Sole Survivor

During our recent trek across Nevada, we were fortunate to stumble upon an elusive Nevada Shoe tree (genus: Pinus Adidas). This rare species is characterized by clusters of hanging fruit measuring roughly one foot long. Their rubbery texture makes them inedible (some say the flavor is reminiscent of sole), but the fibrous laces are often extracted and used as cordage and the tongue is considered a delicacy in some cultures.

I’m all about kitsch, so stopping by the shoe tree just outside of Middlegate, Nevada was a no-brainer. The original shoe tree was cut down by vandals in 2011, so this is a new shoe tree.

You might call it a sole survivor.

You know how Clark Griswold is all excited to check out the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth (“only four short hours away”) during his cross-country trip to Walley World in National Lampoon’s Vacation? That’s me.

This wasn’t even my first shoe tree. In 2017, Tara and I made a weekend getaway to the Painted Hills of Oregon and stumbled across this bad boy in the middle of nowhere.


Shoe trees, by the way, are always in the middle of nowhere.

Other fun, kitschy places I have made it a point to visit during my lifetime include the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota;


the world’s largest Holstein cow, in New Salem, North Dakota;


a replica of Stonehenge in Maryhill, Washington;


and—even better (read: kitschier)—a replica of Stonehenge made out of automobiles in Alliance, Nebraska.


The odder, the better. That’s my motto.

What strange attractions have you seen (and, more importantly, are they within easy driving distance of Rapid City, South Dakota?). Maps and directions optional but greatly appreciated.

13 thoughts on “Sole Survivor

  1. “You might call it a sole survivor.”

    HA! Mark, you crack me up! You know, I had never ever heard of a shoe tree?!?! Here in Philly and New York, I’ve seen areas where people throw their shoes and sneakers over telephone or electrical wires, that just hang there by their laces. Well, I guess you could call them, Shoe Wires!

    Holy COW…that is one huge heifer!

    Love that Stonehenge made out of autos. Very clever!

    When I was in Japan for a summer, I encountered one of their traditional attractions in Kyoto. It was called, The Wishing Tree, where you would write down your wish on a rectangular piece of paper that they supplied, and then tie it to a tree branch. The tree is covered in white pieces of paper that looks like snow. It’s beautiful!

    Have a super week, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a very Japanese thing to do. I love it!

      I’ve seen shoes on wires, too. I always wonder how many tries it takes a person to get their shoes to stay up there. I also always wonder, WHY??

      Have a great week, Ron!


  2. When I was younger my father dragged us to the Public Works Museum in Baltimore on the way down to DC. Yes, it was what you’d imagine. In fact he loved it so much he bought a souvenir – a poster of the history of toilets, that now graces the walls of their bathroom in the basement. And one of my good friends went to the see the World’s Largest Basket at the old Longaberger factory in Ohio. Sadly neither of these are within easy driving distance of Rapid City, unless you take a week’s vacation!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would love to see a shoe tree! All of your roadside attractions are intriguing. I visited and posted about Cornhenge (Dublin, OH) and the world’s largest stamp (CLE) last year. I’ve been to the world’s largest basket (Newark, OH). My favorite childhood roadside attraction was the Breezewood (PA turnpike) Chicken that we passed on the way to DC and other points south. I was SO shocked that it was gone the last time we went that way. So sad! And I can’t find anything about it online.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Considering your extensive travels, and rough recovery from jet lag following your most recent trip, maybe you can surprise him with a Minnesota/Nebraska getaway this year!


  4. I dunno that I’ve seen many off-the-beaten-path stuffs of travel…
    I had a cow encounter this week. When I was wee, my mother used to put me on one of those backseats on her bicycle and my favorite part was seeing ‘Elsie the cow’ — a large statue outside what I presume was the dairy factory. I have driven extensively around that house I lived in then and never found it. I mean for years. Any time I’m over that way. I’d assumed it was gone. Last week when I went to that supremely secure credit union, I drove by the freakin cow! I couldn’t believe it. It must have been my destiny. Still kind of can’t believe it.

    Liked by 1 person

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