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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A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The C Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Cyclisk – Santa Rosa, California

“Cyclisk” – Obelisk made out of bicycle parts in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

Charles Nagreen Statue – Seymour, Wisconsin

Hamburger Charlie statue in Seymour, WI. Charles Nagreen is credited with inventing the hamburger.

Sam & Eulalia Frantz “Field of Corn”- Dublin, Ohio

At the “Field of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn

CastlePost Castle – Versailles, Kentucky

The CastlePost Castle near Versailles, KY

Coal Mine Canyon – near Tuba City, Arizona

Coal Mine Canyon, AZ 1983
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990

Chunky, Mississippi

Chunky, MS

Chelsea Teddy Bear Company – Chelsea, Michigan

Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI

A Christmas Story House – Cleveland, Ohio

Sumoflam at the Christmas Story House in Cleveland

Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas

One of America’s most famous roadside attractions

Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
The iconic Route 66 roadside attraction known as Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX

Christman Studio & Sculpture Park – St. Louis, Missouri

Backyard view of Christman’s gallery – including a giant head

Chocolate Hills – Bohol, Philippines

The Chocolate Hills in Bohol
Sumoflam at the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines in 2007

Craters of the Moon National Monument – near Arco, Idaho

Visiting Craters of the Moon in Idaho in 2013
Craters of the Moon drive amidst the lava fields

Camp Disappointment – near Browning, Montana

Camp Disappointment Monument – a Lewis and Clark stopover

Cathedral Rock – Sedona, Arizona

Being a Tour Guide with Nava-Hopi Tours at Cathedral Rock on Oak Creek in Sedona, AZ 1983

The Chocolate Chicken – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

The Chocolate Chicken in Egg Harbor, WI

Colter Bay Lodge – Grand Teton National Park

Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

Coffee Pot Water Tower – Nebraska City, Nebraska

Sapp’s Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City

Chain Saw Totem Pole Forest – near Medford, Wisconsin

Chainsaw Forest near Medford, WI

Cattle Egret – Angleton, Texas

Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas

Commerce, Oklahoma

Another classic Route 66 town

Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma

Catfish Capitals of the World – Paris, Tennessee & Floodwood, Minnesota

Floodwood Water Tower claims it is the Catfish Capital
Welcome to Paris Catfish – they too claim to be the Catfish Capital

Crystal Wendy’s Hamburger – Dublin, Ohio

The Wendy’s Original $150,000 Crystal Cheeseburger created by Waterford Crystal

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

Another of America’s premiere roadside attractions

Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

Creeper Trail Cafe – Taylors Valley, Virginia

The Creeper Trail Cafe is along the Virginia Creeper bike trail in Taylors Valley…about 20 minutes from Damascus through Tennessee and then back into Virginia. They have world famous cake

Crescent Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Claims to be America’s most haunted hotel. We stayed there one night and saw an apparition in our room!!

The Crescent Hotel, America’s Most Haunted in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum – Hamilton, Ontario

Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton, Ontario

Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota

Another of America’s most famous roadside attractions. They change the designs every year.

Sumoflam at the Corn Palace

Bridges of Madison County – Winterset, Iowa

Bridges of Madison County in Iowa

Cut and Shoot, Texas

Cut and Shoot City Hall, Texas
Cut and Shoot Post Office in Texas

Cows with Sunglasses – Russellville, Kentucky & Normal, Illinois

Cow with Pink Sunglasses in Russellville, KY
A colorful cow in sunglasses seen in Normal, IL

Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The famous Cowboy Bar neon sign in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Capulin Volcano National Monument – Capulin, New Mexico

Capulin Volcano – part of the Capulin National Monument in New Mexico

Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois

Another Route 66 icon – home of the corn dog

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick

Chagrin Falls, Ohio

David and Julianne at Chagrin Falls in Ohio

Chinook, Montana

Old Chinook Hotel Sign
Welcome to Chinook sign

Cool, Texas

Cool, Texas
Cool Cafe: If We Ain’t Shut We’re Open – Cool, Texas

Cathedral Falls – Gauley Bridge, West Virginia

Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge, WV

World’s Largest Can Pile – Casselton, North Dakota

No longer around, but wanted to include this classic roadside attraction

Casselton Can Pile – June 16, 2005
Sumoflam at the Casselton Can Pile

Carlos Bake Shop – Hoboken, New Jersey

Home of TV Show “Cake Boss”

