The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Trees Of Mystery

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: We used to go on these family vacations, my father, my mother and I. They'd be in the front seat, I'd be in the back, stretched out, reading a book. Something like "Tom Swift and His Electric Airplane" or one of the Doc Savage series. We'd be driving through the black mountains of Colorado, but I'd be somewhere far, far away. Occasionally, though, I would return to the vehicle and look out the window at the cars ahead of us and notice a bumper sticker that would say something like "Don't Miss the Mystery Spot!" Or there'd be a sign on the road that would say, "Ten miles to the Mystery Spot!" "Hey dad, that sounds really neat. Can we go to the Mystery Spot?" I'd inquire. I loved mystery. What could be better than a place called "the Mystery Spot"? Clearly this was a special place, a magical place. "The Mystery Spot"! My dad, who was no sucker, and who often preferred a minimalist approach to putting the kibosh on an idea, would respond with a firm, loud "No!" When pressed, he'd explain that places like "the Mystery Spot" should really be called "the Money Pit" or "the Money Trap." "There is no real 'Mystery Spot,'" he'd insist. "They're just using that to lure people in and charge them a lot for food and a bunch of garbage." By garbage he meant all the little knickknacks in the gift shops. Things like "real Indian arrowheads" and slices of petrified wood, beaded Indian belts and snow globes. I, of course, wanted one of those beaded Indian belts. A snow globe wouldn't be bad either, I thought. We never, ever stopped at any of those places. Many years later, my wife, my son and I drove up to Oregon for a weeklong family reunion. The families of my wife's two brothers, along with her parents, would rendezvous with us at a seaside hotel. Heading north, we saw signs encouraging a visit to the "Trees of Mystery." No, that's not really it. The signs suggested that by not stopping at the "Trees of Mystery" we would be missing the chance of a lifetime. Naturally, my son and I, he being a freshman in college at the time, began joking about the "Trees of Mystery." What exactly were they? Where did they come from? What made them so mysterious? We conjured up entire worlds based on the "Trees of Mystery." And then there were the scam scenarios. You know, about those guys who set up shop to take advantage of travelers with kids of a certain age, to which something called "Trees of Mystery" is of great appeal. Now the vacation was nearly over, and it was time to drive home. My wife's younger brother David lives in Los Angeles; we lived in San Francisco at the time, which meant we would each be driving along the same road for part of the return trip. We decided that we'd stop along the way at a diner and have dinner together one more time before parting. Heading south, as we passed several "Trees of Mystery" signs, someone (could it have been me?) thought it would be funny to stop at the "Trees of Mystery." Certainly they've got to have a restaurant near there, I said. I mean, we don't actually have to visit the "Trees of Mystery." Oh yes we did. The setup is that on one side of the road is the restaurant. Mediocre food? That's putting it nicely. On the other side, is a huge, Paul Bunyanesque statue — hey, they don't want you to miss the place. There is a large parking lot. And a gift shop. After dinner, everyone — my wife, my son, my brother-in-law, his wife, their two kids — trooped across the road to experience the "Trees of Mystery." Everyone, that is, except me. There was no way I was going to waste money on this thing. So I sat in the car. For, oh, half an hour? Forty-five minutes? Time seemed to stand still as I periodically gazed at that statue, or at the entrance to the gift shop. To this day, all I know is that there are some damn weird trees in there, and that my wife insists it was worth the money. "You should have seen those trees," she has said, more than once. I look at it differently. Sometimes, you just don't want to replace the purity of your imaginings with the truth. "The Mystery Spot"? "The Trees of Mystery"? How could the real thing ever live up to my musings?

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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