The Big Merino, World’s biggest Sheep (?), Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia

On the drive south of Sydney (when heading to Canberra or Melbourne) is a tourist shop that is something of an Aussie institution; properly called The Big Merino, it “celebrates Australia’s fine wool industry” …. and is fronted by a “Big Thing”/tourist trap that stands 15.2 meters, or 97 feet, tall (and is probably the biggest sheep statue in the world, but that hasn’t been authenticated), that the locals have nicknamed “Rambo.” [This post was originally uploaded in February of 2018, but I went a 2nd time in Feb of 2019, and am adding new observations and additional photos]

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The tiny person standing below it is me

The statue stands alongside the store, which sells a whole variety of VERY upmarket Australian made items (there are no bargains here, but what they have is VERY nice) mostly made from Marino wool, such as socks, scarves, boots, knitting wool, sweaters, T-shirt (joggers and hikers LOVE this stuff as exercise apparel) and coats, etc.

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A super soft, thin to the point of transparent marino wool scarf with a digitally printed image on it was selling for about $80 (Australian)

I have now been to this shop twice. The first time I went to this shop in 2018, my favorite item at the time, which I forgot to take a photo of and did NOT buy but simply drooled over), was an $1,800+ lambskin/shearling jacket (made from super soft lambskin with the wool still attached).

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2nd trip a year later, the neon was still not working

That, and because I had never comparative shopped for Marino wool items before, so my first time there I had sticker shock, and my travel buddy… who is MALE, wanted to just go straight to the section selling socks, buy some and leave… so I didn’t really have the chance to properly “SHOP” it — which would have included checking on-line to compare prices, etc., and as such, the only things I bought for myself were an assortment of draw string bags with really pretty Aboriginal designs on them, made for protecting your sun glasses, out of the same microfiber material of the sort used to clean glasses (so doubly practical) for $9.90 (AUD)… but no woolen goods. When I got back to the states afterwards, I discovered that Marino wool items are actually quite pricy … even at Amazon, etc., so the prices I had seen back at the Big Merino were in retrospect, much more reasonable than initially believed… although there are no “bargains” here… and promised myself that THIS year I would insist we come here again, and take the time to actually SHOP.

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The first time we went here, it was NOT to please my obsession with big things, but rather because my travel buddy (a native of Sydney) LOVES the Big Merino because it’s the only place he knows of that reliably has nice thick Marino wool socks his size… The guy stands 6 foot something, and wears men’s XXL (size 13 Australian, 15 US and 49 European), i.e., he almost never finds socks his size, let alone Marino wool ones. On this 2nd trip, he did even want to come here saying he’d do it with him mom later … but I said, “well that’s nice, but I WANT to go there. Last time I didn’t have a chance to properly shop it, or even see the place, and I want to,” so we went…. and this time I got a knit cap made of Marino wool, and a cowl-neck lightweight Marino wool top which everyone agreed I looked great in… only it clashes badly with my camouflage pants.

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The store has a large selection of wool clothing, as well as a bunch of tourist stuff

If you’ve never purchased a pair of merino wool socks I STRONGLY suggest you do. First time I ever saw them was at a sort of outdoors/athletic/hiking type shop located in Evanston, IL, near my University. “$15 for a pair of socks, you have GOT to be kidding me?!” I said… but they assured me these socks would change my life (??) and that I should buy one pair and wear them for a week solid without changing them, and then sniff them, and if not impressed I could bring them back. (No seriously, that’s what they said!) Suffice it to say, they won that bet and now pretty much all my daily wear socks are now made of Merino wool. Not only does the wool wick moisture away from your skin, but something in wool makes it antibacterial (the stuff that makes your sweat stink) and it can take a good two solid weeks of my wearing merino wool socks on a daily basis before they even start to smell (I’ve tested them); that and they also LAST for YEARS!! That first pair took a good five years of regular abusive wearing (2 weeks at a time before washing… till they were good and stiff in other words) before they wore out! Not only that but I’ve noticed that since I’ve started wearing them I’ve not had a single blister develop on my feet, even when wearing new shoes. Seriously, these are a different category of sock and totally worth the price…. and T-shirts or anything else made from the wool share those same attributes, so VERY popular with athletes, hikers and travelers.

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Toy sheep made with real wool, plus sheep dogs

According to my friend (the first time we came here) it was a shame we hadn’t arrived at the Big Merino after dark because at night the security lights give it the effect of appearing to have glowing eyes

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On the 2nd level is a small unimpressive museum dedicated to the wool industry

What he didn’t mention at the time, and I found out by googling it (while writing the initial blog post) was that you can actually climb up the statue and look out through those eyes to the road. … I made SURE we did that the 2nd time we went (before we shopped)…

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The two eyes and nose as seen from inside the structure… and the views out

That and the One obligatory picture I SHOULD have gotten but didn’t (the first time), was the view of the back of the sheep… a view which Australians with their sense of irreverent humor seem to love to the point that it has its own Facebook page. Suffice it to say… that oversight has been corrected….

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Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia’s Billy the Kid, Glenrowan, Victoria

If you ever happen to be driving from Sydney to Melbourne (or visa versa — or looking for a day-trip from either), Glenrowan, the location of Ned Kelly’s final standoff with police, is a must see.  If you’ve never heard of him, Edward “Ned” Kelly (1854 – 1880) is a central figure in Australia’s ideology of self.

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At a relatively young age he became one of Australia’s last, and still to this day best known Bushrangers; he was also a cop killer, and ultimately the leader of his own gang — although he’s best known for inventing a suit of bulletproof armor to wear during a shoot-out with police.

