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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Interstate Stops



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer




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We live in Oklahoma but most of the people we love are in Wisconsin, so for the 14 years we’ve lived here we’ve made at least 100 trips back and forth. We do fly several times a year, but often driving is more practical. We have a tendency to need to haul something up or down, and bringing nearly anything onto a plane is a royal hassle these days. And we love traveling with our two big dogs, so often it’s into the truck, and onto the interstate.

The worst thing about the driving trip is how time-consuming it is. Despite Interstate driving speeds of 75 mph in many stretches, it’s still 16 hours of “wheels-turning” time, plus the time of any stops we make to go from Bixby to Marinette. That means if we take a week of vacation, we’ll spend the equivalent of four 8-hour “vacation” days inside the car. Any of you who know me well can picture how nicely I tolerate sitting still for that long. Just ask my husband.

My topic this week is something I’ve become a subject matter expert on - interstate restrooms. Restroom stops are necessitated by the amount of caffeine we consume to keep alert, while fending off drivers using their cell phones and performing other odd jobs while driving. That, and the absolute need to walk around a little bit every few hours.

There are roadside public rest stops in many states. You can tell a lot about a state by how well they are able to maintain these stops. After all, they require taxpayer money, and that’s a tight commodity these days. Some of the stops are clean, well landscaped, and have appreciated amenities like recycling containers, dog walks and vending machines. Others are dirty, stinky and not well maintained as measured by empty soap dispensers or paper dispensers. A few we have learned to avoid altogether. Oklahoma rest stops are nothing to brag about, I can tell you.

The other option is taking an exit to a gas station or restaurant. You can usually count on a clean facility at a McDonalds - less so, sometimes much less so, at non-franchise establishments. I have on occasion walked back out, electing to wait a few more hours rather than deal with the unsanitary conditions. Interstate restrooms get extremely heavy use, and some of them show it.

Because of the requirement (a good one) for handicapped accessible facilities some older establishments have created one large and one small stall where there used to be two equal-sized stalls. While appreciating the need to do so, I hate it when I have to literally climb onto the toilet to get the door shut behind me in the cramped non-handicapped stall. I have no idea what larger people do - it would be impossible for some to even squeeze into the area.

Keeping restrooms clean in the face of such heavy utilization is tough - but my pet peeve is all those “hot air hand dryers.” You need a long time to truly get your hands dry - and then you have to touch the nasty door handle to get back out. Best keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse at all times.

Finally, it’s always interesting what you will see in there. Barefoot people - really, walking on those filthy floors barefoot? People eating food. Yuck. Someone sitting on the floor clipping their nails. Someone who changed their infant and left the diaper on the counter.

Makes you really, really appreciate your bathroom at home. My favorite trips are those where we bring our camper. I can “opt out” of the interstate restrooms all together.


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