When I was but a lad, I lived in St. Louis. But I had come from Kansas City, so the carload of us would make frequent holiday trips back to Missouri’s great western city to visit family and friends.
I’m sketchy on the details, but my mother told me we would take Highway 40 on the earliest of these trips, zipping along at the breakneck speed of 50 miles per hour (in a ’57 Chevy, no less — though that car pre-dates me). It was wonderful, she told me. Two lanes — one in each direction! — and smooth. The weightless feeling you would momentarily get as you sailed over the top of the limitless hills was always an important part of the trip. Now, of course, you can travel the same route on Interstate 70 in half the time. In some places there are four lanes in each direction, and the road is flat and straight enuf that it is actually considered safe for a jumbo jet to land on in an emergency.
But back to the photo above. This is a photo for Kim. Somehow, it was fashionable a couple of weeks ago for bloggers to post photos of these empty husks and say the photo was for Kim. As usual, I’m late to the party. This was one of the first photos I took with my new camera. It was late in the day and the light was already fading, so I didn’t do so well with the close up. (Kim has admonished me never to use digital macro, but I’m not sure why.)
The memory of those old family road trips and this empty husk photo converged in the crowded spaces of my mind, and that’s why I’ve written this somewhat self-indulgent post. Scattered along the route between Kansas City and St. Louis are old, mostly abandoned roadside motels — I think they were originally called cabin camps in their earliest incarnations. Some of these have found new lives as antique shops, and one is even a tres upscale winery. If you look closely you can sometimes still see a few faded, old billboards advertising these defunct motels, which were touted as destinations themselves rather than merely overnight stopping places on the long trek between the two great cities.
But most of the old motels were simply abandoned, and most of those have been bulldozed into rubble. I remember one, though: the Daniel Boone Motel. It was not that far outside of St. Louis. Today you would barely have made it up to cruising speed before you passed the site of this motel, but in its day, that must have been a long distance to have traveled if the prospect of lodging was already available. This was in the county where Nathan Boone, Daniel Boone’s son, had built his family home, so marketing that bit of heritage made sense.
But even in my day, the Daniel Boone Motel was abandoned. It’s windows were broken out. The parking lot soon became a dumping ground for people’s trash. The sign showing a coonskin-capped Boone fading more each time we sailed past. Even my young mind could see the world changing and leaving this roadside motel behind. I thought then that it was like the empty husk of a bug shell.
And so today, whenever I see these bug husks, I still think of that long-gone motel, sitting forlorn beside a road that has grown too fast and straight for it.
- Male white-tailed der rub velvet off antlers; watch for their “rubs” on small trees.
- Total lunar eclipse around 5:30 a.m.