We were hours off schedule and hours from the nearest motel, or, frankly, parking lot. All we had was the vast empty of the highway. Dan’s insistence on following the schedule to a T was countermanded by his magnetic pull towards the world’s biggest anything. We can’t stop for an unscheduled snack, but we can sure detour a hundred bumpy backroad kilometres off course to visit a Biggest.
Dan’s love of the unique has its ups and downs. We have stopped at some absolutely spectacular restaurants, hidden gems tucked away down back alleys or on the side of the highway and disguised by their shoddy exteriors. We have also borne witness to the biggest mosquito, ball of yarn, goose and apple. The apple was full of pie, though, so maybe that one counts as a hidden gem. I would certainly not have expected good pie out of a giant fake apple.
I definitely considered this to be one of the downs. Marv’s Christian Family Fun Campground and Cabins. It was early October, and most definitely the off-season. I’m not sure whether I’d have found it less creepy if it was full of families who had chosen this campground above the other, presumably less Christian, campgrounds.
I suggested pulling over on a side road – after all, we are literally towing our house behind us – but Dan was adamant that the schedule had us at a place with showers, and this place had showers. Not to mention off-season pricing.
We pulled in at dusk, interrupting Marv’s dinner to get a key to the showers and an assigned campsite. He wished us a blessed evening, and not to go wandering this late at night while an 8 foot tall Jesus loomed menacingly behind him. The neon glow of the giant cross out by the highway gleamed in Jesus’ eyes. Who knew Jesus could have been in the NBA? Or a mob enforcer?
Dan went on a walk after dinner. I’d been invited, of course, but completely unrelated to the threat that seemed to shine from Jesus’ eyes, I decided to stay in and read. I got caught up in the story, and it was only when my bladder alerted me to its needs that I realized Dan had been gone for 3 hours. His phone rang from the drivers’ seat of our minibus, and I resisted the urge to leave a scathing voicemail about the utility of mobile devices when left immobile.
I pulled out my headlamp and the park map Dan had insisted he wouldn’t need, left a note on the door, swung by the washroom (a friendly giant Jesus holding a soap pump) and then set out. With my phone. We were the only guests at the park on a random Thursday in October, but I didn’t want to yell out and disturb Marv if I didn’t need to. It was the polite thing to do. Unrelated to the extra shadow-y giant Jesus at the first intersection I passed, arms folded disapprovingly.
I wandered along the main path down the center of the park, past wide open campsites and sparse vegetation. I trailed quietly through the cabins, calling softly for Dan at intervals. I came to a trailhead, and was ready to turn back down the next row of cabins instead – Dan wouldn’t be foolish enough to go on a forested trail in a strange place at night – but as I turned away, my light caught on a gleam of metal. I backtracked and picked up an old pressed penny, recognizably the one that Dan kept in his pocket to fidget with. He’d gotten it at one of his earliest Biggests – a catfish, in Alabama.
A giant Jesus held a sign board with a large trail map on it, his enthusiastic grin strangely sinister in the shadows cast by my headlamp. It showed a slightly meandering loop, and the trail was smooth enough to walk in the dark.
I shrugged and started on the loop, staying to the left as I had earlier in hopes that Dan, too, would choose counter clockwise.
I soon caught sight of what I presumed to be Dan, but which turned out, horrifyingly, to be another giant Jesus. Posed as though he was taking a stroll down the trail, just a giant man-shape looming out of the darkness.
I reassured myself that the kids probably got a kick out of their lord and savior joining them on a family walk. They probably didn’t look so foreboding in daylight.
The trail map showed it coming out into a large field, but it did not prepare me for what I found there. Hundreds of giant Jesuses (Jesi?), each with a slightly different expression and pose, all at least 7 feet tall. And Dan, his expression even more manically joyful than the time we saw the world record ball of rubber bands, wandering amongst them, headlamp casting eerie shadows.
“Dan, what the hell!”
He trailed reluctantly out from amongst the shadowy figures. “I thought you didn’t feel up for a walk?”
I pointedly raised my phone and called his. Apart from the tinny tone of a phone ringing through my speaker, silence.
“Are we here on purpose? Was this your plan?” I snarled, I could hear it, but I couldn’t change my tone.
“What? No! They don’t even advertise this! I mean, why don’t they advertise this? It must be the largest number of Jesus statues in one place, right?” Dan gestured wildly back at the crowd.
“It’s crazy,” I replied, unable to stop myself from panning my headlamp across the multitude.
“I know, it’s amazing!” Dan replied, exuberant.
Jesus’ assorted eyes gleamed erratically under the gleam of two headlamps, randomly catching figures in the far distance in surprising and disturbing ways.
Dan agreed to come back in the morning, thankfully. I could only hope they wouldn’t be so ominous in daylight.
I stared at the field in daylight. This is what I got for making assumptions. What could make a dark field of giant Jesuses less creepy than the daylight version? An EMPTY field. Not a single statue to be seen. The soap in the bathroom was on the counter, and no statues were along any route to the trail.
Of course I hadn’t taken any photos.
Dan paced the empty field, muttering and gesticulating for over an hour before we went in search of our host.
Marv gave us a strange look and politely explained that the statue at the entrance was the only one. “Otherwise, what would the kiddies think?” he chuckled, “That there’s more than one son of God? You know, the families that come here, they really just love this guy.”
On a more serious tone, he scolded us for wandering off in the dark like he’d warned us against – we could have gotten hurt stumbling around, must have imagined all that strange stuff with the shadows!
We declined his offer to have our picture taken with the one and only giant Jesus statue in the park.
As we pulled out of Marv’s Christian Family Fun Campground and Cabins, Dan weakly started describing a great little hole in the wall joint we could go to for brunch, only an hour or so away. He stared at the road for a long moment then said, “You know what? How about Tim Hortons.”
PS – It’s fiction, it’s not meant to offend or insult any religions. If it upsets you, mentally replace it with Elvis… Marv’s Elvis Family Fun Campground and Cabins. Problem solved, you’re welcome.