By on September 20, 2013

In the next couple of days Autumn will officially begin. For most of us, however, Summer ended back on Labor Day, that final day of freedom before kids all over the country had to get up early, stuff their new school supplies into their backpacks and board those big yellow nuisances to all of us who have a daily commute. Anyone with kids, kids, kids is tied to home so, for all but a privileged few, the season of great cross country road trips is at an end.

I am a seasoned cross-country road tripper. I started road like most children of my generation, in the rearward facing back seat of my parent’s Oldsmobile station wagon as the Kreutzer family made our regular pilgrimage from our home in the mist shrouded forests of Western Washington to the vast, sun scorched plains of Eastern Kansas. Five kids, ranging in ages from 4 to 14, and two adults were crammed into the interior of the silver-green machine while our luggage was secured up-top in an old-time wooden roof rack covered under a tightly lashed canvas tarp. A couple of years later, we made the same trip in the back of my father’s newly purchased Chevrolet pick-up, the adults isolated happily up front while we kids rolled about loose in the atop blankets and sleeping bags protected from the elements by an aluminum canopy. Later, when my older siblings were deemed just “too big” to be forced into making the trip, my sister Connie and I shared the back seat of dad’s Delta 88.

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I made my first cross country trip behind the wheel around 1990, with my friend John in my Dodge Shadow Turbo, when I drove from my home in Washington State to the Seafarer’s International Union’s School of Seamanship in Piney Point, MD. To this day John will tell you that I am some kind of control freak because, despite his many offers to relieve me, I drove every damn mile of the trip. Despite the fact that I hadn’t ordered cruise control on the car, the little Shadow proved to be a good ride for the cross country trip. With a tall 5th gear it positively loped along the interstate and, thanks to tall comfortable seats, we made the trip in good shape. When my training was done, I made the return trip alone in just under four days.

In 2001 I made virtually the same trip in my 1984 Cutlass when I drove from Washington State to Washington DC, a trip I made at the end of February managing to stay just ahead of a wicked arctic air mass that dogged me all the way across the great Plains, and, after storing the Olds for two years while I was overseas, made a leisurely return trip with my wife. In 2010 I crossed the country yet again in my 300M Special and, if the best laid plans of mice and men work out, expect to make the trip the opposite way in our new Town & Country sometime next summer.

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The trip out to Buffalo in the 300M was probably the worst trip I have made. The car itself was great, it was the man in the driver seat that had real trouble and the reason was my as yet undiagnosed Diabetes. The ancient Greeks called Diabetes the disease in which you drink away your arms and legs and extreme thirst is one of the first signs that your blood sugar is out of control. As I understand it, when your body’s own insulin fails to bring your blood sugar down to normal levels, your body reacts by making you drink gallons and gallons of water. The water, in turn, carries away excess sugar in your urine and that sugar makes every trip to the bathroom smell like Lucky Charms.

The big Chrysler and I probably got about the same miles per gallon all the way across the United States. Unfortunately for me, my tank was a lot smaller than the 300’s and I ended up stopping at damn near every rest area on Interstate 90 as I made my way out from the west Coast. For the most part, I am pleased to report that the vast majority of rest areas along my chosen route were perfectly serviceable facilities and I feel nothing but gratitude for the men and women of the State Highway Departments that maintain them. One state, however, has rest stops that are head and shoulders above the rest. Are you ready for it? That state is South Dakota.

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Rest areas in the State of South Dakota are beautifully maintained facilities. Their grounds are always impeccable, my own yard should look as good, and inside the restrooms are always sparkling clean. In their lobbies, many of the buildings have computerized informational kiosks and interactive geographic and historic displays that make them seem more like museums than public restrooms. Larger Information Centers are actually manned by staff who can help plan side trips and point out special attractions along your route and feature much appreciated extra amenities like pet exercise areas and places where RVs can empty their septic tanks. Having had the opportunity to visit almost every one of them, I think I can say with some certainty that they are consistently the best in the United States and I think it is important to note that Interstate 90 through that part of the country is not a toll road. These services are provided at no cost to Interstate travelers by the people of South Dakota.

