Welcome to Uranus (Missouri) – Really?

One of the Uranus Billboards along Interstate 44

In late July and early August 2018 I had been on the road traveling with my granddaughter for nearly two weeks and we finally made our way to US Route 66 in Oklahoma and Missouri. On our last night on the road, we spent the night in Springfield, Missouri. As we departed down Interstate 44, one of the first things I saw was a sign telling us to visit Uranus at exit 163! REALLY? In all my years of traveling, I had never heard of this place. As we headed east we continued to see signs…you know, the “Tourist Trap” type of signs that try to draw you in.

Thanks for Picking Uranus
Help Keep Uranus Clean

The term “Tourist Trap“ tends to be used in a derogatory fashion for a place that tries to draw tourists in with unique offerings and then once the tourist is drawn in, they are “trapped“ such that they will likely purchase items that they don’t probably need. As a seasoned traveler on the back roads of America, I have run across many of these so-called “tourist traps.“ I find them rather fun! Many of them offer similar things like cups or small shot glasses emblazoned with their particular business name and logo. Perhaps, it might be better if you call a “Tourist Trap“ a “Tourist Haven.“ Why? Well, these places are usually a perfect place for a break from the driving, a restroom break, cold drinks and snacks and a chance to have a little fun while on the road. Entertainment for smaller kids and entertainment for adults…all in one convenient location.

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Big signs and a big rocket in Uranus
Uranus Shot Glasses

Of course, you will be able to find the T-shirts, the magnets and the many other kitschy souvenirs and memorabilia that you can take home to remember your visit to the “little tourist trap.

In 2002 the current location was purchased by two guys named Louie Keen and Vernon Brejcha. Keen had run some other businesses on the property before he came up with the idea of opening up a Fudge Factory in 2015 and naming the place Uranus. He is now the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Uranus.” From there he began an aggressive marketing campaign with signs that said things such as “81 Miles to Big Fun in Uranus”, “the Best Fudge Comes From Uranus”, etc. Of course, the name… most of us know the joke. No need to elucidate upon that, especially since the photos of the T-shirts and shot glasses that I provide in this post will give plenty of that kind of fodder for either laughter, eye rolls, guffaws or just the general “ewww.”

Uranus Parks T-shirt
Uranus Meat and Sausage sign
Fudge Packers Union t-shirt from Uranus
Wall Drug sign in southwest Minnesota

As with all Tourist Havens, the signs can be seen for miles before you get there. I think of the best example of this can be seen across the northern highways in the US, pushing the destination known as Wall Drug, which is located in Wall, South Dakota. I have seen signs advertising Wall Drug as far away as eastern Minnesota, and I’ve heard that there may be some even further east in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California

They actually even include the mileage to the location. Then there are the series of “Tourist Havens“ along the highways in southern New Mexico and Arizona, predominately on Interstate 10 owned by Bowlin Travel Centers of Albuquerque. Their travel centers typically incorporate a Southwestern “Trading Post” theme (not uncommon along Route 66, even in Missouri and Illinois), in the manner of small stores commonly found along Old Route 66 prior to the construction of the Interstate. Many were former independent businesses. They have names like “Flying C Ranch”, “Old West”, “Bowlin’s Running Indian”, and “Continental Divide”. The most iconic of the Bowlin businesses is one known as “The Thing,“ which adds the drawing card of a sideshow within the confines of this business that one must pay for in order to go see. But on the way in you can buy your “The Thing“ shot glasses, mugs, “Kick Ass Peanuts,” and other fine touristy memorabilia.

A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Mugs from Hell – “I’ve been to Hell and Back.”
Rabbit Hash Mugs – Rabbit Hash, KY
Seems like most tourist traps have their “resident aliens”

All of these places are worth a visit, if for anything else, just to catch the theme, see what’s going on, take some fun pictures and have a laugh. They do sell legitimate products, they sell soft drinks, they sell candy and often times things such as homemade popcorn in various flavors, or fudge. Off the top of my head, I can list off more than a dozen of these quirky tourist locations throughout the country. And there are a number of smaller ones that I’ve been to as well. But, there is something special about Uranus and the strip mall of quirky and offbeat shops located therein.

Uranus, Missouri water tower
Uranus is Expanding
My granddaughter and I with the Uranus Fudge Factory sign

When we pulled off the interstate and then drove along the old Route 66, we could see that this particular tourist attraction covered a couple or 3 acres and had a number of smaller businesses within it, all owned and run by Keen apparently. In the middle of the parking lot is a big water tower that mimics other town water towers – “Uranus, Missouri – Home of the Pirates.” I don’t think I get the joke, but I am sure there is one. Of course, along the way, the signs would say – Uranus, Missouri – not a town, but a destination – or something like that.

