I’ve decided another stop needs to go. It’s leaving me a bit melancholy but not simply because I won’t be visiting a new city. I’m disappointed that a town with such potential doesn’t seem to want to embrace their weird. Another trip with another theme would make the drive worthwhile, but it’s just not worth the backtracking for my summer adventure.
Like any kid, I had several things I wanted to be when I grew up. Some were normal, some were a bit off. I wanted to be a robotic engineer and design kick-ass robots! Normal. I wanted to write for the Weekly World News. A bit off. I love animals and wanted to be a zoologist. Normal. I eventually decided I wanted to specialize in cryptozoology. A bit off. This is why I was very excited to have two cryptids on my trip!
Early on in the planning stage I had to cut a visit to the West Virginia cave where Bat Boy was found. I had been following the Bat Boy story from the beginning. It was his cover photo adorning the front page of the WWN above the check out counter at the grocery store that turned me on to the “news paper” and cryptozoology. It was 1992 and I was 13 years old. I knew that the WWN was bogus but my heart still hoped for the existence of a half boy/half bat. In the early 2000s I was lucky enough to catch a local production of “Bat Boy: The Musical.” I remember it being darker than my image of Bat Boy.
Obviously I was excited that the cave where he was “discovered” wasn’t far from my route! A review of the cave on Roadside America states that the owner embraces the notoriety of his property. He even provided the original running of the musical with some of its caving equipment. Solid guy. During my first major purge of sights, the cave was cut. The timing didn’t work out. I couldn’t schedule it without cutting something else. Fortunately it’s within a days drive of my house and can be totally made into it’s own overnight trip.
Yesterday I cut the second cryptid. Pour one out for your homie. Wisconsin seems like it’s going to be one of the highlights of the trip, there is so much wacky stuff to see and do! In the northern part of the state is a small city (I assume) named after a 1980s East German superhero: Rhinelander. Originally called Pelican Rapids, the city was renamed to make it more awesome. According to the 2010 census, the city has a population of 7,798 but I’m pretty sure they left one important resident off their study. Rhinelander is also the home of the Hodag, a mammalian-lizard creature that feasts solely on white bulldogs. Of course it does because it’s fucking awesome.
What was the ratio of bowler hats to people in that city? Was this the last town in America that could raise a pitchfork wielding mob at a moments notice? Did that kid survive the attack? Did the Hodag confuse him with a bipedal, white bulldog? These are questions I may never have answered. Why? I’m not confident on the payoff of a visit.
Outside the Rhinelander Logging Museum stands the above, glorious Hodag statue just begging to have its picture taken with me. Unfortunately I have a feeling that might be the only piece of folklore around the town. I am not above visiting a logging museum but I can’t justify going so far out of my way to see one. If I was sure there were Hodag related items in the gift shop, I’d be inclined to go. The Hodag is the mascot of the local high school. I would gladly drive 10 hours and pay $300 to get my hands on a letterman jacket that said Rhinelander with a Hodag emblazoned on it.
Ebay has various Hodag related swag but most of it seems older. There’s a 1982 Centennial Hodag pin going for $60, a 2012 patch for $4.99, and various t-shirts that look high school related. There is nothing online that has convinced me there is a thriving market for Hodag merchandise. I doubt the Logging Museum is going to have some amusing trinkets of the wee beastie. The risk of coming up empty handed is to high to make the drive worth it.
I’m spending a few nights at point 15 just off the southern edge of the map. On day 6 I will leave 15 and end up in a motel 2.5 hours northwest of Minneapolis. Rhinelander is stop 18 and would involve driving from 17 to 18, back to 17, and then onto 19. That’s the quickest route my many mapping sites have found. Round trip from 17 to 18 is roughly 2 hours. If I drive 2 hours and come away without any tacky souvenirs and only seeing 1 Hodag statue I’m going to get cranky. Cutting the stop also makes a 10 hour day into an 8 hour day. I was going to buy a toy pitchfork and bowler hat for my photo…life is full of regrets and missed opportunities. Get your shit together, Rhinelander! Tourism would increase if you talked up the Hodag!