Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Accordian Player

…on second thought, shoot me.

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 10, Part 2, In which we view even more roadside attractions, I extol the virtues of driving a house on wheels, we have Round 1 of “Goat VS Dog” and we enter St. Louis and encounter the
Jones Gang.

(Note: All comments in italics are by non-humans)

Ok, so after lunch, we went to The Hat House, which is yet another house made to look like some ginormous ordinary thing, in this case, a top hat. This place had much larger rooms than any tourist trappy house we’ve seen yet. It also had 5 stories and the view from the top floor was pretty sweet. The house was built in 1923 by the grandfather of the current owner. It is beginning to show it’s age, but is still well worth the $4.00 you pay for the tour.

(Flash:While the folks were out, we all played Rock Band. Turns out Abby is a pretty good drummer.)

(Winker:I got to sing! Arrrooooo! Arrroooooo!)

About 10 miles south of The Hat House is The Yellow Submarine Cafe. I have no idea what possessed the original owner to buy an early WWII Sub, gut it, then turn it into a diner (the yellow paint job came much later), but it sure does look cool and, while we were not hungry, I can tell you that their Blue Meanie Lemonade is very good.

(Flash:The smell of human food was killing us! Where is the love for the starving pets?)

(Lucy:Oh man, I could smell bacon! BACON!)

(Winker:Hamburgers, too!)

(Abby:And french fries! Wonderful french fries!

About halfway between Springfield and St. Louis lies the only attraction that nobody else on the bus wanted to go into, The World Famous Serial Killer Museum. I paid my $5.00 and went inside and…dude…I mean…CREEPIEST FUCKING ROADSIDE ATTRACTION EVER! No shit, if the next one was the Museum of Guts & Eyeballs, it still would not be as creepy. Besides the subject matter, the main creep factor came from Lonnie Ray and Susie Ballard, the owners & operators of this shrine to violent sociopathy. Eight other people went in with me and I counted when we left to make sure we all got out. Thankfully, the establishment did not offer food. I declined to get on their mailing list.

(Winker:When Dad came back on the bus, Flash jumped off the bookshelf onto his shoulder and Dad screamed like a little girl. Hahahahaha!)

Creepiness aside, they have a pretty incredible amount of stuff on serial killers, including correspondence between the Ballards and many Hannibal Lecter wannabes in prisons around the world. Lonnie Ray said the FBI even shows up a couple times a week to do research. Yeah, right. I fully expect to see the Ballards on CNN Real Soon Now.

Leaving the Creep-O-Rama behind, we headed for St. Louis. Along the way, My Sweet Angel brought me a large green tea smoothie. And that, my friends, is one of the things I like about traveling around in ths bus: you get to drive all over (which I love), but you are still home. Want a sandwich? No problemo! Gotta use the john? Pull over and stop and you always have a nice clean bathroom with good reading material. Want to walk your dogs, cat & goat? Just open a door and wander around in some vaguely steampunk service corridors. Well, ok, that last one requires a TARDIS unit, but you get my drift.

(Abby:I snuck a lick of his smoothie and it was very good indeed.)

Oh, and that green tea smoothie? Totally delicioso!

About 15 minutes away from the St. Louis KOA, I heard Lucy barking and Abby bleating and then there were crashes and Grace and Sharon cussing. All I could do was drive, but after a couple of minutes Grace gave me the story. It would seem that Lucy decided that Abby was standing exactly where she wanted to walk, so she barked at her. Goats, being not exactly the most intimidation prone of herbivores, pretty much told Lucy to piss off. That made Lucy kick things up a notch, so she did a fake lunge towards Abby. Abby replied to this by butting Lucy ass over teakettle into the coffee table where Sharon & Grace were doing a puzzle.

(Lucy:I was just trying to get her to move outta my way a little!)

(Flash:Lucy got her ass handed to her!

Once the two fiesty animals endured the Wrath Of Mom, things got really quiet. I suspect though, that Lucy has new found respect for her caprine sister.