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I actually came here twice, the first time was only about a month after my massive concussion which was so sever it dislocated my jaw and took a good year to actually heal from; at that time between the heat of the day (which drained me), and my very limited energy to begin with (just sitting in a moving vehicle was a mental strain) we didn’t actually get to see much… as I discovered upon writing up this blog post the first time (in early 2018) — I had in fact missed a LOT (which made me VERY sad).

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Can you believe I missed THIS the first time… THIS!!! And here’s how very much OUT of it I was… we were not 100 feet away from it and I DID NOT notice it. It was directly in our line of sight, I’m shitting you NOT, and I did not SEE it… WHAT THE FUCK!!! But that tells you JUST how out of it I was by the end of our first visit.

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The second time was almost a full year later, the weather was MUCH cooler and I wasn’t sick… so we saw must of the things we missed, except for THIS attraction, which I wanted to see… to compare it to things like the Battles For Chattanooga attraction …. but which my travel buddy is as a matter of course NOT game for things of this sort (I would have had to pay for his ticket for him to be willing to do it… which I was NOT game for).

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Before ever coming to Australia, every book that I read on Aussie history that covered the settlement of the non-Sydney parts of the country talked about him (yes, I’m THAT sort of traveler, I read in advance), and he’s about to have the 11th movie about him go into production in the coming months (and if you move very quickly, you could be in it). [This part was written a year ago, I’m afraid it’s currently in post-production and it should be released soon].

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Portraits of Ned, his mother (who is a central figure to his story), and his sister

The first time I came here my travel partner on this trip and I were driving from Melbourne to Sydney (it was a really pretty day…)

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When we passed this sign, which he felt was really funny, and a good example of Australian humor (that an official sign would look like this)… I didn’t get the joke then, I still don’t. The area is famous for two things, wine and Ned Kelly, and that helmet says “Ned Kelly” to any Australian who knows his story… which is pretty much all of them.

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Anyway, he explained that it kind of looks like Ned Kelly is holding up a wine bottle… and that we were about to drive by the town of Ned Kelly a famous bushranger, and then he started to explain to me who he was. I stopped him and told him that not only did I already know… I had read about him in two different Australian history books, but that I was also about midway through a book devoted to his story (that had won the very prestigious Booker Prize), and could we please stop because I would really like to see the place… and anyways we needed to have lunch. So we stopped here, at Billy Tea RoomsIMG_2007

I had the “house made Pikelets” in large part because it would be something new (I learned while researching for this piece that they are Welsh in origin, and are often referred to as the ‘poor man’s crumpet’) but upon eating them, they tasted indistinguishable from pancakes — just small ones. I also had the pumpkin soup (which in Australia is served savory with a lot of pepper… never sweet, the way it is in the US) and a cup of tea … 

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Then we went to the museum dedicated to Ned Kelly’s story. So I already knew from the book I was reading that when Ned was very young, he became the town hero by saving the life of the son of one of the richest families in town (who almost drowned). As a reward Ned was gifted by the father with a purple sash. You’d think since the kid he saved was very rich and Ned’s family very poor it would have been something more tangible, but it wasn’t… which in my mind almost makes it a symbol of the inequality with which Irish immigrants were treated …

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That said, the sash was deeply meaningful to Ned (supposedly the finest piece of cloth he’d ever felt in his young life) and was such a treasured possession that he chose to wear it under his metal armor on the day when he knew he would be facing impossible odds, and might well die — some 20 years later.

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Mrs. Kelly, Ned’s elderly mother was a major element in his life. Ultimately she was arrested and thrown in prison, unjustly, as a way to capture Ned. He fought to have her freed, including writing a manifesto letter that he tried unsuccessfully to have printed, intended to make people aware of the injustice. But he failed, all that was printed were annotated summaries that distorted it’s meaning in a way that made the government look good and Ned look bad.

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What happened is long and complicated, but the part that all Australians remember was the final showdown where he wore the armor, that he believed would protect him for the bullets of the police — and its as common a symbol to them as a bell with a crack in it screams Liberty Bell to Americans.

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Saw this Ned Kelly at Paddy’s Market in Sydney

but was ultimately his plan failed, he was seriously wounded instead of killed, and as such he was captured, so that instead of dying while defending himself, he was taken to the gallows.

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Inside the museum were a large collection of collected objects about Ned or his family, including a selection of items that were supposedly owned by them. My friend and travel buddy, was overwhelmed by seeing a plate that supposedly had belonged to Ned’s sister. As a child, my friend had learned about Ned in part by reading a book written from Ned’s sister’s point of view… so seeing something as simple as a plate, that she had actually owned, was a deeply emotional experience for him.

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Behind the museum was a reconstruction(!!!) of the Kelly Homestead, filled with the sorts of items they were known to have owned. The actual homestead is located about 9km away from Glenrowan and still owned by the Kelly family, and is NOT open to the public. That said, I remembered reading in the book about the walls covered in newspaper, so it was interesting to see it here… I have no idea how realistic this reconstruction might be.

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Behind the house were some pet Cockatoos, pictured here because they’re cute

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On our 2nd visit to this place we didn’t redo any of our previous visits, but instead tried to see all the stuff we’d missed the first time. Firstly, we approached the town from the other side of the railroad… which is where Ned Kelly’s standoff with the police actually happened in 1880… to find signposts explaining the history laid out around the town in the order of where various events had occurred, that you could follow around… the first one we found being #4, the site of Ned’s capture (which was clearly shown on our google maps when driving here)

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Possibly because his capture was something police take pride in, in 1885 the town built a new police station directly adjacent to the location of the stand-off, as a “Look at how Good we are at our job, don’t fuck with us statement.” (Let’s forget the fact that Ned was entirely outgunned, and the only reason they caught him was he was too honorable to leave those he held near and dear behind to face their wrath at NOT catching him.)UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2410.jpg

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Not far from where he was ultimately captured, we found location #1, a piece of land where the Glenrowan Inn had once stood (where Ned had taken hostages while waiting for a large group of police that were coming to get him by rail) .

