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Updated on March 21, 2011

What the Heck! Let's Stop and See this Thing

As you drive east from Tucson on Interstate -10 you begin to encounter giant yellow billboards with the words The Thing? in large blue letters.

In addition to appearing frequently, they appear on both sides of the road so that, no matter on what side of the car the passengers are sitting or the driver's gaze is resting, you will see the signs. If you miss one, another is just down the road.

As if your curiosity about the nature of the thing was not enough, the larger signs also inform you that The Thing? has a Dairy Queen Restaurant with it. Food and mystery. What better incentives could there be to induce a traveler to take a break on this long stretch of desert road?

We Visit "The Thing?"

Actually, there is the spectacular Texas Canyon Rest Area, which I described in a previous hub, where one can stop, take a short walk, use the rest rooms, get some food from the vending machines and take in the fantastic scenery.

Two miles or so past the Texas Canyon Rest Area is exit 322 for The Thing? and that is all that can be found at exit 322 except for a couple of dirt roads leading into the desert.

Of course on our little day trip we had to stop. My son and I had stopped there on previous trips years ago but my new wife and step-son had never been there, so it was new to them.

We Approach "THE THING?"

Stepping Inside, We See the Door Leading to "THE THING" Opposite the Main Entrance to the Building

To Our Left is a Giant Souvenir Shop, While to Our Right is the Dairy Queen - All Conveniently Under One Roof

Not Having any Change On Me, I Gave the Boys a $1 Each to See "THE THING?" - and 16 Year Old Vadim Conveniently Forgot to Return My Change

While Bella Shops, I Amuse Myself With My Camera.

A $28 Side Trip

THE THING? is a living relic from the mid-twentieth century. Today, as we speed down the interstate in an air conditioned car at 70 miles per hour (actually more like 80 since the Highway Patrol was working its speed traps elsewhere that day) with the kids in the back plugged into their i Pods and portable game players, it is sometimes difficult to remember what car travel was like in the not too distant past. In those days, it was quite an adventure to set out into the unknown, speeding along two lane country roads at 40 miles per hour, with the windows down to keep cool, while we kept pestering our parents with "how much longer?" and "are we there yet?" (both of which we started asking about ten minutes after my father backed out of the driveway).

Seeking to cash in on the new tourist trade sparked by the automobile, enterprising merchants, living in out of the way towns, began providing food and gasoline to passing travelers. When competition began heating up, the more ambitious ones started adding souvenirs and found creative ways to divert travelers to their establishments. THE THING? was one method - provide some odd ball form of entertainment and tantalize the traveler with hundreds of roadside signs.

Others, like a drug store in the middle of nowhere in the Dakotas, named Wall Drug, simply played on curiosity by putting up signs around the West inviting people to stop at Wall Drug. They even gave out, or most likely sold, bumper stickers for people to put on their cars and signs for people to place along the roadside on their way home. Soon the West, and parts of the East, were littered with signs encouraging visitors to Visit Wall Drug. It worked. Seeing the signs on a road trip out West, my Uncle John detoured about 100 miles because he was curious to see what Wall Drug was all about - it turned out to be a drug store with a food counter and a sign larger than anything else in the area.

Well, this marketing ploy still works for the owners of THE THING? What started out as a quick stop to take some pictures, ended up costing me $28 in museum tickets and souvenirs for my wife and two sons. And all I came away with, other than some credit card receipts, were these pictures.

Hope you enjoyed this $28 photo collection!

You Didn't Really Expect Me to Give Away the Secret? Did You?


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    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Linda Carson - thanks for visiting and commenting. As to your question, I am not sure if it is real or not. It does look real though.

    • profile image

      Linda Carson 8 years ago

      I had to stop and see what all the signs were about also.

      Sign after sign,after sign........... you just have to stop!

      It was worth a dollar....pretty cool too

      Is it real?

    • profile image

      Ministry 9 years ago

      Great place. When I lived in Sonora we used to visit family in Arizona and we used to stop everytime in The Thing. Now I am traveling with my kids, expecting they feel the same surprise I felt.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 11 years ago from Scotland

      more great pics chuck and the thing had me curious lol.....jimmy