Pallin’ Around with Chris and Dr. K: South of the Border

Before we get started, a quick note for regular readers: Aside from a bit near the end that may well be worth getting to, this has almost nothing to do with comics.

On the stretch of highway between my house and Dr. K’s, there are a dozen billboards for a place called South of the Border that range from the bizarre to the outright racist. I’ve seen them before, but I’ve never been to the place itself, a strange, sprawling tourist trap just this side of the North Carolina state line, so when Dr. K asked if I’d be up for a road trip to check the place out, I was more than up for it.

Especially once he told me that when he’d been there four or five years ago, they’d had a large collection of vintage velvet painting erotica.

Sadly, the “Dirty Old Man” shop appears to have closed down over the summer, but there were plenty of other harrowing sights for me to document on our road trip. To start with, the (in)famous South of the Border billboards. As I said, they majority of them are incomprehensible, mostly built around terrible puns and almost all of which feature Pedro, the alarmingly stereotypical SOTB mascot:

 

 

The billboards represent the entirety of SOTB’s advertising, stretching from Orlando–the place was originally constructed in its current state in the ’50s to capitalize on traffic coming down the coast to Florida and flourished in the ’70s with the advent of Disney World–to, at one time, Philadelphia, and when I mentioned going to the place on Twitter, a bunch of people told me they remembered seeing the billboards on their own trips, a few of whom even copped to driving hours out of their way to see what the hell they were all about.

There’s one in particular that always sticks out to me, though. If Pedro wasn’t bad enough–although to be honest, he’s better than he used to be–there are several billboards that employ a written-out “Mexican Accent” to go along with him. When I told my friends I was going to the most racist place on Earth and they asked why I called it that, this was the one I told them about:

 

 

As a side-note, I originally assumed Pedro was just a goofy character to go along with the “South of the Border” motif, but according to the website–and yes, they do have a website that’s actually pretty well-designed, considering–the real origin is actually worse:

One may ask, “How did pedro come about?” Well, Mr. Schafer went to Mexico to establish import connections and met two young men. He helped them get admitted to the United States, and they went to work at the motel office as bellboys for several years. People started calling them Pedro and Pancho, and eventually just Pedro.

That’s right: Nobody could be bothered to remember the names of the Mexican bellhops, so they just called them “Pedro” and then hung the name on a racist caricature. Seriously, this place starts hammering away at morality even before you get there.

Dr. K Says: Also, the guy went to Mexico, and he brought back two Mexican boys. Who worked as “bellhops” at his “motel.”

There’s also a billboard where Pedro advises you to “put some junque een your trunque,” but as that’s on the North Carolina side, I didn’t get a picture.

Eventually, we ran out of billboards and got to the place itself, and were greeted by both the Welcome Sign…

 

 

…and the Sombrero Tower:

 

 

In the interest of not being entirely negative, I will say that if you strip it from the increasingly dismal context, I do really like this sort of bizarre fifties roadside ephemera a lot. Even if it does look like something that Cobra Commander was using to hide a space laser.

Once we were in the park proper–parked out in front of Fort Pedro, the giant fireworks retailer that probably accounts for most of SOTB’s profits thanks to its proximity to North Carolina, where anything stronger than a sparkler is illegal–we set about exploring. The place is huge, sprawling on both sides of the highway, with two restaurants, two hotels, an alleged amusement park (we’ll get to that in a second) and three gift shops, each more terrible than the last.

There are also statues, which–aside from the pervasive desolation and sense of decay that comes from a steady decades-long decline–are probably the first thing you’ll notice. There’s a thirty-foot gorilla at the t-shirt stand, an alligator with an M-80, and a Jackalope you could climb on, among others:

 

 

The real star, though–as you might expect–was Pedro. There were at least ten statues of him, not counting the acutally-pretty-cool marquee, and each was more perplexing than the last. There was the gigantic standard model, an “Uncle Sam” version, and even what I can only assume were its Player-2 and Player-3 repaints.

The strangest one, though, was this guy:

 

 

You know, I didn’t notice it at the time, but looking at these pictures, Pedro has feet like ROM Spaceknight’s hands.

