Tag: petroliana

Stumblin’ Upon Some Backroad Petroliana

Stumblin’ Upon Some Backroad Petroliana

In October of 2018, I spent some time bumming around on the Bonneville. My meandering route took me down through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky before I started making my way back east to New York through West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Not having a set route or a plan is my usual road trip vibe. I leave home with a general sense of where I want to go or things I might want to visit. But, other than that I try to leave myself wiggle room to add and subtract along the way. After all, it is a big gorgeous world out there. You never know what wonderful thing is waiting for you around the next corner.

Not long after visiting the husk of the Underwood & Petty Service Station in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, I had to slam on the brakes and pull a quick U-y to get a good look at this building:

I can’t say for sure whether this was an actual business or just the trappings of a collector-type. Looking at the details on the building and the “fire door” sign through the window, maybe it did operate as a store of some type. Whatever the case may be, it was nice to stumble across it.

Sadly, I have no stinkin’ idea where it is. I’d be only too glad to share the location. For now, it’ll have to remain a mystery.

The Old Underwood & Petty Service Station – Strawberry Plains, Tennessee

The Old Underwood & Petty Service Station – Strawberry Plains, Tennessee

One of the stars on my Google Map that was close to where I stayed one night in Tennessee, was the old Underwood & Petty service station in Strawberry Plains. I’m not sure where I first saw a picture of the old station. It may have been something in my Instagram feed. Shunpikers, roadtrippers and backroad ramblers are great sources for this sort of thing. But I suppose the where I saw it is immaterial when the why I saved it is obvious.

But there is the other why. Why would I ride with a purpose to lay eyes on a crumbling old facade? I can’t buy it, fix it, save it. I can’t stop time. What is the purpose of going to see it or any of the other ghost stations I might visit?

That I do not know.

What is it that I’m hoping to see when I peer through their old windows? Some type of magic or a secret; treasure, maybe?

The decrepit old pump standing sentry. It’s pump handle in everlasting salute.

Underwood & Petty

I see you, old girl. You’re still beautiful to me.

On Google Maps

Tales of a Second Grade Nothing

Tales of a Second Grade Nothing

In September while heading east on the Lincoln Highway in the Chambersburg area, I stopped to snap photos of two gas pumps that were part of the Pump Parade. The first was at Shatzer Fruit Market in Chambersburg. It features a Chambersburg peach motif.

A little way down the road was the “Nellie Fox” pump in St. Thomas, PA outside of the Oak Forest Restaurant. I just caught this pump out of the corner of my eye, slammed on the brakes and made a U-ey to take its picture.

The parking lot where I turned around at the Oak Forest had a row of buildings lining the edge of the property. They were small, bungalow-type houses. As soon as I saw them a flood of emotion came over me. This little cluster of buildings was similar to the place where I spent the earliest part of my childhood amongst the creeps, the drunks, the dregs and those of us with families who were just a little down on their luck at the time. And this, right or wrong, consistently fills me with a burning shame.

Why? Why should I care about something that was beyond my control as a child? I mean, I have come a long way from where I started. And yet, those meager beginnings still mark me with a stain that no one but me can see.

Growing up, our little bungalow community was bussed to an elementary school that intermingled us with kids who were comfortably situated in the middle class. We shabby kids rubbed elbows with the children of doctors and lawyers. But in school, kids were kids. We were all the same… until we weren’t.

In second grade, I got to invite a few friends over to celebrate my birthday. It was the first time someone from school who didn’t live in my neighborhood came to my house. My school friend walked into our two-room bungalow and said, “this is it?!” and incredulously noted that her living room was bigger than my whole house, which was true. I am 44 years old now and the sentiment still smarts. I didn’t know there was anything “wrong” with my life until someone else told me so.

I’ve been sitting on talking about my feelings after seeing those stupid little houses for months. And I’ve wavered on the idea that maybe there would be some kind of catharsis, or that I might absolve myself of the guilt of feeling bad about growing up poor. So far? Not so much. Now, I feel like I should be ashamed of being ashamed because as crappy as it might have been, there are people who are or were worse off.

It would be nice if I could adopt the wistful-sounding attitude of my mother. She talks of drying out teabags on the radiator and reusing them and being “as poor as church mice,” as an affliction that was triumphantly overcome. And I confess, in truth it was. But clearly, for me, there is a scar.

Get off the cross, we need the wood.

Dragons, Elephants, and Lobster Cowboys

Dragons, Elephants, and Lobster Cowboys

These photographs are an assortment of art and animal-things I’ve spotted in my travels over the last few weeks. They have no real connection to each other except that they are not connected. Now, in that un-connected connection, they’re connected. Damn it!

A very exciting-looking gas station, indeed. It almost makes you forget that you paid $3+/gallon at the pump. Or that you might be mugged by a clown on your way to make a pee-pee.

It’s a man.  A man named Dan, who just happens to be saddled up on a lobster because of course, he is. When I showed this to my daughter Chloe, she asked if it was “that dude from Jurassic Park.” Now I can’t unsee it.

Also, I wish he was holding a banana in that empty hand. Something about that seems so right to me.

In art, and in life we see and hear what we want to. Or perhaps what we need to, at a given time. Some of us are tuned in to seeing hearts, or faces or animals in the clouds. Some of us, are not. The experiences that brought us to this very moment shape the way we interpret all manner of things.

This piece? This piece I interpret as mom-circle at Target with the sounds of “mom, mommy, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, mom, momma, mom…” trailing behind her as she clings tenuously to her sanity.

Opera-singing dragon. At least, that’s how I see it.

Harkening back to people seeing things – being able to assemble a lovely little elephant from scraps of car parts is important work. Maybe the most important-est. To be able to create something lovely where others see junk… divine 🙂

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just crank it up by the tail and have it scoot around the yard? It’s springy feet stomping like pistons and a trail of peanut-scented smoke in its wake. If only.

Road Tripping: Recent Road-Related Reads

Road Tripping: Recent Road-Related Reads

Over the last month, I’ve read a few books that inspire my riding in different ways. Some directly, some less so.

What do any of these have to do with motorcycles? Well, that depends on who you are, I suppose. For me, the what and why of things is a great motivator. When I ride past an old building that screams, “I used to be an old filling station!” knowing what type it was or having a clue to help me look for information, is an interesting pursuit for me.

My eyes are drawn the vestiges of early to mid-20th century Americana. Books like Fill ‘er Up, Hopper’s Places and The Lincoln Highway Companion help me to know, dream, seek, and understand more. They turn my rides into satisfying personal missions that don’t end when the wheels stop turning. Seek, see, question, understand, feel, know, share – those are ways that these types of books help my riding.

With Lois Pryce‘s Revolutionary Ride, the reasoning is more direct. It is a travelogue of her time spent riding as a solo Western woman in Iran in 2013/14. It is a fascinating human story that picks at the scab of long-held perceptions about people. This book is an excellent companion to her other two titles: Red Tape and White Knuckles and Lois on the Loose.

%d bloggers like this: