Coping: The Rest Stop Crisis

We have been noticing a story making the rounds about “Old-fashioned rest stops disappearing in some states...”

Although it appears in many newspapers, we tracked it back to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ website here.

Since Elaine and I semi-regularly head out on 5,000 mile driving trips, we have been thinking deeply about this problem.

Most of the time, if you stick to the interstate highway system you’ll be OK.  Even here, however, there are plenty of exceptions.

The exceptions appear as the square of the number of ounces of coffee you’ve had. Or as the cube of the number of cheeseburgers.

Most of these are in the vicinity of big cities.  I know this one by rote since it was an issue up in the Seattle area 30 or more years ago.

Once upon a time, there were rest stops on Interstate 5 at Federal Way heading out of town.  Going north there was one north of Lynnwood.  Both about 20-miles out from the city center.

What led to their closure a “reporter’s stew” of bad behaviors by the public…

There were stick-up artists who would point a gun at wary travelers with full bladders, or worse.

There were drug peddlers and traffickers who found the rest stops to be ideal transaction points.

Then there were the hookers.  They quickly discovered that  the OTR (over-the-road) truckers were catching some shut-eye at the stops.  It wasn’t a long drive from home, so….  As we repeat, Everything’s a Business Model.

At truly distant locations, the problems tend to sort themselves out. Fewer people equals fewer problems.

We also tend to travel early in the day and be off the road by 5 PM, or so.  Reason?  Criminals are usually lazy and tend to sleep until noon.  And after 5 PM, the number of drunk drivers goes up by the hour until closing time.

A National Highway Safety Administration study (here) found that in 2014, about 9% of the people driving would blow an 0.8 blood alcohol level.  Nighttime?  That jumps to 31% – so driving while the sun’s out is safer…

(BTW, old state patrol buddy told me it’s after the sun comes up.  Lots of people nap – but not long enough – in the parking lot of the over-serving establishments.  They wake up thinking “I’m fine” and then total or wreck about 4:30-6 AM….)

Back to the pit stops: In Texas, for example, there are ample rest stops on I-287 which runs from the Dallas-Fort Worth area up to Amarillo.  But not in town.

I-287 is an example of how distance from people can insulate rest stops to some degree.  What can’t be insulated by distance is placed on streaming video of much of the rest area.

Along 287, one of the main industries is law enforcement handing out speeding tickets. With lots of state fuzz and the county sheriffs tagging seems like every county line, only a fool would commit a crime at one of these rest stops.

As luck would have it though, Texas has no shortage of fools, nor does any other state. Although no point sampling D.C.

As is discussed in the piece, there are alternatives, namely the convenience stops and fast food joints along the way.  They didn’t mention Indian casinos which we find great – and often profitable stops.  I made $100 waiting for Elaine once…

While quickie marts work for the most part, the owners of the convenience and food joints generally have no specific bathroom requirements.

Which is why when we travel, we’ve taking to looking for Loves or Pilot, Flying J, or Travel Centers of America.  No line, no waiting is a good thing, know what I mean?

Granted there is some cost to keeping publicly funded rest stops open, but we take it more of a sign of moral decline than anything else.

Take any old city (and I’ll use Seattle as an example):  In the mid 1950’s there were actually drinking fountains in the retail areas of downtown Seattle and even down to Pioneer Square.  Their disappearance heralded the arrival of the bottle water industry.

There were also some public bathrooms where you didn’t need to spend money to unwind a kidney.

But then came the same problems as the stops on the interstate. Plus toss in they turned into a gay pick-up location.  Mind you, this was before gay clubs which is oh-so-much more civilized not to mention less dangerous.  The thugs with guns…oh don’t get me started…

Today, finding a place to pee, where to get some water and maybe do a spit-bath is one of the first things homeless people have to learn.

I’m not sure what the resolution to the problem is, but the arrival of self-driving autonomous vehicles won’t end the problem:  People will still need to pee and poo.

As we’ve explained over on the Peoplenomics side of the house, the arrival of self-driving cars will dramatically change the Business Model of the auto industry.

We will go from a land of expensive, disposable cars to a land of long-lived cars, but the annual software update (which the government will require, just as annual inspections are required on aircraft) will about kill you when comes to cost.

The silver lining?  Well, I’m just guessing that self-driving car software will include responses to orders like:

Otto!  Find me a really clean restroom in the next 15-minutes.”

To which the autocar would ask “Next exit is 3 on the cleanliness scale. Can you hold it 20 more minutes because I can get you some fresh pizza at a 9 clean-scale place if you wait?”

Otto!  I’m still waiting for the “electricity too cheap to meter that the atomic industry promised.  “

When the autocars hit the market will they have self-cleaning or self-emptying seats?

I’ll let you know.

It’s only a matter of time till Google and whoever else is in the autocar space will hire hoards of bathroom checkers and it will be part of the  car’s maintenance download…

The Huge Desktop is Fine

Surprisingly, there were few problems getting rid of the old four –monitor lash-up Thursday and getting the 55” UHD set up.  I’ve shared pictures of the old set-up in the last so here’s what the new one looks like:

Just to give you a sense of scale, the monitor is 31-inches high and about 49″ wide.  That’s a full-sized keyboard with number pad…

It would be nice – as I whined Thursday – if it had 14” of curve – and that’s either side of center – to make the computing experience more immersive.

A smart reader wonders why I didn’t skip the big screen and just go to a head-on display.

The answer is two-fold.

