Navigating the Internet can be a strange trip indeed. Sites of every conceivable color and stripe fill the nonterrestrial world, everything from the stately British Museum where Marx's pen changed a world to the bearded fat lady at a Coney Island sideshow.
In fact, the Internet is the greatest information resource known to mankind. It is also home to more that is weird than Times Square on a muggy summer evening. Oddball sites abound.
Says Indiana's Randy Benoit, the Net's self-proclaimed apostle of offbeat cyber (www.randysnet.com/weird): ''Finally, people who like to have good clean fun, and get information not always available in the real world, have homes to go to.''
We've compiled a roster of strange places to visit, but unlike many other ''weird'' lists, this one contains sites that are actually useful, or at least informative. When you visit, you'll find the eccentric, the silly, the practical and the bizarre -- all of them places you wouldn't visit ordinarily, but all of them worth the trip (except perhaps the Air Sickness Bag Museum -- we couldn't resist that one):
Planning a medieval wedding? Need to learn the nuances of the Celtic wedding vow, or understand the Norse rules of romance, marriage and love before you say, ''I do''? Then click onto the Dallas-Fort Worth Wedding Exchange. It's there in all its eerie splendor.
Warning: The following Web site may make you sick. In fact, in the Air Sickness Bag Museum, one can view every conceivable kind of air, train, sea and space sickness bag, complete with detailed descriptions and historical information about the bags each airline and boat line offers passengers, even the Irish Ferries bag emblazoned with a gorgeous -- and how appropriate -- green shamrock.
If this fails to turn the stomach, try the Quackery Hall of Fame, a museum of questionable medical devices, where you can feast your eyes on the many wondrous ''medical'' gadgets devised by the human mind to cure itself ''without the benefit of scientific method or common sense.''
Our journey continues into the land of the just plain weird, thanks to Roadside America, which offers some of the strangest manifestations of local culture in the United States.
Jack Kerouac would have loved it. Want to see the world's largest thermometer or peanut, or the oldest cabin made of 26,000 fossils? How about the largest wind turbine or jade top bar, or perhaps the world's tallest Uncle Sam? For those of us who won't die peacefully unless we visit the inside of a missile silo, Roadside America is our tour guide deep into the once stately home of a decommissioned, 103-foot Titan II. For the spiritual, there's a journey to the Palestinian Gardens, a mini-reproduction of the Holy Land located in Mississippi.
Trains are an integral feature of American folklore, and Trainorders.com is visited by rail enthusiasts some 9,000 times a day. It provides video and sound clips of trains traveling across the United States, plus a live railcam network with cameras at two California sites, Dunsmuir and Tehachapi, the busiest single-tracked mainline in North America.
Stonehenge, the circular Neolithic complex on Salisbury Plain in England, has been described as everything from an archaeo-astronomical observatory to a landing place for aliens. What is less known is that Stonehenge has given rise to clones, among them the Missouri Megalith and Georgia Guidestones. Many were designed by Druid priests, university students and faculty, among others, and engineered from used Cadillacs (fins up) and even refrigerators. For a look at the best of imitation Stonehenge, try Catherine Yronwode's Lucky Mojo Web site, where you'll also find exhibits on subjects ranging from Freemasonry for Women to Comic Books to Sacred Sex.
Croquet long has been considered as demure a sport as any, but at Extreme Croquet, the mallets are flying. This is definitely not your grandmother's game: It's a real league where there is -- heaven forbid -- no dress code. The more treacherous the playing field, the better. Hills, water hazards and small animals are a bonus. Animosities among competitors are displayed openly, so play at your own risk.
Want a ride in the self-described world's smallest recording studio? Get into the Ultimate Taxi and motor through the streets of Aspen, Colo. It's a '78 Checker billed as the only ''theater, nightclub, planetarium, toy store, Internet-connected taxicab in the world.'' The cab contains strobe and fiber-optic lights, lasers, dry ice fog, digital cameras, color photo printer, computer and cellular phone. A digital piano and drum set provide the sound. Jon Barnes, the hack, takes passengers on ''the ride of a lifetime,'' he says, ''a Pink Floyd concert on wheels complete with a Siegfried-and-Roy-style light show.''
Did you know that owls lay only white eggs, or that people cannot tickle themselves? Or that more Samoans live in Los Angeles than on American Samoa? Everyone needs a useless fact now and then to keep a conversation lively. If you want yours, visit Deb and Jen's Land O' Useless Facts. You'll find thousands of them.
So you have a beef with a supermarket manager. Or the service on a recent flight was abysmal. You want to write a letter, but the thought of putting pen to pad repulses you.
No problem, just visit Scott Pakin's Automatic Complaint-Letter Generator. There, highly polished and literate complaint letters are generated specifically for the individual or company that provoked your anger. Choose the terms of opprobrium you prefer and mail away.
Want to view a satellite photo of your back yard? Well, it's not exactly that pinpoint yet, but when you visit Microsoft's Terraserver, you can drum up satellite photos that home in on every spot in the United States.
Just keep clicking on a geographic location (or type in the name) and seconds later the U.S. Geological Survey's aerial photos will appear before you. See the Golden Gate Bridge from space.
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