Two-ton tater totO'Leary, PEI, Canada

Giant Potato sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Oh, the fates were cruel to me this day. I happened to pass through a town that shared my last name, and in that town I stumbled upon a giant fiberglass potato. In front of a potato museum.

Which had closed an hour before.

Now, really. That’s just not fair.

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Tuxedo twinsCut Bank, MT and Chehalis, WA

Cut Bank Penguin sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Bless their hearts, these birds aren’t quite so elegant as the Topeka Wren, but that’s no reason not to stand proud and proclaim their purpose.

Actually, even that is a little muddled here. Maybe Cut Bank really is the coldest spot in the nation… just don’t tell International Falls, MN. Or, you know, the entire state of Alaska.

Yard Bird sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And Washington’s famous Yard Birds store? Well, it’s defunct. But that’s okay—the 60-foot namesake (12th bird?) is alive and well, and standing for something, at the very least.

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Wild goose chaseWawa, ON, Canada

Wawa Goose sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Wawa is the Ojibwe word for “wild goose”—a fact the town of Wawa, Ontario would prefer you didn’t forget.

Wawa Goose sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And just to make sure the lesson hits home, there is a veritable flock of giant geese waiting to welcome you.

Wawa Goose sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I just hope these guys don’t get the notion to fly south for the winter—then we’ll be in trouble.

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Wrented wingsTopeka, KS

Topeka Wren sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I’m always up for the hokey and awkward when it comes to roadside attractions, but every now and again you find a true masterpiece.

Case in point: the Topeka Wren (formerly the mascot for WREN radio in Lawrence, KS) nearly took my breath away. This bird is a couple decades older than your average roadside statue, so that may explain the difference in style. But what I love is how true to form the sculpture is. The sweeping bill and tail defy the parameters of what concrete can achieve, and the pose is incredibly lifelike.

I know, I know—it’s completely nuts to wax poetic about giant concrete birds. But if roadside sculptures were oil paintings (which is a comparison I often make, heaven help me!), I’m pretty sure this is the one DaVinci would have created.

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In the pinkMarquette, IA

Pink Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Some of my favorite roadside attractions are the ones that are totally incongruous with the surrounding area (like finding a blue whale in the middle of Oklahoma).

Unless, that is, I’m wildly misinformed, and Iowa is actually chock full of elephants…

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And the winner is…

Darwin, MN illustration by Chandler O'Leary

I don’t normally post on Thursdays, but I had to break in here to tell you that the Giant Twine Ball in Darwin, MN is the clear people’s choice! No disrespect to its lovely (and technically larger) sisal-sister in Kansas, but the voters have spoken, and by an overwhelming margin, Minnesota’s masterpiece is the clear winner. Congratulations, Darwin—you’re a superstar in my book.

Thanks to everybody who cast their vote here on the blog or on social media! The Tailor is extremely grumpy about the outcome, of course, but I’m glad y’all set the record straight.

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Feeling blueCatoosa, OK

Blue Whale of Catoosa sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I’m not sure if kids used to find this guy diverting or terrifying, but the Blue Whale of Catoosa is still just as memorable as he must have been in his heyday.

Blue Whale of Catoosa sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This spot was once a roadside swimmin’ hole along Route 66. These days it’s just a roadside monument, but that’s okay—it’s not like we were there at the right time of year.

Blue Whale of Catoosa sketch by Chandler O'Leary

It didn’t matter—all of a sudden, we felt like we were eight years old again.

Blue Whale of Catoosa sketch by Chandler O'Leary

* * *

Today is the last day to vote for the best Twine Ball! Hurry and cast your vote, and we’ll declare the winner on Facebook tomorrow!

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Orange you gladShasta Lake, CA

Giant Orange sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Apparently these giant orange stands (which are actually ducks) used to be so common along the old Pacific Highway that by the time you got thirsty on your journey, you’d have arrived at the next one. There are just a handful remaining today, and I was extra lucky to discover that this one was actually still a functioning juice stand (though inside the attached building, no longer the orange itself).

Because let me tell you, this is one advertising ploy that must have worked well: by the time we reached the door, we were ready to shell out any amount for fresh orange juice.

* * *

Did you remember to vote for the best Twine Ball? Hurry and cast your vote, and we’ll declare the winner on Thursday!

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Never the twine shall meetWorld's Largest Balls of Twine, Cawker City, KS and Darwin, MN

World's Largest Ball of Twine sketches by Chandler O'Leary

The Tailor and I have been having the same argument for years now. It’s really one of those fundamental debates in life, revolving around the universe’s most pressing question:

Which Giant Twine Ball is better?

World's Largest Ball of Twine sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Now I’m going to tell you up front: Kansas is the Tailor’s home state. So I think it’s bias talking when he tells you (and anyone who’ll listen) that the World’s Largest Twine Ball in Cawker City reigns supreme.

World's Largest Ball of Twine sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Okay, okay, I’ll grant that it’s the actual World’s Largest. It’s over 40 feet in diameter, and made up of nearly 8 million feet of twine. Impressive, yes. But here’s the thing: this monster was a community effort. Every year they hold a “Twine-a-thon” and add more string to the beast. I don’t know why, but much as I applaud the community spirit, somehow that feels like cheating to me.

World's Largest Ball of Twine (by One Man) sketch by Chandler O'Leary

By comparison, the 12-foot Twine Ball in Darwin, Minnesota seems kinda puny, I know. But at 17,400 pounds, it’s no lightweight. And more importantly, this one was made entirely by one man: Mr. Francis A. Johnson, who wrapped twine four hours a day, every day, for 29 years.

When was the last time you devoted your life to creating a roadside masterpiece? Not even Pee Wee Herman’s rubber-band ball has that kind of single-mindedness, my friends. And—and! Frank’s creation is the subject of a Weird Al song—which, as far as I’m concerned, is the final word on the subject.

World's Largest Ball of Twine (by One Man) sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I think we need to settle this once and for all. That’s right, it’s time for a Twine Ball Smackdown. Maybe a twine tug o’ war would be the most appropriate venue to solve this, but I only have pencils and pixels at my disposal here. So in the spirit of democracy, I’m putting this up for a vote.

Here’s where you come in: leave a comment stating your favorite Twine Ball—or if social media is your thing, you can vote by Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest. And help spread the word! We want a mandate on this thing, folks—let’s get out the vote, and give either Mr. Johnson or the good folks of Cawker City a decisive victory.

Cast your vote in by Wednesday, October 8, and I’ll declare a winner on the Facebook page on Thursday. Hurry—twine’s a-wasting!

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