Around 6:00 we got to the St. Louis North KOA. About 45 minutes later, Spike, Mary & Miranda Jones rolled in. These are some of my favorite people and there was hugging and dancing about and more hugging and then food. Right now, we are going to watch a Doc Savage animated movie, then everyone is off to bed (Spike & Mary have a room upstairs, but Miranda had a room just off the left side of the refrigerator.

(Winker:I like Miranda. She pets me. I’m gonna sleep in her room tonight.)
Tomorrow: Adventure!

Destination Sign: Azkaban Prison

Green Clowns From Under Your Bed

…they’ll recycle your trash, then eat your face.

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 10, Part 1, In which we go on a roadside attraction binge, our critters get lost on the bus and we eat more corndogs.

(Note: All comments by Flash are in italics)

We are scheduled to visit seven roadside attractions today. We already have 4 of them crossed off the list. Here now, the listing of today’s misadventures so far.

1: At the rather too early hour of 8:00 AM, we viewed the wonder & splendor that is The World Famous Candy Bar Museum. This was a fun (it’s always fun to see assloads of candy), enlightening (there are candy bars from all over the world) & nostalgic (Milkshake Bars!) tourist trap. We spent 45 minutes there, looking at the 7,358 candy bars, some nearly 100 years old.

(This place smelled great, but we were locked up in the bus…with a goat!)

2: Next up was The World Famous Beer Can Museum. You think there were a lot of candy bars? This joint has 15,912 beer cans from all over the planet and some of them are near 150 years old. My fave beer name? Hung Dong Beer from China.

(Still locked up here, but the goat seems to have opened a door. Might have to check this new room out.)

3: When we came out of the Beer Can Museum, we found the bus strangely quiet and devoid of animal. Then I saw an open door which hadn’t been there when we left. Going through the door, I found myself in a really big room (and I mean warehouse big) full of crates that all seemed to contain parts for Hudson automobiles. I found Winker within a minute or so, but didn’t find Abby for another 15 minutes and it took nearly another 20 to round up Flash & Lucy. They all seemed ok, but were apparently having a good time exploring.

(Now that was fun! We had a hella good hide & seek game going until Dad busted it up.)

4: After the Great Pet Hunt, we drove over to The Red, White & Blue Garden. This place was one of the best gardens I’ve ever seen, with tons of beautiful plants, most in bloom. Also, very patriotic. I expected the owners to be Republicans or Tea Baggers, but in fact they are both Green Party members. YAY!

(Oh, man, were there birds in that garden! I am so hungry now.)

5: Yet another garden visit was Waterfall World. A truly beautiful example of what a gardener with lots of time (and, one assumes, plenty of money) on his hands can do. There are 14 ponds, 8 streams and 32 waterfalls here, all lushly planted with a dazzling array of plants. There are also 3 aviaries, chickens, ducks & geese wandering around and about a zillion koi carp.

(Shave my tail and call me a possum, that place had FISH just swimmin’ around! And birds…tasty tasty exotic birds…confined to cages! Oh man, if I could have escaped from this bus, I’d have been eating good in the neighborhood!)

6: We are now back at the Cozy Dog Drive In, fortifying ourselves with corndogs before seeing the next three attractions and then heading to St. Louis. More bloggage later.

(Mmmmmm…corndogs! Om Nom Nom!)

Destination Sign: The 8th Dimension

Jenny, The Lap Dancer Who Saved The World

…who knew lap dancing kills aliens?

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 9, Part 1, In which we give you a quick run down of the events of the day

(Note: Flash is still not in a writing mood.)

1: Early on, we saw The Marble Sculptures Of Great Americans, which were not carved from marble, but made out of marbles. There are 23 sculptures, all life size and looking very…strange is the only word that fits. It’s places like this that will make you realize you don’t need LSD to hallucinate.

2: Then we went to look at The Giant Duelling Lumberjack Statues. Yep, they are big, lumberjacks and hefting axes at each other. Took us all of 4 minutes to see, including picture taking.

3: Stopped at a feed store to buy Abby a bag of Goat Chow and some dog & cat treats.

