Without A Plan: Part 4 - Roadside Attractions

This is part four of an eight-part series recounting my first motorcycle trip.

The next few hours in the seat are a generic memory of wet roads, well-spaced towns, and upper-Midwest scenery teasing me to stop yet, regrettably, I kept the Raider's wheels turning. While I can easily forgo the interstates for back roads, I’m still working on my ability to pull over and explore – both on foot and through the lens of my camera – the random roadside attractions that have been created by an unplanned, likely undesired, collaboration between man and nature.

Elvis ate here in 1956, guaranteeing its survival no matter how poor the service or food.

Elvis ate here in 1956, guaranteeing its survival no matter how poor the service or food.

These are not the natural attractions to which we are all drawn – the national parks, forested state parks, pristine lake shores with white sand beaches. Nor are they man-made attractions that exist simply to extract money from passing tourists, like the Corn Palace, the World Famous Mystery Spot, or a diner that thrives serving poor food with poor service simply because Elvis, Scotty, Bill, and D.J. stopped there for a Pepsi in 1955.

No, the roadside attractions I’m speaking of are the abandoned farmhouses, homesteads, barns, and bypassed gas stations that appear without warning, without billboards announcing their presence miles in advance. And, of course, the cars, trucks and farm equipment parked fifty years prior and still waiting patiently for a new starter or transmission.

Forgotten, neglected, or abandoned, these man made objects – once new and shiny or stoutly and proudly sheltering a family – have fallen victim to neglect or economic hardship and have ultimately been claimed by nature. It is amazing how quickly a vacant building or parked vehicle can deteriorate, and those that have sat for decades have become part of the land itself; dissolving, rusting and rotting back into the earth. I wish these objects had a voice.

A 1941 Ford one ton pick-up. Rescued from a field, or just given a new place to deteriorate? No matter, I was happy to capture this image and render it a watercolor in Photoshop.

A 1941 Ford one ton pick-up. Rescued from a field, or just given a new place to deteriorate? No matter, I was happy to capture this image and render it a watercolor in Photoshop.

When I do stop I try to listen to them. I touch them. I imagine what the first owner must have felt as he drove the once-new car off the dealer’s lot. I try to hear the excited chatter of children racing down an ornate staircase on Christmas morning, to find presents under a spruce tree standing in a smartly decorated living room.

Plaster clings to lath, but not for much longer.

Plaster clings to lath, but not for much longer.

living room whose walls now barely grip the horse-hair plaster, and whose staircase looks impossibly frail. And where the fresh-cut, carefully decorated Spruce once stood sheltering presents, buckthorn now grows unabated through the floor.

These objects do speak to me in their own way and often what they tell me is “Life is transitional, enjoy the moment.” Easy to say, often difficult to do.

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