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LOVELY replica of the original sign, don’t you think? Almost transcendentUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2417.jpg

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Kiddy corner from the Inn was location #2,  where the 35 police who ultimately arrived took up position, protected by some trees

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#4 and #5 I already showed, (where he hunkered down while putting on his metal armor and shooting at the police, and then where he was finally captured)….  but somehow I managed to miss taking pictures of location #6… please to forgive me….

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I think it involved walking over to where the railway station was, but it had started to rain by that point, so I never got there….  That said, before we went to see locations 1, 2 &3 we had taken the bridge across the railway to A) go to the bathroom (we both really needed to go) and B) pick up some lunch.

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Nice bathrooms out back, a shop and a cafe

The selection of Ned Kelly themed items available for sale amused me

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There was the Ned Kelly Tea Towel with his wanted poster printed on it (I was tempted, but they were too heavy to shlep around the world –It’s Feb and I won’t be going back to the States till October; Ned Kelly socks that say “such is life” — purported to be Ned’s last words before they hung him by the neck ….

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Ned Kelly soap (???) and of course the obligatory mugs… WHY does EVERYPLACE have mugs? I mean how many mugs can one person reasonably own?

My friend had wanted to go to the same Tea shop we went to last time at the other end of town, but I rejected that, suggesting we try one of the other places… ultimately we got sandwiches from the bakery shop (they’ve got some deli fixing and you can make the sandwiches up however you want to). My friend had some sort of vegetarian combo, while I had ham & mustard, with beetroot (red beets), black olives and lettuce on whole grain (and hold the butter). Although in retrospect I’m thinking maybe we should have eaten at the Vintage Hall cafe…. anyway…

While there we found location #7….

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That said, here’s The Ned Kelley story told in cartoon format:

 

The big Hens statue, Meredith Victoria

On my international list of BIG things… may I add, three happy hens who are located along the main road, outside of Meredith in the Australian state of Victoria… and are advertising the Happy Hens Egg Farm.

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They’re on the Midland Highway that links Ballarat, where I was staying at a friend’s home, to Geelong, where there’s a dentist who is a jaw specialist [back when I fell and had my concussion, I had landed hard enough to dislocated my jaw, no seriously, totally dislocated it on both sides, it’s been almost a year and it’s still not completely back to pre-concussion condition]. As luck would have it, my friend’s son had previously had jaw issues, so she knew just which dentist to take me to, but warned me, “He’s VERY good-looking.” I was like … “Ok” and she was like, “NO, REALLY, he stunningly handsome”… “sure” and I shrugged… then I saw the guy and it was a good thing she’d warned me because I SWARE TO GOD, my knees buckled… only twice before in my life had I seen men so amazingly good looking that they made my knees actually go weak… it’s a thing. Anyway, if you find yourself in the area and in need of a very good dentist, or if you’re a HUGE fan of the TV show Grantchester when the lead was played by this guy (who looks much handsomer in film when his face is moving than in still shots)

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… then you’re going to want to make an appointment with this dentist in Geelong, Victoria (see my click map)… well that or if you have a bad jaw issue that needs looking at. Well let’s face it a really good dentist is hard to find, and there’s the added bonus of that looking at a doctor that attractive might help you forget you’re going to the dentist. He essentially took an x-ray of my jaw (which we mailed to my dentist back home) and declared it too early in the healing process for me to start wearing a mouthpiece (you know they’re good when they value your health over your money). Told me to wait till it was 6 months after the concussion, and then if my jaw was still clicking, to see my dentist… who ultimately made me the mouth piece (cost me a THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!)

The town of Siem Reap and the Angkor temples, Cambodia, 2012

Back in late April of 2012 I did a very brief bucket list trip to experience first hand some of the temples of the (once hidden within the jungle) capital city of Angkor (or Yaśodharapura}, from the time of the Khmer/Angkor Empire (802-1431 AD) near the modern city, popular tourist destination of Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrived the evening of April 23 and left on the night of the 26th… so essentially only three days. I’m posting about it now– using the notes I wrote on my Facebook account at the time to remind myself … because, to be honest…  I seriously doubt I’ll ever be able to do this trip a 2nd time.

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I went there with my Canadian work colleague — the one whose home, in Mill Bay Vancouver Island, I visited in June 2016. We shared an office in the Business school’s Marketing department for the entire time I taught at Kyung Hee University in Seoul South Korea… and took this trip together over the course of an extended weekend — I’m vague on it at the moment, but I think it may have been the period given to students to prepare for their midterm exams.

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Our one obligatory tourist shot… our tour guide insisted… what you don’t see is the long line of other tourists waiting to do exactly the same shot

Normally, this blog site will only cover trips from 2015 and later… or will reference back to previous trips because of more recent ones I’d just done (like the Halloween at Three Disney Parks post, or the one regarding Stubby Henge in Rolla, Missouri, where I compared it to the henge it mirrors back in England, visited in 2014)… But this was sort of a special case and the need to post about it has been plaguing me for a while now.

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Priests in their orange, and a balloon ride off in the distance

IF I were to go again, it would only be if I could stay there for like three weeks or longer, which is not something I would be willing to do as a woman traveling alone. So it would mean having to find a friend willing to go with me, and to spend that long leisurely exploring the sites together. This could of course happen, I’m just not sanguine about it…. so I’ve decided I sort of HAVE to document that trip (from SIX years ago) as best as I can remember it at this point… just for the heck of it.