In these still somewhat austere economic times, a lot of the services provided by federal, state and local governments have fallen by the wayside. We hear every day about poor service, bureaucratic nonsense, deteriorating infrastructure, new taxes and new forms of revenue generation so it’s nice to be able to report on something good for a change. That’s the discussion I would like to engender here today. Earlier this week we all had a chance to tell our stories about the times public employees have been less than helpful or about how our government has given us the runaround. Today, if you dare, let’s talk about the times they have got it right. Sure, it’s more fun to complain but somewhere, some public sector employee is fighting the good fight. It’s time they got a pat on the back. If you don’t like that, just to keep it classy, tell us about the best place to take a roadside dump.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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72 Comments on “Road Trips, Pit Stops & Public Employees...”


  • avatar

    I made exactly one cross-country trip, from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, and I still remember an awesome rest stop somewhere in Texas that sounds just like the ones you mention in North Dakota. I remember the whole thing was immaculate, in a very attractive pale green/cyan color scheme, and it had a lot of really nice informational displays. But I also remember the rest of Texas was barren and pretty much eternal. I felt like I’d spent half my life there by the time I finally found the next state.

    D

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Haven’t even read the article yet, but you can get people to open any link with that as the main picture!

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I agree that they get a lot of things right.. Sure.. Agreed.
    But it costs way too much to do so. Great places to take a deuce?
    NJ would have to be the worst for me.. NC has some very nice rest stops
    on 95 as soon as you cross over. Probably the nicest I have seen on the East Coast anyway.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    The Massachusetts RMV is very good. I’ve never waited more than 1/2 hour, and they’re professional. They make the rules clear and stick to them, printing the documentation you’ll need on the forms.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy

      I tend to agree with you minus the half hour part. I made the mistake of going during April vacation to register my new car (purchased out of state) and sat there for 2 hours. 2 hours. 2 hours. 2 hours. 2 hours of my life that I WILL NEVER GET BACK. Watertown RMV… terrible.

      What made it even worse is that despite the correct information being on my RMV-1 they sent the title to the incorrect credit union. Still ironing out that mess months after the fact.

      Oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      Not true. A few years ago I was about to have my license suspended over some idiotic technicality (I don’t even remember what it was). Went to Worcester DMV. Spend well over 2 hours despite not many people being in line. Had to stand in same line to the front desk 3 times. Most inefficient idiotic place I had to deal with in a long time.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Our family station wagon road trips started in a 1968 Veradero Green Pontiac Catalina with no Air Conditioning (`you only need it a few days a year in Seattle`). Followed by a 1973 Pontiac Grand Safari with A/C when he figured out the places we drove to required it. Our road trips took twice as long as everybody else because he needed to stop at EVERY special attraction, viewpoint and quirky tourist trap to take a picture of my brother and me standing in front of it. A depression-era kid, photography (as much as your basic Kodak Instamatic with flash cubes allows) was a sign of success. I now have about 50 carrousels full of slides of those trips.

    • 0 avatar

      Ours were just the opposite. We never stopped for anything and when we did stop it was just long enough to see it and get back in the car. We went to Old Faithful and weren’t there ten minutes before the damn thing blew its top, then it was back in the car and back on the road.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    It is also interesting to note that South Dakota can fund such nice rest stops while having no state income tax and one of healthiest fiscal situations among the 50 states. The state also has good public schools, friendly hard working people, beautiful scenery, and extremely low unemployment – about the only downside are the very wide temperature extremes between summer and winter (-30 to +100 F).

    • 0 avatar
      thomm

      Helps they get more back from the feds than they pay in…close to 25%. Damn welfare queens. Ha! Kinda.

      • 0 avatar
        goldtownpe

        Over 50% back. 53% to be exact.
        2005 is the latest data they have.
        http://taxfoundation.org/article/federal-taxing-and-spending-benefit-some-states-leave-others-paying-bill-1

        • 0 avatar
          Brad2971

          Look, it’s everyone’s favorite survey that alleges rural states are leeches. Let’s see now, that survey has data from back in 2005. I’m willing to venture that…a few things have changed since that year.

