2020 Road Trip Photos #27: Mega Mantis and the Magic Mart

KokoMantis Kokomo!

Eat fresh and RUN!

We may not have been allowed to leave the state in search of roadside attractions, but Indiana is no slouch in that department if you do the research and hunt them down like Mulder and Scully tracking aliens, except we do it to admire creativity and imagination rather than save the earth from world domination, even when the attraction’s origin is exactly the size you’d expect invaders from beyond to be.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Then came 2020 A.D.

Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.

In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…

KokoMantis again!

It’s been a while since I’ve dissed Subway here, but trust me when I say this is neither product placement nor a sponsored post.

Deep in the heart of Kokomo stands our lead subject: the amazing colossal KokoMantis! 17 feet up and 22 feet long, the brainchild of Scott Pilcher and Scott Little was erected in 2012 using a combination of parts taken from stoplight poles and a WWII bomber. He spends his days guarding a Subway parking lot and generally threatening anyone who approaches with any attitude less than puzzled respect.


Just don’t call him The Deadly Mantis. That’s some other giant mantis in some other, unluckier town.

KokoMantis billboard!

How big IS KokoMantis? Sometimes he’ll do spokesmantis gigs if the synergy is there.

Two minutes east of KokoMantis on Sycamore Street is another unusual structure, likewise constructed in 2012 from repurposed parts, overseen by Mr. Pilcher, and seemingly warped into our reality from another realm. For practical purposes Storybook Express is an ordinary convenience store, but it’s bolder on the outside. Its components came from an old local firehouse as well as several schoolhouses from around Indiana.

Storybook Express!

No, you’re not drunk and your screen isn’t wavering. All curves and waves are part of the architecture,

Storybook Express far end!

Slightly better view of the far end and some odd details including but not limited to the largest electrical outlet this side of the Beanstalk.

Bronze maiden!

Rather than an incredible insect, their corner sentinel is a bronze maiden sculpted in 2009 by a Miami Nation artist named Manetoowa.


Surrounding the maiden is a pretty floral arrangement starring our old friends, the coneflowers (previously sighted in Crawfordsville and in Mitchell).

Storybook Express!

The front door facing the street, which probably messes with the head of anyone who stops by for cigarettes after a night of clubbing. In years other than 2020, I mean.

While KokoMantis was clearly the art installation that most reminded me of MST3K, Storybook Express was the only one that lured me inside to spend money. It was just for a pack of Combos, my go-to snack on our road trip pit stops, but still. I masked up and I hurried in ‘n’ out before the shop could vanish back to its home dimension and take me with it.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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