4: Ate lunch at a hot dog joint that advertised with the slogan “Our Weenies Are Huge!” How can you not love a place like that?

5: Entered Illinois near the town of Roscoe, in honor of our late dog.

6: During a grocery shopping break in Rockford, we stumbled upon yet another room inside the Magic Bus. This one seems to be a full sized roller skating rink. No skates, but there is recorded organ music.

7: Stopped to see The Pie Tin House. I am beginning to think that somewhere in America, you will find a house built out of every sort of thing most folks just recycle the normal way.

8: Stopped for the night in Springfield, Illinois, birthplace of my fabulous wife and home of the Cozy Dog Drive In, where you’ll find the best damned corndogs in the world! We ate dinner there.

9: Watched several alternate reality movies, including a proper big screen version of The Wild Wild West, which was heavy on the steampunk gadgetry.

Sleep now, more roadside exploration tomorrow.

Destination Sign: The House On Haunted Hill

I Was A Muppet For The FBI

…looking for commie muppets

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 8, Part 1, In which we see a Viking ship inside a house, adopt a goat and camp with members of my tribe.

(Note: No comments by Flash this time. He’s pissed off about the goat.)

The second half of today’s journey saw us stopping in the town of Onamia to see The Ship In A House. As with many roadside attractions, this one began when somebody had way too much time on the hands. In this case, it was one Olaf Jorgenson, a man who really loved Vikings. In fact, he loved them so much that he started building a full sized replica of a Viking dragon ship in his home.

As the ship got bigger, old Olaf just knocked out walls/ceilings/floors/whatever to accommodate it. After a no doubt spirited discussion with his wife, he built new living spaces around the outside of the main house shell.

The ship is a fine looking vessel, but Olaf never got to see if she would float. According to his daughter, who runs the joint now, her father kicked the bucket a week after he finished the ship. In accordance with his final wishes, he was given a Viking funeral on one of the local lakes.

Oddly, the only souvenirs they had for sale were ball caps with a picture of the ship on them. We bought 3.

Our next stop was in Princeton, where we thought we were going to see the local Basset Hound Waddle, but it turns out we were a week early. Since we had gone to the local ASPCA shelter to get the lowdown, we strolled through the place. We were glad to see very few dogs, cats or other animals.

Now, I have to say that my dear wife is almost always the “sane” one in our marriage. If there is goofy, off the wall, spontaneous, ill advised shit to do, it’s my job. Which is why I was stunned into slack jawed silence when she up and adopted a Pygmy Goat. True, the poor little girl was the only one left of the 3 siblings that came in and yes, she was very cute, being all white with grey spots, but a goat? I considered arguing against it, but decided I have not built up sufficient Husband Points since my last screwup.

And so, we now share our bus with a 6 month old female Pygmy Goat named Abigail. She seems to be very intelligent and well trained. She even uses an oversized litter box to do her biz in. And no, she does not stink. That is buck goats, not does. Also, like Flash, she is imaginary.

Our other critters reacted to her in predictable fashion. Lucy barked at her from a safe distance, Flash climbed up on the highest shelf to glare at her and Winker immediately walked up to her and made friends.

With no more roadside stops planned, we drove straight on to the KOA in St. Paul. Upon arrival, we noticed many gaming geeks wandering about. It was the t-shirts, dice bags and RPG books that gave them away. I started talking to a few and almost immediately got the “Hey, you’re DOC CROSS!” treatment. This later translated into me running a couple of Toon games.

These geeks are on a yearly migration to GenCon from their homes in Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Idaho. Apparently, they have been doing this for some years and the group gets larger every year. This year, there are 22 of them. They plan on continuing from here to Milwaukee (where they spend a day or two remembering GenCons past), them move on to Lake Geneva (where they plan to play D&D in honor of Gary & Dave) and finally hit Indianapolis on Tuesday.

After a night of gaming, talking about gaming and quaffing a few ales, I am ready for bed. Tomorrow, we brave the wilds of Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Destination Sign: Pern

Sunlight On Blonde Hair

…and green eyes

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 8, Part 1, In which we see more garden gnomes than is probably mentally healthy, pick up a hitchhiker, take yet another walk in the woods and have a very terrifying moment.