          For example, in neighboring North Dakota in 2005, the state was 37th in per-capita income. In 2012, it’s 6th. Amazing what Drill, Baby, Drill will do for a state. Heck, even though South Dakota has nowhere near the oil its northern neighbor does, just the increase in commodity prices like corn, wheat, and soybeans likely improved upon that 2005 ranking.

          In fact, if you include Texas, it can be convincingly argued that the much maligned Great Plains is propping this nation’s economy up.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Even if every citizen of SD was working and paid Federal tax they would never equal the amount paid by the citizens of California though sheer population figures. I would be much more interested to see the percentage of the population of both states that pays federal tax before I cry welfare queen.

        Population of Cali in 2010: 37,253,956
        Population of SD in 2010: 814,180

        http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/index.html

        • 0 avatar
          goldtownpe

          It’s not about population. Or the absolute amount they pay to or get from the Feds. For every dollar that SD pays to the Feds in tax, they get $1.53 back from the Feds. California is actually a giver state. Getting less from the Feds than it gives to the Feds.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Remember that “federal spending” includes paying for that Interstate (which is arguably of far more benefit to people shipping through SD than to residents).

        “25%” (Or 53%, below) seems like a lot – until you realize that SD’s population is under 900,000. My city’s *metro area* is bigger than that.

        And that’s leaving out the possibility that military spending, especially salaries and benefits, is in those numbers – and SD has Ellsworth AFB (8,000 people – almost 1% of the state population!) and all those B1-Bs, and naturally anyone getting a salary or benefits while on duty is getting them “in South Dakota”.

        Since they obviously get paid more than they pay in taxes, every Federal employee or member of the Armed Forces looks like a “drain on the Government” for that state.

        Tiny samples lead to skewed results.

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          A bigger factor are the Indian reservations, which receive a great deal of federal money and contribute little or nothing to the tax revenues. Native Americans represent about 10% of the state population, which together with the military base costs, mean a lot of federal dollars coming into South Dakota that do not fund rest areas.

      • 0 avatar

        I suspect demographics is also a factor. From what i understand, SD has a pretty aging population, which means fewer young/middle aged people in their prime earning years paying taxes, and lots of elderly people collecting social security.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      My cousin, who owns a business in California, was courted by the South Dakota governor to move the business to SD. The courting involved free high-class lodging and meals and some kind of a critter hunt. Cousin’s staying put in spite of the crappy Cal business climate – he’s on the city council in the little town where he lives and I think that’s one of the reasons he stays – already a big fish in that pond.

      So if SD has a lack of tax-paying business, it’s not for lack of trying to get them….

    • 0 avatar
      Brad2971

      It also helps that South Dakota is still a market that people largely drive to, as opposed to fly there, then rent a car. All the tourists going to Mount Rushmore and the Sturgis rally helped fund those nice rest areas.

      Compare that with, say, Arizona, which STILL has a closed rest area on I-10 west of Phoenix, a drive that needs all the active rest areas it can get. Also, compare it with I-15 in CA on the way to Las Vegas; one of the two sets of rest areas has been closed for the last four years.

  • avatar
    VoltOwner

    Since you asked for positive comments, I won’t regale you with my experience in Utah. I’ll just say, bring waterproof boots, preferably disposable.

    I will however mention the Montana stops. Clean and warm, with most of the heat and light furnished by the sun in daytime. Just an all around superior rest stop.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Indiana has very nice rest stops. We make a Cincinnati-St. Louis trip only once a year now, but their rest areas are pretty good.

    The worst? Illinois, at least along I-70, for ONE annoying reason:

    One in particular, just east of Effingham, has the stall doors cut ‘way down, so privacy is almost nil. I wonder why? Perverts, perhaps?

    Anyway, it makes for a somewhat uncomfortable no. 2 experience when everyone who walks in looking for an open stall can see over and see you looking (and feeling) quite sheepish. Nobody smiles, ’cause they know they’ll be in the same predicament shortly!

    Other than that, we don’t take road trips more than 6 hours, but I haven’t seen a really horrible rest area in many years.

