WEIRD USA: The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota!

There’s a common misconception that the multi-Grammy Award winning Weird Al Yankovic only performs parody songs. For those of us who’ve been buying his records/cassettes/CD’s for nearly four decades, however, we know full well that some of his funniest stuff is completely his own. These Al-riginals include “Dare to be Stupid,” “This is the Life,” “One more Minute,” and my favorite of them all, “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.” It was included on his UHF (1989) soundtrack and revolves around a family road trip to a rather unique roadside attraction. These folks have a penchant for pickled wieners and visiting as many bizarre places in the United States they can find with the Twine Ball their clear favorite. Most of the locales mentioned in the song are real places and I had the opportunity to visit the “Mecca of albino squirrels” (Olney, Illinois) last November.

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How does Stephen King’s IT (2017) Compare?

I first read Stephen King’s “IT” when I was a sophomore in high school. It was the longest book I’d ever read at that point (later beaten by King’s full version of “The Stand” a few years later) and I remember being consumed by the story and characters. The iconic author is known for his uncanny ability of capturing the angst of youth as well as tapping into what scared us. In truth, it wasn’t until my late ‘20s when I read IT a second time that I truly appreciated that. We adults tend to romanticize childhood, reminiscing about our favorite cereals and TV shows, while dismissing the grimmer realities of neighborhood bullies, parental pressure, and how helpless we were. Many people site their first exposure to IT via the 1990 TV mini-series but I’ve always been much closer to the source material.

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Martian Munchies at the Space Aliens Grill and Bar!

If you’re in North Dakota and looking for something fun to do (and chances are if you’re in North Dakota, you DEFINITELY will be), then make sure to stop by the Space Alien Grill and Bar! It was the tail end of our family road trip and we were joined by my eldest son, Alex, who is stationed in Minot. He’d spend the last two nights of our vacation with us in Bismarck as I planned that Saturday; our only full day together. North Dakota is the least visited state in the US and, since it’s 90% farmland, I can understand why. Another interesting tidbit – if North Dakota ever seceded from the United States, it would be the country with the third most nuclear weapons. Amid all the nukes and cows lies Bismarck, an oasis of sorts with a small zoo, museum, and all the usual stores and chains (including my favorite coffee place, Caribou, which is now extinct from the Midwest) most of us take for granted.  Imagine my happiness when I not only discovered this novelty restaurant but that it was right down the street from our hotel!

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Devil’s Tower & the 40th Anniversary of “Close Encounters!”

I admit that my love of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind inspired this year’s summer road trip. The Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming had played a pivotal role in the film and, after touring all the great UFO hot-spots in the Southwest last year with the other Dave, seemed like the next logical place to go. This amazing geologic feature is considered sacred to Native Americans and is also this country’s very first National Monument with no short thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt. Despite its history, I don’t think I’m alone when I site Close Encounters as my first introduction to it.

I was seven years old back when the film was released and, at that time, much more enthralled with another 1977 blockbuster, STAR WARS.  My only connection to the film was via a “bendy” alien figure my Grandma bought me (Grandma always understood my interests better than my idiot parents did).

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Countdown to MASK-FEST: Horrorhound Weekend is close at hand!

One week from today the Indianapolis Marriott East will be bustling with horror fans and celebrities! I’ll be one of those proud fans and can’t wait go shopping in their immense dealer’s room, get a picture with Spike and Drusilla from my all-time favorite TV show, and smell the scent of latex while perusing the masks at MASK-FEST! This our final batch of photos as, this time next week, I’ll be driving out for it. In fact, I hate to cut this short, but I’ve got some packing to do….See you at MASK-FEST! ~Dave Fuentes

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WEIRD USA: Day of the Jackalope!

While driving through South Dakota, en route to the Badlands National Park, I was reminded of the road trip I’d taken with the other David  last year when we encountered THE THING in Arizona. Once we passed the Dakota line, we were inundated with signs advertising their own region’s tourist trap, the Wall Drug Store. This Great Plains “oasis” promised just about everything including a T-Rex, a five cent cup of coffee, homemade donuts, a splash park, and “free ice water.” The advertisements were unnecessary for me since I’d already made up my mind I was going to stop there weeks before the trip began. A co-worker of mine had taken a similar family vacation to the Dakotas last year and told me all about it. “Dave, you have to go there!” she said. “There’s lots to do and they have the best ice cream!” I feigned interest until she added, “Oh…and they have a giant Jackalope!”

Well…why didn’t she just say that in the first place? Of COURSE I’d be stopping at the Wall Drug Store come hell or high (free) ice water!

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WEIRD USA: King Kong vs Prairie Dogzilla!

Day two of our WEIRD family vacation was spent at Omaha’s amazing Henry Doorly Zoo – a place that definitely lived up to its reputation as being one of the world’s biggest and best! It signaled a vast improvement from our previous day and the kids seemed a lot happier which is what I was mostly concerned about. Right next to the zoo was a hamburger joint named “King Kong” that featured a loose interpretation of the “8th wonder of the world” on top of it! I really wanted to eat there (just because) but we opted to wait until we arrived in Sioux Falls for a classier dinner.  Being the lone adult traveling with three teens made things rather costly come meal time, but we’d all had it with fast food. We ended up eating at a place called the Roll’n Pin Cafe’ & Grill which was the best food we’d had since the trip began.

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