Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Break Time

We are reaching an age where there won't be anyone alive who remembers when long-distance car travel did not consist of hopping on an Interstate. The Eisenhower Interstate System was authorized by Congress in 1956 and construction began shortly after.

I certainly don't remember a time when there wasn't an Interstate 80 running east west through Iowa. I do remember when Interstate 35 did not go all the way to Minnesota and when Interstate 355 in Chicago and 380 in Iowa did not exist. I remember the family vacation to Chicago where we drove on Interstate for the first time. What excitement! Four lanes of highway divided by a grassy median that was actually mowed. What a concept. There is no doubt that Interstates make travel much easier.

I realized, when I drove to Connecticut in November, that I have driven most of Interstate 80.
I lack the section east from the junction with I-87 at Morristown, New Jersey and from Reno, Nevada to the terminus in San Franscisco. It would be a neat goal to finish out those two sections, to say that I've driven the entire length of I-80. 

Along the way, I've seen the good and the bad of Interstate rest stops. Illinois rest stops rank at the bottom. There was no room to fan out along the side of the highway as the road snakes under Chicago, so they built a building over the expressway. In concept, it's cool. In practice, it's just a way to hand out deals to friends who "manage" the buildings. They are old and barely serviceable as rest stops. 

Another state with lousy rest stops is Indiana. From the outside, they look okay, but inside, at least the one we stopped at just inside the eastern state line, was not clean or welcoming. And the gas station, well, I blogged about that in another post. Won't take debit cards, in this day and age? Hello? 

I think Ohio has the best rest stops I've seen. 
Big, full-service, clean, they were a welcome stop for lunch and a snack as we journeyed across the state. I can see that the recession hits this building as much as it hits anywhere else. Less car/truck traffic translates into less profit for the merchants who have stores in the plaza. I would hope that the chains such as Burger King, where we got lunch on Wednesday, would see these franchises as providing good-will to the traveling public and not see them solely on whether they make x amount of profit or, indeed, any profit at all. It's gotta be hard because how much staff can you schedule when sales are totally on the whim of the traveling public. 

Mom and I were grateful for the nice facilities. I've done my share of trips where the bathroom at a service station was all you had or, you had to pull off on the side of a dirt road and hope no one passed by while you went behind a tree. Such events are the things of memories but I also like the good memories, of a clean, shiny rest area where services were available.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


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