Monday, February 27, 2012

Scenes by the road less traveled. Part One.

My "home page" picture for this blog shows me with a couple of my digging pals in the spring of 2010.  We are proudly standing on a monumental section of Roman roadway we had just spent a week uncovering.  The Romans were very intent on keeping roads right where they put them.  This particular bit of paving stones was put into place in 213 AD and probably remained in use until around 500 AD.  Oh, and three feet deeper down was an earlier road that took it back another century.  They liked continuity.

A "sandal-level view" of our road.  Not bad after 18 centuries, barbarian invasions and modern plowing.

Things are different in America.  We quickly construct transportation systems-canals, then railroads, then highways, then superhighways-and then more or less abandon them.

These vestiges of earlier transportation systems are mostly still there, and are a great place to search for artifacts of earlier times. 

On a recent trip home after working out of town I photographed some good stuff.

This is an early gas station.  It stands alongside what is actually a fairly well traveled road , but is in a tiny little hamlet.  There are modern gas stations a few miles in either direction, so in an era when folks never even slow down for wide spots in the road it clearly went under many years ago.
Here's a side view.  I took this picture on a crisp winter morning that smelled of wood smoke from nearby houses.  The brick chimney, which seems to have a nasty lean to it, indicates a probable wood stove here as well.  Gasoline and a wood burning stove just seem like a bad mixture.

It is difficult and even a little depressing to imagine somebody here working a lonely night shift.  Over the doorway would have been a single glowing bulb indicating that the place was open.

Well there's something you don't see every day.  A gas station with a stone foundation.  Actually stone and cement, but not substantively different from the foundations of some of the flimsier buildings I helped excavate in the civilian settlement outside the Vindolanda fort.
Sometimes I try to figure out the story of a place by the clues left behind.  The gas pumps have been gone from this old station for a long time, and the paint has not been redone for at least a decade.  But out back there were some fairly un-rusted barrels that seemed to contain old auto parts, and what I think to be a modern fuel container.  My guess is that after it stopped being a real gas station it became somebody's mechanic shop.  In this it was probably less useful than a conventional garage, as I could not see and service bay or other means to work on things in bad weather.

Come back Wednesday, I'll show you some more things from down the road a stretch.

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