Tourist Trap

Come visit…

Imagine a vacation to the mountains, no Wi-Fi, no TV, no hassles. The hubby and I planned to hike, sit around a fire, and commune with wildlife. Then it rained, no hikes, no fire, and the only creatures out in that kind of weather were blood-sucking pterodactyls otherwise known as mosquitoes.

            The temperature was ninety degrees with humidity in the millions. What to do?

            I read all the books I’d brought and lost all pocket change in a card game with the hubby. The beer was also low. Taking a drive to see an ice mine seemed like the thing to do.

            After driving two hours and paying admission, we were led into a shed where an approximately 10 X 12-foot hole was cut in the floor and surrounded by a railing. There was ice in the hole. That was it, except for the gift shop.

            Interesting tidbits: The ice melted in the winter. When discovered, the mine originally held human remains, a petrified fish, and fossils. Admission might have been justified had I seen a dead body or even a petrified fish had it been a large one.

            Cost of the adventure where no mining, underground adventure, or hardhats were involved: $5.00 each for admission, $25.00 for gas to see ice in a hole, $20.00 for six-packs and ice (not from the mine.) We passed on a souvenir hoping that the human remains weren’t from a previous cheap tourist who refused to buy a t-shirt. For a total of $55.00, we experienced bug-free, primitive air conditioning and refrigeration.

            On a trip to West Virginia, we witnessed another tourist trap, gem mining. The miniature mining town promised that enriched bags of dirt, available for purchase in the gift shop, were chock full of gems and fossils. Kids dumped their bags into a sluice to wash away the dirt. Gem mining was a gimmick where parents paid for their kids to play in muddy water to score rocks.

            We took our daughter prospecting when she was young. As we drove past a spring, the hubby tossed a hand full of coins out the car window. Armed with a pot lid, she had a fine time playing in the water. The smart girl questioned why she found coins, but no gold. The hubby explained that when people filled water jugs, money fell out of their pockets. Cash was better than gold. Though the money we saved on tourist traps in no way paid for her college, every bit helped and the kid still had fun.

            When I was a kid, a boardwalk sideshow promised mermaids for a fee. I pestered until my parents paid for me to see the mythical sea creature. What a disappointment. I passed on a box of saltwater taffy for a mermaid sculpted out of salt dough.

            The experience should’ve jaded me against other traps, but pure, human curiosity overrides reason at times. At the old mining town, I wondered if the dirt to gem ratio was worth the price. Did any kid walk away with an emerald or ruby as suggested? Lacking mining-aged children, I’d never know. The hubby prevented me from soliciting the pint-sized prospectors. “Can I see your gems?” might have required more bail money than we had in cash should the parents mistake me for a creeper. Both dads were also young and muscular and could’ve kicked our asses with one arm before the law showed up.

             West Virginia had enough free attractions that could do you in. You could fall off of a mountain on a hike, drive off the side of a mountain, or slide down the side of a mountain and drown in a river. Oh, but the scenery was worth it and you might encounter a bear. The hubby and I tend to visit places where you’d most likely never recover a body, we should be wary of being taken by tourist traps.

            After filling our cooler with ice from what stood in as an ice maker in West Virginia (another cooler), we headed home. On the way, we witnessed a massive cow massacre, but sharing that story required stronger spirits than beer.

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