    If I ever have to travel at night, however, I’ll never stop at a rest area anymore, but take the nearest well-lit, busy exit with a good selection of gas stations/truck stops like Love’s, large Speedways, Travel Americas, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      South Dakota is definitely the best. They are like roadside parks. The worst I have ever seen was the middle of nowhere in Arizona. Aside from being completely disgusting in terms of cleanliness there was an honest to god glory hole in the stall.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    In general ;

    I find Public and Civil Servants to be a friendly , helpful and dedicated bunch , I make a point of being polite to them even when I’m in distress .

    Thew hands down worst rest stops were in Tennessee ~ not only filthy and decades old but they actually hired sexual perverts who , in uniform no less , followed me into the restroom and pointedly watched me take a dump .

    Even asking for some privacy was no help as they were rude beyond belief .

    The wooden picnic tables were made in the 1950’s and never cleaned once since new , it was awful .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    kkt

    Oregon has great state parks and campgrounds, nicely maintained, showers, and for what you get they don’t cost very much compared to its neighbors California and Washington.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Unexpected and interesting post. Last cross-country trip I made, about 11 years ago, was to Los Angeles, on the “southern route” from St. Louis, so I was quite a distance from South Dakota. It was a hell-for-leather drive I did by myself in a little less the 3 days. First night: just east of St. Louis in Illinois. Second night: somewhere in eastern New Mexico. Third night: Los Angeles. Fortunately, I was not afflicted with diabetes, which does not sound like fun at all.

    On the bigger question: yes, there is a fairly widespread disrespect of civil service workers, which is too bad, for those who are conscientious. There’s definitely a net loss there. One of the reasons Scandinavians willingly pay such high taxes is, not only are lots of things provided by the government, but also government workers are generally perceived to be competent, fair-minded and not political.

    Here, government workers are increasingly politicized. At the state/local level, it’s the dance of the public employees’ unions and the politicians whom they help elect which seems to lead to out-of-control pension spending and absurdities like small-town fire chiefs in California retiring on six-figure pensions. Just as a data point, using the recommended 4% withdrawal rate, a person with a self-funded retirement would need to start out with a $2.5M nest egg to fund that kind of retirement, and he/she wouldn’t be protected from inflation.

    The second problem is that politicians get government involved in doing things that government doesn’t do very well, like, say, providing universal health car. And, sadly, in recent years in lots of states: educating children.

    The third problem is the government responds to politics, not economics, so you have the government doing a lot of economically stupid things, like the continuing mandate for ethanol in gasoline which, everyone admits, provides none of the benefits claimed for it but survives because it benefits farmers in Iowa and because Iowa has an outsized role in choosing presidents.

    It is no accident that, whenever there are budget cuts at either the state or federal level, the first activity to feel those cuts are the parks. Governments, both state and federal, do parks pretty well; the public likes parks, so hurting parks is a great way to penalize the public for supporting cuts in the growth of government spending (and, let’s face it, folks, absolute cuts, year-over-year, in government spending NEVER happen).

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      DC, the state travel center employees I’ve met seem more like friendly grandparents than the civil servants of the DMV. They sure didn’t look like militant green t-shirt wearing AFSCME members to me. Maybe the people in the pool of potential employees in rural areas are generally polite.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ……the public likes parks, so hurting parks is a great way to penalize the public for supporting cuts in the growth of government spending…..

      That philosophy is followed closely by the school districts where I live. The first thing to go if a budget does not pass is school bus service. Typically 1% or less of the total discretionary budget, transportation is chosen as the best vehicle to wear down voter resolve.

  • avatar
    Preludacris

    I seem to recall nice rest stops on the Kansas Turnpike, but it’s been a couple years. I don’t know, I’m usually just happy to get out of the car and take care of some business as necessary.

    Speaking of road trips, this is a little OT but stay safe out there!
    A couple of acquaintances recently got in a really nasty wreck, including broken vertebrae for the passenger.

    They were trying to make it from BC to Ontario without stopping except for a two-hour nap! They almost made it, too. Just a few hours from home, they had a single car accident that almost certainly has to be blamed on sleep deprivation (though I did not hear what the police statement was).