So, let’s get started.

First off… Siem Reap’s Airport, was TINY!! The image below was NOT from the parking lot, as you might imagine, but was rather taken from the edge of the tarmac!

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(Don’t worry, the plum-colored shirt I’m wearing has the consistency of mosquito netting… utterly transparent up close, but helps keep the little malaria carriers at bay.

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The building as seen from the tarmac

As you can probably tell, we were able to get a direct non-stop flight from Korea to Siem-Reap airport. [One of the things we discovered while there is that Korean pretty much dominate a segment of the tourism trade there, and are disliked by the Cambodians because their businesses are insular — creating very little profit for the locals]. Passport control for all incoming flights is one tiny room…. and then you’re out.

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Inside was easily the cutest nicest passport processing area I’d ever seen, replete with what I, in-retrospect, learned to recognize as re-creations of the Angkor Wat statues that decorate most of the hotels and such around town (at the time I was a bit worried they might be originals, but they looked too shiny and clean). These are usually made by handicapped artists — often folks who survived stepping on land mines — from a training place located near our hotel (see images of that later).

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The whole building was very new, and very spotless. The Cambodian government has clearly been convinced of the benefits of tourism to its economy, and has invested likewise — probably with some help from UNESCO grants (but I was guessing).

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This was the North Gate bridge entrance to the Angor Thom temple complex (I know this only by searching Google maps for photos, and this location was distinct), which was the first place of many that we visited on the first day, with my friend/office mate and our tour guide for the day – who I am still Facebook friends with almost six years later (I’m putting up his link so if you go there and want a good guide… hire him). He had been an English lit major in university (and as such spoke English impressively well) but had to leave because his wife started to have health issues and he needed to earn money

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_22f4.jpgand our Tuk-tuk driver, who had been assigned to us for a whole trip… He picked us up at the airport and was supposed to have dropped us off at the end, but didn’t show up. I’m pretty sure we kind of stunned him cause we treated him like our friend instead of our hired help — only I ultimately think he didn’t trust it was real. We insisted he eat with us at almost every meal (he refused the first time, but then gave in), and treated him when he argued that it was out of his price range;

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we introduced him to his first cheese burger and fries [which he enjoyed a lot, although he was wondering where the vegetables were — a slice of tomato and a leaf of lettuce weren’t doing it for him]. During those meals, he shared with us that he had been a street kid after his parents died under the Khmer Rouge (ruled Cambodia 1975 – 1979), [for those unfamiliar with the regime, I suggest you read up about the Killing fields, or see the movie of the same name] but had been pulling himself up by his own bootstraps ever since. His English was very good, all things considered … I no longer remember his name because he never stayed in touch with us….. even though he said he would. AND, I might add, my friend was all ready to send him a box of textbooks on topics he said he’d wanted to study, because he couldn’t really afford to go to school but still wanted to able to study … For those who don’t know… the tuk-tuk, a sort of mechanized update on the rickshaw, is the omnipresent form of taxi in Cambodia — only they’re SO CHEAP that you can afford to rent them by the day, like your personal chauffeur …. MUCH more pleasant

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The carvings on the bridge are from Hindu mythology, and represent a serpent that is being used in a sort of epic tug of war,  to churn the sea of milk. According to our guide, the process resulted in the birth of many Hindu gods and the dancing nymphs. We saw this sort of image often throughout the temples …. as to the missing heads, sadly, he told us that during the civil war folks would knock off the best ones and sell them on the black market to private collectors.

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Something you see all over while traveling around these temples is workmen reconstructing them. On one hand, this is great for tourism… but as an anthropologist, I felt like I was continuously seeing an archeologist’s nightmare in progress. What they’re doing is taking the toppled blocks up from the ground, figuring out where they go and putting them back… so … on one hand, good… on the other… worrisome

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B+Zqcz2LSJKnZ4xQZ%qw0g_thumb_3a6b.jpgAnother thing you see is these temples aren’t just tourist destinations, they are still used by the locals for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it gets pretty depressing, a few times we saw mothers who had seriously sick kids and were praying for them… Often the sort of illnesses you just don’t see in affluent societies. One particularly unforgettable example was a baby who seemed to have water on the brain so that the head was the size of a large watermelon on the torso of a baby who looked to be less than a year old.

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The old nymphs, and the modern ones

The cleaning staff is everywhere, constantly cleaning… Again, on one hand an archaeological nightmare, but it made me think of how this must have also been true way back when these temples were in their heyday.

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We were worried about this little guy, but it turned out that his mom (one of the cleaning staff) and his FIVE brothers and sisters all weren’t far away… again you saw this a lot, mom’s who were on the cleaning staff brought all their kids with them… often kids who should have been in school. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2354.jpg

At this point I have to make an admission… I think at some point before this trip I had ‘neuroticly’ turned off GPS tracking on my phone, and as such, I’m not actually sure WHICH temples the following photos are from… they’re in order… I just can’t specify the specific locations. and there are a lot of little temples along side the big ones that I’m pretty sure they took us to, and I’m only posting what I felt were the best pictures (there were a LOT of pictures)

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Our tour-guide, took us off the beaten path around the back of the temples, away from the masses of tourists so that he could share with us one of his favorite things about this place…. the chorus of birds doing jazz rifts in the forest. Also, the trees in these jungles (much of which have been cleared in order to better display the temples) have a beauty to them that’s a bit like modern art

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you can’t really see it from this angle but from the side (and looking at it sideways) this lump I’m touching looked like a head and two outstretched arms.

