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Drive-Through America: Unexpected Roadside Adventures

Tonya Prater, Owner

Thank you to Stacie Shonkwiler for writing this guest post.

What do a quirky museum, funeral home, and chapel have in common? They all offer drive-thru services. Get married, attend a funeral and see the World’s Largest Gallstone from the comfort of your car. Weird drive thru experiences in the United States.

Everyone knows you can drive to some restaurants, banks, and pharmacies and pull up to their convenient drive-through and get what you need without leaving the comfort of your car. This is a godsend when you’re having one of those days when you’re running late and just need to do something quickly. 

You know the kind of days I’m talking about, the ones when you’ve got just a million things to do and getting out of the car to do them all seems momentous. 

Those days you’ve been up all night with a sick loved one, and you pull up to the pharmacy to grab the prescription your doctor called in looking all disheveled in your jammies and glamorous bed head ‘do. 

Those days when you forgot to bring your lunch to work, AGAIN, and your stomach is making a rumbling noise like you haven’t eaten in days…at 9:30 a.m. 

Those days when you are in charge of Date Night and you forgot to get cash to pay the babysitter because, well, she doesn’t have a credit card reader, and cash is king. 

Yeah, THOSE kind of days.

Well, these places have taken drive-through to a whole new level. So jump in the shotgun seat, buckle up, and let’s take a drive around the country to see what we can find WITHOUT having to even step foot out of the car! 

Drive-Through America: Unexpected Roadside Adventures

Museum of Wonder Drive-Thru ~ Seale, Alabama

Museum of Wonder

Photo credit: Museum of Wonder Drive-Thru

Take a few freight containers, cut some holes for windows in the sides, and what do you get? Well, you could have yourself your own drive-through museum. This unusual museum didn’t start out being a museum at all. It started as a collection place for owner/picker/artist Butch Anthony’s taxidermy projects and found artifacts in the 1970s when he was just a kid.

One oddity he is well known for is the “World’s Largest Gallstone” he purchased at a yard sale. He has become known as a visionary folk artist for his quirky ability to combine art and found objects into things that become more than the sum of their parts. He was even asked to make Alabama’s Christmas tree ornament for the White House for President George W. Bush.  His collection is so large, he switches out items on display from time to time, so I can’t guarantee the famous gallstone will be on display when you visit.

His eye for the beauty and art in the unusual has morphed into a collection he shares with anyone willing to make the trek to his place located at 970 Hwy 169, on the north side of Seale, Alabama. The museum is open 24/7 and has a suggested donation of $1.

Check out Museum of Wonder to find out more intriguing information about the Museum and Mr. Anthony.

Lakenenland Sculpture Park ~ Marquette, Michigan

metal sculptures

Photo credit: Julie Avery/MSU Extension and Museum

Another unique art attraction can be found in the Upper Peninsula of Marquette, Michigan.

Like Butch Anthony, ironworker/sculptor, Tom Lakenen started making his art pieces as a hobby, but soon ran out of room for all his treasures. The 37-acre park is filled with his imaginative, unconventional works of art he created from scrap metal he found at his job sites over the years.

Here you’ll find a little bit of everything, from pieces that are dedicated to our military, to huge sunflowers and flying saucers, to a steel pink elephant he made for his daughter. You can drive through the museum, but you can also get out and stretch your legs and walk through the park and get a closer look at Tom’s handiwork and maybe have a picnic.

The park is conveniently located on a state snowmobile trail and is a popular stopping point during the snowy months. Tom has even built facilities for visitors needing a respite from the elements. He’s the ultimate host, providing wood to burn in the fire pit, a lean-to with maps of local trails on the walls, and a cabinet of snacks and hot chocolate supplies.

Lakenenland is located at 2800 M-28, about 15 miles outside of Marquette, Michigan. The museum is open daily and there is no charge to visit. 

Drive-In Church Service, University Parkway Baptist Church ~ Johnson City, Tennessee

Drive through church service

Photo courtesy: University Parkway Church

It’s Sunday morning and you want to go to church but maybe you’re traveling and not anywhere near your home church, or maybe you’re not sure about the whole “church” thing and just want to go check out what it’s all about, or maybe the kids are acting up and you KNOW there is no way they would sit still in church.

Maybe those pews are just too darn uncomfortable.

Well, the folks at University Parkway Church have figured out a way to meet the needs of those not able or not wanting to come to a traditional church service. 

Each Sunday they have a drive-in church service at 9:30 a.m. When you drive in, you will be met by friendly greeters handing out lyric sheets to the day’s worship songs for the day.

Then you simply find a parking space and tune your car’s radio to 91.3 FM to follow along with the service. 

The worship band plays inside the church, but the rest of the church service is done in a gazebo in plain sight of the parking area. You can sit in the comfort of your vehicle and sing along with the vocalists singing in the gazebo, and then the Pastor shares the message from the gazebo as well.

