The first vacation Tom and I took together was during Dead Week at Yale, one of the two weeks between the end of finals and graduation. On this particular week nothing happens around campus, hence the colorful moniker. The second week, more tamely called Senior Week, is filled with picnics, dances, parties, and other bizarre rites of passage. (This is a place after all where we get clay pipes at graduation.) During Dead Week, most seniors head south from Connecticut to warmer, beachier locales. Most of our friends went to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach. Tom and I headed down by way of Pennsylvania (don’t ask…let’s just say I’ve learned not fall asleep when Tom is navigating through parts unknown to him) and Durham, North Carolina where we stopped to join my original college roommate from Duke, Jennifer Stimpson nee Massalon, for her graduation. We had a great time during our week at the beach, especially since there was a Harley Davidson rally going on at the same time. One of the highlights for Tom, however, was getting to see Pedro’s South of the Border, the roadside tourist mecca at the North Carolina/South Carolina border that lures motorists with hundreds of enticing neon billboards. One of our favorite photos of all time is that of our good friend Michael “Otis” Roberts, our traveling companion for the drive home, standing with a giant Pedro. (If I were home, I’d scan it in and post it—check back next August.)
So as it turns out, Australians also have a fascination bordering on an obsession with giant roadside objects d’art. The subject of many of an Aussie road trip, these structures have figured prominently on our rather limited drives through Queensland and New South Wales. As huge fans of Arrested Development, which boasted its own giant Banana Stand, we were excited to see The Big Banana in Coff’s Harbor. (Hint: if you love us, you can send us the third season DVDs, which came out in the US two days after we left.) It is reputedly the first and certainly one of the finest of Australia’s Big Things.
Just hours after leaving the banana behind, we found The Big Prawn in Ballina. Much to the kids’ dismay, he was closed for internal visits, so they had to miss out on peering out on the town through his big glass eyes. We did get to scale the heights of the world famous Big Pineapple in Nambour yesterday. Constructed in 1971, the gargantuan bromeliad is impressive on the outside but could use an renovation on the inside. It reeks of mildew and you can see rotting wood in the cracks and corners–the ugly truth behind the glamour. I was disappointed to learn that we had missed the Big Macadamia just around the corner, after seeing photos, it looks to be not much more than a big lump in the ground.
Better than any big nut was the Buderim Ginger Factory. They’ve chosen not to display a giant rhizome but instead adorn the center with life-sized gingerbread men clad according to the attraction they announce. While there, we learned how ginger is grown, harvested, and processed, and best of all, got to taste all kinds of yummy ginger-related foods. Some of us were more excited than others but for those who didn’t enjoy the food, there was the excitement of finding this lady to add to our scary mannequin collection.
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