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Rest Stops, R.I.P.
July 3, 2009 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Rest Stops, R.I.P.
posted by JeffL (80 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
On road trips, finding an actual 50s-era Rest Stop, complete with Eisenhower fonts and a coke machine and a helpful Guide To Native Flora sign always made me deliriously happy.
posted by The Whelk at 8:18 AM on July 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


Of all the celebrities who've died these past couple weeks, Rest Stops hits me the hardest.
posted by gman at 8:19 AM on July 3, 2009 [21 favorites]


One of the worst things in Europe was having to pee on a road trip. No rest stops and the gas station bathrooms were just as bad as they are in good ol' USA.
posted by melissam at 8:20 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, might as well leave wrecked vehicles in the road to avoid...this has got to be the dumbest thing I've heard all week, and I work in construction. Without rest stops, I'd bet the vehiclular death rate goes up 15-20%.
posted by notsnot at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am just about to embark on a 18 hour one shot drive from Seattle to LA. I already did it over three days 6 weeks ago, and I am grateful for their presence.

And I too love finding the 50s era ones, that have the nice informational booths, and sometimes even a group of Lions Club or Boy Scouts handing out bad free coffee for motorists.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:23 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Without rest stops, I'd bet the vehiclular death rate goes up 15-20%.

Well, we're going to be able to test this prediction now. Usually this sort of research that involves increasing the risk of human death is considered unethical though.
posted by grouse at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


.

At least we'll still have the roadside attraction.
posted by mazola at 8:32 AM on July 3, 2009


Oh, I forgot to add:

I guess my habit of pulling over and peeing from just outside the passenger door will be a more common sight.
posted by notsnot at 8:33 AM on July 3, 2009


God damn McDonalds. We'll see how long they care when I sleep in their parking lots.
posted by khaibit at 8:43 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Damn. The rest stop was a part of my childhood, long trips with my mother to deliver whatever art she'd just sold (at the time, delivering glass covered framed artwork by hand was cheaper in gas than shipping by UPS). Kalamazoo to Cincinnati, Kalamazoo to Buffalo/NYC, there were many times when we stopped in the middle of the night, my mother and her 12-15 year old son, and slept for a while at a rest stop. Quieter, easier to sleep than the parking lot of any commercial lot.

Now I feel like I'm losing a whole piece of my childhood. The rest stop, the maps of the area, the bit of information on the region, the feeling of having ventured further afield than I had before. It's like Borges said. As I get older, death reduces me incessantly.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


I guess my habit of pulling over and peeing from just outside the passenger door will be a more common sight.

Why pull over?
posted by Krrrlson at 8:46 AM on July 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


If they close the rest stops, where will straight guys go to suck dick?

I just drive back Portland -> SF on I-5 and the rest stop system in Oregon is fantastic. Stops every 40 miles, big and comfortable, free coffee at some. About half were under significant construction, so Oregon isn't in any hurry to close them apparently. California's aren't as good on I-5. And going the other way on 101 there's practically no rest stops at all. Just lots of woods and the occasional roadside tourist trap.

The most appalling / fascinating rest stops are the giant contraptions built in the middle of the auto-route in France. They're like little villages accessible only from the freeway, smack in the middle of the two roads. Huge and convenient, with at least two chain restaurants and several gas stations. Completely charmless. The worst meal I ever had in France was at l'Arche on some awful autoroute.
posted by Nelson at 8:47 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Highway rest areas, they're the bath houses of the 90's for many, many, many, many gay men.
posted by gman at 8:48 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


God damn McDonalds. We'll see how long they care when I sleep in their parking lots.

I think this is exactly the problem that these government officials are refusing to recognize when declaring rest stops "obsolete."

Last time I checked, restaurants and other establishments didn't really smile upon folks just coming in to use the bathroom, or to catch a few Zs in their parking lots for hours on end. In addition, many rest stops have dog pooping walking areas--I wonder how McDonald's would feel about some big-ass golden retriever loafin' down on their property?
posted by fusinski at 8:55 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


notsnot: "Hey, might as well leave wrecked vehicles in the road to avoid...this has got to be the dumbest thing I've heard all week, and I work in construction. Without rest stops, I'd bet the vehiclular death rate goes up 15-20%."

Well I think VDOT's argument is that there are now private businesses that serve the function of rest stops, in the areas they're removing them. Having driven up and down 95 through Virginia at least a few dozen times in the past year, I can see how they'd think this.

The actual right-on-the-Interstate bathroom rest areas are nice, but there's no shortage of interchanges with fast food and gas stations along the way. There are a few sections of 95 that are still in pretty rural areas, but they're the exception rather than the rule. (And the most rural area is down in southern VA near the NC border, and they're not removing that rest area since it's a "Welcome Center.")