    Your life is more valuable than getting there a few hours sooner.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I remember taking the family to Washington DC for an “educational” vacation and was blown away by the fact that all the important (to me) things we wanted to see were “free”. The Smithsonian, The White House (this was 20 years ago when they still had tours) everything was open and accessible. After a couple of trips to Disney World where it seemed my only job was to stand there with an open wallet this trip to DC really impressed me. It’s probably not that way post NSA, but it’s my good memory and I’m hanging on to it

    • 0 avatar

      I was down there this summer and most of the fun stuff is still free. I think the most I paid for anything was for parking at the Udvar center out at Dulles but it was entirely worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      All the Smithsonian Museums and monuments are still free. Take the Metro everywhere.

      Mouse World stinks… Nothing but a money pit.

    • 0 avatar

      post, NSA, you can visit the NSA’s own museum!

      http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/museum/

      It’s located in what was obviously at one point a motel. It’s right next to the NSA headquarters and the story is that the government bought it because other countries kept staying there to try to spy on the NSA.

      It’s free, and it’s actually kind of interesting, if you are interested in vintage computing/technology. They have a bunch of vintage “supercomputers”, including a couple Crays (The computer that doubles as a bench!) and a Thinking Machine. They also have some of the enigma machines.

      Museum is free, but you can buy an official NSA sweatshirt or coffee mug at the gift shop.

  • avatar
    George B

    An Arkansas travel center gets special mention for not only providing useful information about motels along I-40/I-30, but also providing me with discount coupons for various motels.

    I’ve been to many state travel centers that were good. The manned ones in sparsely populated rural areas seem to be the best.

    The Pilot Travel Center truck stop in Muskogee, OK gets special mention for having potpourri in the restrooms and toilet stalls more like what one would expect in an office tower than at a truck stop.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I’ve lived in Arkansas for the last 8 years and have family in Oklahoma. Anytime we come in on I40 from OK we stop at the very nice Arkansas Welcome Center. Soooo much nicer than any that I ever visited in my native Missouri.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    Family road trips. Every summer we would leave MI for our annual trip to TX to visit my fathers relations. This would happen in August to attend the family reunion. I remember it was HOT. It was not until the late 60’s that my dad got a company car that had a/c. What a joy! This was short lived as we were towing a trailer along with my 2 siblings, mom, dad, and grama which taxed the Catalina cooling system a bit much I guess. Shut the air down. Stopped every 50 miles or so to add more water. It was a long trip.

    As far as a public employee doing right, I was just starting out after college. I was working for a man as a contract employee in sales. He felt that he could subtract from my commissions for questionable reasons. My mother-who worked as a comptroller in a small business- suggested that I contact the MI employment security office and explain to them. They came right over to my home and interviewed me along with my supporting documents. They then went to my “boss” and reviewed his records. After the interview they forced him to write a check payable to the state of MI for the full amount due me-on the spot. The check was made out this way-so they claimed-because people had been writing bad checks for past due wages and the state of MI would be sure it was good and send me a check when it cleared. Sure enough, about 2 weeks later I got mine.

    In this case, I was happy to have the support of the state behind me.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Most employees – public or otherwise – usually will do the right thing if you are polite and don’t have a chip on your shoulder. If you walk up to the DMV counter and have an attitude or look at the staff with their AFSCME green shirts like they are dirt, its pretty damn obvious to them and, well you reap what you sow. Oftentimes, the public shows up with improper forms or incomplete information and gets angry. A DMV counter person can’t waive the requirements and you are far from the first person to get in their face because you the customer did not have what is required. Too bad part of schooling is not a job with the general public. It is amazing how that small percentage of A-holes can really sour you on people as a whole.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Dealing with those types of people can make it easy for the DMV counter folk to have a pi$$y attitude!

        As for the folks where I live, I only deal with them when actually renewing my license or transferring registration to another vehicle, like I did this year (in-‘n-out in five minutes, and paid a $5 fee–cheapest thing on the Ohio DMV menu, I think). I’ve usually been treated courteously, though a couple of license renewals ago, I ended up with a corrective-lenses restriction because the lady had me read the bottom line on the eye test (I’m right on the edge, usually); since it was Monday, I surmised that she probably was coming off a bad weekend! ;-)

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I would second the notion that SD has the best rest stops. One of the best ones being at Chamberlain, on the Missouri River. Basically a Louis and Clark museum. Very nice.

