Giant catfish statues and a pink mansion are among the roadside oddities that will add some whimsy and fun to your summertime road trip.
By Karen Gibson
Road trips are an American rite of passage. Perhaps some of the most memorable road trips come from unplanned stops at roadside attractions. How can you ignore giant soda bottles and five-foot catfish statues? Luckily, the South is full of roadside oddities that will be remembered long after other vacation memories have faded.
In title: Quigley’s Castle has marbles, a fossilized turtle shell, petrified wood and more mounted into the rocks and stones of the outside walls of the house. Gayle Harper, In-Sight Photography photo
Above: In Oklahoma, the Blue Whale in Catoosa is one of the Route 66 landmarks. Oklahoma Tourism photo
Below: A cattle drive takes place twice daily in the Stockyards National Historic District in Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau photo
Motoring through Mississippi
Catfish farming is big business in Mississippi; more than 146,000 acres are dedicated to this industry in the United States, with about 19,000 acres in Mississippi’s Humphreys County. Belzoni, a Delta town that dubs itself as the catfish capital, has more than 30 whimsical fiberglass catfish statues. These fishy characters welcome visitors to assorted storefronts and to the Catfish Capital Visitors Center and Museum, 111 Magnolia St. The museum is open Monday–Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it’s closed noon to 1 p.m. daily for lunch. While in town, sample the catfish either fried in the traditional way or smoked Creole-style. For more information, call (662) 247-4838 or visit www.catfishcapitalonline.com.
If peanut butter and banana sandwiches sound more appealing, then you must be an Elvis fan. Mississippi’s most famous citizen was born in Tupelo, but between his birth city and Graceland in Memphis is Graceland Too in Holly Springs, Miss.
Paul MacLeod, who says he’s the world’s biggest Elvis fan, renamed his childhood home Graceland Too and has spent his life packing it with every bit of Elvis memorabilia he can find. The pink antebellum home at 200 E. Gholson Ave. is open to visitors. In fact, MacLeod loves to share his treasures and knowledge of the King with the curious for $5 per person. Just show up at the door and knock. For more information, call Holly Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau at (888) 687-4765 or click on www.visithollysprings.com.
More of Mississippi’s musical roots are explored at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. This Mississippi town is near the intersection of Highways 61 and 49, known to blues fans as “the crossroads” where Robert Johnson sold his soul in order to play the blues, according to popular legend.
The Delta Blues Museum at #1 Blues Alley celebrates its most famous blues man, Muddy Waters, and a host of other blues artists. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children (6–12). Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday. For additional information, call (662) 627-6820 or click www.deltabluesmuseum.org. When you’re finished there, head across the street to Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman.
Road trips are thirsty undertakings, so if you’re in the New Orleans area, look for the revolving root beer mug near LaPlace. For more than 50 years, the LaPlace Frostop, 411 E. Airline Highway, has served burgers and frosty mugs of root beer. This great drive-in is a U.S. Highway 61 icon and is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Saturday (closed Sunday). For details, call (985) 652-6361 or visit www.laplace-frostop.com.
Monsters and more in Arkansas
In southwest Arkansas not far from Texarkana, the legend of the Boggy Creek Monster has haunted Fouke since the 1940s. The story enjoyed renewed popularity when a 1972 docudrama, “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” was released. These days, the only sightings are near the post office where passersby can pose as the monster using a cut out shape that resembles the Southern Sasquatch. Otherwise, the best stop is Peavy’s Monster Mart, a convenience store with monster souvenirs and postcards, located at 104 N. Monster Expressway off U.S. Highway 71. Call (870) 653-2497.
Eureka Springs, a vacation hot spot deep in the Ozark Mountains, is known for its unique architecture. Just four miles south of the city on state Highway 23 is one of the more creative homes you’re likely to see. Quigley’s Castle, built in the 1940s, has items like a fossilized turtle shell, petrified wood, and children’s marbles mounted into the rocks and stones that make up the outside walls of the house. The home is open for tours April through October. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Sunday and Thursday), and admission is $6.50 for adults (children 14 and younger are free when accompanied by parent). For more details, call (479) 253-8311.
Big fun in Texas
is no bull
Travelers are often on the lookout for good photos. A good photo opportunity is in Texarkana where you can place each foot in a different state. While the city is half Arkansas and half Texas, it shares a single Federal building and post office complex. In front of the post office on State Line Avenue, put one foot in Arkansas and the other in Texas. Click on www.texarkana.org.
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the city of Fort Worth is one of the most distinctive destinations in the U.S. for 2009. Fort Worth has protected its Western heritage while embracing urban life with an exciting downtown Sundance Square. Yet when the Old West calls, there’s only one place to be, and that’s in the Stockyards National Historic District. Check out Texas Longhorns, called the Fort Worth Herd, being driven down East Exchange Avenue. It’s the only twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive in the world. Call 800-433-5747 or visit www.fortworth.com.
Be amazed in Oklahoma
Cemeteries can be fascinating roadside stops, and Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo, Okla., is no exception. A section of the cemetery, Showmen’s Rest, is where many circus performers are interred.
Showmen’s Rest originated in the 1960s when John Carroll, better known as the “Elephant Man,” set up a trust fund following the death of Kelly Miller, owner of the Al G. Kelly and Miller Brothers Circus. Showmen’s Rest is marked by pedestals topped with stone elephants. Many of the tombstones feature unique carvings you’re not likely to see in any other cemetery. For details, call the local chamber of commerce, (580) 326-7511 or click on www.hugochamber.org.
The concept of road trips came with the Mother Road–Route 66–America’s highway that stretches from Chicago to California. One of the biggest stretches of the original historical route lies in Oklahoma. Over the years, Route 66 landmarks have become recognizable features on the landscape, like the Blue Whale in Catoosa. Arcadia, just east of Oklahoma City, has one of the better-known landmarks, as well as a newer roadside attraction.
The round barn in Arcadia, located nine miles east of Interstate 35 and Edmond, is believed to be the only one of its kind. The impressive structure is in the middle of town on Old Route 66, and the historical society has information about it online at www.arcadiaroundbarn.org.
Just down the road is one of the newest Route 66 landmarks, POPS, a combination convenience store/gas station/restaurant, but its real claim to fame is the more than 500 varieties of soda available. On a sunny day, the sun reflects off the bottles lining the store’s windows, creating a rainbow of color. POPS stays pretty busy, but it’s worth a trip. It’s easy to find; just look for the 66-foot soda bottle with straw sitting alongside Route 66. Visit www.pops66.com, or contact the Edmond Convention and Visitors Bureau at (405) 341-4344 for information on these attractions.
Karen Gibson is a contributor from Norman, Okla.
|Jul/Aug 2009 Issue
|BEFORE YOU GO
Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides. List of offices
Order free information about Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas through the Reader Service Card, found online at http://southern.ai-dsg.com.