Thursday, July 20, 2006

Beer & Now: On the Road Again, Day 2

The Daniel Boone Home, Defiance, Missouri & Living Elvis Museum, Wright City, Missouri

In the planning stages of "Beer and Now," Missouri didn’t seem like it was going to offer much by way of exciting novelty roadside attractions, but as it turns out, the very first two attractions of the day provided us with some extremely memorable entertainment.

The Boone Home in Defiance, Missouri (which Kevin mistakenly thought was where they made Boone’s Farm Wine) was our first stop of the morning. After paying $7 and watching the required pre-tour video (the first of many pre-tour videos we’d endure over the course of our journey), we were transferred from our video holding pen to the 200 year-old house Boone built with his own hands.

Along the way to the home, as our guides (dressed in authentic 19th Century garb) were giving us even more introductory information, a very loud security alarm erupted from the Boone home. We were impressed that Boone, not only a pioneer of the frontier but apparently of technology as well, would have the means to build such an alarm. And that it still worked after 200 years!

Anyway, the pinnacle of this particular incident was when a 70+ year-old woman, also dressed in authentic costume, darted across the meadow to get the alarm turned off. We called it our "Boone-mergency," and it was definitely one of the trip’s highlights.

However, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of our trek was the journey to the center of the Elvis is Alive Museum. The EAM was established in Wright City, Missouri by a man named Bill Beeny (who owns the only existing sample of Elvis DNA and has written a book claiming Elvis to be alive, based mostly on the fact that the DNA of the man in Elvis’s casket is different from his sample. Of course, this could be because his DNA is bogus, but who wants to be the one to tell Bill?). Outside, there is an old limo wrapped in ratty Christmas tinsel, and inside, once you get past the cheap Elvis mannequin-in-casket and replica gravesite, you can delve into the alleged FBI files that link Presley to Richard Nixon.

Beeny, a former minister, also uses this space to passively preach his political messages, offering free motivational cassette tapes featuring his own voice (one was memorably titled, "All Great Men Were Christians") and very graphic anti-abortion images throughout the museum. Yes, Beeny has provided a haven for people who love both Elvis and nightmares about still-borns.

We kept waiting for this Bill Beeny character to jump out from behind a display wearing a plastic Elvis mask and wielding a chainsaw, but it never happened. Still, wholly unsettled, it was time for us to leave the Land of the King and continue our journey across Missou.

Stubby Stonehenge & Memoryville USA, Rolla, Missouri

The real Stonehenge was assembled around 2500 BC, but the problem with seeing it is that it’s technically located somewhere in England, which was several thousand miles outside of our travel route.

So to compensate, we checked out Stubby Stonehenge (a half-scale partial reproduction of the original) in Rolla, Missouri. The structure is located on the campus of the University of Missouri and was constructed in the 1980s. It’s made from about 160 tons of granite and actually does act as a pretty accurate calendar, displaying everything from solstices to the time of day.

Of course by modern standards, the structure isn’t particularly flashy. There were no explosions, curse words, or partial nudity involved with our viewing of the rocks, but it provided us with a mild sense of awe. At the very least it was a great place to eat our turkey sandwiches for lunch.

Up the road an ancient antique shop stands proudly, equipped with one of the most famous automobile restoration shops in the world. I couldn’t tell you what the actual store was called, but the restoration shop and its attached museum goes by the name "Memoryville, U.S.A." Fitting, because it’s not a place that any of us will soon forget (Okay, I’m sorry that was so cheesy, but I set myself up. Gimme a break).

If Kyle and Kevin had their way, we would’ve spent most of the afternoon perusing the store portion of the building, sifting through old comic books, dusty knick-knacks, and rusty thingermajigs. Once I informed them that they were technically "antiquing," we got started with our self-guided tour of the Memoryville museum.

Probably the sweetest hoopty of all the cars on display was the car they used for the opening credits of "The Beverly Hillbillies." The storefront area downstairs was like a whole little moldy basement village, complete with a barber shop, a bank, a convenient store, etc. The lights were browned, creepy old-timey music played the entire time, and it seemed like there were cobwebs in just about every available crevice. Which made it neat.

Eventually, we were spit out into the automobile restoration shop, where there were guys down there actually working on old cars. They’re contracted to pimp rides for rich people in all sorts of countries. The guy we talked to was working on some oldschool Porsche. He was nice and chatted with us for a few.

But, we couldn’t spend too much time there, because the sun was already setting and we had quite a ways to go to reach Kansas City by game time. So we packed up and left Memoryville with nothing but fond memories (Okay, that’s the last cheese. I promise).

World's Largest Shuttlecocks & Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

On the way to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last year, we walked right past a gigantic rubber stamp. It was three times as big as some houses I’ve seen, a rather impending structure.

This summer, we purposefully visited another gigantic sculpture designed by the same artist: The World’s Largest Shuttlecocks. These bad boys, standing in at over 17 feet apiece, rest serenely on the front lawn of Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We of course took the opportunity to pose ridiculously with the Shuttlecocks (which we affectionately and immaturely nicknamed "the Cocks"), but we didn’t understand the art behind these guys at the time.

Claes Oldenburg is the sculptor’s name, and he’s made a whole slue of gigantic reproductions of typically small household items. Aside from the stamp in Cleveland and the Cocks in KC, he’s also responsible for a huge broken button and an immense clothespin in Philadelphia, giant bowling pins in the Netherlands, and a mammoth toothbrush in Germany. God Bless this man and his novelty art. He’s the kind of guy that makes these types of road trips worth doing.

But, since we were already very far behind, we split fairly quickly and finally headed over to Kauffman Stadium to enjoy a game played by the dismal Kansas City Royals. Kauffman lies side-by-side with Arrowhead Stadium (home of the football Chiefs), and both are about fifteen minutes outside of downtown. It’s actually pretty strange how out-of- the-way these places are. In St. Louis, for example, one can see the entire city skyline over the right field scoreboard. Kauffman’s just sort of in the middle of nowhere.

That aside, the park was beautiful. Waterfalls trickle peacefully in the outfield, occasionally erupting into lit-up fountains. The scoreboard is a huge Royals logo, complete with crown, and it lights up in between innings. Plus, we paid for the cheap high upper deck seats, but because no one comes to these games (because the Royals suck), we plopped down about eight rows back of the field in between first base and the right field foul pole. Tons of foul balls bounced our way, but the gaggle of hormonal fraternity bros in front of us kept ricocheting them off their stupid paddle hands so small toddlers could scoop up the prize of all their hard work. Morons.

But the game was fun, and with our hotel only across the street, it was cake getting out of there. So after dealing with a hotel room that smelled like body odor, a hot tub that was about thirty degrees too hot, and a 12-pack of the cheapest beer we could find, it was bed time, and thereby the end of Day 2.

Next Installment, Coming Soon: Day 3, Part 1, Northern Missouri & Omaha

1 comment:

anne altman said...

i wish i was on the beer and now tour. it's a good read. i'm envious. but not a teacher with a great summer vacation.