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Visit 5 freakiest roadside attractions

By Doug Frattallone, Contributing writer
Published On: Apr 10 2012 02:41:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 13 2013 09:05:42 AM CDT
Superman statue, Metropolis, Illinois

SXC

You're in the car, on one of those summer road trips. Initially it's pretty fun, but after a while, the miles drag by. Everything looks the same. Same fast food joints, same strip malls, same gas stations. Same everything.

Then, in the distance, you see something odd. Something big. Something touristy, yet pretty freaky. It's a roadside attraction -- put there for only one reason: to get you to stop and buy something you don't need.

The best roadside attractions you know about already. The Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas. The Field of Dreams near Dyersville, Iowa. How about the World's Biggest Muskie in Hayward, Wis.? Or the Superman statue in Metropolis, Ill.? Gotta love 'em all.

But for our tastes, those are pretty pedestrian. Roadside attractions can, and do, get much weirder.

Hop in and ride along as we zig-zag the lower 48 to show you the 5 Freakiest Roadside Attractions. (We promise we won't make you buy anything. But feel free to look at the ads on the page.)

Mike the headless chicken sculpture

No. 5: Mike The Headless Chicken - Fruita, Colorado

You're driving east, through the Colorado Rocky Mountains, near Grand Junction. You're on Interstate 70. You pass the exit for Mack. You roll by Loma. Next stop: Fruita.
It's in this mountain hamlet where you'll see a 5-foot metal statue that recalls a legendary town fowl: Mike, The Headless Chicken.

Back in 1945, Mike was an actual bird that lived for 18 months with his noggin chopped off. How this bird wonder didn't flop down and die, mankind will never know.

Actually, Mike's owner, Lloyd Olsen, severed Mike's head off but missed his brain stem. Mike lived, with Olsen feeding the cluckster with an eyedropper. A legend was born.

Back in 2000, sculptor Lyle Nichols paid tribute to Mike's tenacity with the 300-pound statue right at the corner of Mulberry and Aspen. Touching, isn't it? Oh, and Mike also has an annual festival named in his honor. Yep, that's where visitors are invited to "party their heads off."

World's largest thermometer

No. 4: World's Tallest Thermometer - Baker, California

You're driving northeast through California's Mojave Desert. You're on Interstate 15. You pass the exit for Adelanto. You zip through Barstow. Next stop: Baker.
Right in town, you see a huge tower. Actually, it's an electric sign flashing the day's temperature -- and billed as the World's Tallest Thermometer.

Why this? Why here? Well, back in 1913 -- July 10, to be exact -- nearby Death Valley recorded the ungodly temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a modern record in the United States.

So in 1991, a local businessman had the sign built to honor the record, and give drivers something to gape at while cruising through the "Gateway to Death Valley." Just how tall is it? An astounding 134 feet, to mark what the mercury zoomed to on that scorcher in 1913.

The three-sided tower is made from 33 tons of steel and features 5,000 lamps to make sure you know exactly how hot it is outside your air-conditioned vehicle. Your air conditioning is working, isn't it? Oh boy, you should have checked that before you left home.

Gemni Giant roadside statue

No. 3: The Gemini Giant - Wilmington, Illinois

You're driving southeast, just leaving the outskirts of Chicago. You're on Interstate 55. Shorewood is in your rear-view mirror. So is Channahon. Next stop: Wilmington. That's where you'll meet someone who may just belong on another planet.

He is the Gemini Giant, and he guards the Launching Pad Drive-In on the northeast side of town on the world famous Route 66. This fiberglass freak is one of the few remaining "muffler man" statues, which could be seen all over the U.S. in the 1960s.

GG, known as the "space age muffler man," has stood the test of time in his green garb and snazzy helmet -- clutching that 8-foot rocket to nowhere.

GG stands 28 feet tall, and weighs 500 pounds. Gemini came to Wilmington in 1965 for a mere $3,500, and was shipped from Venice, Calif., on two flatbed trailers. What, he wasn't flown in? Someone has to "enhance" his origin! Anyway, $3,500 seems like a bargain. The silver in that helmet alone most cost a fortune! (Now, that's what you call enhancement.)

Jolly Green Giant statue

No. 2: The Jolly Green Giant - Blue Earth, Minnesota

You're driving east in the middle of southern Minnesota. You're on Interstate 90, just north of the Iowa border. You jolt past Jackson. Fairmont has come and gone. Next stop: Blue Earth.

Don't let the name fool you. Green is the focus here.

On Highway 169 in town (next to a Dairy Queen), there is a 55-foot statue of the third most recognizable advertising icon of the 20th century: the Jolly Green Giant. Only Ronald McDonald and the Marlboro Man are more recognizable. Fast food and cigarettes trump vegetables once again.

The Green Giant character was created in 1925 for the Minnesota Valley Canning Company -- located in nearby LeSeuer -- which was eventually renamed after the giant because he was so popular.

The statue was erected in 1978 in Blue Earth to coincide with the opening of I-90 across southern Minnesota, which at the time completed the longest four-lane road in the U.S., stretching from Boston to Seattle.

Green Giant says about 10,000 visitors hop out of their car each year to visit old salad head. No word if a much smaller Sprout statue will ever … sprout … up.

Smiling peanut statue

No. 1: The Jimmy Carter Peanut - Plains, Georgia

You're driving west in southwest Georgia. You're on U.S. Highway 280. After getting off Interstate 75, you left Cordele, Leslie and Americus behind. Next stop: Plains.
You know this place. It's part of American history: the hometown of former President James Earl Carter. But you're not here to see him. Or pick up a can of Billy Beer. Of paramount importance is the ultra-freaky Jimmy Carter smiling peanut statue.

It's in front of the Davis E-Z shop on Highway 45. At 13-feet tall, it's a grinning reminder of our toothy leader -- who came from peanut-farming obscurity to become the most powerful man on the planet.

Three Indiana residents crafted the statue during a Carter political visit to Evanston in 1976. It’s made from a series of wooden hoops and covered with chicken wire, polyurethane and aluminum foil.

Local residents figure the goober goliath is the most photographed thing in town. And why not? It simply makes you smile.

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