When I was a kid many years ago, we used to take family vacations to historical or cultural destinations. But what I really wanted to see were the roadside attractions advertised on garish billboards along the way.
Monkey farms, haunted houses, fireworks stands, and mummified human-remains exhibits beckoned to me along the two-lane highways, but we never stopped.
There are better choices for diversion today for those of us who are bicycle fanatics. Here are eight random roadside attractions with a bicycle theme that you can look out for as you drive with the family down the highway. Better yet, these can be pilgrimages you can make on two wheels.
Major Taylor statue — The first and maybe the newest attraction is the Major Taylor statue in Worcester, Massachusetts. The statue in his hometown memorializes the African-American who struggled against oppression to achieve the world cycling championship in 1899, among other honors.
Greg Lemond and Edwin Moses spoke at the unveiling last year. More about him at “Major Taylor statue unveiling in spring.”
US Bicycling Hall of Fame — Located for the time-being in Somerville, New Jersey, the Hall displays bicycles, jerseys, photos, trophies and other memorabilia of more than 100 years of US cycling history. Think Cooperstown for bicyclists.
Check ahead before you show up, however. After a nationwide search, the Hall is moving to Davis, California, which is a destination unto itself.
Davis, California — The city that surrounds UC-Davis was the nation's first platinum-level bicycle friendly community chosen by the League of American Bicyclists.
I had the opportunity to visit Davis last year (“A platinum level ride through Davis”) and discovered a bicyclist's nirvana. Ninety-five percent of arterials and connectors have bike lanes, $14 million spent of bicycle projects in past 10 years, many intersections even have special buttons to activate bicycle crossing signals.
Davis also is home to the California Bicycle Museum.
Little 500 racetrack — This is the location of the Little 500 bike race at the University of Indiana in Bloomington popularized in that 1979 movie, “Breaking Away.” The race was launched in 1950 and has come to be known at the World's Greatest College Weekend.
Lately, it was featured in the book, “100 Sporting Events You Must See Live.”
Cookie Lady's Bike House — Located on the TransAmerica Bicycle Route in Afton, Virginia, the Bike House has been a temporary home to some 11,000 bicycle travelers over the past 30 years. If you don't believe me, you can check her photo albums filled with Polaroids of visitors over the years. Or read some of the postcards that paper the walls of the Bike House.
The Cookie Lady, June Curry, is celebrating her 89th birthday this year. She serves up cookies, lemonade and bike route updates to bicyclists who pass through or spend the night. She is the namesake of the June Curry Trail Angel Award given out annually by Adventure Cycling Association. The Richmond Area Bicycle Association is just one of the organizations raising money to help keep the house going.
Fort Missoula — This fort on the Montana frontier was home to the 25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps from 1896-97. The African-American soldiers in the company tested the bicycles as possible conveyances in battle.
Their longest trek for these Buffalo Soldiers was 1,900 miles from Missoula to St. Louis.
Adventure Cycling Association — After you visit Fort Missoula, as long as you're on a bicycle, you should tool over to the ACA headquarters in Missoula. If you're a bicycle traveler, you'll get your picture taken and score some ice cream.
The offices also has a collection of bicycle touring memorabilia, such as the triple tandem built by Bill Bliss for a family cross-country adventure on the Bikecentennial route in 1976.
Wright Cycle Company Complex — Long before Orville and Wilbur became known as inventors of the airplane, they owned a bicycle business. The fourth bicycle shop operated by the Wright Brothers still stands in Dayton, Ohio, and is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park.
What's cool is that the park rangers offer guided bicycle tours of historic attractions of the bicycle and aviation industry in Dayton.
There are many other attractions that should probably be on the list, and I'd love to hear about them. I left off many of the nation's historic bicycle tracks, as well as the many bicycle museums located across the country. Maybe I'll do those later down the road.