Over the course of a lifetime, can you imagine how many highway exists you will pass and never take? Each of those untaken exits is home to lives lived, history made, untold highs, lows, curiosities, and facies tickled. The split second decision to take or not take an exit can alter the trajectory of a life forevermore.
In one such leap of faith, we hopped off of Route 17 south on an unfamiliar exit just to get off of the highway around Monticello. As we came to a stop at the end of the exit ramp, we were serendipitously greeted by this excellent ZacMax sculpture!
There’s been a pin on my Google map at the location of the Parksville Pharmacy, in the Sullivan County town of Parksville, New York for a long time. I first noticed the old building’s hunter green panels and weathered signage on Instagram. Social media for the win. 😉
Throughout the course of my life, I’m not sure just how many times I’ve passed the ghost town’s exit off of Route 17. And I’m amazed that I never caught a glimpse of the old store. During one of our cold weather drives, we wheeled through what is left of town to finally visit the map star in person.
There was absolutely nothing going on.
Remnants of a former gas station.
I remember gas station lights like this from when I was a kid. Seeing it filled me with a funny sense of longing and… loss? Maybe that isn’t the right word, but whatever the sensation was, I felt it in my belly. In some strange way it almost felt like a broken heart.
My memory transported me back to gas stations of my youth with the ding-ding hose bells, colorful triangle-shaped flags, rotating brand signs, and these melancholy lamps hanging over the pump island.
Throughout the fall, winter and the cold parts of spring, I spent a lot more time driving than I did riding. Putting the heat vents on your feet, wearing gloves and a hat make driving with the top down on the convertible really lovely. Even down into the 40 degree temps.
Though it was dreary and rainy and the top remained decidedly up, one of my spring day trips in the car was around the Catskills where I’ve ridden many motorcycle miles. Sometimes the heart just wants to wander and so off you go.
We cruised up along the Delaware River, along Route 97 passing through Hawks Nest. Hooking a right on 55, we made our way through the town of Liberty where… what is this now?!
Well, well, well! If it isn’t a card carrying member of the Giant Chicken Army! Serendipity strikes again.
Do my eyes deceive me or do you too see the paint worn away in what can only be explained as people have clearly been sitting on this fine gentleman?
I myself did not attempt anything of the sort. With my luck I would’ve gotten unceremoniously wedged in the saddle and some bewildered passer by would have had to call the fire department to pry me loose.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
[distant hysteria on the line]
“What’s this now, ma’am? Ma’am, please. Ok. Ok, ma’am. Please, I can’t understand you if you keep laughing. Slow down. Pink hair…? Giant… chicken? Seven feet tall, you say?! Stuck? We’re dispatching the jaws of life.”
The corner of Main and Darbee hosts some lovely retrolicious sights. We’re treated to a “drugs” ghost sign, color-blocking and neon, a restored Gold Medal Flour mural, vintage signage and metal cladding hugging olde tyme display windows and decidedly fab swoopy handled doors.
Liberty exudes the smoldering ember vibe that I love. Towns like this always have vintage treasures hiding in plain sight if you just slow down and take a look. Fading Americana.
This spring I took a drive to Scranton, Pennsylvania to visit Steamtown National Historic Site. While I was there, strict COVID protocols limited access to some of the indoor spaces and displays, but I was able to enjoy walking around outside in the train yard.
I’m not what you would call a hardcore railfan but I find the machines interesting nonetheless.
Steam engines make me think of my dad, who was indeed into trains. He’d told me stories about hanging around the train yard as a kid, and I kept that narrative in my mind – making up tales of what that kid-version of him would have thought about what I was looking at as I walked around.
The thing I found most fascinating about the locomotives is how much “life” they seemed to have within them. They exude power and something like a sense of menace. Especially inside the workshop. They looked like sleeping animals that could roar to life at any moment and tear the building from its foundations. But, they instead allowed themselves to be tamed, to be cared for by their handlers. For now.
One of the indoor displays features a cutaway where you can see the inner workings of the engine. Looking at it, I found it a marvel that anyone could figure out the method to the madness of tubes, and chambers and lines to make these beasts go. Fascinating.
Interesting place. Worth the visit.
Dirt graffiti on a rail yard car – Bozo Texino
Apparently like any other subculture, there is a visual language and common mythology among railroad hoboes. There is actually a movie that tries to uncover this very graffiti subject called: “Who is Bozo Texino?”
File Under: There is always something new to learn.
Winter has settled in with its icy temperatures here on Long Island. There hasn’t been any riding for me in many, many weeks now. For the most part, I haven’t missed it. I suppose the love for it is a state of mind more than anything else. I’ve been keeping myself occupied with other things instead.
While I haven’t done much exploring lately, I do have a million photos and 10’s of thousands of miles in exploration to fall back on. I figure maybe it’s time to blow the dust off of some of them.
This afternoon, I found myself watching The Mothman Prophecies for the millionth time. It was never well received critically, but I love the movie. There is some conceptual thread that runs through it, that makes me unable to turn away when I come across it.
Maybe it’s the idea of a harbinger of news; that there is something that “knows” more that we do. But when it comes down to it, would I want to know the future? If it were only the good stuff? Maybe.
John Klein: “What do you look like?” Indrid Cold: “It depends who’s looking.”
Seeing the Mothman would likely make me shit my pants.
Alexander Leek: “The nocturnal butterfly. In ancient cultures, the moth represents a form of the psyche, or the soul immortally trapped in the hellish death realms”. Mothman. Well, that’s what the Ukrainians called him. Rough translation of course. There were a hundred sightings in Chernobyl when the nuclear pump went down. Galveston, nineteen sixty-nine, just before the hurricane. They saw it. But seeing isn’t always believing.
In the last decade I found myself in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia – the real life town on which the move was centered – a couple of times. In the 1960s, there were many sightings on the Mothman in the area preceding the collapse of the Silver Bridge.
Point Pleasant has embraced their most popular cryptid with not only a museum and statue, but also a festival celebrating all thing Mothman.
Being able to explore on a motorcycle has been such a blessing in my life. Finding myself in small town, taking in unusual sights and sipping at a cup of Americana has been an incredible education about people and life.