(Note: All comments by Flash are in italics)

We left Fargo around 9:00 this morning and headed to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and our first roadside stop of the day, Garden Gnome World. It seems that Mrs. Ingrid Martin and her husband, Tony, really REALLY like garden gnomes, since they have collected over 15,000 of them, plus 8,000 assorted ceramic/concrete lawn & garden animals ranging from frogs to a couple of moose. They have also built 7 distinct villages for the gnomes, as well as gnome farms, mines, a sawmill and a fishing fleet. This all covers 15 acres of land, includes 5 garden railroads (the longest is 3.25 miles), 4 creeks, two ponds (AKA “lakes”, a man made mountain range and 2.5 miles of elevated trails for tourists to walk on.

The whole thing was rather surreal and cool and funny and impressive. I had no idea that these were so many different types of garden gnomes, but our guide (the Martin’s niece, Sandy) told us there were 1,700 kinds there, some coming from as far away as Russia.

For the record, I beat The Girls 2 games out of 3 in Kill Doctor Lucky while the humans wandered around looking at gnomes.

We left with not only the omnipresent fridge magnets, postcards & t-shirts, but with a family of VULCAN garden gnomes. I shit you not. A husband, wife, three children and a pet sehlat. Apparently, the line was produced by a ceramics loving Trekkie for a short time before Paramount slammed the door on them. They are highly collectible, but when I showed Mr. Martin a room full of garden gnomes on the Magic Bus, we worked out a trade.

Odds of one of The Girls peeing on those gnomes within a day of Dad putting them in his garden: 4 to 1. Assuming some crazed Trekkie doesn’t steal them first, of course.

From there, we headed east towards Wadena and The World Famous Pink Cows. As we drove along, I spotted a fellow hitchhiking by the side of the road. Now, I almost never pick up hitchhikers, but this guy looked very familiar. As we got closer, I saw that it was my old pal, Spider, whom I had not seen in person since 1995. I pulled over and he climbed on board.

I like Spider. He gave my sisters and I beef jerky.

Introductions were made and I asked him what the hell a California boy was doing in the middle of rural Minnesota. His reply of, “Oh, you know, just having a little fun.” told me that he was here because of a woman. His full backpack told me that he had more than likely slipped out of her house this morning before she woke up, leaving a sweet note behind for her.

When I asked him where he was heading, he said Milwaukee, on business. The less said about Spider’s line of work, the better, except to say that we were once partners way back in the mid 1970’s.

When we reached the town of Brainerd, Spider gout out because his car and associates were there. We then went to an ice cream shop and got some delish cones.

Green tea ice cream for the WIN!

We reached Lake Shore about 45 minutes later and drove straight to the lair of the pink cows.

Yes, they are pink. This is due to the farmer using ground up shrimp as a protein source in their feed (same reason flamingos are pink, carotene). There are 12 milk cows total and the place is a small working dairy. No, the milk is not pink, but it is very good, as is the cheese they make from it. Yes, all the usual souvenirs were purchased, as well as three 1 pound blocks of cheese.

Odds of Dad sharing his cheese with poor starving kitties and puppies? 2 to 1.

Moving on, we went to a local nature area that had a lakeside trail through the woods. Everyone enjoyed the stroll, especially the sight of some otters frolicking in a creek.

Despite the fact that they looked vaguely rodentlike, my sisters & I declined to mess around with them. Also, they smelled weaselly, which is never a good sign. Weasels can fuck your shit up.

We are now on a lunch break in Aitkin, which gave us a hell of a scare. Upon entering town, we saw a huge sign for the annual Lutefisk Festival. The eons old human fear of lye soaked jellified fish had us nearly in a panic until we realized that the date on the sign was from last winter. WHEW!

Yeah, jellied fish? I’ll pass on that.

After lunch, we turn south towards St. Paul where we will spend the night. More blogstuff later.

Destination Sign: The Barrier Peaks

Marshmallow Peeps As A Deterrent To War

…first, drop humongous Peeps on your borders

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 7, Part 2, In which we see a stampede of old people, view a pyramid and let our critters run free.