The rest area mentioned in the article, just north of Richmond (mm 107, Ladysmith), isn't far from a big Pilot Travel Center (mm 104), which might as well be called a privately-run rest area. It's about as charming as a WalMart, but it has bathrooms and is almost as easy an on/off from the highway as the VDOT rest areas.

In practical terms I think VDOT is probably right; without the rest areas, people will just use the next interchange's McDonalds or gas station instead. The real downside of eliminating the rest areas is more cultural: they were a way to learn about the area you were passing through, an attempt to de-genericize the Interstate highway system, that we're just giving up on. By replacing unique rest areas with private cookie-cutter businesses like Pilot gas stations or McDonalds franchises, we're essentially giving in to the very worst of what the Interstate highway system always represented.

I hate that creeping genericization as much as anyone, but at the same time I understand the cost pressures that VDOT is under. There are a lot of places that could use the money currently being spent on those rest areas — do we want to keep them around, at the expense of something like the Hatton Ferry, also scheduled to close? Or light rail projects? These are the tradeoffs that need to be considered.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Instead of laying the blame on McDonalds and other fast food chains... if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Seems kind of a waste of space to just shut them down when you could privatize them and take a cut of the sales, or at least open them up to real vendors.

The service plazas on Florida's Turnpike are a great example. These places have only gotten BETTER over the years...
posted by matty at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


My family always takes a break on the I-70 and I-35 rest stops when we head to see relatives in Oklahoma. I hate those big trucker rest stops and only go to them for gas. Nothing else.

If they do close these down, I agree that the big truck stops will become even more of a shitty place than they already are, not to mention all of the people I see that use the rest stops overnight at these out of the way places being forced into the truck parking lots like a bunch of cattle and getting pissy.

It's always about money..........Rawr I say, RAWR.
posted by Gravitus at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2009


Oh I'm going to miss them. Where else can you walk the dog and pee and take a hungover nap on top of a picnic table? And where can you stop close to the end of your journey to clean out the car and wipe down the kids and change into something grandparent suitable?

Sometimes they have farmers markets - Maryland - and in West Virginia they give you sandwiches. I even like the ones on the NJ Turnpike - yeah, they have chain restaurants and gift shops (this is where I got my Godzilla lighter) - but they also are so charmingly named; I mean, Joyce Kilmer must be thrilled beyond belief to be remembered not only for his tree hugginess but also for his rest stop.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2009


This economic crisis is serious! We need to do something stupid quick!

Rest stops are part of the highway infrastructure - they facilitate commerce.

This is sort of like selling all your cash registers because your store isn't doing too well at the moment. Short-sighted.
posted by device55 at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Indiana has great rest stops. Even if you don't think you need to stop, stop anyway and enjoy one. They're pleasant. Clean. Capacious. Well-lit. Illinois, not so much; their rest stops seem to have gone a redesign specifically aimed at hindering the Bathhouse of the Highway effect which qman mentioned, including, in a what the heck moment I was not equipped to deal with after twenty hours without sleep, half-height stall doors. Ah, the fond memories of a near mugging at a Florida rest stop at 2 a.m.

I think this is going to be a mistake on some level. We all know the interchanges are there, but who wants to use them? It isn't just the hassle of getting off of the highway, it's having stuff sold at you the whole time. Having to pay a few bucks for a McWhatever, just so a kid can use the bathroom. Maybe loitering charges if some pissy cop is under quota. And it must be worse for truckers — I cannot imagine getting a semi through an interchange and into a commercial parking lot is a good time.

So it's back to peeing on the side of the road and more accidents late at night. Yay.
posted by adipocere at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


> It's true that along that stretch of I-95 in Virginia there's not a lot of isolated areas which need to be served by a rest stop, and I could understand judiciously closing down a few where they are not needed.

The Mac Donald's and Wal Mart's which allow 'motorists', RVers, and truckers to stop and use their parking lots today may not be inclined to do so once all the rest stops are gone.

Today, Wal Mart lets an RV park in their lot for free, because if they're parked at a Wal Mart, chances are good they'll go inside and buy some crap.

Tomorrow when there are no free rest stops as competition, Wal Mart begins charging for parking and rest rooms.
posted by device55 at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Of all the celebrities who've died these past couple weeks, Rest Stops hits me the hardest.
posted by gman at 11:19 AM on July 3


Amen.

