Roadside Altars
    Judith Smith
    On the Side of the Road
    Cami Lee Foulker
I was shown Cami's roadside altar by her friend Victoria. I was very touched by Victoria's offer to take me to the site of her friend's death. We spoke about Cami on the way to the memorial. Victoria said that she was very loved by her friends and family. She would give the shoes from her feet or her last dime to anyone without money or proper clothing. Cami lived her seventeen years fully. Even though they had some differences at that time of Cami's death, Victoria's life is still influenced by their friendship. Cami is missed by everyone who knew her.

Route 287, Wyoming
Eight members of the Wyoming University's track team were killed by a drunk driver on route 287, one mile south of Ti Siding, WY. This was a huge tragedy for the university community and Laramie at large. It was especially painful coming approximately one week after the World Trade towers were destroyed. My friend in Laramie said that that stretch of road was filled with ghosts. I was struck by these words as I stepped out of the van to photograph both the WY8 memorial as well as the other altars that flanked it. It is a strange act to go to the site of death as an artist and witness. It forces one to think about everything from motivation to life's ephemerality. These alters are memory palaces for the dead and reminders of the arbitrariness of death. As I stood there I really wondered why this particular curve in the road claimed so many.

Route 60, West Virginia
Tobias Baker was shuttling wedding guests back and forth to a wedding that was being held on an island in the Kanawha River. His boat struck a left over piece of mining equipment that had been dumped in the river and was submerged under water. Tobias and the two sisters he was shuttling to shore died upon impact. He was 23.

Jeff Strictland was killed by a coal truck that was making a right hand turn into the Cannelton Coal Mine Tipple. The truck swung left before making the turn and hit Strickland's motorcycle as he was attempting to pass on the left. He was about 20.

Seven or eight people have been killed near these water falls on route 60 over the years. This little memorial was placed there for a woman who ran off the road and into the rock walls facing the side of the road here. Originally we thought that it was a memorial to Brandi Mayfield and Anthony Morris. They were two young lovers that had been forbidden to see each other. Their truck veered off the road, the wheel caught a low shoulder and they lost control. My father had an accident in this spot in the early fifties. He lost control of his car on Wildcat Curve (just before the falls) and was stopped by the cliffs. A piece of mining equipment he was carrying in the back of the car almost crushed him. Luckily (for this project) he lived to produce me.


As we were driving through the South and Southwest I didn't have a lot of time to stop and take pictures of roadside altars. It seemed that we were always trying to get to the next town fast. Especially when driving the van. By the time I got to Texas the van died and then was fixed so that we didn't have to be in such a hurry.

California Highway 1

New York City