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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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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WEIRD Nebraska and Boring Iowa!

Since we Daves met up in Pennsylvania last March, and then again for his birthday in New England in May, there were no epic road trips planned for us together this year. I did have several potential ones in mind for 2017 before retooling one a bit to do with my kids instead.  It involved us driving through South Dakota, going as far west as the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Since my eldest son, Alex, is stationed at a military base in North Dakota, we’d also make a point to go and visit him as well. Ever since my marriage crumbled about five years ago and we Daves decided to incorporate a few Ohio zoos in addition to a Horrorhound Weekend, road trips have become rather sacred to me. It’s an opportunity to escape the mundane acts of real life and remind ourselves that there’s a big, beautuful world out there. The kids had never gone on a big road trip before and certainly not one designed by me. So hop on in the passenger seat, folks, and let’s relive this WEIRD solo Dave adventure together…

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Going Buggy over the Car Creatures of Erie, Pennsylvania!

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After a busy day of running around Erie, Pennsylvania us Terror Daves had one more stop to make before settling in at the Tinseltown Movie Theater to catch a screening of Skull Island. Obviously we don’t need any warm-ups when it comes to seeing giant monsters but, thanks to one of Erie’s creative locals, that’s exactly what we got! Dick Schaefer managed to turn trash into treasure by converting old broken vehicles into giant bugs and there was no way Dave wasn’t going to figure out a way to add that to my already busy pre-birthday weekend itinerary. 

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Haunted Pennsylvania: The Erie Cemetery!

Smack dab in the middle of Erie, Pennsylvania are 75 acres dedicated to its dead. The 167 year old cemetery is treasured by its community for its beautiful setting and historical markers while others whisper of its darker side. I, myself, knew nothing of it until that cold Saturday morning in early March when the other Terror Dave, Dave Fuentes, drove me through its gates. That in itself wasn’t unusual, we Daves enjoy visiting old graveyards, but there was something rather unique about this one. And so, within minutes of our arrival, we’d begin our search for the crypt of a vampire. 

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It Came from the Trick Shop…JJ Blinkers!

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Once upon a time, American communities boasted a plethora of privately owned “mom and pop” stores that carried unique items guaranteeing no two were the same. Often they were operated by local residents whom you knew by name and, more importantly, knew yours along with your interests. Eventually big name corporations would arrive and wipe most of them out by featuring standard merchandise (usually cheaper) via large retail stores that enticed busy consumers with the luxury of a “one stop shop.” The dawn of the Internet would present further challenges as online sales and auctions made tracking down even the most elusive item as simple as the press of a button. Though we may have an easier time heading to our nearest Walmart or ordering something from the comfort of our homes, there will always be something lost in doing so. Those of us who grew up in a world dominated by private businesses know full well that there was a sort of ambiance being inside their musty walls and surrounded by a cornucopia of like-items you could see with your own eyes and touch with your hands.  Say what you will about convenience, it will never compare with the full immersive “experience” these places offered.

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