Maybe this coming Sunday is a good day to check out University Parkway Baptist Church. They’re located at 219 University Parkway, Johnson City, Tennessee.

A Little White Wedding Chapel ~ Las Vegas, Nevada

Tunnel of Love

Photo credit: A Little White Wedding Chapel

What has become a world-famous wedding destination was born out of the love and prayers of a woman whose heart is overflowing with kindness.

The owner of A Little White Wedding Chapel, Charolette Richards, had already been doing weddings at the chapel since the 1950s but says she kept seeing people with limited mobility, on crutches or in wheelchairs, and couples with fussy young children coming to her chapel trying to get married.

She says she was outside her chapel one day, walking down the sidewalk praying when she got an idea. 

Charolette says she asked her son to build her a window on the side of the building so she could watch for people in similar situations, and she told him she was going to offer to marry people in their cars. He thought her idea was a bit out there but tens of thousands of couples seem to love the idea of a drive-thru wedding.

The Tunnel of Love has gone through lots of changes and upgrades over the years since it was built in 1991, but Charolette says, “It’s not about WHERE you get married, it’s about WHO you marry.” 

Celebrity weddings tend to make the news, but Charolette mentioned a few weddings of everyday folks that stood out in her mind. She remembers one couple who drove into the Tunnel of Love with a boat attached to the back of their vehicle. They promptly jumped out of their car and into the boat for their nuptials. 

She mentioned a couple that arrived on their motorcycle, along with an entourage of other motorcyclists. She remembers stepping out of the booth for that one, and at the end of the 15-minute ceremony, opening the gate at the end of the tunnel and walking out onto the street to introduce the newlyweds as people on the street cheered and cried. 

The Tunnel of Love grew in popularity quickly.

One Saturday proved Charolette’s idea was a great one…27 cars were lined up bumper to bumper with couples waiting to tie the knot in the Tunnel of Love. She had to enlist the help of another minister to help move things along that day, but they pulled it off.      

Want a destination wedding that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Want to say your vows where some of the biggest names in showbiz have? Bring your marriage license and head over to the Tunnel of Love for your drive-thru wedding at A Little White Wedding Chapel located at 1301 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Chapel opens daily at 8 and closing hours vary by day, so call ahead 800-545-8111 to make arrangements. This would be one instance where you would want your plans to go off WITH a hitch!

Drive-thru Funeral Service Visitation ~ Robert L. Adams Mortuary, Compton, California

Drive through Funeral

Photo credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Til death do us part.

A drive-thru funeral visitation service might seem a bit creepy to some, but the idea for the service came from the same mindset as the idea for the drive-thru wedding chapel, convenience. The Robert L. Adams Mortuary Drive-Thru was built in 1974 in part to make it easier for people with limited mobility to attend visitations of the dearly departed. 

Your loved one’s open casket is placed safely on display behind bulletproof glass and a guest book is available outside so visitors can sign to let you know they have been by to pay their respects. 

This option might also easier on the family of the deceased, where some family members are already emotionally taxed and attending a full funeral service would be even more difficult on them. This idea might be especially appealing to those families whose loved one is well-known and they are expecting a lot of visitors. 

The idea is ideal for those who wish to say their farewells but are on a limited time schedule. They are able to have a moment to visit and sign the guest book, providing a much-needed sense of closure for some. 

The Robert L. Adams Mortuary is located at 501 East Palmer Street, Compton, California. The drive-thru visitation service is just one type of service they provide. Visit their website for more information.

Drive-Through, Through and Through

Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, we pretty much live in our vehicles and drive-through services have become commonplace and sometimes necessary.

Sometimes we’re in a time crunch, and the drive-through is the fastest way to accomplish a task.

Maybe you’ve got mobility issues and getting in and out of your vehicle is very difficult, drive-throughs can be your best option for doing all you want and need to do while still affording you some freedom.

Maybe you love how comfy your seats in your vehicle are and you look for any reason to go for a drive.

Whatever reasons you choose to use the drive-through, I don’t think they’re going away any time soon. tt

That wraps up my little tour of the unexpected drive-through adventures across the country. This was just a tiny taste, I assure you. I’d love to hear about some of the out-of-the-ordinary drive-through experiences you’ve had.
Thanks for tagging along!

This post has been written by Stacie Shonkwiler

I’m a Visual Storyteller. I love to team my photos with inspirational and informational writing. I’m a Reinvention Enthusiast. No one says you have to stick to ONE job or ONE dream your whole life. Don’t like what you’re doing? Reinvent yourself! Mom of 2 AMAZING sons! Everyone says their kids are amazing…mine REALLY are. I’m an insatiable knowledge seeker. I read just about everything I can get my hands on. I’m a God Girl in love with His Creation, and I spend entirely too much time taking pictures of the beautiful things I see. Visit my Instagram page at unveileddiscovery to read more of my work.

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