Some take to the friendly skies, but I prefer ground travel every time.
Before seatbelt laws were invented, I used to ride freestyle in the back of my parents’ car. With my feet against the back window and my back resting on the seat, I’d watch power-lines, airplanes, clouds, and the reflection of lane lines speeding by. On stormy days, I’d watch raindrops move strangely across the glass. Those were my good old days.
Late July 2020, my youngest and I got in the car and headed east. Once on Interstate-5, we drove south towards Lost Hills, California. At that point, my navigation said, “drive straight until further notice” only then was it safe to set the cruise control to 70 (okay, 80) and turn up the music.
While racking up miles and lowering Toby’s resale value, I let my mind wander and took in the scenery, all while swerving to avoid semi’s and getting hit by those trying to qualify.
On an aside, a Tesla passed me. The driver was out cold, sound asleep, and partially slumped, missing out on all that landscape, horses, goats, cows, failed and thriving farms and vineyards.
That’s enough about the route and the drive. This post is really about my slight obsession with rest stops and travel centers.
For the first time, on the journey to Lost Hills, curiosity got the better of me, and I pulled off the interstate onto one of those scenic viewing spots just to see what the fuss was about.
Interstate rest areas are suitable for the usual stuff like bathroom using, leg stretching, snack grabbing, napping and capturing photos of the journey.
My absolute favorite places along the interstate are the travel centers, those small cities stationed practically in the middle of nowhere with multiple gas stations, fast-food joints, a motel or two, and a mixed bag of fellow travelers.
Pulling off the interstate into one of these hubs, I feel a burst of energy in an otherwise dull drive. There’s a collective vibe of relief or perhaps success that gathers there. Bodies can circulate blood away from their butts. Folks can take a break from road-noise, loud music (in my case), and air-conditioning. Pets can press their paws into lush landscaping. Parents can please all their hangry children who may all want something different to eat. A tank that has been teetering on near-empty can again be topped off. And there are multiple restrooms where you can wash off that funky stank of Harris Ranch. Moooo!
My newest travel obsession is Love’s. Love’s has been around since 1964, and there are over 521 stores in 41 states. They are super clean, have showers, excellent coffee-condiments, plus premium/overnight parking. Maybe it’s my love of road trips talking, but we need more Love’s. It’s that little roadside nugget that I look forward to as I begin any long journey. Yes, mapping them out during the planning process. Sort of like, “Yeah, I have a long drive, but I’ll get to stop at Love’s.”
The relief at these travel stop towns is brief since, for most of us, there are many more miles to go. Trucks, RVs, and cars creep their way back onto the interstate, with a revived sense of purpose, and I happily join them.