Ahhh the road trip. The long and grueling, but generally entertaining way of traveling. Growing up in Minnesota, I’m no stranger to road trips. My east coast friends all thought it was insane that my family would wake up early and drive four hours just to fish for the day and drive home, but it was something that was quite normal in our family. Since I’ve been on the east coast, I’ve taken road trips along the coast to the beach, to visit friends, and on camping trips and bike races with Ryan. Regardless of distance, location, road trip mates, etc. one thing remains constant – the rest step.
You’re riding along playing angry birds, watching a dvd, playing the license plate game, singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, or whatever it is you do to amuse yourself in the car, when it hits you – you have to pee NOW. If you are lucky, a convenient rest stop will be within your reach. Rest stops, for those that don’t know, are made to be a quick stop just off the freeway that provides you with everything you need to continue on the road – bathrooms, food, drinks, COFFEE, crappy postcards and cheap jewelry and scarves. What many don’t know, or haven’t realized due to their own tired and beleaguering appearance, is that rest stops are hilarious.
If you enjoy people-watching, a rest stop is your best friend. Rest stops tend to catch people at their strangest. They are likely tired, hair disheveled, wearing “comfy” clothes, etc. Think People of Walmart goes on vacation. Honestly, I’m not trying to say that I road trip in a suit or evening dress. I wear yoga pants and flip flops and am looking pretty haggard myself. I can only hope that I don’t look as horrible as most of the people I see at the rest stop. Plus, there is the brood of unruly spawns that come screeching and spewing out of the family cars. These little ones are bursting with energy or are tired and cranky. Either way, they do some pretty funny things. On my last trip back from Cambridge, NY, I watched a little girl around 2 years old dump a pop all over the table. In response her older brother started crying. Obviously. The mom was pissed.
Or you may witness a canoodling couple. Nothing says romance like a dingy, fast-food smelling rest stop.
You will also see an interesting set of workers, like the one I saw: a plump, cheap tattoo-covered lady with greasy, stringy hair who had a few inches of her thong showing, despite the fact that she was STANDING.
Beyond hilarious people watching, the rest stop mainly serves as a way to stretch your legs, pee and get food. Even these normal activities will be hijacked by weirdness at a rest stop.
Bathrooms with varying levels of cleanliness, sell a very strange variety of items in their “vending machines.” You might also see some interesting written messages or stickers, such as the decal I saw advertising eco-friendly feminine products.
As far as food goes, you are basically giving up on healthy choices. If you are lucky, you will come across the occasional froyo stand; otherwise, it’s mediocre sandwiches and fast food. When forced with fast food, I almost always want a delicious Whopper Jr. Now for an unofficial rule of the road: you will pass countless rest stops advertising whichever place is your preference; but, the second you are ready to eat – nowhere in sight! So you might think, well next stop will have it, and you continue on. It does not. Eventually everyone is hungry and you settle for something else. Inevitably, the next stop will have what you were looking for. Grrrrr. Maybe someone will make a rest stop app that will detail all of the restaurants at each place.
For any of you that have been on a road trip you know exactly what I’m talking about in this post. For those that haven’t buy, rent, borrow or steal a car (ok, maybe not steal), grab some friends and hit the open road! As you peel off the freeway and pull into the rest stops, keep your eyes open for hilarity and make sure you grab that Whopper Jr. when you can!