Monday, October 15, 2012

Roadside Culture

As a child of the sixties, I was among the cult followers of Tom Robbins’ first novel, published in 1971, called Another Roadside Attraction. In the novel, we follow the adventures of an oddball couple that opens a combination zoo/hot dog stand along a highway in Skagit County, Washington.

Stranger than fiction...much stranger than fiction, and a curious, lap-slappin’ funny, bizarre-kind-of-read.

Admittedly, I am attracted to strange.

And old.                                                 

Rusty. I especially like rusty.


Run down.


And we mustn't omit....

flat out kitschy.

I like gear wheels and cotter pins,
hammers, rakes and saws.                       

Bevel gears are fascinating; 
racks and pinions, dare I say...are down right groovy.

Consider the tools of the trade, or...

any implement used in your hands to form, shape, fasten, add to, take away from, or otherwise change by…

cutting, hitting, pounding, screwing, drilling…you know…all  those obsolete machinations our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers were adept at to keep our mechanically-devised world in motion.

Ha. My mother once told me to marry a man good with his hands.
And I did.     

He knows all about washing machines and oscillating sprinklers, electric screwdrivers, marine hoists, and multi-spindle drives.

He knows how spur gears are used; where to buy band saw blades, how to fix a windup alarm clock. (Okay, windup alarm clocks are obsolete, but he’s also been known to build computers from scratch). 

In short, he knows how to git ‘er done.

So we were both taken aback by a roadside attraction of decades-old and junky, obsolete, rusted out...brass, steel, aluminum and wood-rotted “STUFF”

whilst whizzing along the backroads of Hwy. 84 in sunny, enchanting New Mexico.

Here was a place where men once fixed things. 
Here was a place where workers once operated machines. 

Where boys learned how to put together a wheel and axle 

and fix their mother’s sewing machine.     

But, in time and somewhere along the line,
our lives became more complicated 

(while claiming to be simplified),

and those things that were old were left to rot and die,

and those things that got broken    

no one wanted, 

or maybe we've lost the language of our forefathers, 

and just don't know 

how to fix them, anymore.  



  1. This post reminds me of Devine generations...Bill, Wayne and I see it in Doug and Joe. Good with their hands...yes. Loved it.

  2. Maybe these skills are no longer necessary to subsequent generations. We have a thick book in our bookcase called, The Way Things Work. A good reference, and fun to thumb through...

  3. I absolutely love roadside culture along with rustic and decaying items. This wonderful photo essay reminds me of when I was in Uyuni, Bolivia and I got to photography an old decommissioned train that had lots of graffiti smeared all over it.

  4. Well, you've gained a new follower, Samuel, as there are places on your site I still want to visit.
    Nearing 60, and still wanderlust!

  5. Monica, you speak to my soul. I just turned 60 this year, quit work, and am discovering the real me. I didn't think anyone else in the world could find beauty in rusted gears, tools, bits and pieces of metal in old junk piles, junk stores, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  6. from work, what a wonderful time you'll have exploring all those back roads. Great to meet you, Lena.

  7. Oh my Monica, these photos are fabulous, especially the gas pumps!

  8. I don't know the year on these pumps, but I'm pretty sure they pre-date you and me...the guy who owns the place calls it a gasoline museum

  9. oh this is so damn beautiful, monica. all the old, broken and unwanted things. and the photos.....gawd they're great. i especially love the row of old gas station tanks and the sewing machine. what a great trip to new mexico.

    and about the old things "we've lost the language of our forefathers and just don't know how to fix them anymore." much packed in that line....

  10. It would be fun to do a road trip just to explore the back roads of America! Thanks, Mignon.