The New Roadside America
by Mike Wilkins, Ken Smith, and Doug Kirby, Fireside, 287 pages
“Will your precious days of leisure end in another excursion to the dull wastelands of Six Flags, Busch Gardens, and Disney?” ask the authors at the outset of this most American of guidebooks. “Or has the restless spirit of true tourism gotten hold of you?” That’s the spirit that compels you to drive that extra fifty miles to see the World’s Largest Olive (Lindsay, California), the Pig Driving a Cadillac (Hot Springs, Arkansas), the Wonderful World of Tiny Horses (Eureka Springs, Arkansas), the Five-Story-Tall Chicken (Marietta, Georgia), or Jayne Mansfield’s Death Car (St. Augustine, Florida). They’re all here, along with hundreds and hundreds of other attractions, some quite grand (“The World of CocaCola Pavilion opened in 1990, a $15 million, forty-fivethousand-square-foot shrine to what Coca-Cola humbly calls ‘the most successful product in the history of commerce—”), but most of them parched and desperate little heartbreakers, the alligator farms and stuffed multiheaded animals that embody the entrepreneurial spirit at its most poignant. It’s hard to imagine how the authors could have catalogued so many of these attractions even in their collective three lifetimes, but the work is clearly a labor of love, albeit love fortified with a sharp and sardonic wit.