Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Along the Tourist Trap Trail

by Pa Rock
Eternal Tourist

This morning I saw an article on the Internet that placed recommendations on several popular United States' tourist attractions.  Three of the ones that received positive recommendations were places that I have visited and enjoyed.  One was Graceland, home of the King, which sits in a busy part of Memphis, Tennessee.  I visited Graceland with a bus load of high school seniors (as a trip sponsor) within a couple of years after the death of Elvis.  His body had been buried on the estate grounds, and his mother's body had also been removed from its original burial place and re-buried on the grounds of Graceland next to her son.  If memory serves, the graves were near the swimming pool.

The Graceland mansion was not open to the public at that time because one of Elvis's elderly aunts was still living there.  Our visit was carefully restrained to the front wall of the property - which was covered with messages from die-hard fans, and the grounds around the graves.  Our bus driver, also a school employee and trip sponsor, slipped off and walked around the big house where he managed to meet the person responsible for caring for the King's cars.

Today Graceland itself - the house - is open to tourists for forty dollars a pop, and an extra forty will buy and extended special tour that allows tourists to see the Presley cars and his personal jet.

A fool and his money . . .

Another recommended place listed in the article was the Cafe du Monde in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans - and a trip to the Big Easy is truly not complete without multiple stops at this famous landmark.  The Cafe du Monde is a huge open-air coffee shop that seats over 400 and never closes.  It is internationally known for beignets, wonderful little deep-fried fritters that are covered in powdered sugar and sold warm.  Great cafe au lait is also available and much in demand.  The Cafe du Monde is a great place to sober up after a night of carousing in the French Quarter.

The other tourist attraction that was recommended and which I have visited was the infamous Wall Drug of Wall, South Dakota.  As you drive northwest from the central United States, billboards for two attractions start springing up with annoying regularity.  The first stop that one "must" see is the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota - a large Moorish Revival building which has the look of a Shrine Mosque and is decoratively (and completely) covered in corn and other grains.  The Corn Palace is large enough to accommodate an annual rodeo, polka festival, and high school and college basketball games.  The late Senator George McGovern was a native of Mitchell.

The second tourist attraction on the road heading northwest is Wall Drug.  The signs to Wall Drug are everywhere, with most telling weary travelers just exactly how many more miles they must drive to reach the famous drugstore.  Well, it used to be a drugstore, but now Wall Drug is a rustic, sprawling shopping complex with a variety of shops and several places to eat.  Wall Drug offers free ice-water and 5-cent coffee to those who stop to shop.   More that two million people visit the place annually and sales reportedly top ten million dollars a year - a sum which would buy a bunch of billboards.

And for those who stay on the road past Wall Drug, there are the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and eventually Yellowstone Park - nice places, one and all, but clearly a letdown after the Corn Palace and Wall Drug!

America, it's a great country!  Now, where exactly is that giant ball of twine?

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