Once we’d gotten a look at the grounds, we headed into the gift shops, which was about when things started to turn on us. When Dr. K had been there previously, one building had housed three separate shops–including “Hats Around The World,” a selection of novelty hats of both the racist and plain vanilla unfunny variety that I realized a few minutes too late were a bad idea to try on–but had since been remodeled into one football-field sized indoor flea market. Presumably this was done so that it could be run by a minimum amount of staff with a central checkout counter, but the fact that all but one of the doors in and out were locked gave it a sense of claustrophobia that complimented the soul-crushing depression of the merchandise pretty well.

The shop seemed stocked exclusively by items that averaged around 25 years old. I’m pretty sure this was the newest thing in there:

 

 

The big sellers, though, appeared to be novelty towels, which… Man, I don’t even know:

 

 

Of the four shops we went in, they all had the exact same array of merchandise, except for the “Myrtle Beach Store,” which included a fetid indoor waterfall, giant shark statue and impromptu musical performance. There had been a sign on the door advising customers that this was the store where SOTB stocked their more risque items, but a quick glance around just showed us the same crap that the other places had.

Until we took a closer look at the towels, and found an additional design added to the mix that featured a fisherman getting a blowjob from a trout.

Now, I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded dude. The work of Jim Balent excepted, I don’t really scandalize that easily. But that’s a bestiality themed hand towel, and I just cannot get my head around why anyone would make, let alone buy it.

South of the Border is a mysterious place.

A little-known fact about Dr. K and me is that we are sportsmen of the highest caliber, so after we’d had the experience of shopping, we decided to walk to SOTB’s mini-golf course, which had been advertised as “#1 in the Nation.” Incidentally, there were two golf courses, one outdoors and one indoors. The indoor one, for reasons that elude me, was closed for the winter.

The outdoor course was situated in Pedroland, an “amusement park” area that boasted a litany of attractions…

 

 

…very few of which appeared to actually exist. There was indeed a ferris wheel, but it was the kind you see at the county fair that’s clearly meant to be collapsed and transported on a flatbed truck, but it had been mounted on concrete blocks and given a permanent home. Also featured was a rickety-looking rollercoaster that had become the residence of an extremely ominous, Hitchcockean flock of birds that perched on its every surface. There were also bumper cars that we saw working at one point, but it looked like there was only one attendant for the entirety of Pedroland, and with every other attraction that we saw completely overgrown, the place had the feeling of something halfway between an episode of Scooby Doo and a Rob Zombie flick. If an old man had staggered out from behind the bumper cars and accosted us for meddling, I would not have been at all surprised.

To get there, we had to walk past an abandoned and dilapidated “Convention Center,” and it was during this walk that I saw the most awesome and creepiest thing about the entire trip:

 

 

The giant head of Pedro. I never found out what the “Reality Ride” was, and I don’t want to know.

Eventually we got to the mini-golf course, which offered 36 holes for six bucks each, which is not a bad deal…

 

 

…except that the golf course had been maintained roughly never. Even discounting my duct tape-wrapped club, it was unquestionably the most depressing round of mini-golf I have ever played.

And that’s not an exaggeration: Like the rest of the park, the course was overgrown, but with the added bonus of the stagnant water feature (half of which wasn’t working) drawing swarms of bugs that hovered over the 11th hole that no amount of club-waving could disperse. And as the icing on the cake, every hole gave both of us an electric shock every time we retrieved our golf balls. That could’ve been static electricity and a run of bad luck, but seriously: Every hole. Both of us. Every time.

The best/worst thing about it, though, was the Frog Hazard:

 

 

Somehow, a frog had died on the course and become both petrified and rooted to the fake turf, to the point where it–no joke–it blocked Dr. K’s shot and gave me a two-stroke lead.

After we’d had our death-march of bug bites and electric shocks through the first 18 holes, we quit and returned our clubs, opting not to play the back half.

