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The Super Museum

H: It was time to leave Tennessee behind and head onward to Metropolis, IL where we would visit the Super Museum along with a Museum dedicated to all things movies.

 The Super Museum was started by Jim Hambrick and is filled with over 20,000 items, along with a gift shop that you pass through before entering the museum. The owners has been collecting Superman items since 1959 and has amassed a collection of over 100,000 items.

Metropolis itself isn’t a large town, but the Superman Museum is definitely hard to miss should you get turned around – just look for the giant Superman statue and brightly colored building.

J: The enormous statue of Superman is not to be missed. It makes for the perfect photo opportunity! There are other statues riddled around the town, 2 different Lois Lanes for sure, and outside of the museum itself are some classic wooden cutouts of Superman and Supergirl with the faces cut out to add your own. We, of course, indulged before we made our way into the museum itself.

Upon first glance, if you didn’t know the museum was there, you might think it was simply a comic book memorabilia and gift shop devoted primarily to the DC universe. The door to the museum is actually behind the counter as it costs a meager $5 admission. The admission also serves as admission to the other museum Heather mentioned.

H: As far as gift shops go, there were some pretty fun items and not just Superman related – you could find a lot of other items based around other comic characters as well. We browsed quickly, but then headed toward the back and after handing over our money, we were ushered into the back area where we were greeted with more Superman items than I expected – I mean I knew there would be a lot, but wow. It’s almost overwhelming just how much there is to look at.

J: Even I, as a comic book enthusiast was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff they had that goes way, way back to the old serials of the 30’s. Original costumes worn by the actors (the suit used in the black and white serials was actually yellow and brown for filming), set pieces, props and photos, they didn’t stop! And they went from the very beginnings of Superman’s film career up through the most recent installment, Superman Returns. And that’s nothing compared to the Superman merchandise!

H: The old costumes, props, and harnesses used for flying scenes were certainly some of the highlights, but the vast majority of items were in the form of merchandise, as Josh mentioned. The museum was set up sort of the way you might see a flea market or antique store set up with “booths” housing various items ranging from cups and watches and board games to action figures (of course) and artwork. Most of the costumes and things seem to go in chronological order and are spread out, mixed within the cases and shelves of toys and random merchandise. Once you get to the end you will stumble upon a Supergirl section and a Lois and Clark section (from the TV show), and then you can make your way back into the gift shop.

J: It’s a pretty impressive array of things, some of which are standard merchandising fare like cups and toys, action figures, lunchboxes, costumes, but the joy for me was really seeing some of the outlandishly obscure things that Superman and company’s faces appeared on. None of which I can remember at the moment.

Exiting through the gift shop once more, we headed to what was going to be our second destination; The Americana Hollywood Museum. We would love to tell you all about the place with one minor issue: We couldn’t get in. The open sign was lit, taunting us mercilessly as we tried in vain to open the locked door or make it through the chained gate. Phone calls went unanswered, knocks unheeded, and our woes were paralleled by that of the poor Comcast guy who was probably there for a legitimate reason and also couldn’t get a hold of anyone. We tried to kill some time between hitting redial to enjoy some Sonic for lunch but after an hour of killing time we left Metropolis behind with a little extra time on our hands.

H: And so we drove on and kept our eyes peeled for anything interesting as we made our way toward Missouri, and as luck would have it, we found the perfect way to spend our extra time… next up on Random Trippers: Old cars and small town gangsters.

A return?

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Perhaps this will serve as motivation to finally get a new post up? We have definitely been slacking since the wee man was born. Time to make some updates before we forget the fun places we’ve been and time to get to some new places now that we have a new random tripper on board!

Ripley’s Aquarium

H: Our next stop in Galintburg was the Ripley’s Aquarium and it didn’t disappoint, though, it was fairly crowded. You walk into a brightly lit building that slowly gets darker and darker as you walk past tanks of piranhas and other fish and walk through rooms that are lit only by beautiful blue display tanks filled with Jellyfish, Moray Eels, Lionfish and gigantic crabs. I think we could have stayed mesmerized in front of the jellyfish for ages if there hadn’t been so many people.

