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Tips for Taking a Road Trip: Maximize the Experience while Stopping at a Rest Area

Updated on June 16, 2013

The Camp Roberts Rest Area

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The Randolf Collier Rest Area

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The Klamath River flows byThe picnic area
The Klamath River flows by
The Klamath River flows by | Source
The picnic area
The picnic area | Source

Randolf Collier Rest Area

The Texas Canyon Rest Area

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Pet Rest Area in Texas


Tip #1

Road trips are good for the soul; they are therapeutic, cathartic, adventuresome, and even fun. Whatever the purpose or reason for a road trip, whether it’s a family vacation, a move to a new city, to attend an event (birth, graduation, wedding or funeral), or simply to just drive wherever the road takes you, the road trip gives you time for reflection and, perhaps, rejuvenation. Road trips vary in length of time or distance in reaching one’s destination. In my experience, the longer the road trip the better it is for rejuvenating the soul.

Taking a road trip will require several stops, depending on the length of the trip, for gas, food, and, yes, the always necessary restroom break (a.k.a. potty break). Therefore, tip #1 is maximize your roadtrip experience while stopping at a rest area.

The Roadside Rest Area

One aspect of a road trip that can enrich the journey is the rest stop, especially at the designated “Rest Area” along any of the U.S. Highways and Interstate systems. By planning your trip in advance, you can maximize your experience. An Internet search of rest areas by each State and/or highway will provide you with location, amenities, status (i.e. closed for repairs) and other relevant information.

Most rest areas are fairly generic with restrooms, water, and picnic tables. Others include amenities such as beverage and snack dispensers, “pet” rest areas, Internet Wi-Fi access, tourist information, and the occasional arts & crafts vendor. However, what makes each rest area unique is their location’s geography.

When planning a road trip consider taking your food breaks at a rest area in the form of a picnic. With careful planning you can estimate when you will need gas and food stops along your road trip. Consider purchasing your food in advance, nothing elaborate or heavy but nutritious and then setting up a picnic at the rest area. To make the experience more enjoyable, keep a picnic basket with real plates, cups, utensils, and even a table cloth and napkins.

During my lifetime I have taken numerous road trips, some short- and some long-distances. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, my starting point for my road trips, I have made the same three road trips several times. These road trips include Bay Area toLos Angeles, shortest of the three, Bay Area to Portland, Oregon, and Bay Area to San Antonio,Texas, the longest of the three road trips.

On each of the aforementioned road trips, I have singled out a few rest areas as my favorites.

Bay Area to Los Angeles: Camp Roberts Rest Area

When traveling to Los Angeles we usually take Highway 101, which is a more scenic drive than Interstate 5. At about the half-way point of the trip is the Camp Roberts rest area. This rest area, whether the north bound or south bound one, is always been well maintained, clean, and offers an excellent selection of food and beverage choices (it even takes credit cards). In August, when we usually take this particular road trip, the temperatures cam average into the 90s and 100s. To make the stop more comfortable, the snack area offers assorted ice creams.

Another aspect that I appreciate about the Camp Roberts rest area is educational. An exhibit is set up so visitors can learn about the history of Camp Roberts, early inhabitants, the missions and more. There are exhibits about the wildlife, agriculture, geography, the two seasons, and fossils & fuels.

This rest area is also conducive for exercising after sitting for hours and for enjoying a picnic meal. Oh yes, the restrooms are very clean and fully stocked.

Bay Area to Portland, Oregon: Randolf Collier Rest Area

My favorite rest area when traveling to Portland,Oregon is the Randolf Collier Safety Roadside Rest Area (official name) nestled between California highway 96 and Interstate 5 by the Klamath River. This rest area is also about the half-way mark between the Bay Area and Portland at exit 786 on Interstate 5.

This is a beautiful rest area surrounded by mountains on both sides and the Klamath River flowing by on the west makes for a very serene rest area. There are excellent locations to sit and just watch the rive flow by.

The rest area offers the basic amenities and a visitor information center. The Randolf Collier Rest Area is yet another great spot for a picnic and for exercising a weary body in beautiful surroundings.

Bay Area to San Antonio, Texas: Texas Canyon Rest Area

The Texas Canyon Rest Area located on Interstate 10 in between Benson and Wilcox, Arizona is the most unique rest area, geographically speaking. The rest area is surrounded by granite boulders of varying sizes with many boulders stacked and balanced on top of each other.

According to Wikipedia,Texas Canyon got its name when “In the mid to late 1880s David A. Adams arrived from Coleman County,Texas, soon to be followed by other family members. The family became the namesake of Texas Canyon, as there were "a bunch of damned Texans up there." Descendants still live and raise cattle on the old family ranch.”

The rest area gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the boulders but a word of warning: it is illegal to deface the boulders with graffiti (as it should be!).

The next time you plan a road trip that take you by any of the three rest areas mentioned here, I highly recommend you plan to stop and fully maximize the rest area experience. I’m sure there are dozens of other wonderful rest areas along the thousands of miles of U.S. Highways. What are some of your favorite rest area stops?

Additional tips for taking a roadtrip coming soon! Submit your tips.

Which of the three rest areas have you visited?

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    • INFJay profile imageAUTHOR

      Jay Manriquez 

      6 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

      Thanks Liam for sharing your rest stop experiences. So many times we are focused on the destination and we may miss out on an incredible journey with gems, such as the rest stops.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      It's a great idea to make the most of rest areas'. On a recent Morocco trip the main rest-areas were actually at the top of some of the mountains and it made them awesome points to take photos whilst relaxing with a cup of sage tea.

      I've also seen rest areas in Turkey that are effectively a restaurant with an amazing swimming pool which doubles as a rest stop- an awesome chance to make the most of it all with a great dip in some cooling water.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      having taken this particular trip I want to say it is awesome and making the trip part of the final goal, destination, is more than half the fun. I think we all need to slow down a bit in our lives and start actually looking at the views we may pass all to quickly. Life passes too quickly as it is, so Slow Down folks, enjoy the views. They are awesome at times and actually pretty at other times.


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