Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The End of the Rest Area?

Fellow Facebooker David Backlin posted a link to a story about the impending demise of the roadside rest area. For our readers here, I wanted to share that link - here.

The rest area has long been a chance to stretch the legs, grab some maps, visit the loo, and get back on the road. In some places (especially the Turnpike-types), one could grab a meal or visit a convenience store. In a pinch, souvenirs could even be had.

The opportunity to collect some local flavor was abundant, depending on the location. Those "mini mall" types with the restaurants and convenience stores also tend to have a "lowest common denominator" quality about them, or are overrun with fairly annoying folks.

Or both.

Yet the appeal of being able to stop, without having to exit the road (especially those tolls roads like the New Jersey Turnpike) can't be excused. For me, it's maps, bathroom, maybe fuel, and back on the road! No overpriced grub for me.

Still, it's the smaller rest area, and better the WELCOME CENTER that scream "AMERICANA!" to me. For instance, the North Carolina Welcome Center on I-95 south is literally at the border. As I recall, it felt like the state line was on the highway ramp (could be an exaggeration). Out of the car, it seemed like being in a new world after approximately 175 miles of Virginia.

Even on our recent trip to Richmond, two rest areas were on my list of stops - one (the "Chesapeake House") on I-95 in Maryland the other is a Virginia Welcome Center near Fredericksburg, VA. In each case, the goal was the rest room and some more maps for the collection. In Virginia, I spied several groups enjoying a picnic lunch. That's not something I've ever done, but more power to them.

I'll grant you, some of these places are scary. Take almost any rest area in New York that's not on the Thruway. No, I'm serious. Please take it. Burn it. Get rid of it. Those places are cesspools - smelly and dark and...well?...dangerous. The stories are quite legendary and in some places, truthful.

So here we are - the past being put out to pasture. The rest area is heading towards "Mom and Pop Store" status. The Wawa's (by the way, a way cool place to fill up and grab a drink or sandwich) and other mini-marts, along with McDonald's and their type are taking have taken over. The maps and brochures will find their way there (if they haven't already) and then they'll be phased out by this - the internet.

It's called progress, I guess. Nothing to see here. Move along...

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