McDonald’s First Store, Des Plaines, IL

This is certainly a landmark! It’s a replica of the very first McDonald’s in Des Plaines, IL. The original had been renovated repeatedly and the company decided to use the original blueprints to recreate the first store. It is now a free museum, only open in the summer so I didn’t get inside! Sad, but true! There are mannequins in vintage uniforms working the stations. I love that.

Across the street from the McD’s museum is a fully-operational McD’s store that has a few items on display for the public–including this model of the original location. We had a chocolate shake. It seemed like the right thing to do.

There are two plaques showcasing the landmark restaurant!

Cooking Fools Big Whisk, Chicago, IL

In all the world there is one thing I always love:
things that are much bigger than they should be!

Cooking Fools is a Bucktown, Chicago biz offering cooking classes, carry-out gourmet, and catering among other foodie goodies. Though I’ve never had any of their food (I’m sure it’s delish) I love them for their Big Whisk. It’s a whisk. It’s on the building and it’s flipping huge!

It’s as big as a door, people!

Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN

If you have the chance to stop by the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN., I recommend it. The spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated is haunting and sad and is frozen in time. The Civil Rights Museum is housed here and it is, of course, an important document of a pivotal time in American history.
My quibble with the place is that the the location itself defines the museum in a way that another location may not have. There is a nearly fetishistic fixation on the murder of King. His hotel room is preserved, an entire room is devoted to artifacts related to the murder (including the gun and bullet pulled from the body), and in what I would consider the most disturbing element of the tour, you can stand in the spot the killer stood in when firing the fatal shots.
It’s fascinating but also sad and morbid.
I wonder if the museum might have been more uplifting and also inspiring if it hadn’t started and ended with death? Not to say that the civil rights movement wasn’t filled with stories of those that lost their lives for the struggle but this museum fixates heavily on King’s murder and I just found it sad and ending on a really low point in history.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch, Newberry, MI

Located in pretty much the middle of nowhere, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest Bear Only Ranch in the U.S.! There are 30 live roaming bears (on the other side of a big ol’ fences) and you see them lounging about and doing what bears do. Including making the love. See here:

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. This is not something you see everyday! That said, this is only a tiny part of the attraction. There is a true preserve here and it’s pretty neat to see bears sleeping and eating and playing!
My favorite part of the visit were the baby bears. The Oswald’s keep the babies they are feeding and growing in a play area where they seem to have a lot of fun bathing and playing. They are absurdly cute! And the Oswald family walk in the cage and the little bears run up like puppies would do and let the man hold them! It’s crazy!

Anyway, if you make a trip to Michigan’s upper peninsula, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is well worth the trip!

Big Boy, Rochester Hills, MI

I consider Big Boy a real slice of American culture. And I don’t care who knows it. It’s about a chain restaurant with kitsch and what could be better than that? I heard a radio show a few years ago that asked callers if they every swiped something big–as a prank–and what happened to the item? At the time, I think huge Spongebob’s or some such character were being stolen from Wendy’s or Burger King. At any rate, one caller said she had a genuine Big Boy in a toolshed in her backyard! Her husband and his friend swiped it in college and then didn’t know what to do with it. So they hid it in the garage! And he moved it under cover of darkness to his toolshed, still unsure what to do with it 10 years later!
At any rate, Big Boy corporate called and offered them amnesty. They could return the Big Boy–no questions asked. The corporate rep noted that making Big Boys was very expensive and that often franchise owners did not want to pay to replace lost Big Boys so the iconic image was on the decline. Sad! I took this picture because we went to Big Boy all the time when I was a kid. And I haven’t seen a real Big Boy statue since I moved from Michigan. This one was near my apartment in Rochester Hills.

Weinermobile, Henry Ford Museum, Detroit, MI

At Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, MI there are lots of odd pop culture and roadside-esque attractions. I love the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile so, clearly, this was a fun thing to find at the museum. I’ve seen it tooling about Michigan (or at least I’ve seen one of the weinermobiles) but I’ve never been able to snap a picture before. So I had to score it in captivity. What can you do? It’s still a beauty!
I’m thinking hotdogs for lunch.