(Note: All comments by Flash are in italics)

In Minot, North Dakota, we had to buy a few necessities and, finding nowhere else cheap to shop, were forced to go into a Wal-Mart. Since this is a wholly distasteful thing for both Grace & I, we were determined to make it as fast as possible.

Once inside the place, we noticed a great number of old folks, Turns out, it was “Senior Appreciation Day” and seniors were getting discounts on stuff. We went and got what we needed and were heading towards the checkout line when some doofus came on the loudspeaker and said that all prescriptions were now just $1.00. Holt fuck, the old folks went crazy! A huge mass of them started heading towards the pharmacy at the front of the store. They were yelling and fighting for position and they didn’t hear the doofus clarify that he meant prescriptions on just one type of medicine were $1.00.

I don’t know about you, but seeing a surging tsunami of old people heading towards us scared the hell out of Grace & I & a couple of cashiers. We all ran out the front doors just as the tidal wave of senior citizens broke on the pharmacy. Even worse, as they found out about the mistake, the old coots started getting angry. Next thing you know, there was a full fledged riot going on! I looked at my Sweet Angel and we both decided to haul ass back to the bus and get the fuck outta there.

My sisters and I could smell old human smell all the way out to the bus. It was not pleasant.

We were a good mile from the now burning & surrounded by cops Wal-Mart before we realized that we had not paid for our stuff. Score!

Some 87 miles down the highway from Minot, we came to yet another roadside attraction, The Pyramid Of The Prairie. This thing is build entirely out of old flattened cars ans is 60 feet on a side and 70 feet tall at the peak, which is, if I saw correctly, a squashed red 1964 Chevy Corvair.

I smelled like, maybe 1,000,000,000 mice at that place!

For three bucks you get to look at it up close and even go inside to the “Great Chamber”, where a perfectly preserved gold 1959 Cadillac Eldorado sits in a huge open sarcophagus. It was cool and at the same time very strange.

We took lots of pictures, bought t-shirts and postcards (no fridge magnets) and then got back on the road. A few hours later, we arrived in Fargo. When we went out to eat at a Golden Corral, I asked the server if she knew where I could rent a wood chipper. She must have A: seen the movie and B: never been asked that, because she started laughing so hard she had to sit down.

It is always pleasing to have one’s humor appreciated.

After dinner, we returned to the RV park, which has a very large fenced in dog park. We let the hounds and Flash run loose and wouldn’t ya know it, a squirrel fell out of a tree into the enclosure. In the wink of an eye, Lucy, Flash and a terrier named George were after the bushy tailed intruder. They did a couple of laps around the fence line, then the squirrel shot up the fence. That stopped the dogs, but Flash was still in hot pursuit. He chased the squirrel along the top of the fence, but it jumped onto a low hanging tree limb and was gone. Still, Flash seemed pretty pleased with himself and we all praised his fine effort at rodent control.

Dude, that squirrel was all like “oops!” and I was all like “oh hell yes” and then he was all like “SHIT!” and me and the dogs were like “yer dead, bitch!” and then it was hella crazy and then I was like “I’m on yer ass, squirrely” and then he was like jumpin’ and dude, it was hella cool!

As we often do, movies were watched (“Big Trouble In Little Jamaica” and “Willy Wonka Goes To Mars”), chocolate eaten and then beds were climbed into. Tomorrow, we venture into darkest Minnesota and whatever strange things await us there.

Destination Sign: The Cobalt Club

The King Of East Buttonwillow

…it was a very small kingdom

The Trip to DogCon 3: Day 7, Part 1, In which we have a bit more temporspatial trouble, visit a rainforest, see huge metal wildlife and have a picnic.

(Note: All comments by Flash are in italics)

Today, we ate breakfast on the bus and hit the road about 7:30. We were just outside Williston, heading north on Highway 2, when the bus slipped realities again. This time, however, everyone else was awake to see it.

Being awakened, even for food, at 7:00 in the morning is cruel and unusual punishment.

