Roadside Abstractions
November 25th, 2012

One of the reasons I prefer to travel alone is because I get tired of passengers who keep asking, “Why are we stopping?”

Here’s why: All along the roadsides of America are various untitled installations, most of them religious in nature—others, not so much. Crosses and plastic flowers indicate where someone has perished in a vehicle accident, and sometimes I come across a mound that would seem to indicate a final resting spot. Resting spot for what?



This little mound, I suspect, is the grave of someone’s beloved pet. The plastic bouquets would seem to indicate as much, but what’s with the sign? Is a grave such a great place to advertise a health product? I think not! I’m guessing someone came along and saw what looks to be a soft spot in the hardpan and thought, “Why not?”

On a hilltop overlooking old Highway 91 in northern Nevada I came upon this little shrine, which incorporates the name Jesus, a stuffed teddy bear, and—a dolphin! To come across a leaping dolphin in the Mojave Desert is most refreshing. I like it. I only hope it doesn’t mark the shallow grave of some unfortunate gangster who “sleeps with the fishes.”


Out on the salt flats of Western Utah, roadside rocks and beer bottles are constantly being rearranged to form cryptic messages of one sort or another. But occasionally someone goes the extra mile and creates something worth slowing down for. Take, for instance, whoever created this little oasis consisting of a canvas deck chair surrounded by pink flamingos and improbable greenery. The first time you see it, you’ll think it might be a mirage, but then if you stop and hike out for a closer look, you’ll see that it’s dry as a bone and the flamingos, flowers, palm fronds, pine needles and ficus leaves are just plastic—no more real than Carl Momen’s concrete “Tree.”

-Richard Menzies