Time To Take A Break
It Could Save Your Life
Whether I was to call it a rest area or a rest stop, a travel plaza or a service area, you would know what I was talking about, right? Though this place has many names, the definition is always the same. A rest stop (my term of choice) is a place located directly next to a highway where drivers and their co-pilots can rest/stretch their legs and, depending on how well equipped it is, gas up and dine at too without exiting completely from the highway. If you are planning a trip any time soon, you may want to find out which kinds you will be offered and how spread out they are on your route.
Kinds you say? Yes, in my opinion, there five distinct kinds of rest stops. I’ll elaborate on them now.
- Kind One (*)
- If rest stops were hotels, this first kind would be given a one star. This stop is as basic as it gets. It is empty cement that is divided into two sections: cars and commercial trucks. People usually just stop here to quickly stretch and then move on. It is the ideal place for a map check and to get something out of the cooler. However, if you need a bathroom or someone to ask for directions, this is not the place for you.
- Kind Two (**)
- The next rest stop is a two star one. This means that there is a bathroom present either in porta potty or state building form (smelly, ill repair, cement walls and floors, toilet paper everywhere, but on the roll). If you’re lucky, there will be a visitor’s booth with maps and brochures. If you’re even luckier, there will be an employee manning the booth that will be able to give you directions and assistance. However, don’t count on these things. Be grateful for the bathroom and try not to breathe. I would recommend you hover too.
- Kind Three (***)
- At this three star rest stop, you are assured an indoor bathroom. Also, there is always an employee at the brochure area who is ready and willing to direct you anywhere. Plus, there are vending machines and pay phones. The downside of this area is that it usually closes at or around 10 pm. The good news is is that usually the vending machine/pay phone area never closes. While this does nothing for your aching bladder, that pay phone could certainly come in handy.
- Kind Four (****)
- Do you crave fast food while you’re on the road? If so, the four star rest stop is for you. At most of these rest stops, McDonalds is open for business 24/7. During the day, other stands (ice cream, coffee, hot dogs, pizza, etc.) fight for your business too. Though there is always a chance that there won’t be one, most of these rest stops also have a gas station. This station usually has an attached convenience store. If nothing else, the rest stop’s bathrooms are clean, well-lit and always available and, when you’re on the road for hours at a time, this is often all you need.
- Kind Five (*****)
- I’ve only seen this five star rest stop a handful of times. Besides having all of the amenities of the four star rest stop, it also has a motel. The ones I have seen have been Econo Lodges, but I’m sure there must be other chains in on the deal. Though it is doubtful that you will ever find a Hilton or a Ritz attached to a rest stop, a Holiday Inn or a Motel 8 feels just as good when your body aches from a long drive. While it is true that most people plan hotel stays in advance, isn’t it reassuring to know that a motel might be waiting for you at the next rest stop?
Though all five areas allow you to enjoy some much needed respite, there are times when you seek more than a breather. It would be wise for you to find out in advance which stop along the way has what you need. You don’t want to be met with a surprise when you race to the nearest rest stop to find that the much needed bathroom is, in fact, an oddly shaped bush. Also, to be considered is your safety. With this in mind, I offer you the following tips.
If you pull into a rest area and it doesn’t feel right to you, pull right on out. We all are born with a sixth sense that we don’t always pay attention to. Though you might have nothing to fear, you can never be too careful. Don’t compromise your life for your bladder.
If you stop and get out of your car, be sure to lock your doors. Besides wanting to keep your belongings safe, you also don’t want to see if the urban legend (You leave your car doors unlocked. A murderer climbs into the backseat. You get back in. After pulling back on to the highway, he slices your neck from behind/rapes you/ etc.) is true. Also, when returning to the car, have your key out. Not only does it save time, but, according to the women of my mother’s generation, a key is also a darn good weapon.
On a connected note, park as close to the door as possible and always in a well-lit area especially if you’re traveling alone. Yes, people do attack others in well-lit areas but, if you’re close enough for others to see, they can call for help. Also, dealing with unexpected car problems is so much easier when you’re parked under a light even if it only means the tow truck will be able to find you faster.
No matter where you are, it is always good to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. As soon as you park, scan the lot for the pay phone/ bathroom/ etc. Not only is it safe, but it also gets you back on the road faster.
I believe this goes without question, but I’ll still say it. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. I am aware that hitchhikers usually aren’t bad people. However, having seen too crime shows about people who took pity on innocent hitchhikers and ended up being murdered by them is too much for me to gloss over. Likewise, don’t get into a stranger’s car. Hitchhikers can become murder statistics just as fast as kind-hearted drivers. If you can’t deny someone assistance, I suggest you give them bus/cab fare.
Always carry spare change with you. In our modern day world where everyone seems to have a cell phone, we often forget to take into account that cell phone batteries die and signals can be too weak to make a call when we most need to. Having at least a dollar in change in your car at all times will never be a bad idea.
One thing to remember is to manage your time well. Too often, we miss manage our time and end up having to race to our destination. When stopping at a rest stop, figure out a time limit for the visit and stick to it. Be sure to alert your passengers to this limit too. You don’t want spend the remainder of the ride fighting because you never thought to tell your passengers five minutes and, as a result, they lingered and made you late.
In our fast paced world, we rarely take breaks when we should. The minutes on the dashboard clock ticking away, we drive right by the rest stop thinking that stopping would make us late. Too many people get killed or kill others because they fall asleep at the wheel and cause an accident. On your next trip, be sure to leave some time in your schedule for a rest stop visit. You (and your fellow drivers) will be glad you did.
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