The great American thermometer race

Roadside kitsch is a US tradition and the country's oversized weather extremes are a natural source of material. At least two tornado “museums” sprang up during the 1990s, for instance. On your way to Death Valley, California – the hottest spot in the Americas – it's difficult to miss the world's largest thermometer display. Erected next to a restaurant in Baker, California, it stands 41 m/134ft in honour of Death Valley's all-time high of 57°C/134°F. Lights illuminate the current temperature in steps of 5.6°C/10°F, so the hotter it is,the more you have to craneyour neck. Baker's thermometer bested the previous world champion, a display 6.7m/22ft-high located in International Falls, Minnesota – the 'Ice Box of the Nation'. The city takes its self-proclaimed title seriously, with a week-long festival each January that includes a 10km/6.2-mile road race. International Falls is hardly an ice box in summer, when temperatures can soar well above 32°C/90°F. However, the average January high is barely -12°C/10°F,and lows can dip below -40°С/-40°F (although such extreme cold has become more scarce in recent years; in December 2005, only five nights chilled below the -18°C/0°F mark).