Synopsis: In Varicose Ribbons we set out for the adventure of the journey, not to get from point A to point B the quickest way possible, but to go as whim dictates – to let the adventure present itself – and in the process discover what once was, of what is, and perhaps, of what could be.
Varicose Ribbons – America’s byways and back roads – takes us through a rapidly vanishing America, through nearly vanished hamlets and once grand main streets, by roadside attractions and tourist traps fallen on hard times, gasping eateries and filling stations, fallen barns; all of it, a vanishing America.
I am drawn to the varicose ribbons of concrete and asphalt, those meandering old byways that crisscross our countryside. Once, main thoroughfares of travel before the days of the Interstate. Then, motorists took the time to enjoy the adventure of traveling. The curio shops, the tourist traps, and roadside attractions, the beauty of the open countryside and the congestion of towns passed through were all part of the adventure of getting from here to there.
Today those traveling have ceased being travelers failing to see what is to be seen along the way. Now we rush via the Interstate from point A to point B, hurriedly grabbing gas and food at intersections, not wanting to lose one unnecessary minute.
Travelers see what is to be seen. Not so with tourists who go where TripTiks take them, stay at chain motels, eat at chain restaurants, and visit three-star attraction destinations. Both those traveling lickity-split along the Interstate and those seeking out “recommended destinations” miss the real adventure of travel, the adventure of seeing what is not on the tourist map, of seeing what there is to see—much of it slowly vanishing from the scene.
There is much to see, much to discover. It is my plan to seek the byways as I travel and to capture in photos as much of vanishing America as possible; to create a photo-chronicle of my journeys along America’s Varicose Ribbons.
We collect stories of people, of families, why not also collect those stories of vanishing America embedded alongside of varicose ribbons? Some would say that each time a bit of America’s roadside delights vanishes – urban or rural – we lose a tangible part of America’s soul, of the American Dream.
We collect stories from people about the past in the present. These recollections tell us much about the past, and about whom we have become. Photographs – a captured moment in time – do the same. Embedded in every photograph are “recollections” of the past. “What happened here? Why did it happen here?” we wonder. It has been said that the power of the photographic memoir (and that is what Varicose Ribbons is) is telling lives. Buildings, places, have their own lives to tell. Sometimes there are only hints of past lives to be found within the photo, even so, if we allow the photo to speak to us, it will tell us something about the past as it has arrived in the present, will open up what we as a people have become, and hint about where we are heading.
Each day, a bit of America, as we once experienced it, vanishes. We need to learn from what is left. We need to create a photographic record of it for future generations before it all vanishes. If we fail to record what is vanishing, its history, and its lessons for the future, and perhaps a bit of America’s soul, vanish with it.
Frank A. Mills
Round Rock, Texas