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Ramblin’ Road: I found the world’s largest ball of twine

by Phyllis McCrossin

I use a lot of handy-dandy apps while King and I are traveling. They are pretty cool little helpers while on the road.

To find campsites I use a variety of apps such as The Dyrt Camping, Campendium, Free Campsites and a few others. But to be honest, I’ve found that if I type in “campgrounds near me” on my search bar of my phone, a list of campgrounds will show up. Some are free, some are not. Some are a little dicey but most are nice enough.

We are on the road so spending one night in a campground off Interstate 10, with traffic noises lulling us to sleep is really no big deal — at least not for us. Most of the time we stay at free campsites (small villages and towns often have a city park with free – or less than $15 a night – camping, some even have electric and water hookups)

If one does not mind traveling off the beaten path (when west of the Mississippi) there are a lot of Bureau of Land Management sites where camping is free. That generally means pulling in, setting up camp and spending the night with no sewer, water or electric hookups, but for us it works. Free is always nice.

Google reviews are a great help. They let you get a general “feel” for a place before arrival.

There have been times when I’ve found a spot to camp, entered the location into my phone only to hit a dead spot halfway to our destination and not have a clue how to get to where we are going. We generally turn around and head back the way we came because I’ve found that with our previous phone service there was no point in trying to get a signal.

Yes. It was frustrating. No. It’s not worth getting upset about it. We simply move on and tell one another, “It probably wasn’t a good spot anyway.”

I also like to see a lot of Americana – the unusual, absurd and just plain touristy sites that lull travelers off the beaten path.

To find unusual destinations, I use RoadsideAmerica.com. It’s not an app, at least there is not app for an android phone (there is an app for iPhones). The site itself is a little difficult to navigate but with a lot of patience one can find all sorts of fun things to visit.

World’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas

It’s how I found “The World’s Largest Ball of Twine,” in Cawker City, Kansas.

I’d been telling King since 2018 we needed to visit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Time constraints, bad weather or King simply not wanting to go, always kept us away, but this past year he finally relented and we drove to Cawker City to see the twine. I was impressed… King not so much.

The ball was started in 1953 by Kansas farmer Frank Stoeber – who was simply tired of sweeping up and burning the twine that accumulated in his barn. He started rolling in into a ball and other area farmers started bringing their baling twine to Stoeber to add to the ball. The ball (literally) grew from there.

The ball was moved to town in 1961 to be a part of the Cawker City Centennial Parade and has been housed in a shelter along highway 24 since. While Stoeber (who died in 1973) worked to maintain the integrity of the sphere, it has subsequently grown into a rather squashed ball.

Old-fashioned gas station across the street (Highway 24) from the World Largest Ball of Twine.

According to the RoadSide America, web site visitors can add to the ball by contacting twine ball caretaker Linda Clover (instructions on the website say to stop at the public library for contact information). King and I didn’t bother to contact her because it was during the middle of the pandemic (and election day) when we were there.

It is estimated the ball now weighs more than 13 tons and contains nearly 1,600 miles of twine. ­­

This fall, I want to visit the World’s Largest Pistachio. It’s in Alamogordo, New Mexico on U.S. 54. Apparently the 30 foot statue was blessed by a priest from nearby La Luz, New Mexico.

I’m sure it’s worth the visit.

3 Comments

  • One year when we traveled to TX we drove along old Rt. 66, stopping at various “biggest,” “tallest,” sites along the way. The world’s tallest thermometer was not along that trip, but can be found in Baker, CA, and the world’s tallest totem pole is somewhere in OK. Other people think we’re strange to seek out these things, but it keeps the boring miles a bit more enjoyable on long road trips! That’s how we stumbled upon the Big Blue Whale in OK, a relic of a very old (50s era?) water park that was literally a pond with a dock and a big blue whale with a slide into the water. We found the place dilapidated, but the whale has since been repainted, and the park refurbished with grills, playground equipment, and rest rooms! You can visit it in Catoosa, OK!

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