The Center for Land Use Interpretation
There are many weird and wonderful places to be seen in the good old U. S. of A., and the Center for Land Use Interpretation's website lists some of the more bizarre. Founded in 1994, the CLUI is a research organization interested in understanding the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth's surface. If you fancy an exotic road trip, try using their database as a route planner. And let us know how you get on.
At first glance, it seems to list mostly former nuclear testing ranges and defunct nuclear plants, but scratch around under the surface a little and you'll find some great hidden gems. Take Boron, California (top), located between the world's largest borax mine and one of the nation's largest rocket test areas. The town is partially abandoned, but you can still visit the Twenty Mule Team Museum, the US Borax Visitor Center, and Domingo's Mexican restaurant.
Club Ed (above). A movie set with motel, gas station and diner, it was built for Dennis Hopper's Eye of the Storm in 1990. As it's still used for movies, Playboy calendars and TV commercials, it's not open to the public, but you can get a great look at it from the street.
town with the pretty little name of Concrete. It's located in Washington state and was once home to some of the country's largest concrete plants. The last one closed in 1968, but great big grey, chunky remnants of the industry can be found around town, and in nearby woods. A sort of accidental sculpture garden.
Make your way south to Kingman, Arizona, and drop by the Geodesic Sphere House, a 40ft wide golf ball on a pole. Once a restaurant called the Dinesphere (part of a planned development called Lake Havasu Estates that never materialized), it's now a private home. Hank and Ardell Schimmel bought it in 1981 and converted it into a house on three levels. But it may be worth the drive just to admire its audacity.
Farther afield in Montana, the Earth Angel is a former gold mine that is now a radon health spa. To look at, it isn't much – a ricketty gate, a 600 foot tunnel and a few chairs at the end. But if you believe in the healing powers of radon gas, looks are of little consequence. Book a series of sessions in the tunnel to cure all kinds of ills. If you believe the naysayers (who claim radon causes lung cancer), you may however decide to give it a miss.
If you made your way to Concrete and loved it, drop by Saylor Park Cement Industry Museum near Allentown, Pennsylvania. It's devoted to the mighty building material (which is the main ingredient in concrete) and located inside 19th-century cement kilns. Can't believe your luck? It gets better. Admission is free. RM