Nope, this isn’t a follow up to my previous blog, “Take Your Time” (see my blog from April 29, 2019). This as a trip down memory lane for my American readers, and anyone who has been to America and driven our interstate highways. Yes, I’m talking about those islands of the interstates
The monarchs of the motorways
Those blue sign bastions of the byways
The park-eat-use the bathroom-spend money in our vending machines-take a break from driving, usually a godsend for long-haul truckers and long distance drivers (this was just too long to italicize).
I’m talking about…the REST AREA!
The trophy wife and I have been doing a good bit of traveling by car over the past month or so. A couple trips to the coasts of North and South Carolinas and a couple trips up to the mountains to escape the stifling heat of the South, and we usually stop at a rest area (or Welcome Center, when we cross state lines) to stretch our legs and use the bathroom. As I’ve been driving and stopping, or just looking over as we drive by one of them, I can’t help but remember the days of traveling before there were rest areas.
I was born in Chattanooga Tennessee, the suburb of Hixson to be exact. We moved to South Carolina when I was fifteen. I remember some trips to middle Tennessee, Alabama and up to Ohio, where we would stop on the way to stretch, use the bathroom and maybe eat lunch, but there were no nice, state-maintained facilities. There were, however, woods! Yep, if you had to go, you stopped on the side of the road, ran behind the nearest tree and did what you had to do – or doo doo, if that was the case.
The trips I remember best, though, are the trips we took to Surfside Beach South Carolina before we moved over here. For three or four summers my mom’s family would rent a two-story house at Surfside for a week-long beach trip. The families would gather at my aunt and uncle’s house in Georgia, then we would have a long convoy to the beach. Each car had a CB radio in it, so the families could communicate from car to car on the way (not only was this before there were rest areas, but it was also before modern society and conveniences; you know, the good old days). When we needed to stop, the drivers would tell one another over the CB and pick a place to stop. I remember dad pulling our green Country Squire station wagon – with the wood grain siding – over to the side of the highway, with all of the family cars behind us, and the women making a beeline for the gap in the barbwire fencing, toilet paper in hand, to find the nearest secluded tree. When they were done the men would then follow suit. If it was lunch time dad would drop the tailgate on the station wagon and pull out the ice chest where the bologna, cheese, kool aid and condiments were stored and the bags with the bread and chips. After everyone washed their hands, lunch was prepared and we ate under the shade of the trees along the highway. One time another car pulled in behind our convoy, and a young couple got out and headed for the woods. When they came out, dad asked, “hey, y’all want a sammich?” And that’s the way it was; pee in the woods and then have a sammich and maybe make a new friend with the others who might pull in behind you.
When I was thinking of this blog I thought, Jim (I always call myself Jim), you’ve got people in other parts of the world who will read this (I hope) and not know what you’re talking about. I also thought, that’s a pretty good thought, so I asked my highly intelligent, well-travelled friend, Jo if they had anything like a rest area in England. She told me they had service stations that were buildings, usually with bathrooms and maybe a restaurant inside, with a hotel attached to some of them. I told her we had convenience stores that were set up like that, but without the attached hotel. She didn’t think there was anything like our rest area in England. Wanting to really see what I could find in the subject, I went to Wikipedia to see if they had anything. Well, folks, if you think this post is long, go look up Rest Area on Wikipedia! You’ll spend a lot more time on there than you will reading this rambling, I promise you.
Anyway, not to give a full history and description of rest areas in other countries (I do invite you to go to Wikipedia and read what it says about the subject though. It’s really interesting), I did learn that the UK and Ireland have what are called Lay-bys, which are the most comparable to our rest areas here. Some are only big enough for a vehicle or two, while others can hold several. Germany and Austria have Rastplatz, which may or may not have bathrooms (and I’m not sure about the “tree” rule). And France has Aire de repos, which is basically a picnic area. The Wikipedia site also talks about rest areas (or whatever they are referred to) in Asia, Australia, and North America – what…they don’t have any in Antarctica? Maybe one of my future trips will be to that continent. Then I can come back and update the Wikipedia site.
So…this is my latest rambling. I hope you liked reading it as much as I liked writing it. I always say that any day you learn something new is a good day. Until next time, I hope you get some time to Take A Rest.
Photo Credits: Jim G Black
Location: I-20 Eastbound, just outside of Columbia SC