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An amazingly beautiful sight… the way the light was hitting the tree, etc..

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Note the images visible in the doorway

These wild chickens are EVERYWHERE… in case you ever doubted that the domesticated chicken began in Asia and moved west…all you need to do is look at these birds

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they’re definitely chickens, but look really skinny, tough and inedible…. and they run very fast. This totally makes sense, think about it… flightless birds that are as slow as our domesticated chickens really do need to be protected from predators in order to survive, while these guys move SO fast… and you have to look hard cause their chicks are almost perfectly camouflaged by the leaves

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I love the way the two human forms sort of mirror each other, the nymph, and the man
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Like ants, crawling up a hill…

When it came to the big temples like this one my friend, who is much hardier stock than me — the woman rode her bicycle to work every day while I took a taxi because just the walk up the hill (our University’s business school was at the top of a relatively steep hill) was too much for me.

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These orchestras were everywhere, and would switch out every few hours at the same choice locations. All are made up of horribly disfigured amputees, missing limbs, eyes, you name it.

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More toppled stones being replaced into the locations they believe they came from, like a giant 3D puzzle.

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The hoards, lining up for the obligatory picture on the pedestal… Everyone comes here wanting to take the same picture… in the same place, under the same tree… Also note all the blocks of stone that are on the ground… Those are both the walls and I assume some ceiling bits?

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I think this is my favorite picture of me from the whole trip

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The killer embrace

If you look you’ll see that in the background, behind my friend and the guide, are two trees, with one wrapping itself around the one below it…. and killing it.

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And when you walk through the doorway around to the other side of the wall you see this… the roots of the killer tree like the tendrils of an alien crushing the buildings….

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But again everyone wants their picture in front of it, because its also kind of beautiful. After this our guide took us to a different place, but the Tuk tuk driver needed to stop for fuel first… which turned out to be kind of a horrifying experience….

%HZz+qpVTvKnRznYDaGU5Q_thumb_c252.jpgthese are what roadside gas stations look like in Cambodia…. they’re everywhere, loaded up with empty water bottles or such… filled with what looks like lemonade .. but is actually fuel.

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As we drove we came across monkeys sitting by the side of the road, my friend and I kept squealing out.. “Baby monkeys!! Baby monkeys!! Baby monkeys!!” Our driver had to be convinced to turn around and let us ogle them… Cambodians see them as annoying pests

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_39e3.jpgFor some reason, maybe it was because we’d just seen the monkeys, our guide decided that when we approached Angkor Wat the first time it should be from the back side of the temple, rather than front…

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The famous Angkor Wat Temple, from the back

And this is where we saw a representation of the monkey wars… I forget that actual story but after our glee at seeing monkey’s this was where our tour guide took us next

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If you look to the left you see the beginnings of carvings that were never completed

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Note!! The Buddhas in this hallway are all missing their heads… Again, they were broken off and sold during the civil war (according to our guide)

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Again, the monkey wars

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When they dug this temple out of the jungle, this building was dense with bats, and the ground deep with bat-shit, which is apparently very acidic. The acid mud when the rain hit it ate away the bottoms of these pillars

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_237a.jpgLocals poured into here to have a red thread tied around their wrists, and to be blessed by the old man. Our tour guide (who was wearing one) explained that it was sort of Cambodian belief that these red bracelets warded off evil spirits

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The detailed caving on this wall depict a massive battle from Hindu belief; the reason it is black and shiny is from so many hands having touched them over the years. As a result, now they try to discourage people from touching the walls because all the acid from their hand is eating away at the stone the same way that bat shit ate away at that pillar

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The famous Angkor Wat, from an angle

This guy had earlier in the day asked me if I would take a picture for him. Later we ran into him again, and he insisted on buying me a coconut as a thank you, an offer that I quickly took him up on. I had already figured out at lunch that coconuts were going to be my dehydration savior. I was pretty much dying at the time, when our guide suggested I get a coconut water. I slurped the thing down, and my friend said she could see the light coming back into my eyes.  I ordered two more and was right as rain and good to go, after having been almost at death’s door not a few minutes before, because of dehydration.

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Coconut water is not only sterile to the point where you can use it as IV fluid in a pinch… but it’s better than Gatorade at curing dehydration. He ended up buying them for our whole group (including our guide). Turned out he was a retired cop from a Malay Island we’d never heard of, and was in town for two days just so that he could see Angkor Wat before he died. We agreed that too was why we had come as well, because it was a bucket list item — we then had to explain to him what a bucket list was.

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Me and my friend, at Angkor Wat

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The Buddha’s footprints

After this, they took us to a silk farm; this group is trying to ensure that the traditional skill of silk production doesn’t disappear (which it almost did after the civil war), and also as a way of trying to keep locals in the rural areas by providing them with gainful employment

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I learned that raw silk is actually yellow and is the other part of the shell… while refined silk is white and is the inner part of the silk thread

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if you look close you see the individual threads being drawn out

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UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2352.jpgAn example of a traditional Cambodian pattern, is present in the stone carvings at the temples… of course they’re taking you here in hopes that you’ll buy some silk. We didn’t.

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At the end of our VERY long day, we were taken for an hour-long foot/leg massage, which was included in the cost of the tour… we later discovered that a massage like this in Cambodia only costs about $5. They even offer them in the waiting area in the airport near the duty-free shops (only more expensive).

END of Day ONE

YUP, ALL of that was ONE day… in Cambodia, in April when the average temperature is a whooping 96 F !!!! AND HUMID!!! If I were to try to do all that today in those temps, I’d die!

