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New England Highway Attractions OR Are They Distractions?
Let’s take a car ride starting in Connecticut and ending in Maine. Many of the attractions are famous, but why? We will start at the Willimantic Frog Bridge, sometimes called the Thread City Crossing.
Perched on large spools of thread are four-eleven foot frogs. I can understand the thread, for during the mid-19th century the cotton mills provide jobs for the community. History records tell of a severe drought in 1754. The townspeople were awoken by a screeching noise. Not knowing what the sounds were, they went outside swinging muskets. Next morning they discovered scores of dead frogs. The frogs were looking for water in small area puddles. The bridge was dedicated to the Frog Battle of 1754.
Continuing to Middletown, we come upon the World’s Largest Jack in the Box and the World’s Largest Bobbing Head Doll. Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center is the home to 500 framed 3-D paintings of Jesus walking on water, 8,000 old sports jackets and 800,000 old pennies. He owns 40 acres of land housing 30 tractor-trailers with who knows what inside. Guinness book of records declined the title of Bobbing Head doll because it really isn’t a doll. The Jack in the Box isn’t in a box and has no crank, but who is going to argue with Wild Bill.
Bugs in Rhode Island
Crossing the state line via Route 95 into Rhode Island we see the Big Blue Bug. The termite is 58 feet long, made from steel and fiberglass. The bug sits on the roof of the New England Pest Control. The original bug was painted purple, the authentic color of a Recticulitermes Flavipes. Years of New England weather faded the bug and people started referring to it as the Big Blue Bug. That was good for business so the company paints the bug blue every few years. The bug made appearances on Oprah and the movie, Dumb and Dumber. It was also featured on a Rhode Island scratch lottery ticket. In 2002 the bug made a good will tour, traveling by flatbed truck to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. While off the roof, the legs were bolted to the roof, making the bug hurricane proof. Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to advertise beside the bug. The bug's advertising schedule is booked two years in advance.
Newport has many tourist sights but the Mysterious Viking Tower is still unsolved by many. No one knows who built it and when. Some think the Chinese, the Portuguese or the Knights Temple from Medieval Scotland. Most think it was Leif Erikson. It is 30 feet high and made of rocks. During an archaeological excavation in 2007, they turned up evidence of medieval times. An article in 1741 says, ‘the old stone mill,’ was used for storing hay, or power store, or the Americans used it as a look out, or the British used it for munitions. Whatever story you want to use, someone will back you up.
We next travel into Massachusetts along Route 93 via Dorchester. Looking at the painted gas storage tank you may think someone dropped several different cans of paint. The design is actually named and is famous. The 'Rainbow Swish' is the largest copywrited work of art in the World. The designer, Corita Kent, was a former nun and protestor of the Vietnam War. The blue stripe has a hidden silhouette of Ho Chi Minh. Some may see his forehead, nose, lips and long beard. The yellow stripe looks to some like Fred Flintstone. Kent has denied these suggestions.
Our next stop in Massachusetts will be in Sherborn to see Emily the Cow. Emily was heading to the slaughter house in 1995. She jumped a gate and escaped. For 40 days she roamed free with the aid of sympathetic vegetarians. She found shelter in Sherborn’s pet cemetery known as “Peace Abbey.” She became the silent spokescow promoting meat free diets. She died in 2004 and her owners commissioned a life size likeness to stand at her grave. Her statue is between Mother Teresa and Gandhi. It was dedicated on Earth Day 2005, with the inscription, “Sacred Cow Animal Rights Memorial.”
Gorilla and a Chair
Upon entering Vermont we spy a huge gorilla holding a Volkswagen Beetle. The 'Queen Connie' was built of steel-reinforced concrete by local artist T. J. Neil. Neil had done some yard enhancements around a family pool. The family owned an auto sales company and asked Neil to try something else. That something else was a Giant Gorilla. The family questioned his idea and he responded by saying the gorilla would be holding a car. They said sure, but make his other hand low enough so people could sit in the palm for picture taking. The palm is hard to get in and easy to fall out.
Once into Bennington, Vermont we will stop at the World’s Tallest Ladderback Chair. In 1969 a furniture company built a 19 foot tall ladderback chair in a parking lot. During the harsh winters, the seat rotted and the chair was taken down in 2000. A New York furniture company bought the store and started a campaign to ‘bring back the chair.’ December 1, 2012, a replica was built, using 3,000 pounds of cedar, white pine, and 1000 feet of special rot-resistant marine rope for the seat. 20 days later the chair collapsed in a winter storm. Within one month the chair was fixed and its’ legs anchored with chains into cement. It is still standing, or sitting.
Too Small for Outer Space
The first American to fly into outer space was from New Hampshire. Alan Shepherd made that historical flight on May 5, 1961. In 2009, the model Redstone Rocket was made. It is a life size perfect replica of the 92-foot-tall Mercury rocket that took Alan into space. The original and the copy are only six feet wide. This sights can be seen in Concord at the McAuliffe-Shepherd Discovery Center.
Rindge, New Hampshire is the home of the Cathedral of the Pines and the Memorial Bell Tower. The tower was designed in part by Norman Rockwell. It is the only memorial for women only. It is dedicated to the patriotism and sacrifices and contributions of American women in war. The tower is 55 feet of fieldstones with four large bronze reliefs’ depicting women serving. There are a total of 26 bells.
Paul Bunyan is Everywhere!
Our journey continues to the final state of Maine. Maine is the only American state with a one syllable name. Skowhegan is the home of the World’s tallest and skinniest Indian. He is 62 feet tall and stands on a 20 foot base. He is carved from raw pine trees and holds a fishing trap. He was dedicated to the Abnaki Indians who helped the Pilgrims. The plaque read at the 150th anniversary of Maine in 1969 states, “Dedicated to the Maine Indians, the first people to use these lands in peaceful ways.”
Bangor has the largest statue of Paul Bunyan in the world. Bangor is the birthplace of lumber industry so they made a statue of Paul. He stands on a stone pedestal some 31 feet high and weighs 3,700 pounds. Author Stephen King bought the statue to life in 1986 in the movie “IT.” Several other states have Paul Bunyan statues: the most famous is in Portland Oregon because it is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Other states include Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have Paul Bunyan statues. Another famous Paul Bunyan is right in our New England state of Connecticut. A lumber business put up a 26 foot tall Paul Bunyan. The town law says no sign can be more than seven feet high. The business replaced the axe with an American flag. You can have an American flag as high as you want it.
There is much to see and more to learn about our wonderful country. Take your time, stop, look and learn about your surroundings.