The major tourist attractions have always held my attention, but deep down inside, I harbor a strong and well-rooted desire to see and touch the little offbeat sights that don’t draw the big crowds. It has nothing to do with reaching seniordom; it’s more like a return to a childhood that included nurturing pet frogs and planting my own sunflowers.
So I seek out things like:
The University of Georgia’s Marine Extension Service Aquarium in Savannah, Georgia. It’s small (only 17 exhibit tanks and one “touch” tank), but it contains more than 200 creatures that represent most of the 50 species that inhabit the Georgia coast. Almost equally important on the funky scale: The facility is located on Skidaway Island, a name that sort of sticks to the inside of your brain when repeated 15 times in succession.
Daniel Boone’s Homestead near Birdsboro, Pennsylvania. The old cabin in which the frontiersman was born on Oct. 22, 1736, still maintains silent watch over the rolling hills of Berk County, much like it has since Squire Boone erected it in 1731. It’s remote and quiet because, being off the usual tourist maps, it’s not a big draw. But the atmosphere and the scenery are primo for those seeking a bit of solitude and excellent photo ops.
The world’s largest roadrunner in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Not only is it huge, this bird elevates recycling to its upper limits. The creature stands about 15 feet tall and 30 feet long, and it’s made entirely of trash. Its creator used thrown-away materials salvaged from the local landfill where the where the bird resided until 2000, when it was moved to a rest stop just west of the city. The belly is made of discarded tennis shoes, the back is used tires, auto parts, sticks, stones and typewriter keyboards. To view it, take the rest stop exit off I-10 between mile markers 134 and 135.
The Columbus Washboard Factory in Logan, Ohio. It’s the only washboard-making facility left in the United States, and it still turns them out the same way they did when the factory opened in 1895. Tour leaders will explain how the stainless steel is crimped using machines built in the 1800s, how the frames are assembled, and how the factory sold 1.2 million washboards in 1941. The boards are still used for scrubbing, but now have such other uses as decorative items and musical instruments.
And three other factors make it well worth a visit. First, senior admission is only $3. Second, the world’s largest washboard, a 24-footer, hangs on an exterior wall. Third, the BEST WESTERN Weston Inn is just a few blocks away at 250 North Main Street. The staff there probably doesn’t scrub the sheets with a washboard, but guests are assured of extra-clean facilities due to the hotel’s “I Care Clean” program that uses the same advanced cleaning technology as hospitals.