DAY NUMBER TWO…

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On the second day we went to a less visited area where the temples had not yet been “reconstructed” and the difference in what we were looking at was radical.  The other places also had stones on the ground, but nowhere near as many. I’m not sure if Angkor Wat and the places we saw the day before — which draw most of the tourists — had when re-discovered simply been in  better condition than this or not… and that’s why they’re famous. (As in maybe they weren’t the best temples at the height of the Khmer Empire, but were just the ones who survived best over time).

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But consider (images above and below) the state of this building andu766TCcgSfSCbJpQ0apkJw_thumb_c253.jpg

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note the HUGE difference from the ones I visited yesterday

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All HAIL Coconut water… seriously, if you go to Cambodia, this is your dehydration savior. Happily they were sold everywhere. When I first got there I was suspicious but it’s actually the safest thing you can drink. Coconut water is a completely sterile solution till the moment the flesh is pierced… and the women who work these stands are SO good at their jobs that they can whack off the top chunk suck that just a tiny layer of fresh coconut fruit is left covering the top. You poke a straw through that to get at the drink inside…. and if you’ve got a spoon, you can can scrape out the fresh coconut for a snack afterwards.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2327.jpg

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Like I said before, it was Cambodia, it was HOT and it was humid…. and I have a strong preference for elevators….

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My friend however was more than game to climb up the temple steps, while I stayed on the ground and took photos.

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These priests were really excited to talk to us. I think most tourists kind of just look at them in awe and don’t get that priestly duty in these countries isn’t any different from say… the two obligatory years of working as a missionary is for Mormons; the only difference being as Buddhists, you can do those two years at almost any age…  (I of course know all this because my boyfriend in college was a getting his Ph.D. in Buddhist philosophy) Although most folks chose to do their obligatory service to the religion it at about high-school because it makes it easier to find a good job or a wife if you’ve already done it, the fact is some will even do it when they’re young children

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After this, our Tuk-Tuk driver took us to this temple, after asking us first if he could. As I said previously his parents died under the Khmer Rouge… these memorials, which include the actual bones dug up from the killing fields offer a stark reminder to the Cambodians of those times. It marks the location of the one the 20,000 mass grave sites that were uncovered after the end of the regime. To save on ammunition, most of these people were killed via blunt force trauma, hammers, blades, axes, etc.. The location is not just a holocaust spot, but rather doubles as a school and orphanage, so alongside this visual is the sound of children’s laughter.

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At the end of the day, after a bit of a rest they took us to a buffet and show (included in the price of the hotel, if you can believe it); we insisted that our Tuk-tuk driver eat with us rather than stay out at the vehicle, which turned out to be a very good thing for us because, and we didn’t know this in advance, until he broke his leg in an accident which resulted in a limp, he had been a dancer at this very show and knew a lot of the dancers.

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Apparently, in Cambodia, the hospitals just amputate badly broken legs that require anything more than just being set in cast. That is, of course, unless your family can pay for better care, and as I said previously he’d been a street orphan. So instead of going to a hospital for care, he’d had gone to the priests who did NOT amputate, but now one leg was a bit shorter than the other.

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It’s amazing how these shots light up ever speck of dust on your lens

We had to get to bed a bit early that night, because our next morning was going to start very early. We were going to do the obligatory “sunrise over Angkor Wat” — a trip that was also included in the price of the hotel room.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2386.jpg

For me, part of the fun was watching the hordes of tourists, all taking photos where if you adjusted your exposure right, it almost looked like you were there by yourself, watching it…

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only you weren’t you wee surrounded by hundreds of people (and keep in mind this was the off season) watching the same thing….

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I don’t even want to think about the crush would be like at the height of Siem Reap’s season.

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One of the omni present features of the temples is the mass of hucksters, selling everything from silks, to fans, to postcards.

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Something that is a bit disturbing about it is that more than a few of these hucksters should really be in school. But the economics of the situation is that their parents need them working, because tourists are more likely to buy something from a little kid.

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We figured the pig had gotten away from the restaurant (which is off to the right of this location — it’s the same place where the cop bought me a coconut the day before.)

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The long shadow taking the photo is me

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After this … my friend who I was traveling with leads a grueling pace…

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we went on a boat trip down the river to where the floating towns are located

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A boat loaded with priests… note the orange robes

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Life along the river was kind facilitating, at first I wondered about having their lives on display like this, but then I figured a river is not really any different from road, or a train, and it was like how you can look in on people’s lives as you traveled past

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A floating town (that’s not the shore)

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That said, some of the house-boats were really, REALLY, nice and immacuatly kept up

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Note how the well-kept houseboats have satellite dishes and TV antenna’s. Thing is when you first see it you don’t really notice those little details — in part because you have your own assumptions about how these people live their lives. Me, I was wondering how they got their power…

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cars in the driveway

And there were also some less affluent homes

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While there we stopped at a store where they tried to sell us school supplies for our next stop, which was going to the be the village’s school.

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My friend, who is a bleeding heart liberal, wanted to buy some… but I was skeptical (having pointed out the satellite dishes to her along with some other details of affluence), and didn’t let her. Our Tuk-Tuk driver (who had come with us) grinned widely after I did so, and backed me up. He said normally he never says anything but it’s a huge scam. Tourists buy supplies, and as soon as they’re gone, the unopened supplies go right back the store to be sold over and over again, with most of the profit going to the store… which is NOT owned by the boat people.

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This boat, which he pointed out after was docked next to the school, loaded up with tourist donation about to head back to the store

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2312.jpgAnd THEN after this visit, we were taken to a project not far from our hotel, where handicapped men were taught to create duplicates of the sculptures at the temples, to decorate hotels and sell to tourists.