With golf out of the question, our other option for entertainment was video games. There was an arcade at the base of Sombrero Tower, so we hit that one up. There was a glass elevator that ran to the top for a buck, but given the state of decay that the rest of the place existed in, we opted on the side of “hell no.” The arcade itself did offer up some fun finds, though, including a basketball game that could be played for free as the balls were underinflated enough to slip beneath the gate, a rack of ancient Skee-Ball machines with broken displays…

 

 

…and a coin-op of Konami’s side-scrolling Simpsons beat-’em-up:

 

 

I have fond memories of the Simpsons game from my own childhood, and despite the busted marquee and chipped console, it actually worked. Or at least, the Homer and Lisa sections did. This gave me high hopes for later on in the day, when we went into Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta and discovered two other coin-ops: RoboCop and the late-80s Superman:

 

 

Unfortunately, neither of these had held up quite well: Player 1 on Superman had a busted joystick so that you couldn’t move up, and while Player 2′s joystick worked, the buttons weren’t functional. RoboCop was about the same way, you could move but not attack. None of this would’ve particularly bothered me–crapped-out video games were pretty much par for the course by this point–except that as we’d gotten to the Ice Cream Fiesta a little later in the day, I’d made sure to ask the woman working there if she was closing up and let her know that I was only there to play the games. On the way out, I mentioned to her that some of the buttons were busted, and she told me that yeah, they’d been that way since they put them in the shop. Well, thanks for letting me find out on my own, lady.

By this point we were pretty wound down, so we decided to grab something to eat, settling on the Sombrero Room, which, oddly enough, was not the building shaped like a sombrero. Instead, it was the only restaurant that I’ve ever been in that didn’t smell like food, and after a quick look around and a check of the menu, which offered three tacos for eleven bucks, we decided to get some dessert and take a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.

Here’s Dr. K after a day of fun:

 

 

And here’s me enjoying my Fried Ice Cream:

 

 

It was all worth it, though, to get a shot of the painting that was decorating the restaurant:

 

 

After that, it was time to head out, but before we left, we swung by SOTB’s last shop, a place that specialized in headache medication and bongs. While we were there, I noticed that they had an actual spinner-rack of comics, which–considering the rest of the place–was surprisingly current. It even had this year’s Treehouse of Horror, which was doubly out of place for the fact that it was all the indie comics guys.

The best thing, though, was this:

 

 

Every issue of Matt Fraction’s Iron Fist: Seven Capital Cities of Heaven, right next to the Fox Magazine All-Anal Special, featuring Gapes Galore.

And that about sums it all up.

All told, I took around a hundred photographs on the trip, so if you’re not tired of reading about it yet, feel free to bop over to the Flickr set for more images with commentary.

82 thoughts on “Pallin’ Around with Chris and Dr. K: South of the Border

  1. Awesome! I recently drove down to Florida and passed by all the billboards for this place and was wondering what the hell it was.

    Seriously, the billboards gave me no idea, except that it was pretty racist. By the end of it I was almost tempted to actually pull over just so I could figure out what it was.

  2. Ah, SotB! We used to see the signboards all the way up and down the coast, while driving down to Florida to visit my grandfather. I remember one year curiosity got too much and we pulled in for a bio break and to see what the hell.

    I can say it already seemed vaguely racist and skeevy 30 years ago.

  3. Wow.

    Well, first of all, your sausage puns were the wurst.

    Secondly…wow. It’s like they took the most uncomfortable, skin-crawly, embarassing feelings you get watching the British version of The Office and made them into a theme park that despises Mexicans.

    Third, without the tee shirt, the 30 foot gorilla looks like a Tony Millionaire design. Plus, the Sombrero Tower is pretty cool.

    Fourth, I kind of wonder what the people who go to this place unironically are like. Except that they’re probably nice folks who just can’t afford Disneyland and are only hoping their children won’t notice how bad this place sucks for one more year. And making fun of those people would depress me even more….

    Wow.

  4. You didn’t go up to the top of the sombrero? Wuss. It’s not a bad view, though it’s a little depressing. Kind of like the rest of South of the Border.

    And it doesn’t really sway *that* much in the wind. I swear.

  5. just reading about this place is crushingly depressing. cannot imagine spending a whole day there. unreal.

  6. I remember driving to South Carolina from Virginia and the signs almost made me shout out in anger. Not because of the racism, but they were so many where I couldn’t even understand what the punchline was supposed to be. It was frustrating seeing so many but not being able to understand what was supposed to be funny.

