May 09 2011

Off the Beaten Path

One of the things I love best about driving around the countryside is finding interesting and quirky things.  It pains me to take the same route twice, because I never know what I might find along a new road.  Often when we’re traveling, I’ll pull out my guidebooks and sites like Roadside America to see if there’s anything interesting along the path we’ve chosen.  A detour to see something new and different is often a part of a day in our car.

When we visited the Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings, we needed to find a route home.  The most direct route took us on some gravel roads (I’ve never seen a minimum-maintenance county road before!) and past some quiet giants on the prairie of western Minnesota.

It also took us through tiny Arco, Minnesota.  When I looked at the map and saw Arco, something nagged at me that Arco had something we’d want to see.  My first thought was that it had something to do with a water tower, but that was in Chandler.  Due to modern technological luxuries, I did a quick online search for Arco and found what I was looking for:  the stone gas station and scenic rock garden.

Neither was hard to find; the former gas station is just west of downtown, and the rock garden statues have been moved to the city park just east of town along the lake.  They were good for a quick stop for photos.

To my surprise, as we passed the gas station, my eight-year-old son said, “Hey, I’ve seen that before!”  He likes guidebooks as much as I do, so when I got home I did a quick search of my collection to see where we’d first heard of the Arco gas station.  There it is on page 5 of a book appropriately titled Minnesota Curiosities:  Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities, & Other Offbeat Stuff.  It’s exactly the kind of book I turn to when planning a road trip, and it gave me just enough of a memory jog that we didn’t miss these roadside attractions as we passed through Arco.

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One Comment to “Off the Beaten Path”

  1. [...] the midst of farm fields and prairie lands.  Arco has its own sculpture garden of sorts, a “scenic rock garden” in the city park which borders a lake just outside of town.  Here, replicas of the Statue [...]

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