(ODD)yssey, Blog Post

Why do I write about weird places and quirky history? A brief explainer

Below is a shortned version of the introduction to my new book, “Guide to the South’s Quirkiest Roadside Attractions,” Books-a-Million exclusive. You can order one here for $16.95.

Every now and then I wonder: Was I born being attracted to weirdness? Or was I an ordinary kid whose mind was somehow warped over the years?

All I know is, if you’d told my 10-year-old self I would one day honeymoon at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, I would have nodded and said, “Sounds about right.” When my big brother, Doofus, and I were kids, we couldn’t get enough of the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I basically mimicked everything he did so it was probably Doofus’ fault. Yeah. I’m willing to go with that theory.

However it happened, I never dreamed it would give me a career. I never saw a degree for “weird news reporter” in my college handbook and had no idea I’d ever make a living writing about car-part art, Stonehenge replicas and Bigfoot. Some of my favorite oddities are the things the person who created them didn’t even know were weird.

The book is only available at Books-a-Million, in stores and online.

Maybe it’s a Southern thing. We hate hiding our otherness. We like to put it right out on the front porch where anyone can enjoy it, even when that means an old toilet with petunias planted in it or a dinosaur molded from concrete. We like to put a tiara on it and have it lead the crazy parade. Now much of the rest of the world is catching on to what Southerners knew all along: Quirk is cool. Peculiar is popular. Weird is wonderful.

Weird tourism is on the rise and I, for one, think it makes the world a better place. Wearing our weird on our sleeves is going to be a great unifying movement for this country. Knowing all of us have a little weird in us, that none of us is completely normal, is what makes America a great country.

To help others enjoy the weirdness on our roadsides, I’ve created a handy guide to such sites as the World’s Largest Glass of Bourbon (Kentucky), a dental pick large enough to work on the Jolly Green Giant (Alabama), a house made from beer cans (Texas), a Bigfoot museum (Georgia), spaceship houses (Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina) and pretty much the entirety of Florida.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t room to list every quirky site in the South but there are enough in the following pages to keep you and your family busy with day- and weekend trips for years to come. Remember: Always brake for the bizarre. Life is too short to be just like everyone else.

How to Use this Guide

This guide includes unusual and quirky sites from 11 Southern states to help you plan road trips of just about any length or theme. NOTE: Some of these will likely be impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. Call first.

Listings in each state are divided into four parts:

Roadside Attractions: Objects you can see from the road, making them perfect the perfect stops for family trivia games or selfies.

Outsider Art: Also known as folk art, this unique kind of roadside oddity is the result of creative minds, quick hands, an abundance of time and access to lots and lots of scrap metal, mosaic tile, concrete or whatever is handy. Some collections are indoors, some are outdoors.

Locales: Places you will likely want to park your car and get out to explore. Many are quirky museums or historic homes that charge admission. Others are whimsical places to eat or stay overnight. But they are definitely worth the detour.

Tombstone Tales: Intriguing headstones and the stories behind them. Most cemeteries are open during daylight hours only.

Clockwise from top left: Grave of the Gypsy Queen, Meridian, MS; Monster Mart and the Legend of Boggy Creek Museum, Fouke, AR; Mammy’s Cupboard restaurant, Natchez, MS; Giant dalmatian, Shreveport, LA (Photos by Wil Elrick)

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