J: I was really impressed by how well displayed most of the animals were. What I should point out is that the Ripley’s name gave me some misconceptions about the place. Having just come from the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum I had already begun mentally associating the name “Ripley’s” with things that were just bizarre or crazy. I had incorrectly started to expect really, really strange fish that I’d never seen before but instead the museum had at least half its inhabitants that were fish that are fairly standard aquarium items. Don’t let that deter you, this place was awesome. The jellyfish display was amazing but the underwater tunnel alone was worth the price of admission.

H: While many other aquariums have underwater tunnels, this was our first experience going through one. This particular one features a conveyor belt, which is fairly nice and helps keep the traffic flowing. The water in the tank seemed kind of cloudy, so we couldn’t see through it very far, but there were plenty of sharks willing to swim up fairly close and a wide variety of fish to watch. The main draw was the sharks, however, and the Sawfish.

J: The conveyor belt was the perfect touch to really keep things flowing so you don’t end up with a congestion of people in the best spots for viewing and have to fight your way to the front or wait it out and hope it’s still interesting when you make it up there. There are plenty of other tanks where I wish that were the case. It’s an aquarium so gawkers happen, but the conveyor forces you to be courteous to other people trying to see, whether you like it or not.

H: Once we were out of the tunnel, we actually looped around and went through it again before looking at more random fish and stopping at the sting ray tank so that Josh could try and touch one (alas they didn’t want him to) and then it was time to check out the penguins because who doesn’t love penguins?

J: Penguins! We must have caught them at a good time because most of the time penguins don’t seem to stand still for us. The enclosure glass was actually clean enough to get some decent shots and they had a few crawl spaces for kids to get in right next to them. I think I was too big to go in there so I didn’t try. But I wanted to.

H: I don’t know that the kids would have let him in if he tried. :p We did get one penguin in particular who was more than happy to pose for us, though. Then it was time to hit the gift shop and off to do random exploring!

J: And off to the best beer I have ever tasted: The Rocky Mountain Brewery. Random plug there, but seriously, even the beers I didn’t like were awesome. They have 3 locations in Tennessee and I highly recommend stopping there.

H: Agreed!!

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum

H: After we finished with the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, we headed over to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum. One nice thing about Gatlinburg is that everything is within walking distance, which is good since it’s a very busy tourist destination. Immediately as you buy your tickets you can see a few oddities outside the museum such as the bison with 4 extra feet sticking out of it’s back and one of the biggest tires I’ve ever seen, and then it’s through the doors you go!

J: It’s hard to really go in any kind of sequential order with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not because you’re simply bombarded with stimuli of all kinds from the get go. Hallways, stairwells, 3 floors…they all have more than you can possibly imagine full of things amazing and bizarre. There are some areas with a semblance of themes (a prison, torture devices, a graveyard full of puns) but for the most part it’s hard to wade through the memories of everything interesting that they throw at you. Bring a camera because you’ll never remember it all!

H: It is very much a maze at times, but there is a method to the madness, and a lot of interesting stuff such as shrunken heads (and a tutorial video you can watch on how to create your own!); art made from some very creative mediums such as a poo, cassette tapes, candy, telephone books, and spiderwebs; and a huge variety of miscellaneous stuff. While we were there we also saw an airplane and a train made out of matchsticks, and were inspired to visit the artist’s local museum in Iowa (which we’ll be writing about at a later date).

J: Ah yes, the art room! There was also a room with some interactive exhibits that were fun to play with; some geared toward kids and others not. As you move from room to room you not only wonder about each individual thing, from the merman to the Vespa carved from a single piece of wood, from art rooms to shrunken heads, from matchstick creations to prison shanks, you also wonder what other crazy things could possibly await you in any of the other Ripley’s Believe It Or Not locations scattered throughout the country. According to their website they have over 80 locations in 11 countries so it’s hard to wrap the mind around just what else could be in store for you.

H: I’d definitely be interested in knowing if each museum holds different oddities, or if you’ll go only to find a great deal of the same things. Either way, they can be for fun all ages and a decent way to spend a couple of hours.

J: Not all of the attractions they speak of are actually museums, though most are. They also have other things like aquariums, which is where we were headed next on our Gatlinburg tour!

