AUGUST 15, 2007

by Kelly

Country Junction was another stop on our little 2007 vay-cay in The Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. Country Junction bills itself as "The World's Largest General Store," with locations in 5 different cities in Pennsylvania. Throughout our trip, we were assaulted with flyers, ads and billboards for this wonderous Mecca of shopping and entertainment, so we bit and decided this place was worth an afternoon of our time. If only in a potential "Project-Absurd-worthy" kind of way.

The Country Junction site we chose to visit is in Lehighton, PA, closest to where we were staying, and conveniently is billed as the "Main Store." This was a no-brainer.

Or so we thought.

What any of the advertising literature conveniently failed to mention this past summer is that Country Junction in Lehighton, PA was gutted - literally destroyed - by fire last October. If you click on the Lehighton link on their site (linked in the first paragraph, above) today, it does mention the fire. I don't know what the site said as of last August - I remember being slightly confused by the whole site when planning potential stops for this trip. Regardless, my point is that going into the visit we had no idea there was any fire ever. We simply thought we were visiting this awesome General Store place thing.

Imagine our surprise and total confusion, then, when pulling in to Country Junction and instead of seeing the huge building as billed in all the literature, we saw... a tent, a small area with fowl roaming about, and the weirdest children's play area we had ever seen. Remember, we were out-of-town tourists enticed by the literature who had no clue about any fire whatsoever! To say we were confused and really weirded-out by the discrepancy between the flyers and the reality would be an understatement. "Had we gone to the wrong Country Junction? Did we read the ads wrong?" was all we could think. We knew we must be missing some vital piece of information. But heck, we were there already, so we decided to explore. There seemed to be a few other customers wandering around, anyway, like these guys (er...gals):

I was thinking that when we walked by some Country Junction employees, they would surely fill us in on the situation - especially considering we were walking around with "WTF" looks on our faces, but no. The fact that the employees turned a blind eye to us turned out to be a blessing in disguise anyway. We were free to roam around and be the Project Absurd Investigative Reporting Team we love to be! And naturally, we were immediately drawn to the whacked-out children's play area...

After some digging online, I am going to conclude that since the fire took place in early October of last year, this play area had once been intended as a part of their Halloween-time fun for kids and since the fire, they just hadn't cleared it out. If that's not the case, this place was even more bizarre and wonderful than we thought! In the picture above you can see Sponge Bob's Bikini Island area to the right, the entrance to the Haunted Woods in the middle, and part of a huge "Pirate Ship" to the left. We'll get to Bikini Island and Haunted Woods in a moment (we explored the Pirate Ship, but there really weren't any good pictures to be had). First, I want to take you to the randomness that was found to the left of, and behind, the pirate ship. Like this giant, hideous arachnid.


Remember, we were there and just confused. No idea about a fire, but aware that something must have happened here that would make this whole place make sense! I'm not sure anything could make this make sense, though:


Yes, a dinosaur with a hula hoop, ladies and gents. Thank you, he be there all year. Please come again!

In this area we also found the most bitchen' bus ever:

And, um, a pumpkin coach slide stick-horse thing:

From here we moved onto Bikini Island, which I'm guessing is supposed to be like Sponge Bob's city of Bikini Bottom - only renamed so as not to encourage the copyright holders to sue:

Things have not been going well in Bikini Island - it is overgrown, run-down, and the inhabitants are either passed-out or dead:


The piano (from Krusty Krab's?). Yikes...


Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Or a... thing... on land? I love the horse-for-no-reason. :o)

Did you have any idea Sponge Bob lived so close to Haunted Woods? I smell a new episode idea!

We didn't venture too far in, because it was creepy, even in August. But here's a shot of The Haunted Woods:

Heading back toward the merchandise tent (their makeshift store since the fire, we now know) we found this "Crap on, crap off, The Crapper (clap clap!)":

And this most bizarre demon head-safety cone hybrid!


That was so totally bizarre and creepy. It still freaks me out to see it.

Up to this point we were totally messing around, going wherever we wanted, and no one cared even one iota. This would be the theme all afternoon, much to our delight. So we started taking pictures of the weird stuff we found for sale in and around the tent. Like these dinner-serving sharks:

And these chickens:

Country Junction obviously likes to sell restaurant decor. Ham became totally fascinated with menu chalkboard guys like this, and there were a lot of them:

I enjoyed the stash of Knights in shining ruddy armor:

Here's some menu guys, fish, Dean Martin and stuff:

This movie-theater popcorn guy rocked!

You wouldn't think these two would be friends. Guess you should never judge a book by its cover!

Last, but certainly not least was my favorite couch ever... this "cowch." And I thought the juxtaposition of it with the "real" couches and the scarecrows made for a wonderful photograph:

So, there you have it. This is essentially what was left of Country Junction as of last August (2007). From what I read, they are currently trying to rebuild. If you live in the area or will be there on vacation, please stop there and lend your support!

(Posted 10/21/2007)