My husband was asking me why I care. He has no understanding. He's only driven on the highway between Toronto and Montreal, where there are no real rest-stops, only those massive chain gas-station and fastfood places. I may be Canadian, but I remember how much nicer the rest-stops were after we crossed the border into Vermont.
posted by jb at 9:21 AM on July 3, 2009


Come to Kansas. We may not believe in science, but by golly we believe in clean and plentiful rest stops! In fact, the rest stop closest to my town was just expanded and remodeled.
posted by amyms at 9:22 AM on July 3, 2009


Well I guess that's one way to save money, but damn are rest areas ever useful. On long road trips, my family was the type that only got off the highway for lunch, gas, and hotel. If you had to pee, you waited for a rest area. Therefore, my opinion of many states was shaped at a young age, based purely on the quality/quantity of their rest areas. For example, I will never forget the harrowing experience of driving across Massachusetts. I think we missed the first rest area (or nobody really had to pee yet), but that's okay because surely there will be another up here shortly. There were lots of rest areas on the map, and there were lots of signs for them, but mile after mile passed and every one was either closed or had no facilities. Bladders were getting full, tensions were getting high, we considered the unthinkable act of getting off an exit and using a gas station or McDonalds. But once again, we started seeing signs promising one of those priceless stops:

[Rest Area 20 Miles]

[Rest Area 5 Miles]

[Rest Area 1 Mile]

[Rest Area 1/2 Mile]

[Welcome to New Hampshire!]

[Rest Area -->]
posted by gueneverey at 9:26 AM on July 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Some of the businesses that claim to be "just off 95" in Virginia are really a twisting, turning mile or so off the highway (or even worse, you follow the signs to the gas station only to discover that it's shut down forever). I've gotten a little lost doing this a couple times (and this is in the Fredericksburg-Richmond stretch - getting lost in Southside is a whole 'nother story).
posted by naoko at 9:27 AM on July 3, 2009


:(

I love rest stops. I do a lot of travelling by myself and they are one of the few places where I don't have to worry about wandering alone by myself at strange hours. Or where I can sleep in the car without being arrested or otherwise harassed.

I guess I'll just have to start going to the truck stops instead.
posted by sperose at 9:29 AM on July 3, 2009


//The service plazas on Florida's Turnpike are a great example. These places have only gotten BETTER over the years...//

To some extent. They are mini malls, now; sometimes with little or no choice of food options (Starbucks is not a food).

But I agree - keep them in the original flavor, even as a "retro" thing, and move in some private vendors with the agreement to keep it as it is for a while, with minimal changes. Mc D's? Fine, put in a "retro" one.
posted by tilde at 9:31 AM on July 3, 2009


I've traveled around the southeastern US quite a lot in the last year in search of work, adventure, and other necessities. I often drive in the middle of the night, because it's easier on my eyes. I've noticed an increasing number of people asleep in their cars at rest stops, I suspect that there are many who can't afford motels anymore. The rest areas with their bathrooms, snack machines, and security guards are a safe alternative.
posted by mareli at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2009


The dismantling of public space and services continues apace.. it's funny how corporations are against rest stops, since they take away business, yet the states don't get enough tax revenue from those same corporations to maintain the rest stops which serve a public good.
posted by stbalbach at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Good riddance.

Publicly-owned rest stops and the publicly-owned roads they rest along side are the most prolific symbol of our country's slide into socialism that began in earnest with the building of this communist highway system in the 50's.

If you believe in protecting the America you you love, you will embrace the move to privately owned rest stops and welcome the arrival of privately owned roads. Everywhere.
posted by sourwookie at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nelson's comment about the enormous constructions over the autoroutes is on the money - for what it is - but the autoroutes have many, many rest stops called aires. Three consecutive ones showing the variety are here. I agree that many of the commercial aires have the worst food in France; the Port-Lauragais aire's café was OK but certainly no substitute for an honest village restaurant.
posted by jet_silver at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who says they still can't make money for the state even after they're closed. Massachusetts just sold a former rest stop (and former Ho Jo site) to the city of Quincy for 9 million. The city plans to turn it into a park...right next to 6 lanes of roaring traffic. Ah it will be peaceful.
posted by Gungho at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2009


When you're in Oklahoma make sure to check out the Keating Kans with optional anti-tipping bars.
posted by crapmatic at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2009


Now where will I get my blow jobs?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2009


Just be happy you have the interstates. You could be in Canada. And no, they're not called "interprovinces" here, because they don't exist.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, I remember well the oversupply of turnpikes and the undersupply of rest stops in Oklahoma (particularly in one seemingly endless stretch between Altus and Lawton) when I was driving cross-country (see crapmatic's link). I wonder what happens to those Keating Kans & Kabins when tornadoes hit?
posted by blucevalo at 10:21 AM on July 3, 2009


without the rest areas, people will just use the next interchange's McDonalds or gas station instead

Kadin2048, that's a dicey assumption. People will use McDonald if they have money. (And if they aren't the kind of parents who like to pack a soft-side cooler with fruit and healthy snacks.)