    I feel sorry for South Carolina, since it’s the first thing people from the north see as they enter the state.

  7. Tim C:

    The folks who would go unironically are folks who would burn the gas and free time driving to Disneyworld instead of just catching a quicker (and cheaper) flight.

    Nothing captures desperation as much as a tourist trap in decline. (See also: Salisbury Beach and Silver Lake in Massachusetts and the Lake George area in upstate New York.)

  8. cannot imagine spending a whole day there

    That’s the thing: We were only there for about two and a half hours. But it felt like we’d been there for days, and by the end of it we were just completely drained.

  9. The Happy Fisherman was a Dan Clowes character in early Eightball, wasn’t he? Clowes must have seen the same towel 20 years ago.

    That said, I remember very similar pap in tourist traps on the Gold Coast in Australia about 18 years ago. The shared experience of bad taste knick knacks at roadside attractions brings us all closer together.

  10. I feel like I’ve been there too long, and I have never been there. Just the description of the place depresses me.

    Do they have a sign at the entrance that says, “Abandon all hopes yeez who enters heres?”

  11. In my mind, since I’ve never been to the House On the Rock, this is where the battle in American Gods takes place.

  12. Back in the early 90s a good friend of mine, Lisa Napoli, made a half-hour documentary about SOTB. (If you recognize Lisa’s name, it’s probably from her job in recent years as a reporter for “Marketplace” on public radio.) If you’re interested, you can find her SOTB film on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnUCnh1CQHI

  13. I think in Pedro’s Reality Ride, you are taken from Mexico to South Carolina, where you work as a “bellhop” at a “motel” until you break down weeping as you realize the ride is over and God has forsaken you.

  14. I thought reading the Anita Blake comics or watching the bad movies was the bravest thing you do…

    BOY WAS I WRONG.

  15. Wow. You guys are brave! It looks like the place where dreams go die and the corpse desecrated.

  16. The journey itself may have been a soul-sucking slog of excrutiation, but the Mr. Miracle alt text alone justified this piece. Win.

  17. “Even if it does look like something that Cobra Commander was using to hide a space laser.”

    Are you sure it isn’t because they look like something Cobra Commander was using? Because that sounds like something you’d enjoy, too.

    I miss comics being in convenience stores down here, because you could pick up a lot of old stuff for cover at some of them. So all those IIF’s reminded me of that.

    Scott Steiner reference! You’re gonna have to work one his incoherent promos in to Warrior Wisdom one of these days. Well, I hope you will, at least. Maybe as a fill in?

    Busted arcade machines are always disappointing. Especially when you stupidly pump like $2. DAMN YOU ZOMBIE REVENGE AT THE MOVIE THEATER!

    In closing, I wish they’d build one of these where I live, on the border of Mexico, just to see how long it would last before going out of business/being blown up. That would be fun all by itself!

  18. I enjoy reading about your non-comic related adventures, Mister Sims. Maybe they found out who you were and put out the Iron Fist comics to appease you?

  19. My soul hurts.
    I’m going to go lie down and weep, for now I know that if there ever was a God, he has long since abandoned us.

  20. I remember those billboards. It’s been years but there used to be one particularly offensive one of Pedro scrubbing his back in the bathtub, with a caption that said something or other to the effect of “Don’t Be A Dirty Mexican”.

  21. Oh, man! My grandparents live in Florida, and they would drive my sister and I back up to New York after we had visited with them, and those SOTB signs were always a weird and intriguing mystery.

    Thank you so much for giving us the scoop! As horrible as it sounds, I still wanna see it for myself, but it’s good to know what I’ll be getting into ahead of time.

    -Citizen Scribbler

  22. So, apparently, the meaning of the moniker “South of the Border” is the euphemism for Hell, not a Mexico reference, in spite of all the Pedro references.

  23. In one of the two “Generation X” novels I wrote for Berkley, I had an attraction inspired by “South of the Border” called “Little Latveria.” The hotel looked like Castle Doom with window air-conditioners, and there was a huge statue of Doom himself. You could climb the spiral staircase inside one leg and look out through his mask. As with the observation tower at South of the Border, there’s nothing to see once you’re up there.