Sumoflam at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ

National Corvette Museum – Bowling Green, Kentucky

Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Coot Statue – Ashby, Minnesota

Coot Statue, Ashby, MN

Clayton Dinosaur Trackway – Clayton, New Mexico

Dinosaur Statue – Clayton, NM
Clayton Dinosaur Trackway sign

Circus Workers’ Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma

Showmen’s Rest, a cemetery for circus workers in Hugo, Oklahoma

Church of Uncertain – Uncertain, Texas

The Church of Uncertain

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, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

 

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A to Z Challenge: The F Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique  towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

F The F Towns

Flagstaff, Arizona

Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 - taken in Arizona. Nava-Hopi was located in Flagstaff, AZ
Sumoflam the Tour Guide in 1983 – taken in Arizona. Nava-Hopi was located in Flagstaff, AZ
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Spacious skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Wupatki Ruins off of US 89 south of Flagstaff
My son Seth at Wupatki Ruins off of US 89 south of Flagstaff in 1992
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

I cannot do an A to Z Challenge about towns in America without including Flagstaff, Arizona.  Not only is this town the gateway to Grand Canyon National Park, it is also the jump off spot to other National Monuments including Walnut Canyon NM, Sunset Crater NM, Wupatki NM, Montezuma Castle NM, Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon, and the amazing Meteor Crater.  The town is only  a couple of hours from Monument Valley, the Petrified Forest National Park, Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell and more.  Truly a tourist haven.  And, it was a major stop on Route 66 and was at the intersection of US Highway 89 and Route 66.   From 1981 to 1983 I worked as a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours, which was a  Gray Line Tour Company.  It was there that my family began to grow…three children were born there and I graduated from Northern Arizona University.   But one of the best times in my life was working as a tour guide.  For any traveler in America, Flagstaff should be one of the Top Five stops on your list!!

Friendly, West Virginia

Friendly, West Virginia
Friendly, West Virginia
Mail Pouch Barn in Friendly, WV
Mail Pouch Barn in Friendly, WV

Friendly, West Virginia is a small town of maybe 150 people.  Located on the Ohio River across from Ohio on WV Hwy 2.  Highway 2 is an amazingly scenic drive along the Ohio River, running through many small towns.  Its only rival is the same route across the river in Ohio and Kentucky (see Fly, OH below).  The town is also the setting for the novel Shiloh, a Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor published in 1991. It is the first in a quartet about a young boy and the title character, an abused dog. Naylor decided to write Shiloh after an emotionally taxing experience in West Virginia where she encountered an abused dog. Read more about the drives along the Ohio River in my detailed post HERE.

Friendship, Arkansas

Friendship, Arkansas
Friendship, Arkansas
FriendshipAR3
Friendship Police
Sumoflam at Friendship Post Office
Sumoflam at Friendship Post Office

If I visited Friendly, obviously, I should also visit Friendship in Arkansas. This is another small community of perhaps 200 friendly folks in south central Arkansas.  It is accessible off of Interstate 30, but is right on US Highway 67. They even have a Friendship Police Department which seems like an oxymoron.  If for any other reason, you can stop there and then tell people that you finally found Friendship.  Read about my 2010 visit to Friendship (as well as Metropolis, IL which will be covered in my M Towns post HERE.

Flippin, Arkansas

Flippin, Arkansas
Flippin, Arkansas
Flippin Police
Flippin Police
Old Flippin Jailhouse
Old Flippin Jailhouse
Flippin Christian Church
Flippin Christian Church

In 2010 I took a trip to Texas for work.  On the way home I decided to take a trip through the Ozarks.  It was a bit out of the way, but was well worth it.  One of the places I visited on the way home was Flippin, Arkansas. This nice town is located in north central Arkansas, east of Eureka Springs (which I mentioned on my E Towns post) on US 412.  It is the gateway to the Ozarks and a lovely drive.  But, then again, many of us know that the word “Flippin” can be used as an alternative to another word, so when the Flippin Police pull you over and you go to the Flippin Jail or even attend church at the Flippin Christian Church or shop at your friendly Flippin WalMart, it brings a laugh.

