This summer, forget the big beaches on the coasts. It’s the hidden gems, tucked away in the wilds and behind the forests, that really count. Enter Weirs Beach.
We visited Weirs Beach, right on Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia, NH, back in October. Even though it wasn’t prime swimming season, we really felt like we journeyed to a magical place. Weirs Beach comes with a retro arcade–no really, an actual arcade–right on the boardwalk, which was next to the train station, which was right across the street from the Victorian houses, which overlooked the spectacular lake, which had really ginormous houses on it, which you could see from the amazing boat tours, which…well, you get the point.
By the way, those cool Victorian houses we mentioned above, you can rent those, plus there’s plenty of other places to stay, including the Half Moon Motel and Cottages, which we’re happy to recommend. We enjoyed our time there. A nice slice of New England.
This is one of those articles where pictures say more than words. If you’re looking for a place off the beaten path to spend your summer, if you don’t want to contend with the major beach resort cities where you can’t even hear yourself think…if you’re looking for a little slice of Americana with a retro feel in a small lake town in New England…then Weirs Beach is for you!
We know we’ll be back.
OK, now pictures.
Lake Winnipesaukee is beautiful. Don’t believe us? Check out the time-lapse video we took while out boating
Then there’s the famous Vegas-like “Weirs Beach” sign, complete with a light show. We got a video.
We waited a long time to see this place in person. The Bonneville Salt Flats is as close to an alien landscape on Planet Earth that you can find. We were drawn to it because it’s so…different. It’s the ultimate escape from reality.
The final fight between humanity and the alien queen in this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence took place on the Flats, with a little help from CGI magic. We didn’t see any alien queens out here, but we were ready if one decided to show up. The Salt Flats is featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials–especially car commercials. Even Don Draper made an appearance in a modified 1970 Chevelle SS in the Mad Men series finale. Countless land speed records were set and broken here over the years.
It was a hot, dry day in July when we took off from the last paved road and waltzed onto what looked like oblivion. Driving on the Flats is an experience that’s second to none. Sure, you could take a few laps on a (paved) racetrack, but how about driving on a field of table salt, as fast as your car can go and in any direction, without the horizon changing? Distance is impossible to gauge out here. Once you drive a few miles inward, you can get out of the car and walk across the crunchy surface to take in the eerily silent, beaming white emptiness. Want to get away from civilization for a while? This will work.
You can drive as fast as you want to within the realms of safety. There’s no official speed limit. That’s why the Salt Flats is so popular for racing specialized cars. Since we visited shortly before the popular Speed Week, we were lucky enough to meet a crew working on a specialized car capable of going 400+ mph. It was in pieces at the time, undergoing final preparation, but it went on to race on the Bonneville International Speedway–a 9-mile stretch on the Flats marked by two blue (painted) lines–a couple of weeks later.
Some Words of Caution
But the fun things in life come with caution. Racing on the Salt Flats–professionally and for fun–comes with serious risk, so be prepared. We write these words of caution not to be condescending, but because we had a few hiccups out there ourselves, from almost driving into an abandoned spool of barbed wire that came out of nowhere–and would have probably shattered the windshield at our speed–to nearly running out of gas. The Bonneville Salt Flats are to be feared and revered.
The Salt Flats occupy a large swath of Northwestern Utah, but the best place to enter this magical land is right at the Utah/Nevada border at Wendover, UT, just across from West Wendover, NV (see map above). That would be Exit 4 on I-80, about a two-hour drive west of Salt Lake City.
Before entering the Salt Flats, please check with the local Bureau of Land Management office to make sure the Flats are drivable. They’re safe to drive on when dry, but it’s illegalto drive on the Salt Flats when wet, since it’s federally protected land. BLM will have up-to-date information for you and speed limit recommendations. They can be contacted here. There will also be signs posted nearby to tell of the current conditions.
When driving on the flats, bring lots of water, cell phone, extra food, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and perhaps most importantly, a full tank of gas. Driving on the salt is like driving on very crisp, crunchy snow, so your car’s gas mileage will be terrible. We could actually see the fuel gauge move down as the speedometer moved up. It could costs hundreds to have your car towed.
Those of us who have spent even one winter in the Northeast know all too well the effects salt has on a car. WE’RE NOT GOING TO LIE: YOU WILL GET SALT ON AND UNDER YOUR CAR. LOTS OF IT. It could cost a lot of money and time to get all the salt off the underside of your car; one car wash is simply not enough. We spent $100 at do-it-yourself car washes over the course of two weeks getting salt out of every crevasse. In the end, it was all worth it to us since it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but we advise you, the reader, to enter the Bonneville Salt Flats at your own risk.
Even We Had Trouble Finding This Place, But That’s the Point.
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Far into the wilds of Northern California lies a place where the fish thrive and people can live as one with nature. UW found this fishing paradise on accident after a chance encounter with one of the managers. And we really lucked out.
We ventured to Northern California to see the real Northern California–you know, the one that’s a few hundred miles north of San Francisco. Yeah, that one. Located in Klamath, about 40 miles from Oregon, Gold River Lodge offers true fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts a piece of nature difficult to find these days.
For the fishing aficionados, this is the place you need to be. Perfect for a weekend getaway in a comfy lodge with a scenic view. Or you can bring your RV there if you’d like–they’ve got plenty of parking. But the best part is, Gold River Lodge does everything for you. It’s not BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) here…they’ll take care of that, plus tailor a trip and fishing packages just for you.
You won’t notice much while driving through southern Illinois, at least not until you see the billboards for the world’s largest…well, there’s a few things to see. Here in the small town of Casey, a reinvention is underway. A former oil town, Casey, Illinois is rebranding itself as the modern capital of the world’s largest wind chime. It’s also home to the world’s largest golf tee, rocking chair, and mailbox, among other things certified by Guinness World Records. Oh yeah, you can actually “ring” the wind chime. See video below:
Bolin Enterprise Inc.
So who’s behind all this? Meet Bolin Enterprise Inc.(BEI), a company specializing in pipeline cleaning and maintenance. BEI has long called Casey home, and as the town’s economy changed and many jobs went away, BEI invested in projects like the wind chime to attract tourism. This new endeavor clearly works; it did attract UW, after all. Many of Casey’s small businesses are thriving as a result, shining with the adopted slogan “Big Things in a Small Town”.
There are a number of “big things” in Casey, both official and unofficial, and they’re not all in one place, either. Turn a corner and you’ll find a giant birdcage. The World’s Largest Rocking Chair (certified, weighing about 23 tons) is located next to City Hall. The randomness of these monuments makes Casey ever more interesting. One day, UW will return to document more–unfortunately, we only had time to visit the wind chime and rocking chair.
And of course, we couldn’t leave without meeting the actual builder of all these magnificent things. UW caught up with the master wood and metalworker behind these giant creations in his workshop, conveniently located behind the wind chime. Employed by BEI, this is his “retirement” job (he works with another person, too), and loves every minute of it. He was in the middle of carving what might become the world’s largest gavel when we arrived.
The National Western Stock Show, or the “Stock Show”, as it’s commonly known, is a well-established event that takes place in Denver annually. For one week each January, visitors can see the “other” Colorado, the one that exists outside of Denver, Boulder, and the touristy ski towns.
The Stock Show highlights Colorado’s–and America’s–rural side, complete with rodeos, livestock showings, and a forum to buy “western” stuff. Authentic cowboy boots, anyone? Ranchers from throughout the United States and Canada bring their prized livestock to Denver every year to be judged.
For anyone who’s not from the West, like this East Coaster, going to the Stock Show within an hour of getting off the plane from New York was a real culture shock. But it’s a treat to see if you can go.