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Hollywood Star Cars Museum

J: For a movie buff like myself the Hollywood Star Cars Museum was a must-hit in Gatlinburg, TN. We actually got there before they were ready to accept customers and right on the street you get a look at an automated, motion-activated Herbie the Love Bug that greets passers-by. On the street you also get a couple other ones but once the doors roll up you’re blessed with an instant view of cinematic vehicles that span more than 6 decades. And that’s just the first floor!

H: My eyes went first and foremost to the original Batmobile, which also happened to be located right next to the original Batman computer! As we looked around there were a lot of other recognizable vehicles as well. Because we were the first visitors, the people working there were pretty nice, and one woman walked around with us to talk about the vehicles and lift up the hoods on a few cars like the General Lee and to talk about other star’s cars like Mike Tyson’s Lamborghini.

J: Other notable first-floor vehicles included a few cars from a couple of Fast and Furious movies, the Terminator’s motorcycle from T2: Judgment Day, and a great photo opportunity: the Flintstonesmobile from the live action movie. They’ll do that one for free but they’ll also tell you that they’ll take your picture inside any of the cars of your choice! We found out there are a couple of unfortunate exceptions to this rule but we’ll come back to that.

H: As you walk upstairs you’re greeted by bright headlights and a roaring engine and the front end of Christine coming out of a wall (complete with legs sticking out from under the car). There are a few cases with movie paraphernalia and a short movie that you can sit watch about George Barris – the man who created many famous movie cars such as the Batmobile downstairs. Once you walk past the mini theater, you start the winding path that leads you past many recognizable vehicles, such as one of the minis from The Italian Job, and the Beverly Hillbillies Jalopy!

J: It amazed me at how many things were in there. The truck and Dorothy II from Twister, a beat up Jurassic Park Jeep, cars autographed by Don Knotts and Bob Hope…but after the area with the video is one of the 2 cars there that I wanted to see most of all; the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future. As my favorite movie of all time it was a no brainer that this was the car I wanted to sit in for getting my picture taken.

H: I think it was then shortly after we found Josh’s DeLorean that we walked a little further and found his other second favorite car, which was pretty awesome to see in person – the Ecto-1. I can’t remember the last time I saw his eyes light up so much… oh, wait. It was a few minutes previous when he saw the DeLorean. Those were definitely the most interesting cars of the bunch, though you can’t forget the Dragula from “The Munster’s” and there was also an entire section on James Bond as well. My other favorite car was yet to come.

J: Oh, right! Dolly Parton’s Cadillac!

H: No, Silly, Michael Jackson’s car! But seriously, updated Batmobile? Very awesome. If only they had turned on some lights so we could have actually seen it better. It was practically pitch-black in that room.

J: Maybe not as cool as Anna Nicole Smith’s Jaguar, but still worth noting I guess. In all seriousness, they also provided a cross-section of that one (which was from Batman Returns) where you could see all the gadgets that provided the close up shots for Michael Keaton. Another techy car across the way was K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, complete with scary David Hasselhoff wax sculpture!

H: Very scary wax sculpture… he was even more over-tanned than in real life and missing a hand. I don’t want to know where that hand is.

J: Having completed the tour and taken a large amount of pictures, we decided on the two cars we wanted to get our pictures taken inside; the DeLorean and the original Batmobile. When we talked to the person, however, their “any car” didn’t include that one which was completely off limits. I opted for the second choice and hopped into the Ecto-1. Our second stop yielded a similar result. Because the original Batmobile is so close to the wall they only allow someone in the driver’s seat, not the passenger seat which would require stepping over the prop equipment in the center console. So we went with Heather’s second choice and settled on the General Lee. The pictures actually turned out pretty good for being printed right there and were a surprisingly reasonable price.

H: I don’t really know why I chose the General Lee… probably because it was next to the Batmobile and as I had not chosen a second choice, I went for ease. The pictures were okay, I thought. My printer prints better quality to be honest, but it’s a part of the experience, right?

J: Exactly! Although not so much as the picture we took at Graceland that was terrible quality and cost twice as much. For the price they charge, they’re a decent souvenir of your time there. Just make sure before you pick a car that the car is actually one you can sit in.

H: With Souvenir in hand it was time to hit the streets again and head off to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum.