Fair Play, South Carolina

Fair Play SC
Fair Play, SC
Fair Play Menagerie
A really interesting Church Sign in Fair Play, SC

On August 8, 2012 I was on a trip from eastern Tennessee to Atlanta for work.  Along the way I went through North and South Carolina and happened to go through Fair Play, South Carolina.  Not sure how the town got its name, but there is something about the name coming from a fight. Interestingly, throughout most of this small town, the Motto “Our Name Says It All” is posted.  The photo on the left is the main entry sign.  The town is just off of Interstate 85 and is the junction of SC Hwys 243, 182 and 59.  You can read more about my visit HERE.

Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Downtown Fergus Falls

Continental Divide Fergus Falls, MN
Continental Divide Fergus Falls, MN
Continental Divide Information Center in Fergus Falls, MN
Continental Divide Information Center in Fergus Falls, MN

On  cross country trip in March 2013, I made my way across Minnesota in the cold snowy winter.  Along the way I visited Fergus Falls.  I think it would be a marvelous place to visit in the late spring or early summer.  Being a prairie town there is plenty of wildlife.  It is also noted as a Continental Divide location.  Having lived in the Rocky Mountains for much of my life, the term Continental Divide conjurs up the place where the rivers flow east or west.  But, apparently, the land is located right on the divide between the Hudson Bay and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.  Fairly unique!!  You can read about the long trip across Minnesota and North Dakota in 2013 HERE.

Feely, Montana (Honorable Mention)

Feely, Montana
Feely, Montana

Came across a place called Feely in Montana on a trip.  It is located south of Butte on Interstate 15. Always into the touchy and feely of life, I had to stop and get a picture. No services there and no report about the place here, just a picture.

Flippin, Kentucky (Honorable mention)

Flippin, Kentucky Post Office
Flippin, Kentucky Post Office

DSC_1131

OK.  If I am going to include Flippin, Arkansas, I might as well give mention to Flippin, Kentucky, which is just north of Bugtussle, KY.  See my report on Bugtussle in my B Towns post.

Fly, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Fly, Ohio
Fly, Ohio

I mentioned Friendly, WV above and the drive along the Ohio River.  Just a tad north of Friendly and across the Ohio River is the small community of Fly, OH.   I know nothing about the place, but it can join Black Gnat, KY in my bug towns.  (I did not include Black Gnat in this year’s A to Z posts).

Four Way, Texas (Honorable mention)

Sign to Four Way, Texas
Sign to Four Way, Texas
Mural in Fourway, Texas
Mural in Four Way, Texas
Another mural in Four Way, TX
Another mural in Four Way, TX

Four Way, Texas is a very small community at a crossroads in the panhandle of Texas north of Amarillo.  I went through there while on US Highway 87 heading to Amarillo. At the junction of US 87 and TX 354, there were some buildings with a few murals.  That is pretty much all that was there.  The hamlet is named for its position on the spot where U.S. Highway 87 from Dumas to Masterson crosses the route from Channing to Lake Meredith and Stinnett.

Future City, IL (Honorable mention)

Sign to Future City, Illinois...I guess it is not there yet??
Sign to Future City, Illinois…I guess it is not there yet??

This is the first nearly ghost town mention in my A to Z Challenge. Future City was developed as a suburb of Cairo, IL, which sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers around the turn of the (19th-20th) century. At that time Cairo was still growing and prosperous. By 1912 Future City would have had a population of several hundreds. Between 1912 and 1913 Future City was almost entirely destroyed by three separate flooding events. The town was  partially rebuilt, but Cairo has since collapsed and the area has experienced a drastic drop in population. Today there are 6 or so occupied homes in Future City’s otherwise empty grid of streets.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Learn More About the A to Z Challenge and visit hundreds of other participating blogs (click logo below)

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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