Last week, when I was in Albuquerque, Kristin sent me a text that we needed to get out of town and go on a road trip. I agreed, because it seems like forever since we went somewhere fun. I didn't really have any ideas (Santa's Land, one of my perpetual "We have to go there!" places, has once again closed for the season without a visit from us), so Kristin suggested The Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum, or, as it is known colloquially, the KFC Museum.
"Do you want to go to the KFC Museum?"
Yesterday morning I got up early, got ready to go, and waited for Kristin to come pick me up, and then we were on the road, to a strange and distant land known as Kentucky, our neighbor to the north:
After only two hours in the car, we neared our destination, and Kristin tried to put a damper on my excitement.
"Now, I don't want you to get your hopes up, but it's not that great."
Not that great? How could a museum dedicated to a uniquely American facet of our cuisine, Kentucky Fried Chicken, made with Colonel Sanders' secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices, possibly be "not that great"? People in 105 countries known that "Kentucky" means "chicken" because of Colonel Sanders, and I refused to believe that the museum dedicated to this pioneer of business and Southern culture could possibly be anything less than a shrine.
And, of course, I was right. It is a shrine. A tiny shrine that takes up a small part of a regular, plain old KFC restaurant:
Everything on the right side of the picture, from the "Pure Oil" sign over, is the museum. Everything on the left is a KFC.
I should have listened to Kristin.
Really, my first indication should have been in the parking lot. They don't even have a sign that says "Museum". The sign looks like this:
The building itself looks somewhat historical, and still has a vintage sign:
but you can see right there from the rounded addition that they've added a modern KFC restaurant to the place despite the historical status:
The state of Kentucky does have a historical sign out front:
but again, this isn't really a museum. It's a KFC with some display cases:
a somewhat dirty statue of Harland Sanders on a bench that you're supposed to have your picture made with:
and a dark, windowless wood-panelled dining room that, I suppose, may or may not be historically accurate but is also a weird mix of styles from different decades:
There are a couple of displays in the dining room: a model of the motel rooms that used to be attached to the cafe, a model of Harland Sanders' kitchen that had vintage Borax boxes on the counter but modern faucet hardware in the sink, and a model of Col. Sanders' office:
I guess if you're hungry and on the way to somewhere else the museum is a good place to stop, but it was almost as disappointing as the National Knife Museum. Arguably, it may even be worse than the National Knife Museum, because that at least had a gift shop and some hideous animatronic animals. This seemed kind of like they couldn't tear the building down because it was on the historical register, so they pulled out a bunch of old KFC stuff, nailed it to the walls, and called it a day.
Kristin and I weren't ready to call it a day, though, and instead decided to press on to Lexington and visit Joseph-Betth Booksellers, which Kristin remembered as a huge independent bookstore with lots of obscure, hard to find titles but which has instead given over more than half of their floorspace to food, clothing, trinkets, toys, home decor, candles, and what is apparently the kind of business model that killed Borders. Still, I did find a book that I didn't know I wanted because I didn't know it existed, and we had a nice late lunch/early dinner at the Bronte Bistro inside the store.
The mini creme brulee is an excellent use of two dollars:
On the way home, Kristin had to stop for gas, so we also stopped for a minute at the slightly decrepit fireworks store next to the gas station:
and marvelled at the collection of weird statues:
and broken down amusement park rides (seriously, they had not one but two rusting inoperative ferris wheels):
on their front lawn.
We didn't buy anything, since neither one of us is allowed to have fireworks in our apartment complexes and both of us are liable to blow off a finger by accident, but it was a nice end to a fun road trip day.
I can only hope that the museum and shrine to Long John Silver or Chef Boyardee is more exciting and befitting of their stature as pillars of American culture.