Unlike most of my East coast-transplant friends, I’ve never driven all the way across the country. For me, the Midwest remains a mysterious flat space dotted with things like the largest ball of twine and Mount Rushmore. From my friends, I’ve heard about one legendary store that in my mind represents the quirkiness of a cross-country road trip—Cabela’s, which those in the know describe as a Sportsman’s Warehouse on crack.
I know, Cabela’s isn’t just a Midwestern phenomenon; the company has retail stores that sell hunting, fishing and outdoor gear from Connecticut to Wyoming. But I imagine that after driving through a landscape of waving grains and fast food chains, something like Cabela’s comes out of nowhere, a gigantic representation of how marketing can take overblown forms (as in hundreds of stuffed animal heads and indoor ponds) as opposed to simplistic, yet impossible to ignore, litter-on-a-stick billboards.
With the Cabela’s/road trip connection in mind, I was surprised to open today’s paper to find that Cabela’s has just opened its first store in Utah. The 173,000-square-foot Lehi store has an indoor archery range, a restaurant with wild game on the menu, gun library, dog kennel and 430 mounted animals (the Tribune details the collection’s impressiveness). Before the store opened to the public, thousands of people previewed Utah’s newest attraction, including Gov. Jon Huntsman.
While Huntsman views Cabela’s as an economic and image booster for the state, I see the new store eroding my romanticized road trip across the country. If I visit the Lehi location, I will no longer be able to enter a Cabela’s for the first time in South Dakota or Nebraska. I’ll just have to hold on to the hope that the taxidermy in the Midwest stores will trump the Utah location, and I will still have a jaw-dropping moment in a rest stop unlike any other.