As a rest-stop lover and someone who travels with dogs, I'm very sad about this. And can't help but wonder if part of it is to make sure that McDonalds gets the traffic and to make the roads less hospitable for, oh, maybe a family of 12 driving a 15-year old panel van to Michigan to pick peas.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:23 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


15 years ago they gave free coca-cola at the GA border rest area. It was pretty awesome to kid me, maybe it was a little more than 15 years ago.
posted by djduckie at 10:34 AM on July 3, 2009


NJ Turnpike has creepy rest stops. Each one has a different name- Molly Pitcher, Eisenhower (? It's been awhile)- but each is EXACTLY THE SAME. Literally the same building, sometimes the same shops, maybe in slightly different places. It's like Sliders.
posted by GilloD at 10:36 AM on July 3, 2009


I am going to have to see it to believe it. Some states, like my home state of Oregon, spend a lot of time, money, and energy to make sure the identity and sanctity of environment remains intact. Its a manner of pride, aestetics, rationale; and it is well worth it. However, anybody been to a New Mexico reststop? Two portapoties on the side of the highway? (this was in the late eighties, so if they have smartened up, I apologize) Some states give a damn, and others clearly dont. Some states, will rather keep the nice rest stops instead of allowiing megastops to clutter the landscape. I hope I am right when I say that Oregon is not going out like that.

On a side note: I hope many of the rest stops in the world make it past the fall of man, because the nomadic tribes of the future might need shady benches while they travel through this Universe.
posted by captainsohler at 10:36 AM on July 3, 2009


Yet another good reason to loathe Virginia.
posted by Kikkoman at 10:37 AM on July 3, 2009


I love rest stops almost as much as the highway signs that say "WELCOME TO..." when you enter a new state. When the kids were small, it was great to stop and run around, pet people's dogs and strike up conversations with other cross country drivers. I love the teepee shade coverings for picnic tables along I-80 in South Dakota and the giant maps by the bathrooms.
The best thing Iowa did before legalizing gay marriage was offer free wifi at some rest stops.
posted by readery at 10:50 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's only driven on the highway between Toronto and Montreal, where there are no real rest-stops, only those massive chain gas-station and fastfood places. I may be Canadian, but I remember how much nicer the rest-stops were after we crossed the border into Vermont.

No need to cross the border to find nicer rest stops. Except for that one highway, and a few others like it, there are rest stops throughout Ontario. They're all over the place in much of rural southern Ontario, and the major roads in the north have some as well. Probably more of them than in any other Canadian province.

I got a bit confused when the article started talking about the expense of keeping staff there 7 days a week; the Ontario ones are just outhouses and picnic tables mostly, except for those little tourist info places just inside the border. From the first picture I asumed these ones were equally minimal. Not much expense in running the average Ontario rest stop. Just need someone to empty the trash cans, tend to the lawn, clean things up every few days, and picnic table/building maintenance maybe twice a year. If only they all had proper composting toilets, they'd require that much less work and be a bit more pleasant to use. I mean forget free wi-fi, I don't think most of these places even have electric lights. At least the last one I visited didn't seem to, as I stopped to sleep at three in the morning many miles from the nearest McDonalds.
posted by sfenders at 11:16 AM on July 3, 2009


Lesser Shrew: "As a rest-stop lover and someone who travels with dogs, I'm very sad about this."

Yeah I'm with you on the dog thing. I can see most of the other services being picked up by the likes of Pilot and McD's, but they're certainly not going to offer a dog-walking area. (There's exactly one private business I've run across that has a dog-walking area for travelers. They even have a fake fire hydrant for your dog's, uh, use. If there are any business owners out there who cater to travelers, that's a key feature.)

It would be nice if the Commonwealth tried to come up with some more creative solutions to save rest areas besides just closing them down and abandoning them. Doing something more like Jersey's or New York's — which incorporate gas stations and food chains into the rest area — seems like it would be a good option. But absent some sort of quasi-privatization like that, which would turn them from cost centers into profit centers or at least get them closer to breakeven, I don't see them being saved.

I like them as much as the next guy but I don't know where the money should come from. There's not a ton of 'fat' in the VDOT budget left to cut, and at what I'm sure is a few hundred thousand dollars per rest area per year, you'd have to find some serious sacrifices to keep them around. If we can't make the rest areas pay for themselves — and I agree with others that it doesn't seem like enough effort has been made in this direction — either they or something else is going to have to go.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:22 AM on July 3, 2009


I'm looking forward to a "R.I.P. highway travel by personal car" Metafilter post heralding the completion of rail and other mass transit infrastructure.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:31 AM on July 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wha..? How you gonna have a road trip without a rest stop?!
posted by Space Kitty at 11:37 AM on July 3, 2009


But guys, privatizing transport systems has worked so flawlessly in the past. For example, everyone loves to fly these days, don't they?
posted by Brocktoon at 11:37 AM on July 3, 2009


I like this kind of news post. Thanks. And it's not all bad news, stbalbach.