One moment, we were driving through North Dakota soybean fields under a cloudless blue sky, the next moment, we were driving along about a 10 lane expressway in a city that looked like Gotham City and The Emerald City of Oz had a love child.

Holy Shit! Dude, that was…I mean…DUDE!

Naturally, this caused a pretty high amount of anxiety among Grace, Sharon, Lucy & Flash. Winker didn’t seem to care much and I was too busy yelling for Joe and dodging traffic that was whipping along at about 150 mph. I tried to explain to the womenfolk that this was only a temporary thing and everything would be ok, but they seemed to be disinclined to believe me.

Scared? You bet your hairless ape ass we were scared! I ought to crap in your shoe for doing that, Dad.

I got in what passed for the slow land and floored it. When we reached about 95 mph, the oddly human looking blue skinned people driving the egg shaped cars stopped honking at us and giving me the finger.

The city, while bizarre looking, still had what all cities have: parks, tall buildings, residential areas and advertising. I saw no ads for deep fried fleems, but I did note that it was an election year and I should vote for Yiz Maguboni because he would end the glikki payouts.

Just as Joe came up the spiral staircase, we shifted to what I’m pretty sure was North Dakota again, but before roads and during the bison migration. I yelled for everyone to hang on and I hit the brakes, skidding to a stop on a hill overlooking maybe 2 million bison. It was incredibly cool to see, but the mood was broken by cursing women, barking dogs and a yowling cat.

My nerves will be shot for days! I skidded nearly the entire length of the bus and ended up under Lucy’s butt!

Anyway, while Joe rejiggered things to bring us back to our proper reality, I did my best to calm everyone down. A phaser on stun would have been very useful.

I need a good stiff shot of milk, with a melted ice cream chaser.

Once things were back to what I like to humorously refer to as “normal”, we proceeded down the road towards the best roadside attraction so far, The Amazon Jungle Of The North.

The short story on this one is that Eric Gunderson, son of a very wealthy railroad baron, inhereited lots of money in 1924 and went on a world tour of the great wilderness areas. Apparently, old Eric fell in love with the Amazon rain forests and decided to replicate them back home in North Dakota.

By 1928, he had built four connected buildings totalling 300,000 square feet and containing a real rain forest full of Brazillian plants & animals, all shipped up north at great expense. The tallest two buildings are 100 feet tall and housed the main forest. The other two housed a clearing and a swamp. A small river flows through it all.

When the stock market tanked in 1929, Eric lost most of his wealth, but still got by over the next few years by letting folks tour his jungle at a dime a head. As you might imagine, in the great snowy underpopulated northern tier of Our Great Nation, this was a very popular destination.

Eric got rich again thanks to WWII and later, land speculation. He expanded his jungle several times, as did his children and grandchildren. It now covers 2.5 million square feet and is the home to 112 species of mammals, 141 species of reptiles & amphibians, 98 species of fish, 1,538 species of insects and 2,604 species of plants.

The tour took an hour, was fascinating, cost $12.00 each and ended in the inevitable gift shop full of wallet emptying stuff. By the time we finish this trip, I will need never buy a t-shirt again.

Meanwhile, The Girls and I were locked in the bus with only a Nintendo Wii and 60-70 games to play.

After that bit of utter coolness, we went about 90 miles down the road to The Giant Wildlife Preserve. It would seem that some artistic and bored silly North Dakotan sculptors got a hefty government grant back in 1985 and started building huge metal versions of the local wildlife. There are about 31 sculptures here, with the bison being the largest ar 62 feet long and 35 feet high. My favorite was the 8 foot tall prairie dog. Grace liked the giant fox and Sharon was pretty impressed by the coyote that was just smaller than our bus.

I think I never want to meet an 8 foot tall prairie dog.

As I now write this, we are picnicking at a park on the outskirts of Minot. Our plans include a couple of more roadside stops before we get to Fargo. I am also told that if I want to maintain my good health, there will be no more side trips out of this reality.

Mmmm…picnic food…yum!

More bloggage later.

Destination Sign: Sherwood Forest