The public highway rest stop is a grand thing. You can stop your car, go to the bathroom, and not be tempted by any expensive crap that you normally would get at a truck stop.

Travel around and explore the rest stops of your nation. In Washington state, for example, they give away free coffee. In Pennsylvania, they give free maps. In California, they don't give you anything free.

Texas has interesting rest stops. They're actually some of the better-maintained state rest stops I've ever run across, but their uniqueness lies in this; on the wall of every one I have ever been in, there is a tile mosaic of some place or event historically or culturally important to Texas' history. Examples include (surprise) the Alamo and San Jacento monument as well as (I believe) a long-horn cow. Not having been to *every* rest-stop in Texas I cannot tell you the rest. :)

As someone who likes long drives but can't drive for more than a couple hours straight, I've grown accustomed to sleeping or just stopping at rest stops. The variety in the quality of the rest stops (especially in the Northeast) is impressive.

States with good rest stops:

Maryland: In addition to the nice mall-ish rest stops on Interstate 95, there are also some very accommodating and comfortable places on I-70, for those of you traveling to or away from the East Coast.

New York: Not much in the way of fancy food places or welcome centers, but the rest stops are generally clean, spaced fairly close together, and always open 24 hours (see New Jersey).

Maine: Well, it's not like Maine has a lot of highways to stick rest stops on, but the tolls from the Maine Turnpike have resulted in a number of nice rest stops on Interstate 95.

Poor rest stops:

New Jersey: Yuk. In addition to being nearly impossible to find, Jersey's rest stops are not very clean and close early (~10pm), not good news for those who drive at night.

Massachusetts: Many of the rest stops on the Mass Pike (Interstate 90) are now under construction, making them less available than before. Spaced close together, which is good, but generally not nearly as nice as other states' toll road rest stops. If you are travelling on a highway elsewhere in Massachusetts, don't even think of looking for a rest stop; the only ones that exist are poorly maintained and never have bathrooms, and are occasionally closed to deter drug dealers.

Well, I've mostly driven up and down the East Coast, so most of my rest stop experience is in these states. But in my couple times across the country, the rest stops have seemed uniformly very good in the Midwest and uniformly mediocre on the West Coast. I do remember sleeping at good rest stops in Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, and South Dakota, while I vaguely remember poor rest stop experiences in Wyoming, Vermont, Ohio, and Oregon.

Note: After a recent (6/2001) trip through Mass., I noticed they've upgraded a bunch of their rest stops on 495 and 2. Brightly lit and spotless rest rooms (see how long that lasts...), but they close at 8pm. Still a big improvement.

Having just completed a road trip from San Diego through Denver, I thought I'd add my two centavos about the rest stops along I-15 and I-70.

  • California, I-15: What rest stops? There are a few spots to pull over, but nothing really available for the road-weary public. The closest I could drum up were pull-over spots along the steep uphill portions for trucks to cool down.
  • Arizona, I-15: The scenery makes the entire sliver of I-15 through Arizona a rest stop. Unfortunately, there are no areas to pull off and perform basic bodily functions in private.
  • Nevada, I-15: The first thing you notice is just how damn nice and pothole-free the roads are, especially after crossing the state line from California. Again, there are no rest stops, but you're in the midst of a huge open flat expanse, so you could relieve yourself and have folks 10km away watching you. You could always stop in Las Vegas so you can lose money as well as bodily waste, but that's your call. I usually skip Vegas.
  • Utah, I-15: More expansive wastelands, but they actually have decent rest stops, especially along...
  • Utah, I-70: Plenty of rest stops, and very nicely constructed. No food is available, but they usually have soda machines that actually have sodas in them. The rest rooms are clean and cool in the hot desert sun, the scenery is beautiful in a minimalist fashion, and they are far enough off the highway where the truckers barreling through don't disturb you. I almost always drive straight through to Utah before taking a break (if I need one).
  • Colorado, I-70: Roads are a bit worse for wear and the rest stops are just pull-offs for sleeping truckers, but the scenery is grand.

Nothing I've seen out in the West can compare to the stops along the toll roads and highways in New York, which have restaurants, gas stations and plenty of spots to catch a snooze.

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