeria face

 Hotter than hell? Yes. Overpriced as hell? Certainly. Worse than hell? Hell no.

 

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Aloha Shirt in Honolulu, HI

With a chest measurement of 168 inches, a waist measurement of 161 inches, and a neck measurement of 60.5 inches, this 400XL aloha shirt was Guinness verified as a world record in March of 1999. However, I don’t know if that record still stands–the only current Guinness record I could find for shirts are for a t-shirt in Brazil and a button down shirt in Germany that both make this aloha shirt look like a shirt for babies. But it’s still pretty big. I guess. Hilo Hattie, home of the giant shirt, is just ok. They’ve got pretty much the same stuff you’ll find in every souvenir shop all around Oahu with the added ‘bonus’ of having a cosmetics clerk who tries to make you feel like you’re a decrepit mummy with undereye bags the size of your carry-on and a checkout clerk who comments on the caloric density of the snacks you’re purchasing as though you were buying a pizza the size of their aloha shirt instead of a fifty cent snack pack of cookies. Mahalo for that, ladies.   Spotted on Nimitz Highway in Honolulu, HI