Shop of last resort?

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Monday, December 24, 2007
— You didn't have time to scour Janesville's boutiques and thrift stores for unique gifts.

You're not the type to make handmade presents.

You don't have the strength to find a parking spot at the mall.

But in less than 24 hours, you have to be at Grandma's for dinner with a gift for your cousin's boyfriend's sister.

Do not panic. The solution is more convenient than you think.

The Travel America Center on Highway 14 at Interstate 90/39 is just one place that will be open nonstop for your emergency shopping needs. Manager John Mesler has the store stocked with a mind-boggling array of gifts for everyone from your favorite truck driver to your favorite toddler.

"You never know what's going to sell," Mesler said. "That's what makes it fun. I try to have something for everyone."

Tony Alexander is the elf that brings Mesler gifts year-round. Alexander, of Rock Island, Ill., is a sales representative for Barjan LLC. He serves 65 stores from Interstate 80 north and from Beloit to Minneapolis on I-90.

Alexander stops at the TA once a month to restock the glass figurines, collectable coffee cups, singing hand puppets and handheld electronics.

The selection is vast enough that even TA's many regulars never get tired of shopping, said clerk Julie Peterson of Janesville.

"They always find what they're looking for," Peterson said.

Snow globes, remote-control cars, glass roses and fresh cheese curds are popular gifts every year, she said.

"In fact, I do a lot of shopping here myself."

Last-minute gift Possibilities

Who doesn't need:

-- A virtual reality table tennis game?

The wireless paddles require no console. The cost is $29.97.

TA has a giant selection of electronics, from a $9.99 Little Tikes walkie-talkie set to a $249.99 combination TV/DVD player.

-- A glass ship in a bottle?

The RSS Discovery, 1901, boasts glass sails and gold-tinted masts. The tiny replica of the Antarctic explorer sits on a wooden base commemorating Capt. Robert Falcon Scott. The cost is $24.99.

-- A "Heavenly Horse" figurine?

From the "Horseplay" collection by artist Rick J. Rowley, the winged horse brays from the clouds. According to the label, it's "sure to provide lasting testimony of the joy found in life." For more information, visit www.lostwoodsman.com. The cost is $24.99.

-- A hanging designer aquarium?

The tank holds three gallons and is framed in brushed nickel. It comes complete with pump and net in a flat or convex version. The cost is $229.99 to $249.99.

-- A glass chicken set?

Rooster, hen and chicks pecking for eternity on a small glass mirror. The cost is $19.99.

TA features hundreds of glass figurines from a $14.99 rose to a $159.99 dragon on a mountaintop.

-- An acoustic or electric guitar?

The sets come with extra strings and picks, a guitar stand and a tuner. Talent not included. The cost is $99.99 or $149.99.

-- A sing-ing-frog hand puppet?

The plush amphibian sings "Old MacDonald" or "Frère Jacques" when you flap its mouth. Guaranteed to drive your nephew's parents nuts.

The puppet also comes in a lamb, bird, cat or Olivia the Pig version.

The cost is $11.99.

Last updated: 10:23 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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