A few states, particularly those still boasting wide-open spaces, are bucking the trend and have spent money on a new generation of rest-area projects. Texas shut down about half a dozen older rest areas but opened two new ones in December featuring interactive kiosks, playgrounds, surveillance cameras and a police outpost. All of the state's close to 100 rest areas have been outfitted with wireless Internet hot spots in recent years. "Rest areas are just as necessary as they ever were," says Andrew Keith, a program manager at the Texas department of transportation.

Iowa has been replacing rest areas with new ones that offer even more bells and whistles. One has a gift shop in a big red barn that sells Norwegian CDs because of all the Norwegians thereabouts, and socks made of corn fiber.


*watches sourwookie shake fist at sky*
posted by mediareport at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


sfenders: I think the staff is there to make people stop having gay sex at the rest stops. Are we going to get an interstate network of bathhouses, tearooms, and x-rated-video viewing booths to replace the cultural resource that was the interstate highway rest stop?
posted by idiopath at 11:50 AM on July 3, 2009


Ah, but how long has it been since you've seen a sign announcing that there's a "ROADSIDE TABLE AHEAD"?

I was on a 2-lane state highway about a month back, and sure enough, there was a little pull-off area with a concrete picnic table and a trash can. Right out in the middle of nowhere. And then the flood of memories. Seems like those things used to be everywhere, or maybe that's just how I remember long cross-country trips in the back of the Ford LTD II wagon (seat folded down, with a stack of Mad magazines and YES/NO books)...
posted by jquinby at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Canada's National Parks had awesome rest stops back in the day. Lots of terrazzo, which is both attractive and super-durable. Everything was built to last decades with minimal maintenance.

Then people became asswipes and started breaking public facilities, so Parks Canada went with cheap crap that could be replaced easily. And fewer facilities.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:09 PM on July 3, 2009


Well, I guess my experiences are different. You see, women have to sit down to pee. And rest stop bathrooms, well...I'm not overly squeamish, but I will only use a rest stop bathroom if there's no other choice. And maybe some are beautiful and safe, but lots don't have security guards or get cleaned often. Or ever. And again, as a woman, I'm not going to be sleeping in any parking lots by myself, period. Especially if dudes looking for blowjobs are hanging around.

And hey, you don't have to buy anything to use the McDonald's bathroom; they can't stop you on your way out the door and demand you buy a Big Mac. I figure, I've been in enough McD's without using the can to justify running in to one for that purpose only. They also tend to have play areas for kids.

Also, in the South, stopping at a fast food place or truck stop emporium is a chance to be in air conditioning. A baking concrete bench next to a smelly bathroom and a busy freeway in 102 degree heat...not really the best option.
posted by emjaybee at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


*sigh*

The best part about rest areas? Hitting the Florida Welcome Center on I-95 and getting your FREE CUP OF ORANGE JUICE! No juice ever tasted better, and now the vacation could begin!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 12:20 PM on July 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


How is it that one time, America could afford all this cool shit, and now we can't afford any of it any more?

What the hell is going on here? Is the baby at last being drowned in the bathtub, Grover?

Jesus wept, at the 7-11.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:27 PM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


(from the first link...)
Virginia expects to save $9 million (much of which has gone to minority- and female-owned maintenance contractors) by not maintaining these buildings.
"Much of which"? How much of which? Is there some reason these particular contracts would disproportionately go to minority- or female-owned companies compared to other government spending?

It's not mentioned in the other article, it doesn't have any citation or explanation in that article, and it's worded in such a way that it could mean anything at all... which makes me think that the author wanted to throw in a little bit of "closing rest stops makes you racist/sexist" guilt under the radar.

What it comes down to is this: the economy is crap. States are trying to deal with dramatically reduced tax revenue. Spending cuts are both smart and inevitable, since tax increases alone won't solve the problem. So the real question we have to ask is, do we get enough benefit from those $9 million that it's worth cutting something else instead? Education? Police protection?

When it comes down to it, rest stops serve a function that is just about equally served by private industry, in a way that generates revenue for the state through taxes instead of being a straight sink. I get a twinge of nostalgia at the idea that we'll lose them, but I'm not going to let that cloud my opinion on this... I'd rather they close every rest stop in the state than lose a single properly-funded public school.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2009


Meanwhile, Illinois has actually upgraded its over-the-highway oasis set^ (they're only on the Tollways, though). The old ones were pretty charmless, but the new ones are quite nice in a galleria mall kind of way. I love eating at the windows as cars zip right under you.

