Here, in no particular order, are eight weird roadside monoliths that are enormous enough to make you grab for your camera and e-mail photos to friends. There are plenty more oddities out there, large and small, so load up the minivan and create your own list.
Bangor: Paul Bunyan Statue
Though he looks like a giant street thug and sports an eerie smirk, there’s no need to call the cops over this guy.
The sign for the 35-foot-high, 3,700-pound figure brags that it’s the world’s largest statue of Paul Bunyan. Leaving aside the question of exactly how many people would bother to build a Bunyan monument, that’s pretty impressive. And appropriate, too, since Bangor claims to be the birthplace of the legendary logger.
Bunyan slings his ax over his shoulder and grabs onto a pike (which may serve the key purpose of keeping him upright in a storm). Donated to Bangor in 1959 for the town’s 125th anniversary, the statue’s fiberglass and steel frame is supposedly ‘‘hurricane-proof,’’ able to withstand 110-mile-per-hour winds. Oh, and of course ready to chop down hemlocks when needed.
Bass Park, 519 Main St., 207-947-0307.
Salisbury, Vt.: Giant Gorilla Holding a VW Beetle
Though it prides itself on its billboard- and litter-free highways, Vermont has its share of strange stuff. Ever wonder where you could find the world’s tallest filing cabinet? It’s in Burlington.
But even more impressive is the roadside gorilla statue along US Route 7 between Leicester and Salisbury. Nicknamed Queen Connie, she was constructed in 1987 out of reinforced cement. Connie’s detail is superb, right down to her gorilla-vampire set of choppers.
But Connie doesn’t just stand there. Her left arm is stretched to the sky and, like a muscular waiter with a tray, she balances an actual VW Bug. How did the Bug get up there? How come the whole thing doesn’t topple over? Don’t they have windstorms in this part of Vermont? Connie and her set of wheels hold multiple Green Mountain mysteries. And some top -notch photos, too.
Pioneer Auto Sales, 2829 US Route 7, 802-247-4242.
Gardner: New England’s Biggest Chair
It may not rate as a big-time New England crossroads, but the 20,000 or so people who call Gardner home have something the rest of us don’t: the region’s tallest and widest chair. You say: It’s way too big to sit on and (probably) uncomfortable. They say: Don’t knock it until you’ve seen it.
Gardner’s first giant chair was hammered together about a century ago. The town replaced it twice with even bigger versions and when today’s 20Æ-foot-tall construction was finished in the 1970s it was, for a time, the world’s biggest. An Anniston, Ala., chair later took over the throne, but it has since been eclipsed by a whopping 65-foot chair in Manzano, Italy. Gardner’s is still impressive with its ladder-back slats and reinforced seat. Not to mention that, at 10 feet wide and nine feet deep, it’s more accommodating than even the plushest La-Z-Boy.
130 Elm St., in front of the Helen Mae Sauter Elementary School. Next
North Kingstown, R.I.: The Fighting Seabee statue
Bugs are big in Rhode Island. Swampy East Bay and South County towns are thick with the real thing, but in the Ocean State itching and scratching aren’t enough.
For starters they have installed a giant, angry bee in North Kingstown that sports a sailor’s cap and is aiming a machine gun. The ‘‘Fighting Seabee’’ is a rendering of the mascot of the US Naval Construction Battalion and stands guard over the state’s Seabee Museum and Memorial Park.
Thanks to the creativity of sculptor Frank Iafrate, this may be the only bee you’ll ever see with lips and teeth. Big teeth. And although he wears an aggressive snarl, this is a helpful insect: Along with his gun, he’s got a wrench in one hand and a hammer in another. Maybe he’s not as dangerous as he looks.
21 Iafrate Way.
Scarborough, Maine: Lenny the Chocolate Moose
What’s 8 feet tall, weighs more than 1,700 pounds, has dark brown glossy skin, and tastes like a Nestle’s Crunch bar? If you’ve stopped into Len Libby Candies in Scarborough, you know it’s Lenny, the Chocolate Moose.
Thought to be the world’s largest chocolate animal of any kind, Lenny was sculpted in 1997 by plastering melted milk chocolate over a chicken-wire frame.
Why doesn’t Lenny melt? Len Libby’s is also an ice cream parlor with a carefully monitored below-70-degree store environment.
Is it OK to break off pieces of Lenny just to take a taste? Absolutely not.
419 US Route 1, 207-883-4897. Next
Warren, N.H.: Redstone Rocket in Town Square
Is tiny Warren the only US town with an actual ballistic missile on display? Though cast-off space hardware isn’t an unusual sight at military bases, the answer is a resounding yes.
This white-and-red painted cone is a Redstone rocket, one of several types that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration used to launch the early astronauts. People argue about its exact history, but according to locals, the rocket was installed here thanks to a former resident who lobbied NASA and the Pentagon until they donated the outdated missile.
112 Water St., in the town square.
Cromwell, Conn. : Car Wash Theme Park
Cromwell’s Classic Auto Wash delivers the usual suds and chamois rubdowns. What’s different here is the outdoor decor. The little station is overrun with big, strange statues, including renditions of the Blues Brothers, a phone booth with Clark Kent changing into Superman, a giant Santa (you can talk to him by pushing a button), and a lot more.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys miniature golf courses, but are more interested in the hazards than in making par, this is your place. There happens to be a massive golf ball on site, so if you’ve got a giant club handy, you’re set.
23 Shunpike Road, 860-632-1234.
Providence, R.I.: The Big Blue Bug
More famous by far than the Seabee is New England Pest Control’s Big Blue Bug, which is propped up on the company’s roof alongside Interstate 95. Nicknamed ‘‘Nibbles Woodaway,’’ it’s supposedly a giant termite. No one I asked knew why, when the thing was constructed in 1980, it was painted blue.
No matter. At nearly 60 feet long (and 930 times the girth of an average-sized termite) Nibbles holds the title of world’s largest artificial insect.
Except on promotional jaunts, Nibbles keeps to his perch. Truth is, he likes to celebrate holidays up there where he can show off some of his special gear. At Christmas, he gets a red nose, a la Rudolph. On the Fourth of July, he wears a somewhat limp Uncle Sam hat, and on Halloween — watch out — Nibbles becomes a Big Blue Witch.
161 O’Connell St., 401-847-9296. Back to the beginning
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