ILX Drive: “The Thing” in Dragoon, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  529,490

529490

Odometer (ILX):  79,440

79440

Trip Distance:  358 Miles

map

I’m such a gigantic sucker for tourist traps.

tyson_at_thing_2

How did it take me this many years to succumb to the temptation and check out “THE THING”?  I’m not sure, but I finally took the opportunity to visit a roadside attraction that I’ve passed by dozens of times.  It’s located along the remote reaches of Interstate 10 in southern Arizona, in the desert landscape between Tucson and El Paso.  I took my 2013 Acura ILX for a day-trip on Saturday to see what this place was all about.

interstate_10

Leaving the Tucson area eastbound, motorists are assaulted right away by bright yellow billboards in rapid succession, advertising this so-called “Mystery of the Desert.”  It’s enough to make you wonder, “What in the heck is it?”  And that’s exactly what the entrepreneurs who run “The Thing” want you to do!  By the time I arrived at Exit 222 for Johnson Road about 40 miles later, I had counted upwards of 15-20 billboards with various messages luring me in.

thing_signs

You really can’t miss this place.  Just when you start zoning out as the interstate makes its way through some rocky outcroppings, your eye is caught by the giant yellow structure.  There might as well have been a fishing line reeling my ILX into the parking lot because I had taken the bait big time.  I plunked down $1 cash and told the cashier, “One adult admission please.”  The man pointed to a door against the back wall and said, “Go through the door.  Follow the yellow footprints.  The Thing is in the third building.”  And off I went toward the entrance.

ilx_at_thing

tyson_at_the_thing

I thought that the entrance door would lead me into a dark, enclosed room of some sort.  My eyes were blinded when it instead opened up to the outside.  The adventure just kept getting weirder.  Yes, there were yellow painted footprints on the sidewalk ahead of me, so I followed the cashier’s instructions to see where they’d take me.  It felt like some sort of treasure hunt.  Each of the 3 buildings was a giant warehouse of sorts with artifacts on display.  The first had a couple of antique cars (1932 Buick and a 1937 Rolls-Royce), each covered up in a thick layer of dust.

32_buick

I picked up my walking speed a little bit.  “What is this stuff?  Take me to The Thing already!” I thought to myself.  I paused just momentarily to check out a few other things.  Mannequins, an old phonograph, various vintage pieces of furniture, guns, and Indian artifacts.  Cool, but I wanted to see The Thing.  Continuing on I went:  Building 1, then outside, then Building 2, then outside, then, I entered Building 3 at last.  A colorful banner told me that I’d arrived.  I felt like Clark Griswold when he finally spotted the perfect family Christmas tree.

tree

There it was.

thing

“It’s A Wonder!”

Yes, indeed.  So, there was The Thing in all its glory, enclosed in a cinderblock vault with a plexiglass cover over the top.  So, what was it?  I think I’m going to be a tease and let the secret remain.  Hahaha!

I grabbed a mushroom Swiss hamburger at the Dairy Queen attached to the gift shop before heading back toward Phoenix.  It felt great to finally know what The Thing was.  Here are the rest of my pics from the trip!

Pit stop in Benson, Arizona near Tombstone

benson_exit

Sandstone rock formation on I-10

rocks

Exiting at Johnson Road where The Thing is located

johnson_rd

From the outside, the warehouses at The Thing are painted vivid colors.

ilx_right

I followed the dirt road around toward the Big Rig parking because I wanted the full experience.

big_rig_sign

Hype?  Yeah, lots of it.

ilx_thing

In we go.

ilx_at_thing_2

Souvenirs galore.  Yes, this place is a definite tourist trap.

souvenirs

Here are those yellow footsteps.

steps

Building #1

building1

The 1937 Rolls.  Sign reads:  “This antique car was believed to have been used by Adolf Hitler.  The Thing is, though, it can’t be proved.”  Clever.

37_rolls

More footsteps leading to the next building.

buildings

This one felt like a museum.

hallway

Edison phonograph.  “Plays Cylindrical Records,” the sign said.

edison_phonograph

What the heck?  A bedroom set in this building.

artifacts

Post-tour lunch @ DQ.

dq

And back to Phoenix I went!  Drive time was about 2.5 hours each way.

departure

Thanks for joining!

12 Responses to “ILX Drive: “The Thing” in Dragoon, Arizona”

  1. THE THING IS – you didn’t tell us what it was! LOL Nice little get away trip. I guess I’ll have to see it for myself one day.

    • If anyone twists my arm hard enough, I’ll post a link to a picture I took of THE THING. Just didn’t want to spoil it in the article itself, in case anyone wants to discover it in person. haha

  2. I have seen both “The Thing” movies (the one from 1951 and the one from 1982. You probably did not run into one of those otherwise you would not have been able to write this article 🙂

    • Haha, I didn’t even realize there was such movie! Now I’m going to have to check it out. As it turns out, “The Thing” was pretty harmless but just due to all the creepy stuff in those museums (mannequins and such) I probably wouldn’t want to be there at midnight. Under a full moon. Alone. Without a flashlight.

  3. Tyson, you have to check out both movies. If you have Netflix, put them on your queue. Both movies are legendary. The one from 1951 is black and white and the 1982 one is in color. They are science fiction monster movies. That is why I was concerned when i saw that box at the end where the thing is located. There was also a large piece of frozen ice shaped like a box in both of those movies.

    • Ok, thanks for the tip! I don’t have Netflix but I have friends who do. Gotta check those out. Also, for those who are absolutely dying to know. Here’s a pic of The Thing. SPOILER ALERT, DON’T CLICK HERE UNLESS YOU WANT TO SEE IT! 🙂

  4. I thought by your title you went to see a VW thing

    • Haha, I didn’t even think of that! I haven’t seen a VW Thing in a very long time. They’ve probably all been picked up by crazy collectors by now.

  5. You’d love Gatlinburg, TN if you like tourist traps!

  6. I’m glad you kept the code of The THING? going!

    Gatlinburg is rather scary with the sheer volume of roadside crap there. And of course, the center of the whole thing is Dollywood!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: