Friday, July 16, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Tourist Trap

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is "A Tourist Trap."

Okay, I had to really think about this one.

The first thing that came to mind? It would be "The Thing?" found somewhere out in the middle of nowhere (or so it seems), just off of I-10 in Arizona.

When I was stationed in Tucson, AZ, I would occasionally travel I-10 to El Paso, TX to visit my grandparents. I don't remember paying close attention to the signs the first time I traveled to El Paso from Tucson. It was evening, and I just wanted to drive the 5 or so hours to El Paso.

But when I headed back after the long weekend, I noticed these loud billboards. Yellow, red, brightly colored, just screaming to be read.

What were they advertising? "The Thing," whatever that may be. All the way between El Paso and Tucson, you'd see these signs along I-10. I was always just a teeny bit curious, but by the time I passed one sign, the curiosity would pass, as well . . . until the next sign.

My curiosity was never so strong that I had to stop, though.

Then came a period when my good friend, Brenda, came from Nevada to visit me for about a week. We were heading to Willcox, AZ, about an 80 mile drive from Tucson. There's this store in Willcox that sells these tasty apple pies, apple cider, apple butter, apple this and apple that, among other things. Stout's Cider Mill, I think it's called.

Anyway, we kept seeing these billboards for "The Thing?" and basically just looked at each other and said, Oh, what the heck. Let's stop and check it out.

When we got to Exit 322 off I-10, somewhere between Benson and Willcox AZ, we stopped to find out what is "The Thing?"

We parked, got out and paid our $1.00 per adult admission fee, went to the cave-like entrance, and followed the yellow footprints on the walkway.

And . . . what IS "The Thing?"

You'll just have to find out for yourself.

Please click here to listen to an NPR story about "The Thing," and to see an accompanying slide show (warning, Spoiler Alert): "Mystery of The Thing Unwrapped" by Rene Gutel for KJZZ 91.5 FM.

Update: Click here for an audio clip of the "Mystery of The Thing Unwrapped" by Rene Gutel (for KJZZ 91.5 FM). For some reason, the link above no longer takes viewers to the video they used to have. 

Update #2: Check out the NPR "Pilgrimate to 'The Thing' in the Arizona Desert," as the other two links no longer seem to work. 

This may not be a popular, widely known "tourist trap," but the signs were certainly eye-catching enough to get $2 from Brenda and me. And it's something I can laugh about, simply recalling that we paid money to see that?!

Now, here's one other quick "tourist trap" story since my brain's still in the southwest recalling my favorite dusty, dry area of the country.

When Andrew and I were no longer on active duty, and were looking for positions in civilian companies, we moved to my parents' until one (or both) of us found employment and got our own place to live. 

The first thing we did was fly from New Mexico to Iowa with Livie, who was about a year and a half at the time.

After taking a couple weeks and completely settling in, we left Livie in the capable, competent, loving hands of her maternal grandmother, so Andrew and I could fly back to New Mexico one more time.

First of all, we needed to get one of our vehicles, so we'd have something to drive.

Second, we needed to get a few more necessary items from our house (winter clothing, the plants, stuff like that), because when the movers got there to pack and send our stuff to storage, we wouldn't have access to any of it until we moved into our own place. 

We took a few days - one day to fly out there, another day to pack the remaining "necessary items" and then left on the third day to drive back to Iowa.

It took us nearly 3 days of "taking our time" while driving because we didn't know when we'd be back in the Southwest. We wanted to savor it for just a couple more days. And by this time, Andrew had fallen in love with the area nearly as much as I had many years ago.

So on the way back, we headed through Roswell, NM. Yes, the UFO/alien place. 

I just had to stop. And because of what time we'd left Alamogordo, we got to Roswell just in time for lunch. So that was a good way of getting Andrew to stop. We had to eat lunch, right?

It was so touristy! But fun! I sent a couple alien-related post cards to Livie, and one to my brother Alex. In the past, every time I traveled somewhere new, I'd send a post card from that place to my brothers, and had to do it again - this time for Alex and Livie. I've kept all the post cards Livie has gotten, by the way. And I learned that Alex kept a bunch (if not all) of the ones I sent him. 

Here are a few photos of Roswell, NM. I'm not in any of them (I was having too much fun taking photos), but Andrew is in a couple.


Andrew's standing next to the "UFO Parking Only" sign!



Check out all the souvenir-filled tourist (or alien) traps:



Andrew gets some face time with a "visitor":



Even the lamp posts look like aliens!



So there you go. My version of "A Tourist Trap." A bit off the beaten path, but touristy nonetheless, right? Sometimes you just gotta stop someplace out of the ordinary, so you have some good stories down the road! I'm glad Livie has the travel bug just like I do, so she'll be up for fun, quirky stops like this in the future.



Don't forget . . . please click on the "Memory Lane Fridays" button below to check out this week's other Memory Lane Friday blog posts (including Memory Lane Friday's host at Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs):
Next week's topic is "That Was a First."

1 comment:

varunner said...

Oh fun! I love alien tourist traps! We stopped at some on the outskirts of Area 51 in Nevada when we were on a road trip once. I sent post cards and got my younger brother (who was a teen at the time) an alien id card. :-) I've never been to Roswell, but hopefully one day we'll get to drive through. I find it interesting that aliens like the American southwest too. You just don't find good alien stops on the East Coast...

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