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Fort King George

Fort King George is the oldest English fort remaining on Georgia’s coast.  It was the Southern outpost during 1721-1736 until it was abandoned. In 1736, Scottish Highlanders arrived and the settlement known as Darien became an lumber exporter until the year 1925. Onsite the structures you can access are the blockhouse, officers’ quarters, barracks, guardhouse, moat, palisades, as well as the remains of three sawmills.

Fort King George

H: Thanks to Google’s timing being off, we decided to make a detour in Georgia and stop at Historical Fort King George. It was a bit out of the way, but we were lured in by Spanish Moss covered trees and the chance to stretch our legs. I suppose it should have been a sign of things to come when as soon as we got out of the car I was chomped by a deer fly that was out for blood.

J: I’ve mentioned being a native Minnesotan before and you will inevitably hear jokes about mosquitoes.  I’ve gotten used to them.  More so I seem to have a blood type that they don’t like.  Even so, when we got inside and paid for the museum and tour that accompanied the place and were instantly warned if we were going to look at the reproduced buildings on the grounds we will want to put on bug spray.  We heeded that warning and ran out to the car to spray that on to one another…and I failed horribly.  You’ll hear about that in a bit.

H: We had aerosol bug spray, and it seemed simple enough, but you really have to be particular in how you spray it – making sure you’re close enough, etc. So, once we were coughing on fumes we returned to the museum and did the indoor portion of our tour, which actually included a lot of interesting old items. There was a canoe from the 17th or 18th century, old pottery, utensils, and etc.

J: Fort King George was the southernmost outpost for the British Empire which failed colossally due to so many soldiers there dying from various diseases.  My money’s on the bugs.  The museum inside also has a video playing on an endless loop for you to learn more about the place and the times.

H: However, we did not watch the video. We didn’t know how long it was and decided not to wait for the beginning to come back around. Instead, we decided to head outdoors. Fairly quickly we started to notice mosquitos and deer flies buzzing around as we went to check out the ruins of an old saw mill and whatever else lay at the end of the trail.

J: The shade provided a nice change of pace from the heat of the sun but we quickly found ourselves overwhelmed by insects.  We had little time even for picture taking and reading the placards describing what we were looking at before we started to be eaten alive.  Or pace quickened as we moved down the trail, out of the woods, and past a swampy pond with some of the largest beetles we’d ever seen.  Still trailed by bugs we sought refuge after a brisk jog into the recreated main building which, surprisingly, the bugs did not follow us into.

H: We got a brief reprieve while looking around inside, however, we were balked by wasps. Josh and I don’t do wasps. While I would have loved to have fully explored the building and avoid the biting bugs outside, I really didn’t want to hang out with the stinging bugs inside, so we made our way outdoors again and to check out other buildings. The bugs actually weren’t too bad while we looked into barracks and blacksmithy buildings, however, when we decided to head back to check out the cemetery… they returned with vengeance.

J: We wish someone would have had a video camera to tape the escapade that was our escape from bug country.  As we started walking, Heather in front of me and staggered to the side, the clouds of bugs began to form again.  A normal pace became a brisk walk, which became a slow trot, which became as fast as we could go in sandals.  To my left I could actually see the cloud of insects at head level behind Heather and I can only assume I had one to match.  Heather clears a pair of trees to either side of the path and manages to stir up some kind of red bee-looking insects forcing me to screech to a halt.  I have to find a detour off the path between a tree and a sign that says “Alligators are not pets!  Do not approach!” when she realizes I’m no longer right behind her.  All I can do is scream “Just keep running!”, which she does, and I catch up to her in the cemetery portion.  Because hey, we want some good pictures, Heather tries to stand still while I try to, um, take care of the bug problem.

H: Bugs are annoying… really annoying, and at this point I’ve got quite a bug bite collection going, so I may have snapped at Josh when he started hitting me over the head with a rolled up magazine instead of “shooing them away” like I asked. So, we spent maybe two minutes trying to wave them away while I tried to take a picture, and it just wasn’t happening. We must have looked like idiots with all of our spazzing and yelling and ducking and dodging and whacking. It was time to call it a day, so we ran inside the gift shop for a souvinir of the day and then high-tailed it out of there. Good-bye, Georgia.