The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Making Uranus Fudge
Uranus Fudge – 18 different flavors daily
Uranus Fudge T-shirt

As noted above, the main drawing card is the Uranus Fudge Factory. Herein they advertise that the “Best Fudge Comes from Uranus.” You walk in the door and are immediately greeted by smiling staff members (known as Uranus Fudge Packers) who, without any hesitation or embarrassment, yell out “Welcome to Uranus!“ And that is after you have already taken photographs outside with the sign that says “Uranus on Route 66”, and the bland white sign that says “Thank you for Picking Uranus.” Keen actually got an online Chocolatier Certificate so he could begin doing his fudge.

A scene from Uranus
Another scene from Uranus
Uranus Gas ‘N Lube

Once inside this rather large shop, your eyes are filled with the eye candy temptations of a tourist trap. There is no doubt about that! All of the “trappings” are there… Numerous T-shirts with sayings about Uranus, the shot glasses, and even a sign above the fudge counter that says “The Best Fudge comes from Uranus.”

After receiving your gracious welcome, your eyes are loaded with the eye candy of the “trappings“ of this shop. The colorful T-shirts with all of their unique sayings about Uranus, the shot glasses, the snacks, souvenirs. They even sell things like Route 66 Root Beer.

Route 66 Sodas
Men’s Restroom Sign
Sign in Restroom

As with any “destination” of this sort, there are the cheap little toys for the kids that are bored on their long road trips. There is the candy in abundance and the cold drinks. There is a restroom, and, to my surprise, there was not much written on the door of the restroom or within the restroom, which for a place called Uranus, is a big surprise to me.

Big Fun in Uranus

The one thing I did notice, is that every tourist that walked through that door was smiling and/or laughing about things within the shop and that is exactly what the owners want you to do because a smile or laugh will likely equivocate into a purchase. And that is why places like this are called a “tourist traps.“

Uranus Police
Uranus Police Car
Uranus Bus

After spending a good deal of time and even a little money for a T-shirt for my granddaughter (yes I used a 20 dollar bill in Uranus), and after numerous photographs were taken, we meandered our way out into the rather large parking lot and drove around to grab shots of some of the other things to be seen. The absolutely funniest attraction was the plywood cut outs. Every tourist trap has some kind of these. You know, the kind where there’s a hole in there for you to stick your head in and get a picture taken! This Uranus version has one of an elephant, as zebra, a giraffe, an antelope and a couple of other animals. Beautifully painted and very realistic looking. The only difference is that these are on the butt end of the animal so when you are sticking your head through the hole, it appears that your head is coming out of the … well, I think you can guess. Just check out the pictures.

Granddaughter with a Zebra….
Pet Control in Uranus
Chicken Bones Billiards in Uranus
Gas in Uranus
Please Pick Up in Uranus

According to a couple of recent articles I read about Uranus, Keen expects that there are about 250,000 visitors a year to the place. No wonder Uranus is expanding!!

What is a Tourist Trap with a Dinosaur or two roaming around?
Uranus City Jail
Big Mugs
Having a Gas in Uranus
Uranus T-Shirt
Thanks For Picking Uranus

So, if you are driving to central Missouri on interstate 44 are trying to travel some of the remnants of old route 66, then the trip to Uranus should be included in your planning. Just make sure that you bring enough money because, you would not want to have the paper content of your wallet wiped out in Uranus.

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Less Beaten Paths of America: Book 2 Update

Less Beaten Paths of America: Book 2 Cover

Still working hard on my new book, titled Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions.

Writing a book is always a challenge.   It takes time to do it correctly and, unfortunately, I have had numerous other things tugging at my time over the past few months, which has put my release date later and later.

Well, I want you all to know that I am working diligently on the book and have a number of chapters completed.  When finished, this book will be well over 200 pages and chock full of color photos of some of America’s offbeat roadside attractions.

Check out Book 1: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names

Do you have Book 1 yet? – Click on the photo above to order (if you don’t have one yet)

Some of what you’ll see in Book 2

Here is a brief overview of many of the chapters (and even a few photos) to whet your whistles.

