The Cathedral of Junk, Cadillac Ranch and the World’s Largest Roadrunner: Oh what sights I’ve seen

Everyone has quirks. Some are more lovable than others. My father’s inability to lose a game of Trivial Pursuit gracefully. My stiff British upper lip friend’s utter discomfort with the thought of Croatian nudist beaches. My cat’s belief that ferociously dribbling all over me whenever I pet her is a suitable gesture of gratitude.

People who loudly ask me why a movie character has chosen to do something halfway through a film we are both watching for the first time, and individuals who choose to communicate solely in text speak even though it’s not 2002 anymore do not qualify as lovable.

My quirk is that I love novelty attractions, especially Big Things.

What are Big Things? I hear you cry. Well my dear Watson, Big Things are a cult phenomenon, novelty sculptures built to attract attention and more often than not, tributes to oddest things you can think of. The list is long and all manner of things are represented – giant rolling pins, food and fruit too numerous to mention and animals of every variety.

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The Giant Koala of Victoria. Sadly despite having lived in Melbourne for a year and a half, it’s still on my To-Do List.

Faithful readers of this blog (Hi Mom) will know I spent a year living in Texas. The vast majority of the world know that Everything’s Bigger in Texas and the Big Things of Texas hold no exception.

In no particular order, here are five of the best novelty attractions I visited whilst in Texas.

1. Beer Can House – 222 Malone, Houston

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My cat’s quirk is excessive levels of saliva, mine is Big Things and John Milkovisch’s was beer. Between 1968 and 1988, John used an estimated 39,000 cans to create the glorious Beer Can House.

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Courtesy of the Beer Can House website.

2. Cadillac Ranch – West of Amarillo

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Any trip to Amarillo, TX  made in the company of British people will involve approximately 882 renditions of ‘Is This the Way to Amarillo?’ You have been warned.

Behind every novelty attraction in Texas lies an eccentric Texan man. In the case of Cadillac Ranch, there are three men. Installed in 1974 by public artists Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, Cadillac Ranch is outside Amarillo City Limits and is compromised of ten Cadillacs stuck upside down in the desert. Visitors are encouraged to bring spray paint and leave their own mark.

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3. The 3rd largest fire hydrant in the world – 400 Walnut Street, Beaumont

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When it was built as a promotional tool for 1999’s release of 101 Dalmatians, the spotted fire hydrant was the largest in the world. Sadly, as years have gone by, bigger (but perhaps not so creatively decorated) fire hydrants have been built and Beaumont can now only lay claim to the third largest fire hydrant in the world.

Located in front of the Fire Museum of Texas, which includes lots of props and fake engines for photo opportunities, the fire hydrant is one of Beaumont’s more infamous highlights.

4. Paisano Pete, the Largest Roadrunner in the World – Fort Stockton town centre

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I’m sad to announce that since my visit to Fort Stockton, it appears Pete has been dethroned as the largest roadrunner in the world, and some usurper has taken his title. I’m still claiming it.

5. The Cathedral of Junk – 4422 Lareina Drive, Austin

And the best of them all…

Austin, hope of Keeping it Weird. While some members of the local council ordered parts of the Cathedral of Junk to be removed a few years back due to safety concerns, the Cathedral of Junk is still a glorious monument to Austin’s weirdness. One photo doesn’t do the Cathedral justice, and it was hard enough cutting down the following photos.

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Vince Hannemann’s tribute to junk art and the remnants of the scrap heap is a truly unique site and anyone in Austin should know that is epitomized the ‘weird’ nature of the Live Music Capital of the World. It’s already escaped numerous run-ins with the authorities and long may it continue!

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