  • avatar
    replica

    Although uncommon on interstates, I look for large car dealerships. They usually have nice bathrooms, and it’s fun to reverse the roles for once.

  • avatar
    windsormarxist

    It is always nice to have someone speak up for public services once and a while so kudos.

    Regarding rest stops, I grew up in Kansas City, and on the Turnpike, we had those ‘big median’ rest areas with gas and a Hardees. Biscuits n Gravy make driving across Kansas almost worthwhile.

    Otherwise, I never really understood the concept of them. I know the Interstate Highway Act forbids commercial activity at them aside from empty and broken vending machines, but the idea of a rest area where you can’t poop in peace or take a nap in your car when you’re dog tired kind of defeats the purpose.

    Here in the UK, all of our ‘service areas’ are for profit. Now, I’m all for public services to the point that most of my mates call me a commie, but competition at services has been nothing but good. Indeed, from the old ‘monopoly’ days when all there was were Little Chef restaraunts serving pre-cooked fried eggs, dry toast and beans, things have changed. On my most recent trip from Liverpool, I stopped at a ’60s era ‘restaraunt bridge’ style overpass thingy (I think the Oklahoma Turnpikes use these too), a Waitrose (think Trader Joes), and shock of all, just outside of London on the A40 (and also the new services on the M25) a gen-u-wine Mexican Burrito kiosk in the food court. Any American expat knows very well how hard it is to find good mexican food, but imagine the shock when the best Mexican in the country is at your friendly local Rest area!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    When you cross the Georgia and head into Alabama, the rest area there is AMAZING. Beautiful. Old southern woman offering you ice tea and lemonade. Tall pines. A wide porch with a string of rocking chairs to sit in. Set way back off the highway so the noise is muffled. It is one of my favorite rest areas when I would drive Houston to Boston on a semi-regular basis.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    Speaking as one who once fell asleep on the New York Thruway I can totally agree. Fortunately it was brief and I immediately exited and found a hotel. Not worth the risk.

    My wife and I just did some traveling in Ohio and West Virginia and I can say both could use some extra funding for rest area maintenance!

    John

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My motto is that I stop when the car needs to stop, so when the car needs gas, I will also take care of bladder needs, then grab an ICEE, Slurpee or a coffee (along with food, depending on time-of-day; I usually skip lunch).

      Never have had to put in more than six hours at once behind the wheel, but I think I could probably do 12 hours flat-out, with stops at gas stations/travel centers with food and drink. For shut-eye on the road, just point me at the nearest Microtel; find a nice buffet breakfast in the morning, top the tank, and off I go!

  • avatar
    myheadhertz

    My rest area of choice is always Mac Donald’s.
    The coffee is usually O.K. too.

  • avatar

    There’s a surprisingly nice rest stop/travel plaza on I-95 north right where it crosses into PA. It’s recently built, and usually pretty empty, although that may be because I’ve usually stopped in the middle of a weekday.

    One time i was there, they had an old Jeepster on display. I took a picture, and the woman working the tourist info booth offered to take a picture of me next to it. I almost felt bad for saying no thanks.

    Typically, though, I’d rather stop at a gas station or truck stop, so I can get gas and coffee/diet mountain dew in addition to peeing.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Not sure about here, but I did Baghdad to Kuwait and the best place to drop a duece was in an MRE box.