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By this point in the day I was really worn out by our travels, the early morning, and the heat, and my tummy for some reason wasn’t happy with me, so begged out of what my friend had lined up for us as for the afternoon (more temples). Instead I stayed home at the hotel and rested for a few hours, and got to enjoy the view from our hotel, before we went out for dinner

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Before our trip, my friend and I discovered (to my horror) that by the time we got around to looking into it that it was too late to start the anti-malarial treatment. We got shots for Japanese Encephalitis and some other thing, but Malaria is a HUGE deal in Cambodia. That said, apparently since Siem Reap is the ONE major draw for tourism to the country, the government actually invests a lot of money in trying to control the mosquito population in the jungles that surround it. But I was still nervous, so I basically bathed in repellent on a daily basis, and soaked that cheese cloth like shirt in the stuff for good measure — I was not pleasant smelling the whole trip, but I didn’t care. Happily, I managed to avoid the little suckers and only got ONE mosquito bite, on our very last night in Cambodia (when I’d begun to get lax in my neuroticism), at the fancy restaurant we took our Tuk Tuk driver to which was on the edge of town (across from a graveyard) … I was praying it was NOT a malaria carrier… and luckily it wasn’t.

The “Big Crab” on top of the Seaview Deli Cafe, Cardwell, Queensland

Australians are as into big things as America is: Located in Cardwell Queensland on top of a 24/hour seafood cafe that is apparently famous for their Mud Crabs, which are served either deep-fried, live, or steamed… sits a 2 meters tall (6 and a 1/2 feet tall) crab.

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Passed this while road tripping from Townsville QLD to Cairns, where we were going to go dive the Great Barrier Reef, and of course we had to stop at least for the picture. I TOTALLY wanted to try their Crab Burger, or at least the crab sandwich…  but my travel buddy, who is a vegetarian, pretty much refused to go in there … the scent of seafood was a bit strong for him … it wasn’t offensively bad… so but he’s pretty sensitive to it. Sigh. No fresh crab sandwich for me.

Captain Cook Statue, Cairns, Queensland

Drove by this one completely by accident. Its made of concrete and stands 10 Meters high … or 32.8 Feet (according to this website) and was created in 1972 to stand next to a backpackers motel that had been there since the 1960’s but was torn down in 2006. It’s a very large statue of Captain Cook, the 18th century British explorer of the ‘uncharted’ oceans who ‘discovered’ Australia.

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It was repainted in 2007, and apparently became for sale because the Japanese developers who bought the motel property didn’t want it. In Jan 26, 2017, known as Australia Day/Invation day — the commemoration of the day the first prison boat landed in Sydney, while the statue which was STILL standing in it’s origianl location (I’m going the hazard a guess that it’s STILL for sale, over 10 years later) … it was “vandalized” when some folks hung a sign on it saying “Sorry”… pretty tame and polite to be called vandalization… if you ask me. Apparently at the time, an Indigenous/Aboriginal artist by the name of Munganbana Norman Miller suggested that the statue should be given a proportionally large Boomerang to hold… which would have been cute

 

A Story of Two Big Milk Bottles: The Milk Bottle Grocery on old Route 66 in Oklahoma City, in the USA vs. The Guaranteed Milk Company Bottle in Montreal Canada

Note: This post did not end as it started
Located at 2426 N. Classen, in Oklahoma City, on a street that USED to be part of the Route 66 network, but that is now no longer listed as such [No route 66 on Google maps, and no 66 signs on the building ???] is a tiny, one story, nondescript triangular-shaped brick building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the iconic Route 66 buildings… albeit one with NO 66 signage … what’s that about?

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Wedged onto a bit triangular island (the result of three streets coming together at odd angles), it was built in the 1930’s initially as a street car stop (which sort of makes sense if you look at it) — [and Wikipedia did NOT know about this!! I found in on the National Park service’s page!!] …  but within a short time the street cars were no more, and it was then known to locals as “The Triangle Grocery” (from 1940 until 1948) — for fairly obvious reasons. In 1948, when the then owner, as a way of getting route 66 traffic to notice that his store was even there, got the brilliant idea to put a large metal milk bottle on his roof, so that the local community renamed it, appropriately enough… the Milk Bottle Grocery… a name which has stuck to this day.

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Interestingly, according to the National Park Services’s web page, the Milk Bottle Grocery’s the bottle was never directly connected to the business upon which it sat, and has always been rented out like a normal billboard (but always to various dairy companies) as location to advertise their brands, and has been painted and repainted accordingly. (Kind of brilliant actually, as it supplemented the building’s income)

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Currently… the bottle advertises the 52 year old Bruam’s brand (i.e., didn’t exist when the building first went up), which is a well-known brand in this part of the country (I’d never heard of it till coming here). Braum’s headquarters is based in nearby Tuttle, Oklahoma (just at the edge of the expanding Oklahoma City region), and while they do sell their product in groceries, they are possibly better known for their about 300 drive through or dine-in outlets that are combination grocery stores and burger/ice-cream joints (with a few healthy options). These are scattered throughout the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas (kind of an overlap of lower midwestern states and western/southern states). I actually visited one while in town, but didn’t think to take any photos of it. That said, they are all very shiny and clean, and seem to be very popular with locals — it was STRONGLY suggested to me if I had not tried one I really should. That they are all GOOD.

