Route 66 is somewhat of a legend. Known as the “Mother Road”, it originally stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California when established in November of 1926. It has been made famous by television (Route 66), song (Get Your Kicks on Route 66), and literature, (as in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath). As well, it leads you through some of the prettiest areas in the U.S.
In its heyday, the highway was lined with motels, diners, hokey roadside attractions and tourist traps. Oddities such as reptile farms, meteor craters, Indian souvenir shops and the first drive-through restaurants tempted the weary motorist to part with at least some of his travel money. In some places it was difficult to see the scenery through the billboards advertising the next fantastic stop.
Over the years, most of Route 66 has been replaced by segments of newer and faster interstates, but you can still explore a fair amount of it, as it shadows the main highways in several areas. Ruins and relics of old curiosities and services tell the history of the road. Some of the sites have been fortunate enough to have been restored and cared for by local historians.
A couple of times now, we have been lucky enough to travel most of the old route, either on it or alongside of it. As my brother and his family live roughly halfway across the state of Missouri, we follow Rte 44 (which shadows Historic Rte 66) from St. Louis in a SW direction. From just about the moment you leave St. Louis behind, just like the old days, the billboards start competing for your attention about upcoming attractions. Cavern tours, gift shops, outlaw hideouts, aquariums, souvenirs, you name it.
The Bottom of the Humor Pile
But this year, one caught our attention more than others. For miles before you actually reach it, there are billboards advertising The Uranus Fudge Factory with not-so-subtle innuendos like “The Best Fudge Comes From Uranus” and “People Love To Play in Uranus”. Obviously, neither high-brow or mature humor, but we laughed anyway and our interest was piqued. We decided we had to see it for ourselves.
The Uranus Fudge Factory is not an original site from Rte 66, but a tip of the hat to the old days. It’s owner (and self-proclaimed mayor of Uranus) Louis Keen, fondly remembers the glory days of the Mother Road, and the roadside attractions were his favorite. He set out to replicate that feeling. Transforming a property he had originally purchased in 2002 (and ran for 10+ years as a strip club), he and his wife opened the Uranus Fudge Factory in July of 2015.
Apart from a huge fudge and candy shop, the site features a tattoo parlor, sideshow museum, gun shop, the world’s largest belt buckle, hokey photo ops and huge dinosaur models. There’s even the Uranus Axe Hole, where you can test your skill at throwing hatchets. And everywhere you look are the worst (best?) jokes, innuendos and puns.
As the day was rather wet and cold, we didn’t spend a lot of time outside investigating the other attractions, most of which didn’t seem to open until later in the afternoon anyway. Nope, my sweet tooth was kicking up, and we basically made a beeline for the Fudge Shop and General Store.
As you walk in the main door, you are greeted by a chorus of enthusiastic “Welcome to Uranus!” from the staff. Here you’ll find literally thousands of choices to satisfy your sweet tooth, including some old favorites from long gone by. Moon Pies, Salt Water Taffy, RC Cola, fresh popcorn and much much more.
Our heads were spinning, there was so much to look at. Even the strange and unique items, like these:
Yep. File that under When Hell Freezes Over and point me at the fudge.
The fudge is incredible, made fresh daily in 16+ different flavors, including a few sugar-reduced varieties. The very friendly young man behind the counter offered us free sample tastings, and then asked me how I wanted him to pack my fudge.
With a straight face.
I know I couldn’t do it.
The Best Gifts Come From Uranus
Besides candy and snacks, the store is stuffed to the rafters with souvenirs, keepsakes, novelty items and gag gifts.
Honestly, I could complete my Christmas shopping right here and never leave the store, lol. My favorites (as usual) were the T-Shirts, with slogans like “Uranus Brake Repair – Don’t leave skid marks around Uranus”, “Uranus Union Plumbing Co. – Laying pipe in Uranus since 2015”, or the newest addition:”Uranus Space Force – Keeping Uranus Klingon Free.”
As well there’s a nod to the history of the place. Part of a local post office is preserved above the entrance. Over the cash hangs an ancient ornithopter, which is an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. One of the staff assured me that if the missing tail piece was added, it would surely fly. (Apologies for no pic, it’s rather dim inside and my camera wouldn’t cooperate.)
As we leave, we’re treated to another chorus of “Thank you for picking Uranus, have a nice day!” Yes, I know it’s pubescent, toilet humor. And it should be beneath us. And we should be ashamed of ourselves. And as we made our way back to Pete, our sides were sore from laughing. And the next time we’re nearby, we’re going back for more.
Next time: Gars and Gators and Bears, oh my!
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