  24. Good lord, it’s even worse than I imagined.

    I was totally one of the responders on Twitter. I went to college in Georgia and lived in New Jersey a few years ago, so there were yearly roadtrips back and forth. And every single damn time, I saw every goddamn one of those horrible billboards and drove right through the middle of SOTB once we hit the Carolina border.

    The flagrant racism and brain-numbing punnery drove me crazy! And I could tell even from a distance that it probably had a bunch of dilapidation and unknown horrors going on. I grew to loathe the place, though it did also give me an insane curiousity as to what was actually inside. Now I know, and I kind of wish I didn’t. Seriously, how’s the place stay in business? HOW?

  25. Wow, I don’t remember it being that bad as a kid. :/ Maybe it has gone down hill in those twenty years… or my parents knew where to steer us.

    Don’t recall an amusement park, but I do recall the Jackalope. It used to have all these novelty Mexican things like tequila lollipops and Mexican Jumping Beans and other randoms. And of course the fireworks, which mostly is why we stopped.

  26. The indoor one, for reasons that elude me, was closed for the winter.

    Because it’s cold, man!

    Honestly, though, I have no damn idea. I thought your alt text on the former frog was a reference to the infamous Silent Movie Theater murder, though, so that was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary slog through kitschy decay.

  27. In one of the two “Generation X” novels I wrote for Berkley, I had an attraction inspired by “South of the Border” called “Little Latveria.”

    This is in the running for Best Thing I Have Ever Read.

  28. I’ve been past South of the Border many times, and have even stopped there once or twice. It always makes me think of Neil Gaiman’s theory about American roadside attractions as centers of the spiritual/mystical and then to wonder exactly which gods would be hanging out *there*.

  29. Hoo boy. You captured it pretty well. My own brief visits once upon a time were also less than inspiring. I have a picture somewhere on my site of one of the knockoff toys… for two bucks or so you got little plastic animals. The package read “Cat and Dot” on the outside. I could never tell if it was a complete blunder due to unfamiliarity with English, or else a Nickelodeon pilot that never got produced. Perhaps both…

  30. Ahhhh, South of the Border…I grew up in Fayetteville, NC, and we used to do trips to Lumberton (former home of a Converse shoe outlet where you could find the most amazing All-Stars in all sorts of colors) and then down to SotB to buy fireworks when in high school. I haven’t been down 95 that way in years but it looks just as awesome as it used to be.

  31. Seriously Chris, I’ve been seeing those
    happy fisherman” towels and t-shirts since I was 8 years old. I don’t really know what that says about Michigan that those are so abundant here.

  32. I saw those billboards when I once visited the Carolinas. Just one of the many ‘fantastic’ memories I have of what was the most soul-destroying ‘holiday’ I have ever been on.

    Boo hoo.

  33. Awesome. When I was stationed at Bragg, and the wife (then girlfriend) went back to school at UM, I used to see all those signs when going to see her (broke soldier = driving from NC to Miami), and mentioned a number of times that I was going to stop in on the way down or back some time.

    The wife wisely talked me out of it, and now you’ve shown me why.

  34. Not many. There was a couple snapping photos of the statues that seemed thoroughly enchanted with the kitsch, but for most of it we were pretty solitary. As it got closer to nightfall and the neon came on, there were a few more groups that showed up, though most of them seemed to congregate around the gas station.

  35. 1. That picture of you with the fried ice cream will be the first thing I think of whenever I see “you forgot/um, actually” comments on your work from now on.

    2. According to South of the Border’s website (they have a website!): “All of pedro’s [sic] game rooms have the most up-to-date video games and entertainment equipment available!”

  36. Holy shit, did you see that the guy who created this place supposedly went insane and had all kinds of hidden apartments in the shops and buildings at SOTB? It’s like some kind of Lovecraftian nightmare place. It truly is a doorway to unspeakable horror.