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Returning to the building: the neighborhood it is located in is currently Oklahoma city’s China town area, so I was unsurprised to learn (via Wikipedia) that for 25 years (until 2014) the building had housed a Vietnamese bánh mì shop (the Vietnamese take on the submarine sandwich). When that business left the building’s owner, Elise Kilpatrick, who had inherited it from her father decided to take advantage of historic preservation tax credits in order return it to its original appearance — in keeping with the move towards revitalizing route 66’s historic attribute. At which point a boutique called Prairie Gothic had moved in, but only managed to stay in business for about a year.

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The Milk bottle building is now the offices of an architectural firm (??).

Post Script:

That said, I’ve seen what I’m pretty sure is a MUCH bigger milk bottle which seems to double as a water tank sitting on top of a very dilapidated building on the Island of Montreal, ⁨while I was up in ⁨Canada in July of 2017. This one is called the Guaranteed Pure Milk bottle, and also has its own Wikipedia page.

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According to the page, the bottle itself was ALSO (like the bottle above) built in the 1930’s but this one was renovated in 2009 by volunteers using privately raised funds, to the cost of $100K Canadian (WOW! Power to you guys!) … and that sum was for JUST fixing up the bottle. It stands 33 Feet tall (I have not been able to discover how tall the Oklahoma City bottle is, but I’m guessing it’s not more than 10 feet high) … ⁩BUT, that said…. considering the state of the building it is upon, and the fact that the area it is in seems to be in a mad rush of replacing all of its old buildings with shiny new ones, I’m not sure how long it’ll still be there…

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HOPEFULLY — and I hope someone out there is listening — the city of Montreal will have the good sense to either fund the renovation of the building rather than just knocking it down, at least …in this case… if that’s not feasible, PLEASE at least save the Milk bottle!!

Uranus MO, “It’s Not a Town, It’s a Destination”

Located on Route 66, this place was advertised as a town that had taken its name and run with it…. unabashedly. This appealed to me… That said, the place turned out to be SUCH a major tourist trap that it managed to lack ANY charm, wit or finesse at all, and the joke … which I admit totally made me want to come see the place gets REALLY really old after the first 15 minutes actually being there… to the point of irritating.

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From everything I had read the place was a very small town with 25 residents. AND, having just driven past any number of very tiny towns along route 66, that is what I was expecting… 25 residents maintaining a few business all of which played on the name of the place in order to draw tourists to a place they’d have otherwise just driven through… All hail the entrepreneurial spirit!

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Note, the parking lot concrete is stamped with the words “Explore Uranus”

Once I got there was very sad… Firstly, as you can see from the pictures, it’s not really a town. I was expecting a small town… a downtown with a handful of business, surrounded by a few houses… like any number of the small towns I had passed on Route 66…

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Instead what I found was a massive tourist attraction that looks like a strip mall tourist attraction…. essentially a single business broken into a few separate areas….which is not just unforgivable… it’s lazy. When you arrive you see the fake water tower, intended to make it feel like a “small town” with the implication that they have a school somewhere back there, with team called “the Pirates” — but I think they’re referring to themselves… as in the way Carneys think of the customers as marks, to be taken advantage of…

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UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1f83.jpgWhat was doubly frustrating was that in the gift store they have lots of magnets focused on the town’s name….  but no bumper stickers

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…she said up until now everyone’s wanted magnets, so they ordered lots of them… but now everyone wants stickers, but those they haven’t gotten in yet…

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1f7f.jpgand apparently, just recently a big group had come in and bought out all the good women’s T-shirts so there’s none of those either — and definitely not the only design that I was interested in buying — as apparently I’m not the only woman who preferred that design. She suggested I check their webpage over the coming weeks — I did, and didn’t see it there either.

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By the time I was done walking around the place… and I admit I stayed longer than I might have had I not been intent on writing about the place, because it annoyed the CRAP out of me … just … that… much!!! … by the time I got done, I was seriously…. SERIOUSLY pissed at having fallen for this particular tourist TRAP

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There’s also a circus sideshow museum and a tattoo parlor

SO annoyed in fact that I managed to completely miss the fact that around there somewhere (according to Wikipedia) they’ve got the World’s largest Belt buckled … one that even has a Guinness World Book of records designation… yah, I missed that… saw the Funkyard where it’s supposed to be…. did NOT see one sign promoting it…

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Pounding head into wall… will have to go back… pounding head into wall again… THAT said, I’m not seeing it on google either…

The Railsplitter Covered Wagon, World’s Largest , Lincoln IL

this oversized covered Wagon in Lincoln Illinois, located just off of Route 66, was named the “Railsplitter” after Abraham Lincoln, is the largest one in the world, and has been recognized as such by the Guinness Book of World Records.

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A recent attraction to Route 66 (built in 2001 it was only purchased by Logan county and moved to it’s currently location in 2007), it was built out of oak and steel by David Bentley. According to one site, the Reader’s digest organization has also awarded it the title of America’s #1 roadside attraction… although I got to wonder about that title

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The Route 66 Lauterbach Giant, Springfield IL

Built in 1978 and located on route 66 (well one of them) in Springfield IL, is a fiberglass “muffler man”  in front of Lauterbach Tire and Auto who USED to be holding a tire.

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He’s actually had some serious repairs in 2006, as the result of a Tornado that ripped off his head (ouch).IMG_1151.JPG

Update: Further up Route 66 (i.e. Northeast) in Atlanta, where the Paul Bunyon Statue is located (A Paul Bunyan holding a hotdog in a bun), I found this description of the Lauterbach man that includes what he looked like BEFORE his repairs — he’s got a completely new wardrobe now… and back when he was still holding the tire
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I find it interesting  that as much as this muffler man is lauded as being one fo the Route 66 attractions, for SOME reason it has not earned one of those State of IL signs… which makes me wonder if the local authorities and business owners have to help pay for the things.

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