The state of Wisconsin has sold off a fair number of its rustic waysides -- some of them have been turned into local-jurisdiction parks, though. One I used to drive by regularly now has a swingset and jungle gym, but no more outhouse ....
posted by dhartung at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2009


emjaybee nailed it for me as well. Rest stops were/are fine in a group or in broad daylight where there's a crowd, but if you are a woman flying solo, I would rather pull over and tinkle next to the car on the access road, than stop at a rest stop in Texas at night. They're dark and spooky, and creepy people are hanging around, and it's a long walk in the dark from the potty cave to the parking.

I won't even stop at them during the day unless there are at least 8 cars. Just, no. They're horrible cement cubes with flickering dim lights. It's like a bad prison movie from the 20s. I hate McD as much as the next Mom, but you can bet your patoot I'd go to there before stopping at a rest stop if I were traveling with my 6 year old. *shudder* Really, they're horrible.
posted by dejah420 at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re creepy rest stop bathrooms - yet another reason to have a dog. When some asks "does your dog bite?" you say, "No unless there's a reason."
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:15 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, but how long has it been since you've seen a sign announcing that there's a "ROADSIDE TABLE AHEAD"?

I don't think I've seen a ROADSIDE TABLE sign on an Interstate, but I did notice the rest stops on Wyoming and Idaho (along I-80) had these truly excellent picnic tables scattered around around.
While not always the most scenic, they were spaced pretty regularly.

My favorite rest stops are the ones with interpretive signs to tell you about the area. Bonus points if the sign is at least 30 years old and less than politically correct.
What ever happened to the free maps, btw.

And while we're at it, some states (Iowa, I'm looking at you) need to make it a little easier to get a picture of the "Welcome" sign. I know the border is in the middle of the river, but that doesn't mean the sign needs to be on a bridge where you can't make a stop.
Go copy Wisconsin - an official sign on the bridge, then a nice big "photgraphicable" sign (with pull-off!) a couple of hundred yards up the road.
posted by madajb at 2:18 PM on July 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


" Highway rest areas, they're the bath houses of the 90's for many, many, many, many gay men."

I wonder if this isn't one of the unspoken justifications. Use a budget shortfall to get rid of public facilities which have become pickup bars. Plus "Eww, the Ghey!"

"Much of which'? How much of which? Is there some reason these particular contracts would disproportionately go to minority- or female-owned companies compared to other government spending?"

I'm guessing the contracts pay little and so minorities and women are over represented in the contractor pool.
posted by Mitheral at 3:43 PM on July 3, 2009


"And while we're at it, some states (Iowa, I'm looking at you) need to make it a little easier to get a picture of the 'Welcome' sign. I know the border is in the middle of the river, but that doesn't mean the sign needs to be on a bridge where you can't make a stop.
"Go copy Wisconsin - an official sign on the bridge, then a nice big 'photgraphicable' sign (with pull-off!) a couple of hundred yards up the road."


I could get on board that campaign. The border crossing and sign between California and Arizona at Yuma is on a bridge.
posted by Mitheral at 3:48 PM on July 3, 2009


Mitheral: "I wonder if this isn't one of the unspoken justifications. Use a budget shortfall to get rid of public facilities which have become pickup bars. Plus "Eww, the Ghey!"

I've been to the rest areas in question. Maybe I just don't know the secret code ("wide stance"?), but I've never seen anything that resembled dudes cruising. The rest stop in Ladysmith that's mentioned in the article is typically staffed, IIRC. Maybe it's staffed to prevent this sort of behavior, and they're unwilling to remove the staffing because they fear an outbreak of teh ghey, but there's no ongoing problem with it so far as I've ever seen. And I've been there at all times of the day and night. (I used to commute up and down 95 and the Ladysmith rest area was one of my regular stops if I didn't need to buy gas at the truck stop at 104.)

I'm guessing the contracts pay little and so minorities and women are over represented in the contractor pool."

I suspect that the maintenance contracts are given preferentially to women- or minority-owned businesses. I.e. they are a state-level version of the Federal 8A/B/C program. The official page on VA's "Small, Women and Minority-Owned Businesses" (SWAM) program seems to be down, but I suspect that's how they were doing the maintenance contracts and that's the basis for the reporter's claim. In many cases that I've seen, state and Federal agencies are encouraged to use such programs either by hard dollar-value or percent-of-budget quotas, or by decreased red tape relative to standard open-competition RFPs.

The real question is whether closing the rest areas would cut more SWAM contracts than cutting $9m from somewhere else. The reporter doesn't say that, and that's why it's a cheap shot: for all we know, the rest areas use a less-than-average amount of SWAM contractors. (Unlikely, but possible — we just don't have enough information to judge either way.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:31 PM on July 3, 2009



Good riddance.

Publicly-owned rest stops and the publicly-owned roads they rest along side are the most prolific symbol of our country's slide into socialism that began in earnest with the building of this communist highway system in the 50's.

If you believe in protecting the America you you love, you will embrace the move to privately owned rest stops and welcome the arrival of privately owned roads. Everywhere.


