“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
I like traveling, even if it’s only on little short trips and one of my favorite things to do is stop at or actually set out for odd, one of a kind, little known or not so often visited attractions. My family calls these trips “pilgrimages” because it usually takes longer to get to there than it should, the trip is often a little bit miserable and, for them at least, the destination usually turns out to be not nearly as great as I told them it would be.
When the kids were growing up I drug them to Indian (burial) Mound after Indian Mound. We stopped at way too many roadside cemeteries and they got really tired of Civil War battle fields. Lighthouses are another big thing for me. I love them and we have to stop and tour or climb every lighthouse we come within 20 miles or so of, even if it means diverting from our original course. I never met a lighthouse I didn’t like – just ask my kids.
The latest pilgrimage I really want to take is to see the synchronous fireflies all blinking together in the Smoky Mountains, right outside of Gatlinburg, Tenn. The synchronicity only happens June 5-13 (or so); it’s a certain rare species of firefly; and, the only other place it happens is Southeast Asia. A friend makes it a point to go every year and she said it’s amazing.
Apparently this particular species has an internal sensor that tells them when a nearby firefly is lit, and as soon as the sensor goes off, the first firefly lights up, too. According to the surprisingly complete information I got when I Googled “Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies,” it takes a few minutes, but eventually the woods are lit up with fireflies all flashing their little bioluminous lights at the same time. A single flash can last as long as six seconds. Imagine that!
According to an article I found at www.insidegatlinburg.com, there is a trolley that runs from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the fireflies’ location near the Elkmont entrance to the Smoky Mountains State Park and it only costs $1 for a round trip. (During synchronized flashing nights private vehicles are not allowed.) Even though Gatlinburg is only four hours away, it’s too late for me to make the trip this year, but I’ve already got “Fireflies” penciled in on the week of June 5 next year.
Another pilgrimage for me, this one a favorite, is Finster’s Paradise Garden in Summerville. It is the home (now museum), gardens and grounds of the late, really great folk artist Howard Finster and it is, in a weird, run down, little bit crazy but truly wonderful way, an amazing place.
Once you pay the super reasonable entrance fee (it was $2 the last time I went), you can wander a 4-acre plot full of Finster’s work and experience how his calling as a preacher who delivered his message through art comes to life. The World’s Folk Art Chapel is there and standing in the middle of it is worth the two-and-a-half-hour drive. (At least that’s what I say; my brother from Colorado, who I drug there with me, didn’t agree…)
You can get more information, directions, etc. at www.finstersparadisegarden.org While you’re at your computer, go to www.microcarmuseum.com or Google “Dubble Bubble Acres.” Now there’s another treat!
This is a museum just outside of Madison that houses the extensive collection of micro-cars owned by the man who owns the candy company that produces Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum. Micro-cars were produced in Europe after WWII to provide affordable transportation to that war-ravaged continent. They’re small, cute and come in all different shapes and designs. I took my brother from Colorado there on his next visit (to make up for the Paradise Gardens trip) and he loved it. It was just so odd and interesting I really enjoyed it, too.
There’s also a huge, ornate Hindu temple in Lilburn (Google Hindu Temple in Lilburn) that looks more than worth the trip — it’s huge and white and cost $19-million to build — each piece hand carved then imported from India. And, don’t even get me started on how much I want to see the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine someday, although that will involve going all the way to Darwin, Minnesota or is it Cawker City, Kansas? Right now there’s a ball of twine war going on; maybe they’ll have it decided by the time it’s time for me to make the trip.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a writer for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.