Category Spotted on the Roadside

Spotted on the Roadside Around Austin, TX

Giant couch potatoes spotted on N Interstate 35 Frontage Road in Austin, TX

World’s Largest Cowboy Boots (check out that ostrich skin, time for some new boot goofin’) spotted on I-410 access road in San Antonio

Giant fork spotted in front of Hyde Park Bar & Grill on Duvall St in Austin (The object being forked changes!)

Light Bulb Shop spotted on Burnet Rd in Austin (now permanently closed)

Nessy spotted on Simond Ave in Austin, TX

 

Of course someone would vandalize a sculpture meant to recognize the magnificence of all humanity. Of course they would.

 

Roadside America had Your Essential Magnificence listed as a “your face here” photo op, and there are indeed small cutouts where one could conceivably put one’s face, but it seems obvious to me that this sculpture is intended to be a throne for your magnificent ass, with roughened steps to ascend and a golden halo around your head instead of a dark hole where you could barely be seen.  Your Essential Magnificence spotted on Bartlett St in Austin, TX 

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: Congress Bridge Bat Colony in Austin, TX

Before dusk, crowds start to gather on the Congress Avenue Bridge overlooking the Colorado River and the lawn in front of the Austin American-Statesman. On the day I visited, there were people holding up a giant white cross on the bridge itself, so I elected to go to the park instead. The park immediately felt like the right choice as I chatted with people and pet their dogs. Out on the river itself were a number of swan boats, canoes, kayaks, and even a party boat, all there to watch the bats. When I visited in March, it was early in the season, but still thousands of bats streamed out from the bridge, all hunting for dinner. Or is it breakfast? I bet they go to a diner so they don’t have to decide between eggs or a meatloaf sandwich. Over the course of the evening, as they become satiated, they’ll return back to their spot under the bridge as individuals. 

The truth is you do have to experience it to understand just how many bats live there, but I didn’t choose to post no bat photos to force you to go see it for yourself. I have no bat photos to post because every “bat photo” I took was an indistinguishable grey blur against a white background interspersed with like a thousand branches. These photos look like an x-ray of a nightmare. 

Footpath starts at 200 S Congress Ave in Austin, Texas.

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 Dancing Hares of Dublin, OH

Commissioned by Peter Edwards, “Dancing Hares” was created by London artist Sophie Ryder in 2001; she was inspired by the courtship rituals of hares, in which they stand erect and “box” one another. Originally exhibited at The Hague, the rabbits were later shipped to Dublin and installed in a park for the public to admire as they frolic similarly in the dancing waters of the fountain below. On closer inspection, all of the hares are embedded with dozens (hundreds?) of ordinary objects–coins, toys, tools, and a number of things I couldn’t begin to identify.

Pro tip: After you’re done admiring the art, roll down the grassy hill upon which these hares eternally battle…because why not?

Spotted on Woerner Temple Road in Dublin, OH

Spotted on the Roadside: Giant Corn in Dublin, OH

 

“So what kind of stuff did you want to do while you guys are here?”
“Well, I read about this giant field of fake corn cobs that’s not far from you–“
“Oh, that’s weird, Melissa. You’ll see it, it’s weird.”

I mean, a giant field of fake corn cobs is weird. Completed in 1994, these 109 concrete ears almost immediately became a town joke, because if I have learned one thing from years of traveling from public art site to public art site, it’s that the public hates public art. It’s all fine until someone finds that a fraction of a penny of their personal tax dollars went into creating it, and then all of a sudden, you’ve got dudes with usernames like FuckTheCorn53 on local papers’ comment sections. ANYWAY, “Field of Corn with Osage Orange Trees” was created on a plot of land that originally was used to develop hybridized corn. This land was later donated to the city, and they went looking for a piece of public art that could be placed on the site, eventually going with Malcolm Cochran’s proposal for the concrete cobs, a happy coincidence because evidently they did not know at the time of the land’s history

Standing at 6’3″, I’d have to stand on a sizable box in order to be top in my field. Ugh, what a corny joke, I’m sure you didn’t want to ear it. Shuck it, what’s done is done.

Spotted on Rings Road in Dublin, OH

 

Spotted on the Roadside: Murals in Cincinnati

Cincinnati is FULL of murals celebrating the neighborhoods and notable residents they’ve had throughout the years–a public arts campaign began in 2007 and has continued through 2017, culminating in more than 100 murals that place art into residents’ daily lives.  Obviously my favorite was the toy mural, which could have easily been called “80s child nostalgia”.  I can almost smell those barely lightbulb warmed treats now.

 

Campy Washington spotted on Colerain Ave

Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon spotted on Vine St

Armstrong spotted on Walnut St 

Swing Around Rosie spotted on W Liberty St

Cincinnati Toy Heritage spotted on W Court St

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 Gastown Steam Clock in Vancouver, BC

Lose track of your steampunk friends somewhere in Vancouver? You’ll probably find them in Gastown, pointing their goggles at the steam clock and talking about zeppelins. This popular tourist landmark was built to cover a steam vent so no one could sleep on it–not all cities have the giant brass balls it must take to turn their anti homeless measures into destinations for tourism. I don’t expect to see flyers directing me to the best spiked sidewalks in London, for instance.  You’ll note they didn’t put their less-savory reasoning for installing the clock on the plaque, and it may disappoint your steampunk friends to find out that the clock was built and installed in 1977 so it’s not exactly ‘victorian’. Buuut there’s a steam-y bar down the street where they can drown their sorrows in some brews and, uh, talk about zeppelins–just, for the love of god, don’t order anything mid-rare.

 

Spotted on Water St in Vancouver, BC