Not much to say about this, it’s a very big (30 foot) fiberglass statue of Victorian man riding a vintage bicycle called a Penny-Farthing, so-called because its two wheels were of very different sizes and looked like you were holding a penny coin (small) up to farthing coin (large)…. Its located in the tiny riverside town of Port Byron, IL. Usually, the “Big Things” sculptures on my blog have a bit more whimsy to them than this one did… Not sure why this failed to do so, but it did. As such, this one really didn’t “make me happy” in the way the other fiberglass statures tend to and unless you’re needing a break on your cross-country drive, I don’t suggest it.
I learned about it from the traveler’s web page, Atlas Obscura and since it was ‘almost’ directly along the route I was intending to drive anyway, and at exactly about a point where I was going to need a break anyway (about once every hour or two, just to stretch the legs), I went.
According to Atlas, there are actually two of these (not identical), this one in Port Byron Illinois and the second, called “Ben Bikin”, located in Sparta Wisconsin, that have spawned a 300 mile bike tour that zig zags cross-country from one statute to the other, called the Will to Ben Bike Tour.
In Napoleon Ohio, on the edge of town is a massive Campbell’s Soup manufacturing plant, and sitting on it’s back corner is massive tank, painted to look like one of their Tomato Soup cans… because why not.
On my current cross-country road trip from Pennsylvania to California, one of the places I decided to stop along the way was this place… because why not. At first, I couldn’t find ‘the can’ and there was a massive rain storm threatening. In the descriptions I had read of the place everyone complained it was hard to find the thing, so I pulled into the company lot, right up to where the security guard is located, and asked. At first he looked at me confused, then he said to me “Ah! You’re a tourist and you’re from out-of-town!” So he directed me to where I would find ‘the can’ (it’s on the far end opposite from where the employees enter — check its location on my click map)
And then he gave me a very specific instructions about where I could and could not step so as to not trespass on private property. (Do NOT pass the little ditch/moat they’ve dug, or you’ll get in trouble — do NOT try to get close to it.) When I finally found it, and pulled the car to the side of the road so I could take the picture … there was a white truck inside the plant gates, and the guy in the truck was watching me very carefully. Just saying… Two seconds after I got back into the car the deluge began! And I’m taking a serious downpour.
The Pennsic war a two-week-long yearly event held in camp site/park in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. It is organized by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a medieval reenactment group. It is currently on its 47th year, and it regularly draws between 10 and 15K geeks (who have a passion for all things medieval) from all over the world to fight, meet, and frolic… and of course SHOP… the latter being why I wanted to go.
This year was my 2nd time attending the event…. only this time I am sorry to say it wasn’t doing it for me anywhere near as much as it did last year, to the extent that after only one week of the two-week event I was DONE. In fact, as I’m writing this… I’m already road-tripping across America instead, the even is still going on. I am sorry to say that between the weather (it was what they like to call a “wet” Pennsic, so it was not only very hot… it was also very humid), and the fact that I’m 20 lb heavier this year, I was just NOT having a good time — although the rain clouds did make for GORGEOUS sunsets.
The hot humid weather (on day it was about 89 F BEFORE the humidity) ultimately sucked every ounce of fun out of me … and apparently everyone else as well because the sidewalks seemed to roll up very early this year, with everyone going to sleep exhausted not long after I showed up (so very little for me to do in the evenings once the temperatures had dropped).
All in all, the event got off to an unpropitious start…. so much so that the medevac helicopter had to be called in TWICE in just the first few days…. last year it wasn’t called in even once that I knew of, and my friends assured me it is only ever called for the most serious medical cases.
The helicopter landed in the fighting field the first time while I was doing my first day of shopping… the guy who was taken to hospital was released, CAME BACK to Pennsic (who does that?) and had to be taken back to hospital by medevac a second time… I shudder when thinking about how much that cost him (and I’m talking in cash).
Speaking of shopping, here is this year’s haul
The white under-dress is the one I found used on eBay before last year’s Pennsic,
but pay attention to the hem (i.e. the bottom) — when I had bought it the previous owner had shortened it by just simply thwapping off the bottom with a pair of scissors, and by the end of last year’s event its linen material was starting to unravel. That’s why the dress is now shorter… and therefore more of a modern length than a medieval one (the woman in Dalton, GA, who fixed it for me is a generous; she saved as much as possible while evening out the sides — it is shorter in the front and longer at the sides — which ended up giving it a more flowy shape, allowing me more usage for it) … for SCA purposes, it’s supposed to be an undergarment anyway, so no big deal.
The jacket/vest I bought to wear over it (which has a sort of African inspired print, the photo doesn’t do it justice) was my new purchase, about $45 (with another $5 for the belt). I also bought the red cap (the blue dress I found on eBay over the course of the last year), which I’m VERY happy with, and intent do get a lot of NON-SCA wear out of. The same can be said for the new earrings, which are handmade and are ancient Roman in design.
That said, I got the nicest compliment…. while wearing it… I had purchased “Aussie dims”, which I thought were dim sum, and they were… only they turned out to be of the deep-fried variety, rather than steamed or pan-fried (my Australia friend assures me deep fried is how Aussies usually eat them) … and served to me still swimming in oil (which I’m not allowed) … so I grabbed a bunch of napkins and patted them down before I ate one; but I’m not supposed to eat deep fried anything, so I gave the rest to a male friend who is always hungry. The next day I bought a Lamington from the same place, only when I asked “how much?” she said, “for you…. free… Yesterday our fryer was having issues and I saw you patting your dim’s down, so this is free.” When I told the people at the table I had taken it to eat it (total strangers), one of the women sitting there said to me, “what’s amazing is she remembered you! But, on second thought, to be honest I have spotted you a few times… you’re gorgeous and you’ve this look about you like you’re a professor at Hogwarts … you always look like you just stepped right out of Diagon Alley.”
That said, a friend took the pics of me in the blue dress and brand new red cap … which were decidedly less flatteringly, showing off just how heavy I’ve become in the last year (not sure that was his intent, but it was the result).
The whole not being able to walk with ease since I fell down and went boom thing (turns out my foot was dragging as a result of mixed up brain communication, I sort of had to teach myself to walk again) — combined with eating a lot of comfort food, had resulted in a massive weight gain, which I need to do something about… It is SO bad that when I walk I can feel my back-fat bouncing.
While I did not spend much time there this year, nor did I take anywhere as many photos, I did spot some very cute shop signs ….
And while the place might be a step back in time, it is NOT without internet….
Also, I came across a guy who goes by an SCA name of Iron Lace (as I said in last year’s post, SCA members take on different names while ‘playing’), who is a diabetic talking about the med kit he’s put together for himself to carry with him during events…. apparently it also includes emergency instruction in case he’s passed out.