Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stopping By Pedro's

Magnet # 203: South of the Border Pedro Sign

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Me

Now that Spring has begun and Summer is on its way, lots of people will be taking to the road once again, traveling all over the nation. And, in their travels, they'll have the opportunity to check out some of the roadside attractions that are scattered along the roadways. I-95 is one of the most important interstates in the country, connecting the East Coast all the way from the tip of Florida to the top of Maine. And one of its most visible roadside attractions is the South of the Border rest stop just south of the North Carolina border near Dillon, South Carolina.

As the story goes, it all started back in 1950 when Alan Schafer opened a beer stand on the side of the I-95. When he began receiving deliveries addressed to "South of the Border," inspiration hit and he began building one of the more unusual tourist traps out there. South of the Border now features a 165 foot tall Sombrero Tower, shops galore, a mini amusement park, a mini golf course, a hotel, and restaurants. The complex stretches out over one square mile. It's all very campy and is a faux-Mexican style with bright colors and neon signs, most notably the giant neon sign of the mascot Pedro, which is recreated on this magnet.
Pedro is a silly Mexican stereotype, complete with a moustache and a giant sombrero. He's featured on many of the billboards that line I-95 advertising for the site - there are over 120 in all and they stretch on for over 200 miles, giving motorists (and their kids) and update of just how close they are. They have all sorts of goofy sayings, like "Keep America Green! Bring Money!," "Keep Yelling, Kids (They'll Stop)," and "You Never Sausage a Place," complete with a pink hot dog. All of this has helped South of the Border to become a legend of sorts. It was even featured in the Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck film Forces of Nature (along with my own home, Savannah).

I had heard conflicting tales of this unusual locale for years and I had always been curious to visit it sometime. Kids were always very enthusiastic about it, getting very excited and saying how awesome it was. Adults, on the other hand, were not usually so generous in their recommendations. So, last year, when I headed up to the Mid-Atlantic states, I got my chance to have a look for myself. It was interesting - they really do have a ridiculous amount of souvenirs. And, yes, they have a huge amount of magnets at very low prices. Unfortunately, most of them are magnets about South of the Border, and I really don't need too many of those. They had a couple from the Carolinas, but one billboard claimed that tourists could buy Myrtle Beach souvenirs at their Myrtle Beach store, saving a trip out there, but the only Myrtle Beach magnet they had also had South of the Border and the giant sombrero on it. I guess it was fun to see what all the fuss is about, but it's more for kids than adults. If you're planning to travel on I-95 and are going by there anyway, I recommend just checking it out, unless time is an issue. And if you have kids, they really ought to enjoy it. Really, this is a one-of-a-kind spot and it's fun to check out all of the kitsch they have there. I'm not sure if paying to ride to the top of the giant sombrero is the best idea, though - from what I understand, all you can really see are trees, the complex, and the Interstate. But if want to give this unusual tourist trap a look, by all means, stop and check out what they have to offer, and perhaps even get an inexpensive memento of your visit. As Pedro would say, it's "Sommtheeng Deeferent!"

No comments:

Post a Comment