Friday, January 24, 2020

South of the Border

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011


For a few years during my childhood, my family would drive down to Florida every February, and my brother and I always anticipated the stop at South of the Border.  If you have never heard of South of the Border, then you haven’t done much driving on I-95.  This roadside oddity, literally just south of the NC/SC border, is a Mexican themed, well, tourist trap, complete with its own motel, multiple gift shops, arcade, and restaurant.  For decades, it was a must-see spot for folks driving to DC or Disney, though it seems we’re hard-pressed to figure out why.  At the time, signs for it would pop up hundreds of miles away; I believe when I was younger they began showing up in northern Virginia, heading southbound anyway.  To be honest, I don’t have much memory of just why I liked stopping at the place.  There were big statues of animals and Pedro, the place’s mascot.  Sure, there were fireworks, but even at that young age I knew cheaper fireworks could be found elsewhere.  I remember my parents saying even back then, “This place is stupid.”  I’m pretty sure they only stopped there to shut the kiddies up.


Fast forward about 20 years.  Since my wife and I have been vacationing in coastal North Carolina for the past few years, I wanted to make a day trip out of SotB, since I hadn’t been there in nearly 2 decades.  At first she was hesitant, but then when I mentioned a bomb crater would be included in the day’s itinerary, she agreed.  So off we went, to see if my childhood memories were accurate, or if SotB was indeed “stupid.”  Was there more to this place than gift shops and kitsch statues?  Hearing many people say the place had gone downhill in recent years added to my curiosity.  The dwindling number of signs along I-95 and their ever-shrinking radius seemed to reflect this idea; I believe the first southbound SotB sign now appears somewhere in the middle or bottom of NC as opposed to northern Virginia 20 years ago.


The 200′ Sombrero Tower is very noticeable from I-95.  Upon pulling in, however, we learned that this place needs a lot more than a 20-story hat to keep tourists’ attention; the place was a virtual ghost town, with maybe three other cars in the parking lot.  Much of the animal statuary from my childhood was gone, not that this should be a selling point to begin with.  The first building we entered was the arcade.  The sign promised “hundreds” of games; there were maybe twenty.  A few buildings were closed.  We entered a few different gift shops, all of which sold essentially the same stuff; we of course bought our obligatory fridge magnet and shot glass.  Some of the merchandise was quite off-the-wall, even for a place like this.

I’d also like to point out that even the signs have gone downhill.  Besides there being fewer of them, they are now much more boring.  I remember when I was a kid, they were over-the-top ridiculous, with terrible puns, gaudy colors, and often 3-D or used some other sort of prop.  In short, they were creative; they made you WANT to visit SotB.  The new signs just plain suck; they’re all black with ugly white lettering. I was going to do a side-by-side comparison, but I’m having trouble finding pictures of the older signs online.  I had a book of old SotB signs I bought as a kid; if I can find it, I will scan some pictures and post them.

There really wasn’t much to do, so we walked around for a bit and took some photos.



Ethnic stereotypes have never been so happy to see you!





I love that game!












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Journey Behind the Falls

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2011

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On the Canada side of Niagara Falls you can quite literally walk behind them, after an admission fee, of course.  A manmade tunnel was blasted behind the falls and has 2 observation areas.  Observation is used loosely here; all you’re going to be seeing is rushing water.  Visitors are barricaded from the ends of the tunnels.


It’s also not much of a journey; an elevator brings you down to the tunnel, and the tunnel is not all that long.  It is cool to be standing directly behind the falls, though.  All in all, interesting experience, but something that is likely not a repeat.



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Desert of Maine

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2008

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A desert in Maine is just about as out of place as a palace in West Virginia. The Desert of Maine technically isn’t a true desert; it’s made up of glacial silt rather than sand. The silt was deposited here during the last Ice Age, and over the years it became buried under topsoil. When the Tuttle family built a farm here in the 1700’s, overgrazing and poor soil maintenance slowly eroded the topsoil away, and one day the “sand” finally emerged from its slumber. It grew, and despite all their efforts to stop the spread, the Tuttle family was eventually forced to abandon farming by the early 1900’s. The property was sold and turned into the tourist attraction it is today. The only remainder of the Tuttle farm is a barn that now serves as a sort of mini museum.

Visitors can take a guided driven tour of the desert or can walk it solo. Since we stayed at the desert’s campground overnight, we got to walk it for free. There are signs here and there marking points of interest, like old Tuttle farm equipment or trees buried in the dunes.

All in all, it’s a neat little oddity to check out. Keep in mind, though, that you’re essentially paying to walk around to look at sand..errr, glacial silt. So if that sounds corny to you, you probably won’t want to check this out.
I thought it was a fun stop though.


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Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavor Graveyard

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2008

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Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is quite a popular tourist destination in Vermont. But while most people go there to sample flavors, see ice cream being made, or to check out the gift shop, I had a different agenda. Up on a hill a bit to the side of the factory is a graveyard, one unlike any other on the site, for there lie over 20 flavors that have passed on. Each “headstone” has a pretty silly epitaph written on it. While some flavors sound appealing and made me wonder why they flopped, others are way more obvious. Peanuts & Popcorn? Really?
Their “birth” and “death” dates are also noted.

View of the factory from the graveyard.

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Bushkill Falls

Posted by Stu On May - 21 - 2006

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Stopped here while checking out potential towns to move to in PA. 9 bucks to hike around waterfalls….and they card you if you pay by credit. I’m not even sure why I’m including this on the site, but if I have The Flume on here, I guess this’ll fly.

There are 4 marked trails, the more difficult ones being a few miles in length. Due to the weather and our tight schedule, we only got to walk the second shortest of the four. And of course, right after we left the weather cleared up.
Overall, it’s a nice place to walk around. If you like waterfalls and to pay for the privilege of walking, go for it.

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Lucy the Elephant

Posted by Stu On April - 20 - 2004

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Most people look at you funny if you tell them there’s a 6 story elephant near Atlantic City.

Lucy was built in 1881 to attract people to Margate (South A.C. at the time) and to hopefully buy property there. Over the years, she’s been a real estate office, a bar, and a one time summer home. She’s also been half-buried in sand, ravaged by storms, and moved 2 blocks from her original location.

You can take a tour of the inside of Lucy, which is about 20 minutes. The tour finishes on the howdah (the thing on her back).


Just like a real elephant, Lucy has 5 toes on her front feet and 4 on her back.

Inside Lucy. The walls are painted the same color as a real elephant’s stomach.

The round holes are where her eyes are.

For getting the number of toes and color of her stomach right, the people who named Lucy forgot one lil’ thing: only male Indian elephants have tusks.

For more info on Lucy, or to find out the hours you can visit, check out her site:

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