Museum of Roadside Museums

the thingWe started off small. The occasional trip. Just something to remind me of my childhood, the happy parts. I loved the feeling of my arm resting vertically out the open window, hot wind pressing against forearm and palm, 60 mph. We bought postcards, the old kind, with gas stations and jackalopes and smiling women in black Plymouths on them.

The trips got longer, more frequent. Even now, so many years into it, I am still surprised to see the road trail red behind, while up ahead the billboards wave through the asphalt heat, saying here 

                       IT’S AMAZING.
                       YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE IT.
                       ONLY 472 MILES LEFT.  
                       ALMOST THERE.

Museums on old highways commemorate random things. Hitler’s cars. Dr. Pepper. Alien landings. Plaster of Paris dinosaurs. Cactus. Gift shops with date shakes. Tiny girl bracelets made of tiger’s eye. Dashboard armadillos with bobbling heads. All authentic.

Tony bought me a trunk with letter-sized cubbies nested inside. In the cubbies we put the postcards, menus, costume jewelry, plastic fish combs, and the tiny reproductions of tinted cavern walls. Arranged alphabetically by each roadside museum’s name. When it was full, he got me another, then another. I bought him a lighted magnifier on a headband. He wears it to read the fine print on old toys, souvenirs made in pre-communist China.

We bought a trailer park. With Airstreams and melamine dishes. We set out signs —

                        ALMOST THERE.
                        EXIT 1 MILE.
                        TURN BACK NOW.

We made a museum of museums, filled with artifacts under glass and in spinning aluminum racks. Welcome now to the Museum of Roadside Museums. We collect dust, and we are happy to do so.


4 Responses to “Museum of Roadside Museums”

  1. 1 Trucie September 27, 2006 at 4:39 am

    What a wonderful idea, Teresa. And that last paragraph is beautifully crafted. I love it.

  2. 2 Lollyloo September 27, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    That makes me so darn nostalgic. An excellent, evocative piece.

    “The last consignment of goods was up to your usual standard”.

  3. 3 Ellie November 6, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    I love that kind of stuff. It is strangely retro, like it came straight out of a 1950s horror movie. It came from the Black Lagoon…..50 foot tall Armadillo…..the vampire armadillo from hell….who ate Philadelphia….and then nested with huge radiated ants…and then wore those big pointy white bras like Lana Turner wore.
    Or something.

  4. 4 Teresa November 6, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Ellie – I do too! I saw an article about a couple in Arizona who bought a fleet of old Airstreams and started a little retro B&B. Great idea, eh?

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