Paul Bunyans

Chapter 1: Paul Bunyan Across America – including the story of how my wanderlust started as a youth

Quirky Car Art

Chapter 2: Quirky Car Art – A tour to some of the wonderful “car art” places in America

Scrap Metal Art

Chapter 3: Amazing Scrap Metal Art – America’s artists are ingenious in their use of scrap metal to make things

America’s Giant Statues

Chapter 4: America’s Giants – Some of America’s tallest statues

Muffler Men, Uniroyal Gals and Big John

Chapter 5: Muffler Men, Uniroyal Gals and Big John

Big Native American Things

Chapter 6: Big Indians (Statues of Native Americans)

Big Cows, Bison and Pink Elephants

Chapter 7: Giant Cows and Pink Elephants

Big Fish and Big Birds

Chapter 8: Big Fish and Big Birds

Dinos and Dragons

Chapter 9: Dinosaurs and Dragons

Smiley Water Towers

Chapter 10: Smiley Water Towers

All Sorts of Quirky Things

Chapter 11: The Really Offbeat Things – Giant Twineballs, Giant Pistachios, Giant Pinto Bean Guys

Roadside America

Chapter 12: The History of the Website – Roadside America.com and how to use the site to find your own quirky and offbeat attractions.

Selfie at Rugby, ND

Check out my Amazon Author Page for more details.  Bookmark it for future reference.  I plan on a series of 12 books about my travels on the backroads of America.

Book 3: The Highways – A look at some of America’s most amazing highways

Book 4: The National Parks and National Monuments

Book 5: Scrap Metal Giants and Other Road Art

Book 6Tourist Traps, Unique Museums, Offbeat Eateries and more

Book 7Mural Towns, Graffiti Walls and Wall Art Across America and Canada

Book 8Geologic Wonders

Book 9Beyond Description – The Really Strange, Fun and Unique

Book 10: Buildings, Bridges and Other Structures

Book 11Other Stories from the Road

Book 12: From Sea to Shining Sea – Scenes of America – A Photo Book

 

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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: The Landscape in Photos

Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, CO

This is the final post from my April 2018 cross-country road trip from Lexington to Port Orchard, Washington and back. As a reminder, I covered 6000 miles and ventured through 16 states. Along the way I not only stopped to visit attractions and see the sites in towns small and large, but I also tried to capture the grandeur of the landscapes and scenery I passed by along the way.  Following are a number of scenic photos from that trip.  Enjoy the ride!  I have randomized these, so they are not in any particular order.  Captions tell the story.

Sunset in Colorado, taken on US 24 near Hartsel, Colorado
Lovely sunset after a windy day. Taken on a side road of Interstate 70 just east of Abilene, Kansas
Morning sky taken between Bend, OR and Brothers, OR (near Millican, OR) on US Hwy 20 heading east.
This is a sunset scene taken from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry in Washington. The mountains in the distance are Olympic National Park. Water is Puget Sound.
This is US Route 2 heading west towards Waterville, WA
A huge dust storm as seen from Nevada Hwy 140 west of Winnemucca, NV
Lovely mountain scene from US Route 2 near Skykomish, WA
Mt. Rainier as seen from the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry crossing the Puget Sound.
US 101 near South Bend, WA. I was heading south and it was raining. Still beautiful
Another shot of Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, CO
This is Hole in the Mountain Peak, taken from I-80 near Deeth, NV. I was heading east and this was south of me.
Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecanti National Recreation Area east of Gunnison, CO. This was taken from US Hwy 50.
Mt. Aetna as seen from US 50 near Monarch Pass, Colorado. heading east.
Sunbeams over Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs, CO
One of the peaks of the Cascades near Goldbar, WA
A snowy Interstate 90 heading west towards Livingston, Montana
Seattle, Washington as seen from a ferry in Puget Sound
A scene of the high Utah desert near Crescent Junction, UT
Heading towards Pine Canyon near Waterville, WA
Sunset over Sinclair Inlet near Port Orchard, WA
Missouri River Valley near Chamberlain, South Dakota

US Route 2 just past Steven’s Pass, WA – notice how high the show walls are on the side

Wenatchee Valley, near Wenatchee, WA
US Route 2 in Eastern Washington
A view from Oregon 202
Colorado Highway 94 near Rush, Colorado
US 50 East of Gunnison near Monarch, CO
Frenchglen Highway in Central Oregon
Skykomish River near Skykomish, WA as seen from US Hwy 2
A beach scene in Manchester, WA
The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
The high deserts of central Oregon are lovely.
The view of the Cascades as seen from the Skykomish / Gold Bar area of Washington, east of Everett.

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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