Fuck you.
posted by mpls2 at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2009


sourwookie: "If you believe in protecting the America you you love, you will embrace the move to privately owned rest stops and welcome the arrival of privately owned roads. Everywhere."

Heh. sourwookie is sour.

A few months ago I was driving at night and stopped by a rest stop. The water fountains were marked with signs warning "NOT POTABLE." I noticed the vending machines were working and contained over-priced bottled water, though.

Just another way Georgia sucks.
posted by JHarris at 5:35 PM on July 3, 2009


mpls2 fails his joke roll.
posted by JHarris at 5:44 PM on July 3, 2009


One of the worst things in Europe was having to pee on a road trip. No rest stops and the gas station bathrooms were just as bad as they are in good ol' USA.

Where in Europe? Last year I took a road trip through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and France, and the gas station bathrooms were uniformly much cleaner than anything comparable in the U.S. The only hassle was remembering to keep change for the ones that had a turnstile. Didn't see many rest stops, although we did take a break at one between Vienna and Budapest. (As soon as I got out of the car there, a woman wearing a police vest approached me and handed me a brochure on avoiding carjacking.)

As far as commercial rest stops went, we had exceedingly good luck. The espresso I got north of Florence was better than I've ever had in the U.S., and we had a very good (if somewhat eclectic) meal at a swank, brand-new stop in Switzerland.
posted by asterix at 10:38 PM on July 3, 2009


However, anybody been to a New Mexico reststop?

*Shudder* I stopped at what looked like a perfectly pleasant rest stop on the way to Alamagordo. Then I got to the restroom. It was there that I learned the phrase "overflowing with shit" could be literal. I decided to hold it for the three more hours to my destination.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:27 AM on July 4, 2009


However, anybody been to a New Mexico reststop?

There's one skanky rest stop on the road from Santa Fe to Los Alamos with a big fat glory hole. I like to think straight bomb scientists with security clearances used to go there to satisfy a hunger for a little cock. One time I scared two guys out of there (I had to pee!), sorry about that.

Maybe I just don't know the secret code ("wide stance"?), but I've never seen anything that resembled dudes cruising.

Yeah, that's not by accident. Last thing dudes cruising want is civilians to see them. Look for holes cut in partitions, or for graffiti in the grout like "9pm Sunday show hard". Or if you really want, loiter around for awhile and see who else is loitering. Right time of day and out-of-the-way place on the grounds and you might learn something. If you're really curious, a bit of searching on Google will turn up one of several databases of which areas are active and when.

I'm no expert, but my guess is cruising is on the way down over the past 20 years. Partly from security measures: more staffed rest areas, more cameras, more glory hole resistant materials. Partly from awareness: you secret culture is less secure when everyone knows about it. And mostly for other options. Craigslist is full of cocks for straight guys to suck, less need to go out to find them.

I've never had sex in a rest stop, not my scene. And it's clearly a bad idea to mix sex prowling with ordinary folks just needing to take a leak. But that mixing was part of the point, I think, a sort of gateway bridge between doing something normal and doing something kinky. I wonder where that happens now?
posted by Nelson at 7:56 AM on July 4, 2009


If they close the rest stops, where will straight guys go to suck dick?

I like to think straight bomb scientists with security clearances used to go there to satisfy a hunger for a little cock.


Dude, I think you need to re-calibrate your understanding of "straight."
posted by five fresh fish at 8:22 AM on July 4, 2009


When I use a word, it means precisely what I want it to mean; neither more nor less.
posted by Nelson at 8:37 AM on July 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


five fresh fish: We live in an extremely bi-phobic world, most people who should technically qualify as bisexual just don't accept that description for the stigma attached. There are, in particular, very large numbers of "lesbians" and "straight guys" who fool around with men on the down low. I guess I would have less reason to know about gays or straight girls who discretely look for a bit of action with women on the side, come to think of it.
posted by idiopath at 8:40 AM on July 4, 2009


My perception, though it's that of an actually straight male, is that bisexuality is waaaaay more accepted than homosexuality.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 AM on July 4, 2009


You guys take all the fun out of using ambiguous language ironically.

The reason I used the word "straight" is because I believe many of the guys sucking cock in rest stops think of themselves as "straight". Much like Larry Craig does. There's a whole world of men having homosexual sex who don't see that as a marker of a cultural or gender identity. Many of them live public straight lives. Some of them have never considered or reconciled what homosexual sex means in their lives, why make it complicated? Gay sex ads like Craigslist are full of guys looking for "str8" men and have a fair number of ads from men identifying themselves as "straight", or "mwm", or "curious".

I don't get it myself, I'm very happy as an out gay man. But I've met enough people with complex sexual identities to appreciate the variety.