  37. I live somewhat near “America’s Stonehenge” in NH… which is said to be the place Lovecraft visited that inspired “The Dunwich Horror”

  38. There’s a similar pair of attractions in Chattanooga, TN, where I live now. There are billboards for Ruby Falls and Rock City for literally hundreds of miles along I-75 and I-40 (they’re not offensive, per se, they’re just EVERYWHERE).

    Rock City’s not all that bad. It’s a decent little mountain hike until you reach a horrifying cave full of little glowing dwarf statues in various tableau poses. It is as scary as it sounds.

    Ruby Falls is a 45-minute walk through a cave where you have to continually stop for the people coming out, all of whom look bored. The walk ends at a terrible artificial indoor waterfall where they use neon lights and Final Countdown-style music to try to jazz things up. It does not work.

    Neither one compares to the horror of South of the Border, though.

  39. Was this more or less soul crushing than reading Anita Blake or watching awful movies from Netflix, or other sorrows you endure for our entertainment. I’m thinking more, but I would like to hear from you.

  40. I’ve been thinking about the whole “Pancho/Pedro” thing and I kind of wonder if they and the park mascot were only called Pancho and then SOtB got a C&D from that Cisco Kid TV show that was on back then. This is pure invention and probably completely untrue, but it fits my mental picture of the place.

    I also have this image in my mind of the owner, a crazed light in his eyes, running all of the wordplay-laden billboard ideas past his non-English speaking bellboys and then looking up expectantly, waiting for the laugh. The two guys look at each other for a second and then dutifully, but wearily, chuckle, not getting a word of it.

    I also wanted to say that, while this is probably one of your more work-intensive columns to produce, I’d love to see more Chris Sims travel writing. If I may make a suggestion…Pallin’ Around With Chris and Dr. K: Myrtle Beach Black Bike Week 2010!

  41. The greatest thing about Myrtle Beach is that they always hold Bike Week the same exact time as Showstoppers, one of the biggest dance competitions in the South. Such an odd mish-mash of characters that weekend.

  42. Someone has to make “Little Latveria” a reality.

    “DOOM COMMANDS YOU TO BUY TEN TOKENS!”

  43. I don’t understand what everyone here is complaining about. I’ve been to Mexico dozens of times, and it’s exactly like that, except with a lot more Dos Equis billboards.

    Hmmm…maybe I should go a little deeper into Mexico than Nogales.

  44. Mr. Sims,

    From, a perusal of the South of the Border (SoB) site it seems as if there are some significant disparities in your review.

    SoB clearly states that “All of pedro’s game rooms have the most up-to-date video games and entertainment equipment available!” And that the minature gold courses are of Championship quality. In addition, you clearly did not go into “the “classy” Rodeo Drive Boutique.” In doing so you missed out on the chance to “[i]mpress your neighbors back home with a unique gift from this top shop!”

    Perhaps you should re-think your “review” of SoB in light of this close analysis of the SoB website.

    F. Bandito

    ps: Pedro is a sterotype how?

  45. PS: Blenheim Ginger Ale is brewed on the SoB grounds…and that actually is good stuff

  46. North C. broke the sparkler barrier a few years ago & you can actually buy semi-normal fireworks here now – maybe that was the beginning of the end for SOTB?

  47. In one of the two “Generation X” novels I wrote for Berkley, I had an attraction inspired by “South of the Border” called “Little Latveria.”

    Obviously not the one I have, then. You wrote TWO Gen X books? My collection is incomplete!

  48. I would so go to a place called “Little Latveria.”

    For some reason, reading this I’m reminded of a place called Secret Caverns in upstate NY. It’s near the more famous Howe Caverns, and the owners of Secret Caverns boasted (in not so subtle reference to more developed Howe Caverns) that they’ve kept the caverns “natural.” By “natural” they meant no handrails for the irregularly spaced, often wet steps leading down into the cavern, uneven, wet floor, and lighting that consisted of worklights attached to indoor-outdoor extension cords that ran through puddles of water. On the plus side there was a neat underground waterfall (I could have sworn it was 50 ft tall when I was there, but the website says it’s 100).

    Disclaimer: I was there 15 years ago, and I suspect that the magical world of lawsuits has probably forced them to make some improvements (at the very least, they probably got the extension cords out of the water).