  • avatar
    racer193

    While I have made the trip across Canada on the train and buy air I have alsoh hitched from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Kelowna, B.C and drove from Vancouver To Halifax. While the hitch hiking trip was fun in my youth I look back and ask myself how I even managed to survive it. It was like a whirlwind that only took me almost five days and under ten rides (8 or9 iirc)to cover that distance. One nice lady even invited me to stay at her place to sleep and shower which I accepted and slept 14 hours showered and left. Thank you to the nice old lady that delivered the papers in Thunder Bay.
    About the time I drove across.. It took me five days to get across Canada all alone and I drove untill I could not see straight and I would have a nap and continue on. Funny thing about Canadian highways is that reststops in the mid ninties where there but restrooms where whatever tree you could make it too. Or maybe I was just too tired and never noticed a rest room.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    I live in Ohio and would say the rest stops around here are average. The big problem is both I-75 and I-70 are about the busiest in the nation for trucks and most of the money has to go for constant repair. I haven’t taken a leisurely trip in years, so don’t know. Last one was about 10 years ago and I drove to Florida in 16 hours. That was tough, even though the ’93 Bonneville SLE I had then was a great car for the trip. Leather buckets, nice handling and 31 mpg. A wonderful 3800 Series I, needless to say.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Twice a year I drive from Michigan to Colorado to see family and friends. Most of the trip is along I-80 and I generally find that the rest stops in Iowa and Nebraska are in decent condition. The first couple of rest stops in Colorado along I-76 are pretty nice as well.

    The biggest annoyance on I-80 is all the trucking traffic. If they would just stay in the right lane it would be fine, but every once in a while one gets ambitious and then we do the “glacier dance” where 10-15 minutes of my time is wasted while this one truck passes 4-5 others at approximately 0.25 mph faster than they are going.

    I just came back from a vacation in Germany and had the opportunity to drive on the Autobahn from Stuttgart to Munich. The trucks there all stayed obediently in the right lane, never coming out to pass unless the road opened up to 3 lanes wide, and even then they wouldn’t make a lane change unless the road behind in the desired lane was clear. Contrast that to the truckers on I-80 who will cut out into the left lane when you are about a car length away from overtaking them….argh!!!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Someone I knew went for TWENTY MILES behind a semi in the left lane of the Ohio Turnpike. I’ve seen drivers pass two-abreast trucks and on the shoulder numerous times, and I have been guilty of doing the same once or twice. In my younger, angrier days, I also blew out a horn on one of my cars by sitting on the tail of the truck in the left lane, laying on the horn and ensuring that my brights were visible in his left mirror. Though I’m a little more patient now, there are few things that strike me as more *** RUDE *** than entering the passing lane and not..uhhhhhh..PASSING!! On the Autobahn, they will write you up for disrupting the flow of traffic, and don’t do too much for speed, unless you egregiously exceed a marked limit, unlike here in the States, where lane discipline is nonexistent, and people care more about numbers on a dumb sign than what the rest of the traffic is doing!

      Now, OTOH, in Kentucky, the semis will run over you at 75mph in the left lane!!!

      Ohio has a bad reputation from back in the day, but nowadays, I believe that most cops go by “nine you’re fine, ten you’re mine.”

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s funny, every time I’ve been pulled over has been in Indiana. Except for once, got pulled over on 71-N, not far from downtown Cincy. The guy asked me if I knew I was speeding, and I said, “A little bit.” He said, “Okay well slow down, we aren’t writing tickets tonight.”

        I was doing 78 in a 55, lol*.

        *In my grandfather’s Buick Terraza

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    We have similar stories about travelling across Australia. But the best way is to have a diesel 4×4 that is robust. I have driven across Australia on a number of occasions, only once was it a touristy trip, we were in a large group of vehicles. A very memorable trip.

    Many now fly and rent a car or 4×4. The biggest travelers we have are what we call the ‘Grey Nomads’, retiree’s with caravans, 5th wheelers and RVs, etc. Not to dissimilar to the US. When I retire in a few years I want to drive around the US/Canada, Europe and Australia/NZ.

    I will have a theme for my trips, my first themed trip will be astronomical observatories.

    Up where I live many families go camping, fishing and hunting. Australia has some extremely isolated regions which are devoid of not only cities, but towns.

    Many weekends used to be spent on a Sunday drive. From the article in today’s Sydney paper it appears they are becoming a thing of the past.

    An interesting article, I hope Sunday drives become more common again, as kids we used to love them.

    http://www.news.com.au/travel/cost-and-traffic-threatens-the-end-of-the-road-for-the-sunday-drive/story-e6frfq7r-1226724360610

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I don’t know up there, but down here we have the Great Ocean Road, multiple wineries, the mountains, some air bases, Mornington… and that is just scratching the surface.

      And that goes without mentioning the off roading options, of which I know next to nothing.

