On my way to the office today I passed a silver-painted woman who makes her living as a street statue, a man tap-dancing, and a shop that sells freeze-dried mice and lollipops with bugs inside. And that was all before my morning cup of joe.
It's just another day here in America the Beautiful, the home of the brave and the bizarrely strange. Our land of opportunity boasts the truly eccentric: a man with bees for a beard, a hotel that's underwater, and the ever-popular Testicle Festival. Best of all? So many of these American oddities are accessible by boat. So quit whining that you have nowhere to go this summer. Hop aboard and celebrate weird waterside America. Just don't say we didn't warn you.
Jell-O Museum 23 E. Main St., Le Roy, NY 585/768-7433, www.jellomuseum.com Cruise Lake Ontario and, after docking at Sleepy Hollow Marina in Hamlin, head to the only museum paying homage to America's favorite dessert (13 boxes are sold every second). The museum features Jell-O boxes, posters, and funky molds. The museum even houses the world's only Gelometer, a device that measures the jiggliness of Jell-O. Bill Cosby must be so proud.
King Tut's Grill 40132 Martin Mill Pike, Knoxville, TN 865/573-6021 With a capacity of only 38, this tiny Middle Eastern restaurant located in the living room of a house invites its customers, who rave about the Greek salad and baklava, to join conga lines, sing, perform magic tricks, and even pick up toy musical instruments for an impromptu jam session. Drinks are served in flower vases. Dock at Volunteer Landing Marina on the Tennessee River.
Jumbo the Elephant's Remains Tufts University, Medford, MA 617/628-5000, www.tufts.edu Jumbo gained fame as the "largest elephant on earth" in the late 1800s, but unfortunately he was run over by a freight train. Ever the showman, his owner, P.T. Barnum, had Jumbo stuffed and put on display at Tufts University, where it became the school mascot. Tragedy struck a second time when a fire destroyed the poor pachyderm. Afterward an administrator loaded Jumbo's ashes into a peanut butter jar and there he remains for college athletes to rub for good luck before games. Dock at Boston Yacht Haven in Boston Harbor.
Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk Riverside, IA 319/648-5475, www.trekfest.com Pull into Coralville Lake Marina and hitch a ride into Riverside, the place where-far in the future-Mrs. Kirk will give birth to the USS Enterprise's captain. Resident trekker Steve Miller knew that Kirk hailed from a town in Iowa and proposed that Riverside be named the place and celebrate with an annual Trek Fest. The town's motto was subsequently changed from "Where the Best Begins" to "Where the Trek Begins."