Have You Seen “The Thing” at Exit 322 in Benson?
HAVE YOU SEEN THE THING?
If you’ve driven down Interstate 10 anywhere between Tucson, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, you’ve no doubt seen the bright yellow and blue signs emblazoned with the question, “Have you seen THE THING?”- just take exit 322 in Benson, as the signs direct, and stop at Bowlin’s The Thing Travel Center.
Located just a bit off Interstate 10 near Texas Canyon between Benson and Willcox, you'll find The Thing at 2631 North Johnson Road in Benson. Road-trippers have made this both a destination and an impulsive travel stop since the mid-20th century.
SEE THE ROADSIDE ODDITIES
The Thing is a modern roadside attraction that continues the narrative popular in days of yore. The compelling “See the Roadside Oddities” attractions, where once-upon-a-time you could stop, and for a nickel or two, peep the two-headed rattlesnake, the "vicious", "man-eating bear", and grab a bottle of Dr. Feelgood’s Cure-All Tonic. Times have changed – mostly
A LITTLE HISTORY
According to Wikipedia, Thomas Binkley Prince was a lawyer who bought this strange object and created a tourist attraction around it. Prince died in 1969, but his wife Janet continued to run the roadside attraction, until it was sold to Bowlin Travel Centers, Inc. Bowlin continues to run the attraction to this day.
WHAT THE THING IS
Since Bowlin Travel Centers, Inc. took over The Thing many years back, they made improvements and expanded the attraction. Hosting around 1,200 visitors every day, it’s been expanded to nearly 13,000 square feet. The Thing is essentially a museum, with a twist or two. Showcasing topics like Old West history, hinting at Elvis sightings, postulating conspiracy theories, coverups, and the unexplained, these off-book topics cover a broad range of weirdness. This is a museum in the true vein of old roadside stopovers. But conspiracy theories and the possibility of Elvis-in-the-Desert is not even the strangest part!
DINOSAURS VS. ALIENS??!
The popular exhibit, Dinosaurs versus Aliens, drops the question, what if aliens came to earth and fought dinosaurs? What would that look like? Well, the museum explores this idea with large statues of dinosaurs and aliens locked in battle. And THIS isn’t even the weirdest part!
WHAT THE THING ISN’T
There are many exhibits included in the modern-day roadside oddities show to keep your family entertained long enough to shake off some of the road dust. This experience will give you hours of conversation for the rest of your journey, no matter where you're headed. The small fee to get in is well worth the experience. It's only $5 per person, but if you’re a veteran, active-duty military, or a senior, that drops to only 4 bucks. There’s even a family rate of just $10 – a real bargain. I called to ask how many people were covered by the $10 family entrance fee. The guy who answered the phone said, “well, a couple of parents, and I dunno, 4 or 5 kids, or so.” So, there you have it. They’re very generous with their definition of family, so The Thing ISN’T expensive.
SO - WHAT IS THE THING?
The Thing – the ACTUAL The Thing the signs are imploring you to SEE, is found at the very end of this fascinating attraction. The Thing was found in a copper mine in Arizona presumably somewhere close by, and it’s been the conclusion of this exhibit since the last century.
Oh, wait. Did you think I was gonna spoil the ending? I encourage you check out the Mystery of the Desert at Exit 322 for yourself the next time you’re driving through Texas Canyon and Benson! And don’t forget to grab a soda and a little ice cream for the road!