      If you don’t grab the car and get out is for sheer laziness.

      I love to drive and every chance I get to drive into another part of the city/state/country is like a new adventure: go into Google maps, check route, program GPS, don’t pay attention to it, get lost, back on track…

      This is a country that just begs to be driven. In my mind is still fresh the image of those stunning yellow fields (canola, sunflower?) at both sides of the Hume. The lovely country food. The scenery. And the wish I could blast some of those roads at 180 km/h in the cars built in this land.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I just did San Antonio, TX to Portland, ME solo last week. Flew down, bought a 2001 Range Rover HSE and headed for home – on Friday the 13th, no less. Went via Dallas, Sheveport, Atlanta, Raleigh, DC, visiting friends along the way. Great trip, perfect weather, and the old girl never skipped a beat in 2500 miles. I fully expect a Christmas card from OPEC though, at a trip average of 17.2mpg… Didn’t need any rest areas, stopped for gas often enough. Did it in 4.5 days, so not too crazy.

    I have to say, Louisiana rivals Nebraska for sheer mind-numbingness to drive through. And I got to cross another of the lower 48 off the list of states I have never been to, as I crossed Mississippi. Only Nevada and Washington left.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      Did you get a P38 or one of the early BMW ones?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        P38. 2001 was the last full year, though there were a small number of 2002s as well. Rover 4.6L V8, but largely Bosch electronics, courtesy of BMW. Interesting beast, it’s like a cross between a Rolls Royce and an army truck. Cost $74,000+TTL in ’01 – just about 65% of what I paid for my house, also in ’01. Worth $5500 12 years later. :-)

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          My goodness, I made the fuel use calculation. 7.3 km/l or 13.7 l/100 km. That’s a thirsty beast, no wonder most of the locals are run on LPG.

          They run for twice that money here, but they were 2X or 3X the US price.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Athos Nobile
    You could easily spend a few years driving around Australia. The Great Ocean Road is even a ‘Sunday’ drive for Melbournians.

    Come up the the Northern Territory in a couple of years. From what I’ve heard they are lifting the dumb 130kph speed limit and returning to the unlimited speed limit.

    Also, 4×4 touring up here is great. The Top End to Cape York takes guys at work 3 weeks to do in their 4x4s. They say it’s fantastic. They drive over to Townsville, then up through Cairns, to the top then come back down around the Gulf using the Savannah Way to Darwin.

  • avatar
    matador

    I like the Wyoming facilities a lot. The worst rest area was near Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s the Visitor’s Center. There were no maps, and the restrooms were awful! I didn’t know toilets were that hard to find!

    After that experience, I waited for the Cheyenne rest stop on the way back. Wyoming is worlds apart from Colorado. Everything is a lot friendlier. And the rest stops are better.

  • avatar
    TheMossBoss

    Must be a family thing, Thom? When I drove your car back from Arizona I also would not let Toni take the wheel. I countered that if something happened and we wrecked the car- I wanted it to be on my watch. But the truth is I never let my husband or anyone else behind the wheel. Just back from the long loop, leaving Washington state to Yellowstone (through Montana) and back up through Idaho to visit Craters of the Moon, I drove the entire way. I’m not sure if it’s about control or family tradition? My drivers side window got stuck in the down position and I had that same burned, left arm that dad always had when we arrived back home.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    I just experienced South Dakota for the first time this summer and what surprised me was not that there were a couple of nice rest areas, but they were *uniformly* nice.

    I grew up being schlepped along the I-80 corridor from northern Illinois to western Iowa for family gatherings and the rest areas back in the ’80s were pretty awful — although Iowa has been on a 20 year quest to upgrade and the new ones are good.

    Historically though my best rest stop experience was just after college graduation when I flew to St. Augustine, Florida to pick up the ’96 Buick Regal which was my graduation present and drove it home. I wound up hanging with a convoy of speeding trucks flying up I-24 up from Nashville until I thought my eyeballs were going to float away when we crossed into Kentucky and I saw the signs for the rest area at mm 93.

    That place was amazing, the stalls were private and roomy. Easily the most comfortable I’d been in to that time.


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