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Key West & The Ernest Hemingway Museum

H: The drive down to Key West was long, but interesting for the most part, and we got to see some very pretty water while traveling the two-lane Highway 1 towards our destination, which was a nice little hotel within walking distance of just about everything including the Ernest Hemingway Museum. We really had no idea what to expect when we got to Key West, but had heard that parking isn’t great… boy was that ever an understatement.

J: Understatement indeed!  The first thing we saw entering the town was a slew of scooters in the streets and as we got to our hotel we instantly realized why.  Few businesses have parking lots and few homes have driveways.  There simply isn’t enough room.  Instead the streets themselves have reserved parking for the residents of Key West which leaves you stuck zigzagging along 1-way streets until you find a street for public parking that actually has a spot available.  We ended up almost 3 blocks from the hotel because, despite the street next to it being public parking, it was Memorial weekend and local residents were hosting parties.

H: So that was interesting, and needless to say we just wanted to get to the hotel and freshen up a bit before hitting the streets. On the plus side of things, when we went to check in they told us they were out of Queen rooms, and would we mind being upgraded to a King Suite for the same price. There were zero arguments from us.

J: It did, however, continue the trend that began in Florida, wherein almost every room in which we stayed was too far from the wireless router to get internet access.  But the room was large, comfortable, and removed enough from some of the hustle and bustle of a busy place like Key West that it seemed a fair trade.  After all, we were on vacation.  It’s good not to be connected at all times.

H: Because our stay in Key West was going to be brief (one night) we had already decided to join in on the nightly tradition of watching the sunset in Mallory Square, so we walked the 6 or 7 blocks to get there and explored and grabbed some food. There are a lot of tourist shops (Everything $5!!) and in the square entertainers gathered as the time drew near for the sun to actually set. Be sure you’re early so you can grab a spot by the water!

J: As a native of Minnesota, and having only actually seen the ocean a handful of times before this trip started, watching the sunset in the Keys was pretty well described as amazing.  In Daytona we got to watch it rise over the ocean and we were able to watch it set that day amidst hundreds of other random strangers.  Some great photo ops as long as you’re in a spot without obstacles.

H: Which, since we weren’t there quite early enough, had a slight obstacle to work around – some sort of cement block thing in the water in front of us. It was a really neat experience, though, sitting among so many different people, some from foreign countries. That being said, we headed back to the hotel fairly soon after, sat by the pool under the stars and then decided to get a good night’s sleep as we wanted to get over to Hemingway’s house in the morning.

The tour of Ernest Hemingway’s home was probably one of my favorite tours. Not only was it interesting, but we were lucky enough to have a fun guide. They also allow you to stay and wander the house and grounds for as long as you’d like after the tour, which many places do not. This meant hanging out with some of the 50 cats in residence, about half of which are polydactyl (six-toed).

J: Informative and interesting, you learn a lot about Hemmingway’s life and residence.  Some highlights included being the second-highest location in Key West at 16 feet about sea level, his second wife replacing all the ceiling fans because they were “tacky”, and of course the cats’ drinking fountain.

H: The cat’s drinking fountain is actually made from a large olive jar from Spain and a men’s urinal that Hemingway had “rescued” from a business that was being torn down – don’t quote me on that, but I think that’s the story. Pauline (his wife) hated it and tried to cover up the fact that it was a urinal by decorating it with tiles. As the assistant editor for French Vogue, you can’t blame her. She was also responsible for having the pool put in the backyard. The pool was a massive expense and the story is that Hemingway, exasperated by the cost, flung down a penny on the half-built pool patio yelling, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!” There is indeed a penny imbedded in the cement.

J: I think it’s actually THE penny, in fact.  Tours last about 45 minutes and end near the cellar door (another rarity in Key West), after which you’re free to wander around and dodge the participants of other tours checking out the grounds.  For better photo ops, be the first tour of the day otherwise you’re going to be fighting pedestrian traffic the whole time.  There are likely other things of interest in the area, but for us it was time to head north on Highway 1 on our way back to Daytona Beach for a quick meal and bed before our next long adventure; Gatlinburg, Tennessee with some interesting stops along the way.

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