In 2016 I saw five Muffler Men and one UniRoyal Gal—two in New Jersey and one each in New York, Ohio and New Mexico. There are hundreds more Muffler Men (and nine more UniRoyal Gals) to see, but 10 seems like a significant number in just two years of casually searching. Although I usually thoroughly research before any road trip to be sure I'm not missing any roadside attractions, the UniRoyal Gal was a total surprise—we drove past her after visiting the half-wit at Mr. Bill's—which made it feel like even more of a gift from the road trip gods.
Lucy the Elephant
New Jersey is lousy with quirky roadside attractions, and Lucy is the oldest surviving one in the US. I'd been dreaming about visiting her for years, and I finally made it to Margate City this October to pay my respects. She was so much more impressive in person than I could have even imagined, proving that no photo or video can replace the visceral experience of climbing to the top of a 135-year-old elephant-shaped building.
The former Longaberger Basket headquarters, the "Big Basket," probably owes a lot to Lucy, the O.G. of novelty architecture. The fact that it was basically abandoned when we stopped there this summer on the last leg of our ALL CAPS EPIC ROAD TRIP OF DELIGHTS, makes it even more of a dream visit for me. I didn't make it to Newark, Ohio until three years after I moved to New York (from Ohio), but it was definitely worth the wait. I hope I don't have to wait quite as long to go back—the Big Basket's future might be uncertain, but its legacy as a modern-day marvel of novelty architecture is solid.
I saw more roadside attractions in 2016 than in any other year of my life, but our overnight stay at the Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, Kentucky was the absolute highlight. We planned our entire summer road trip with the Wigwam Village as the top priority, and it more than lived up to the hype. When I called to make the reservation, a woman answered the phone, "Wigwam?" and just that simple interaction was a thrill. I won't soon forget the excitement I felt when we pulled up to the dark semi-circle of Wigwams (teepees, technically), guided by the neon sign proclaiming "Sleep in a Wigawam," knowing that we were about to do just that.
World's Largest Pistachio
Despite my desire to do nothing with my life except travel from World's Largest thing to World's Largest thing, I've seen very few attractions that can make this claim. I've driven around the World's Largest go-kart track and seen the World's Largest Uncle Sam, but I was beyond thrilled to add the World's Largest Pistachio to that small list. The weirder and more obscure, the better when it comes to roadside attractions, and I'm sure there wasn't much competition in this particularly category, but it was a memorable stop, nonetheless.