Sorry for the serious de-rail, but there is this weird little subculture associated with highway rest stops that I've always found fascinating.
posted by Nelson at 9:29 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nelson: Yeah, I also find it fascinating. There was a great Savage Love piece on Larry Craig actually being straight - the guys who go to adult book stores dressed up in drag to suck stranger cock mostly self-identify as straight, and the appeal of the act is that they are so very heterosexual that they have to experience heterosexuality from both male and female points of view.

I see the whole rest-stop social ecosystem as a symbiosis between gay and straight men - the straight men are looking for some easy NSA sex without having to take on a gay identity and all that goes with it, and the gay men are also looking for easy NSA sex, and are turned on by straight guys, so are happy not to call anyone out on their hypocrisy in self-identifying as straight.
posted by idiopath at 9:46 AM on July 4, 2009


Of course, it's not like truckers actually have to deal with this at all.

Why do I get the feeling if we'd just listened to that Time Cube guy, it'd be OK?
posted by IvoShandor at 4:46 PM on July 4, 2009


.

This is BAD.
posted by rahnefan at 4:53 PM on July 4, 2009


Yet another good reason to loathe Virginia.

Hey now. Why the hate?
posted by naoko at 6:20 PM on July 4, 2009


For the secret Minnesotan in us all: Sphincter On Tour: A Rest Stop Safari.
posted by Lazlo at 7:26 PM on July 4, 2009


Rest areas! Kids, gather around, I'll tell ya a story. Way back in the times so immediately after Stonewall that most folks didn't even know what that meant, I discovered the joy that was an interstate rest area. This in a time and place where there was exactly 1 gay bar in a very wide radius...And plenty people who didn't even know it existed, or, maybe had heard of it, but couldn't find the unmarked building hidden on a commercial strip.

But we had a fabulous rest area, and come summer Saturday nights, it was hoppin'! And lo, I swished my young gay ass yonder. Hitch-hiking, since I was (gasp!) still too young to drive. Yes, I said "swished". Swish was in fashion, in those days, I don't know why, so calm down, Mary, I'm as much as man as anyone else--Even if I was just a boy, then. ('just'? LOL!)

It was, at times, rather a party scene. Perhaps this was an unrealized effect of recent events in New York City, but some of us were happy to mix a bit of the social together with the animal urges. And there it was where I received my first lessons in Gay Pride.

Yea, PRIDE. In those days, it was often spelled f-u-c-k--y-o-u. So what's the matter, darling, you don't like the way my shoulder bag sways as my hips swing? Oh, dear, you're SO manly, I'm going to swoon!

Wooooosh, WAP!

Oh dear, I guess my feminine wiles were too much for him!

You see, the bag in question contained a brick. THAT is gay pride, circa 1970. I listened to stories of people being beaten up for being "queer", and then heard stories of fighting back. How many adults there and then saw fit to assure me there was nothing wrong with me being gay? Plenty. Funny, but at that point in my life, I'm fairly sure I needed that social time worse than I needed sex. Thinking back, I realize many of those adults needed it too. We were all learning what Stonewall meant.

Creepy people, in rest areas? Oh, these days, I'm sure things are rather creepy. What folks say about how the internet has changed things are perfectly correct, of course. But once upon a time, rest areas and the like were the only place available to countless thousands of gay men. And no, dear, they weren't out to make life miserable for normal folks, most making effort to go as unnoticed as possible. But I have seen places where discretion wasn't much of a virtue, and even I would agree, that's bullshit.

But let me enjoy my own nostalgic memories of these places. Late late summer nights, with the buzzing of mercury vapor lights. Someone new pulls in. A guy, alone, and he gets out of his car and heads down the correct path (you see, straight people go the other way). Next thing you hear is the amazing sound of numerous car doors closing, not in unison, but in chaos. Out of 15 cars parked along the curb, probably only 3 were there for, err, rest.

Some nights the cops would stop by. And that's where my warmest memory of gay solidarity arise. Almost any of the men there were happy to have me hop in to their car and be driven away from police scrutiny, and no, they weren't expecting "special benefits", either. Besides, plenty of them were uninterested in my young self, and others had principles against messing with minors. Creepy, huh?

And to dear emjaybee, let me just say: Don't be such a complete twit. A rest area with men looking for blowjobs is far safer for a woman than one without. They sure aren't interested in what you have to offer, but their presence is scaring away the bad people that depend on a lack of witnesses.
posted by Goofyy at 11:20 AM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


oh man, the rest stops in michigan were great! pop machines, sometimes a snack machine, sometimes in the summer a dude selling fruit, signs telling about the local shit, maps of where you were and how far to the bridge....and then when you got too far north the rest stops were just outhouses off a dirt trail.

then i moved to pa, where they have "toll plazas". fuck that.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:12 PM on July 8, 2009


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