Between Tucson and Willcox there’s not a lot to see. I think it’s because everything’s hidden behind an endless series of billboards, demanding you discover, “What Is The Thing?”.
The Thing? is a living example of the grand tradition of tourist traps. If you just tell travelers enough times that they should, they MUST, discover the answer to that mysterious question, they will pass by other gas stations and convenience stores. And it would seem the strategy works, since the place was packed during my visit.
Plunk down $1 (in addition to the t-shirt and bumper sticker you will buy) for admission to the “museum”, pass through a door, then follow the path. You’ll walk through three metal sheds that are home to various “exhibits”, like the one above, featuring an un-restored 1937 Rolls Royce. Be sure to notice the disturbing mannequins inside the car — they will probably appear again in your nightmares.
You’ll probably walk right past most of the seemingly random items on display, but you’ll definitely stop in wonder at the “Ancient Methods of Torture” display. Why the heck would anyone create an ancient torture exhibit? The sign explains that it’s a “very special exhibit” by artist Ralph Gallagher and is likely “the only one of its kind in the world”. No kidding.
After asking yourself, “Why did I pay $1 for this?” you’re finally reminded of that other question, the one that lured you from the interstate. What is the Thing?
Right, like I’m going to tell you.
Drive on to Willcox and reserve a room for the night. Don’t worry, the day isn’t over yet!
Note: This trip was first published in 2005.