Spoiler alert: Grand Island, Nebraska? Not an island. Apparently used to be, according to the nice young lady at the counter. Or at least there used to be an island somewhere around here, where the Platt River and Wood River came together. She’d looked it up. But the Platt is ten minutes south of town, and I’ve not actually been able to find anything on the maps around here labeled claiming to be the Wood River.
Regardless, she had other opinions, too. I explained that, because of somewhat limited connecting flights, I was in town for a day and a half, with only about three hours of actual business. I asked what around here I should use to occupy those extra hours – what should I see and do in town? She kind of laughed, and her assessment of the town’s tourist attractions would not do the Grand Island Tourism Committee – if such a thing exists – proud.
Granted, there is an axe-throwing parlor that also advertises “archery tag,” which I hope isn’t what it sounds like. And a water park, and a rather large and somewhat celebrated public cemetery which, again, I hope doesn’t have a tie in with the axe throwing and archery tag business.
It was sounding like I’d get to spend my spare hours here typing away, but I was not five minutes from the airport when I passed the first cartoon car up on a pole in front of the Grand Island Humane Society. Two minutes later, I passed a whole passel of them surrounded by a fence declaring them “Fred’s Flying Circus.”
Well, you know me: I just drove on by and checked into my hotel and got right to work. Kidding. No, of course I pulled over and walked around the fence and poked my head into the auto body shop next door to ask, uh….What?
Jeremy, the young man tending the counter seemed more than eager to help – would I like a tour? Was I okay with dogs? Were my shoes okay getting wet? And did I like motorcycles, too? They had a collection of motorcycles that his grandfather – the same man who built the cars-on-a-stick – had built and raced in his younger days.
His grandfather was named Fred Schritt, the young man told me. After retiring from building custom bikes, the elder Schritt was apparently itching for a creative outlet. When he came across a tow truck that reminded him of vehicles from the movie Cars, he decided to make that vision manifest. He called the result “the Peppermint kid,” and, lacking anything better to do with it, stuck it on a post outside the garage once he was done.
Apparently cars-on-a-stick are sort of like potato chips (or heroin): once you get started, it’s hard to stop. Schritt next got the idea of converting an old Volkswagen into the Red Baron and put it on a post as well. Snoopy followed, on the building’s roof, well positioned to return fire. And then another and another. So now there’s also a purple people eater, and a Coney Island hot dog car and…well, a lot of them just defy concise description.
Once we’d returned from the tour, I got to meet his parents, who ran the shop. His mother is Fred’s daughter, and she and her husband regaled me with stories of her father’s creations, many of which were scattered elsewhere around the town. The nearby park apparently has a two-ton T. Rex-ish creature that he built and only later decided he didn’t have room for at the garage. She asked, as Jeremy had, whether I would like to see the motorcycle collection, and seemed disappointed that I demurred. Really, I would have said yes, but I’d been on airplanes all day and was by now feeling a need to sit down somewhere and get some food and quiet into me.
I’ve done both now, and am finding myself tempted to go back for the bike tour, but am hesitant to take up more of their time. They are a working garage, after all, and from what I saw during my brief visit, have more than enough business to keep them busy. But I do have a few hours left this afternoon. Maybe I’ll check out the ax place. But there are a lot of corners of town I haven’t seen yet, and as they say, fun is where you make it.