First, I change the adjustable eyeglasses depending on whether I have zero, one, or two contact lenses in.  The head-on units I’ve seen aren’t seriously surgeried-eyes-friendly.

Second point is resolution.  The current display is so crisp you can’t even make out pixels until you are 12-14” away.  The head-on units I’ve looked at either don’t have the resolution or cost FAR more than the TV even with the additional $80 bucks for a new video card.

Two pointers:

The cheapest UHD’s seems to be the Avera 55’s from Wal-Mart.  I caught mine on a “deal” day and it was $326 including the tax and shipping.  That’s ludicrous.

The other pointer involved the GT730 video card.  There seem to be two versions.

The version which utilizes the mini-HDMI connector works OK in the studio, but the version with the full –sized HDMI connector shoots right to native 3840/2160.  The card with the mini-HDMI wants to do 1920×1080.  Looks OK, but….

Around the Ranch

Elaine’s spending a fair bit of time outside where she reports a number of interesting developments.

For one, if you remember the old Martin Denny song Quiet Village (here’s a link to a YT video of it), she’s got a woodpecker on a hollow tree somewhere on the lower 16 that has been a regular lately.

The cardinals and yelling at the blue jays again, the crows chime in, then the red tail hawk’s offspring in a rotten tree chime in.

Then on morning this week she saw a couple of what – at first glance – looked like a couple of dogs running flat-out. They weren’t, of course.  That was just a pair of fawns which mom had parked in the tall grass in front of the house across the street.

The reassuring thing is Nature is still doing her thing, even if most humans have gotten (how to say this gently?) gotten a bit off the path…

Home Handybastards projects include a railing for the new deck.  Debating welded rebar or wood.  The wood is quicker and easier, but it blocks a bit of sightline from the 180° Room so more negotiations with management have been scheduled.

Remember, on the weekends, work for the people who matter: You family!

Write when you get rich,

13 thoughts on “Coping: The Rest Stop Crisis”

  1. George,

    I’ve been bemoaning the lack of highway rest stops, myself. My wife kids me about having a tiny bladder, but my theory is that I have highly efficient kidneys. The older I get the more efficient they become, apparently.

    I’ve noticed that some regions have less rest stops than others. Formerly, we lived in Arkansas and I traveled regionally for work. Lots and lots of windshield time. Fortunately, I-40 does a pretty passable job of having well placed and maintained rest stops.

    A couple of years ago we transplanted to Savannah, GA. If we travel back towards home for visits we have to drive through Atlanta (I don’t recommend it). It’s a 3.5 hour drive to Atlanta from Savannah on I-16/I-75 and there exactly ZERO rest stops along the route. To make matters worse there are very few decent quick-stop style places and the closer you get to Atlanta the worse they become. Unfortunately, full bladders increase inversely proportional with distance from Atlanta. Personally, I could pee in a coffee can on the side of an off-ramp, but the missus requires a higher caliber establishment. So, we’ve had to keep notes about which highway exits are acceptable and which one’s aren’t. Acceptable is a short list.

    Keep up the good fight.


    • Small bladder? In a healthy male, about the only thing that should be causing that would be cold weather. Like sitting in a boat fishing for the lowland lake opener when there are hail showers…
      Might want to check the PSA numbers and – if you haven’t yet – try some Swedish Flower Pollen extract. Amazon or elsewhere. BIG increase in capacity to store and forward…juss sayin…

    • Right back at ya MAJ. I’ve had that problem since well before I was old enough to even consider PSA numbers. It’s a real problem that I’ve been able to usually deal with fairly easily since I spend most of my time in the pasture thanking God I’m a guy every time. The last bad experience was coming back from a family reunion where I found the best tasting coffee I’d had at a hotel in years. Definitely went overboard with that taste sensation and my kidneys went into hyper drive the rest of the day. You go from not having a problem to looking longingly at every bush on the side of the road as you go by in about 10 minutes. Lord help you if you go by a field being irrigated! Loosing about 15 pounds would help the situation immensely which I’m always working on.

      • take two ducolax clean out pills 24 hours before trip and get drunk and become dehydrated before the trip that way no poop or pee will come out during the whole trip ,, ,, , ,hence not medical advice ,just urban cross country survival technique

  2. What a giggle this morning, George. I just finished a trip east along I-40, SoCal to @Hot Springs, AR in three days . . . with kitties. Oh my. What made me laugh, in Oklahoma and Texas, were the designated “parking areas” and “picnic “areas.” No relief stations. Oh, and in Oklahoma, if you hit a highway worker, the fine is $10,000. Nice of them to tell their workers what their life is worth.

  3. Would it be too much of a pain to put an edit button on the post, before it’s set in stone? I often notice a type after I post, and editor that I am, I want to fix it! Thanks.

  4. George, just travelled for 3weeks in New Zealand. Everywhere we went there were plenty of public toilets and they all were immaculately clean. In fact NZ was the cleanest country I’ve ever been to. No roadside trash anywhere.

  5. The only problem I can see with that big TV screen is when one’s gone they’re all gone all five

  6. George
    As a Floridian who takes regular trips to Utah, and Arizona. We find that we in Florida are spoiled in that there are full service rest areas about every 30 or so miles. Our experience with Texas has left a bit to be desired. On 287 between Decatur and Amarillo there is exactly 1 state sponsored rest area rest area with rest room facility’s. Other than that we love your state.
    Don from Florida

  7. March 20th Rockefeller died and who do you think his Spirit took over after he died

Comments are closed.