Rachael is the whimsical writer behind the 20-year-old Girlie Motorcycle Blog. As a freelance blogger, she is on a mission to inspire laughter, self-examination, curiosity, and human connection. Girlie Motorcycle Blog can be found on several Best Motorcycle Blog lists.
This restored Mail Pouch Tobacco wall ad in Ford City, Pennsylvania sure is a looker. Clearly a lot of love and care went in to making it vibrant once again. There is so much detail on the packaging – it’s just lovely.
It warms my heart to see projects that commit to caring for such local landmarks, particularly in times and places where money is tight. Without a doubt there are many people who might counter and say that money could be better spent elsewhere. And maybe they’re right. I don’t know. Quality of life does have some variables beyond the survival basics.
My point of view is colored by being a stranger to these communities. But I suspect that there are generations of people for whom this type of image will be weaved throughout their memories even if unwittingly. In my opinion, it is this type of visual energy that adds a pinch of spice to the unique flavor of a neighborhood. They become a touchstone.
The place in which I live is the land of homogenization. And while it is very “nice” and keeps property values high, there is a grave boringness attached to it. One of the key missing ingredients is largely nostalgia. Strip mall, mcmansion, chain store, strip mall, mcmansion, chain store; repeat ad nauseum. We live in the prettiest ugly neighborhoods. And I bought into this ideal wholeheartedly.
My road trips largely center around seeing Americana such as this Mail Pouch sign. What doesn’t get captured in any of the photographs that document my stops, is a sense of longing that I don’t quite understand, which draws me to such places. I find it challenging to articulate what this search is. It is a strange marriage of melancholy and joy.
Visit the Mail Pouch Tobacco Sign in Ford City, Pennsylvania
When I am road tripping, I typically have the best intentions about writing something down nightly to memorialize the things that I see each day while they are fresh in my mind. Before I even leave the house, I have a little pep talk as I’m packing my bag – “Bring your MacBook,” I say to myself. “You can write stuff down while you’re vegging at night.” And, each and every time – I fail miserably.
And it’s not for lack of trying! Or maybe it is. Each night while I am away, I scroll through my camera roll, edit a few photos, and upload the days pics. I might even jot down a few notes, or idea stubs but nothing of substance typically materializes.
Something about the scrolling of the days photos becomes like a romantic process. I tend to lose myself in that even though in many cases I just saw whatever I photographed. Maybe it’s like an elephant lovingly handling skeletal bones, there is a need to pay respect to what has passed.
Maybe being unable to put what I saw in day into words is simply the result of having so much information crammed into my eye holes all day long that my brain just hits tilt when I stop moving. Or maybe I just have a process that is innate to me. I don’t know.
Whatever the case, it can take a while to distill all the input from any jaunt and my feelings about it. I do know with certainty that I lose track of the smallest lived moments with their unique nuances. Many if not most experiences become ephemeral. And after a certain amount of time, my feelings about my feelings become romantic interpretations colored by distance. They’re something of an impressionist painting of reality. My mind’s eye can see what’s there, but the details blend together. What is left is but a beautiful and dreamy version of the truth.
For the most part, I loosely believe in luck when it suits me. I tend to think of it as some mysterious supernatural guiding hand or invisible force granting favorable outcomes to select members of humanity at specific moments. I should also point out that my personal tendencies lean towards the existence of good luck versus bad luck.
Much of the time, when I feel like luck is on my side what I what I really mean is, Wow, that could have gone a whole lot worse! This is probably some type of coping mechanism that helps to make sense out of the randomness of life. There is a need to feel like someone or something is at the wheel taking care of things.
When I read “a force” and “operate” in those definitions of luck it is hard to interpret it as passive. It sounds less like something you trip over versus that mysterious guiding hand I mentioned earlier. I dunno. Maybe none of it matters anyway. Maybe the key takeaway is whatever the goodness is, take it with a grateful heart.
As I started writing this in Indiana, Pennsylvania, it was zero dark thirty and I was waiting for Walmart’s tire center to open. I spotted a slash on the sidewall of my cars tire and wanted to replace it right away.
When I pulled up, the young guy at the greeter booth let me know that Walmart’s policy was to not replace a single tire on my AWD car, so my choice was to do all 4 tires or that I would have to go elsewhere. He then rhetorically asked ~ do you want to pay $700 or $120 and then casually pointed me to local shop.
Uh…okay? I wasn’t interested in asking anything further about the policy and tend to hate Walmart in general so I just moved along. When all was said and done, I had a new tire on my car and was under way in under 30 minutes. Can’t beat that.
I cannot help but consider my luckiness in this situation.
It’s my daughter’s car that I’m using and luckily this was not her problem to deal with
I didn’t have a blowout on the highway, which the tire guy suggested would have been likely
The tire place took me in immediately and got me out the door in 30 minutes
I didn’t run into problems while I had been rambling down some dirt forest roads; file under the right place at the right time
That I actually saw the slash at all; admittedly I don’t routinely look for such things
While my morning got off to a not-so-perfect start, all things considered I felt pretty good. The weather was beautiful, I was roadtripping with my dog, seeing cool things, taking walks.
Over the last 5 or 6 years there have been several occasions when I’d been traveling and thought, “oh, well, while I’m in the neighborhood I’ll just swing by,” in reference to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Though I was closer to the city than I would have been at home, each and every time that I’d considered and even worked towards that pit stop, something derailed my loose plans. I never made it.
In the summer of 2021, I decided to drive out to the museum specifically. Unfortunately the universe decided that it wasn’t a good idea and left me stranded in a gas station waiting for a tow and I never got there.
Life is mysterious and unfolds in its own time. The fickle hand of fate gave me a shove in the fall of 2022. I finally made it to Cincinnati where I got to tour the beautiful collection at the American Sign Museum.
The signs are buzzing, clicking, ticking, chasing, blinking, spinning, humming feast for the eyes and ears. As a lover of this type of advertising, a wave of nostalgia washed over me as I took in the Americana gems. That nostalgia wasn’t necessarily directly for the objects but for a place in time or a version of myself. Maybe even a feeling that is hard to come by, like innocence, true wonder, an unburdened mind, or what can now be identified as unbridled possibility.