  49. This is simply incredible. They should make a whole documentary about this place. Fuck, I kinda want to drive there FROM DC.

  50. Ruby Falls is a 45-minute walk through a cave where you have to continually stop for the people coming out, all of whom look bored. The walk ends at a terrible artificial indoor waterfall

    Artificial?!? I made that walk as a child, it didn’t look artificial. :(

  51. @xaaronx
    where do i find the complete version of that movie? The trailer alone sold me.

  52. Given your amazement at Irish Pedro, I thought you would want to know about this restaurant in downtown Brunswick, Maine.

    http://www.pedrooharas.com/

    Pedro O’Hara’s serves Mexican and Irish cuisine my friends. It apparently should be transported down South.

  53. That was far more interesting to write about, and then for us to read about, then actually to see, right?.

  54. My mom and stepfather were in South Carolina on vacation and their curiosity was piqued by these same exact billboards and they also came away from it rather disapointed. But they did get me a Pedro keychain and a bumper sticker.

  55. When I was a kid in the ’80′s, we used to drive down to Florida once a year to visit my grandparents and those billboards would entertain us on the way. One time the curiosity got to us too so we stopped and couldn’t believe that all of that advertising was for such a small place. That must have been 25 years ago, I can’t believe it’s still open!

  56. I… I just watched the 30 minute documentary on SotB, and… people, they… they get married there. There were people who saw South of the Border, and thought “that is where I want to lay the foundation for the rest of my life.” I don’t know how those marriages ended, but a dramatic murder-suicide is the only way I can think of.

    Also, at least one family reunion was held there. Now that is a whole new kind of depressing.

    The funniest part (funny as in strange, mostly) was the founder, Alan Shafer, speaking about his racial philanthropy when he hired black people to work there back in the 1950s.

    Also, he said he thought up the billboards himself, at night, due to his insomnia, and the next day he would realize “20 out of 21 are ridiculous.” implying that he did not choose them. So keep in mind, each of these billboards were the 1 out of 21 that he thought were best.

  57. That looks like a greasy aperture of hell made manifest. I’m glad you two didn’t take any LSD on your trip, otherwise we’d be peeling you off the walls while you talked about THE FEAR.

    Also, curse you for making me crave tacos at such a time of night!

  58. Going to South of the Border for 4th of July fireworks is almost as much of a tradition as the BBQ.

  59. Hiya – I stumbled on this website by mistake. I was searching in Yahoo for beach suggestions for my family trip when I came upon your site, I have to say your website is really informative, I just love the theme, its amazing!. I don’t have the time this minute to totally read your site but I bookmarked it and also signed up for your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a awesome site.

  60. I’ve been to South of the Border several times, though mostly as a kid, and I pretty thoroughly agree with your take on the place. As an American Studies student, I’ve been thinking about it recently in an academic context, and I’m hoping you can answer a question for me: Do they still have Pedro’s Africa Shop, or has that been closed down??

    The Africa Shop used to be set sort of back from the road, and the building was solid black with a few giraffe and maybe zebra statues out front. It was weirdly out of place in a “Mexico” themed attraction, and it opened up whole new dimensions of racism to exploit. I can no longer find any evidence of its existence online, although I also don’t see anything saying that it has been closed, so maybe it’s just ignored entirely.

    Please let me know…

    Thanks,
    Jamez

  61. I think it’s law that if you go to South Of The Border, you must have a picture taken of at least one in your party riding the fiberglass jackalope – I have a similar picture from my road trip to Myrtle Beach in 2004.

  62. Absolutely. There is no better coverage and you’ve added considerably (comments included) to the special allure of SOTB. Thanks for the memories.

  63. I went there recently.

    I nearly died of Awful Poisoning.

    We used the restroom, and were then so scared by the desolation and bleakery that we ran, nay, fled back to the rental car as soon as our scared wite, touristy legs could carry us.

    Chris, you have brought many wonderful things into my life, and being South of The Border, if only for 10 minutes, is something I will never forget.

    Uh, thanks. I guess.

  64. So I inexplicably was watching Extreme Truck Stops on the Travel channel and what did I see? South of the Border! Even TV production couldn’t make it look like less of a craphole.

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