As someone that made the trip between New England and Nebraska regularly, I can safely say I can comment intelligently and comprehensively on the quality of rest stops in the eastern half of the country. Side note: Rt 80 doesn’t have any, and rt. 90 has them at regular intervals. Also, Ohio has the best ones I’ve ever seen.
The Ohio rest stops hold a special place in my heart – in 2009, I was nearly left at one. It was 3am, we’d been driving since 8pm pulling the race car, and we were exhausted. We pulled into a rest stop, and they got out – I had been sleeping under a blanket in the back with a giant panda as a pillow. As I am nearly blind without my glasses, it took me a minute to find them, put them on, and wake myself up enough to make the trip inside. After relieving myself, I walked out of the rest stop to see the truck and trailer pulling away. “Haha,” I thought. “They’re just being funny.” They started to pick up speed, and it was then that I realized they thought I was still in the truck. I started running, but they kept going. I started screaming to stop, and suddenly the truck slammed on the brakes. Needless to say, I was not happy with their “joke,” but said panda pillow was under the blanket, and they thought that was me. Honest mistake? The world may never know.
All that being said, I now consider the rest stop somewhere along the way to Canyonlands National Park. Yes, I had to pee. Yes, I realized I was in the desert. At the first sign of a rest stop, I pulled over and saw that this was far more than a rest stop. People were selling cheap jewelry and souvenirs on blankets, and I was momentarily distracted because, well, because shiny. But what really caught my eye was beyond the merchants.
This is a rest stop??? Really??? And just like that, Utah usurped Ohio as the place with the best rest stops in the country. I was a bit nervous at first, but after seeing various footprints and carvings in the rocks, I figured it was ok to wander and climb all over the rocks here. I must have looked like a toddler in a jungle gym.
One thing that really struck me were the trees in the desert. They are beyond gorgeous. And they are green! Ok, well maybe they are not the lush, green trees in the Pacific Northwest (not that I’ve ever seen them, but you know, what I think they look like). But they’ve got some leaves, and some berries, and they’re standing up to the elements, which, let me tell you, are BRUTAL.
A bit more exploring brought me to the edge of the rocks, overlooking the vast landscape. I’ve said it in previous posts, but when you’re standing amongst these formations that have taken tens of thousands of years to shape, and there’s nothing to see but desert and sky for miles out, you do realize that you are just a very small part of this amazing world. If a rest stop can be this impressive, I should really try to take the time to stop, look around, and appreciate just how much beauty there is in the world.