For time immemorial, kids have asked the question, “Why?” Most of the time, it’s about rules and limitations. “Why—do I have to eat these peas? Why—do I have to go to bed now? Why—can’t I throw mud at my sister?” The rest of the time, the why question seems to be about how things work, ie. “Why is the sky blue? Why is grass green? Why do clouds float?”

I find myself asking “Why?” a lot when I’m traveling, ie. “Why is that crazy thing here? What were the city planners thinking?” I asked that when I stumbled upon the giant acorn in Raleigh, NC (Wow Place #176) and the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, MN (Wow Place #183). I most certainly asked it when I was scouting a treasure hunt in Old Salem, North Carolina and came across the mysterious Mickey Coffee Pot. I mean, wouldn’t you ask “WHY?!!” if you found a giant tin coffee pot in the middle of a traffic island? My obvious conclusion was, “This must be an advertisement for a nearby Starbucks.” But no, in fact, the Mickey Coffee Pot goes all the way back to 1858, when tinsmiths Julius and Samuel Mickey built the 7-foot structure to promote their tin shop. Legend has it that the Moravians who founded the town drink coffee from the pot on Easter Sunday. Or that Yankee soldiers would hide inside it during times of peril in the Civil War. Apparently, none of that actually happened, although the pot IS somewhat infamous for causing distracted drivers to crash into each other. “Hey, Martha, look over there, it’s a giant coffee pot in the middle of the road!” Smash! Whatever the reason, I love that the town leadership of Old Salem left the Mickey Coffee Pot intact, treating it as “a symbol of hospitality and an unofficial symbol of the city.”

Although seeing the Pot is a great reason to make a visit to Winston-Salem, while in town you should certainly stop by for a walk around the historical center of Old Salem. Originally settled by the Moravian community in 1766, Old Salem is kind of a living history museum interpreting Moravian life in the 18th century. As you wander around the colonial buildings, you’ll see staff members everywhere dressed in traditional garb, serving as living history interpreters, practicing such tradesmen roles as tinsmiths, blacksmiths, cobblers, gunsmiths, bakers and carpenters. Myself, I’m always drawn to the Winkler bakery, established 1807, where I can buy a cylindrical package of Moravian cookies that are to die for. Ironically, what Old Salem doesn’t really have is a good coffee shop! Apparently, the Mickey Coffee Pot can hold up to 740 gallons of water, or about 11,840 cups of brew. Hmm, sounds like a post-retirement business opportunity!

(Are you a “why” person? Do you constantly challenge why things are the way they are? Well guess what, the world needs people like you! All great change came about because “why people” challenged the status quo. Society is really a dance between stability and change, between static and dynamic. If you want to build a sand castle, to be sure you better build a solid base. But you can’t stop there—you need to build higher and higher, even when each successive tier seems precarious. Although society definitely need its agitators, its questioners, its Socrates and Mandelas — for the “why people,” the challenge is, how do you get your message across in a way people can hear it? And more importantly, after you’ve asked “why,” what’s next? What do you now propose as an action step, and how can that be implemented. In the end, change is all about asking the right questions and then doing something about it.)