Oh, y'all know Official Highway Rest Areas are created for People Like Me! You know how I loathe public restrooms, with gas station and convenience store "restrooms"--translation: "Portals of Hell"--being chief amongst them. So, since I have a bladder that's the size of a pea and since it was sliced open by mistake at one point and really doesn't need to have any more trauma of any sort and does, really, need to be treated like A Queen, meaning that it should never, ever have to experience discomfort (I mean, they sliced it open by mistake; who the hell knows how well they actually REPAIRED it? Huh? I'm asking). Well. We try to humor Her. And rest areas are the only things that make road trips survivable. And honeys, I've known a LOT of them.
There's a lot of country out there. A lot of highway. A lot of rest areas. Not enough, of course. There should be one every ten miles or so, esp. in country that looks like this:
It would break up the monotony.
The ones in Texas are the best, especially along I-20, near Abilene, where there are a couple that require nothing of you--everything is automatic, with sensors. I don't even have to flush with my shoe, balancing on one leg while making sure my skirt doesn't touch anything. While holding my breath, of course.
No. These are gems, as far as public restrooms go. Meaning they're kind of the pyrite of the highways, but still. There is one rest area near Johnson City that is a diamond. My god, it's fabulous. Landscaped, with flowers and rolling hill-lets of grass and a playground and a picnic area that is a decent ways away from the Toilet Area, which is always a plus in my world. I'm like a cat: I prefer not to eat near the litter box, if you don't mind. This one, this diamond, is just gorgeous.
On the other hand, the ones in New Mexico--well, they're not even rocks. I love rocks, even the lowly pebble kind, so the analogy breaks down here. The rest areas in New Mexico are the pits. Literally: many of the "toilets" are just hot, airless rooms with stalls with big canister-like things perched above, uh, pits. As in, deep latrines. As in, GAG ME!
Plus there's this little issue:
Now, we have rattlesnakes in Texas, too. Honeys, we INVENTED rattlesnakes just to help us amuse us as we torment the yankees. But we somehow manage to keep them away from our rest areas. Maybe it's because, um, we don't think of "rest area" as a place where we dig a couple of deep holes and toss up a shell of a structure. No. We plant FLOWERS, OK? We don't just turn things over to the varmints and pretty much tell people, "Hey, y'all're on your own here! Bring your own toilet paper. And you might want to find a sharp stick!"
Then, in Arizona, things got a little better, cleanliness-wise. With actual plumbing and stuff. But they seem to have an odd idea about what people come to rest areas for. Get this:
Oh. My. God.
And they're not too big on upkeep. The concrete breaks up, they don't fix it. Lord, no. It's so much more colorful to just spray paint the upheaval as a warning.
Well, it sure made ME happy. We coordinated so well I almost stayed a while. But no. This frightened me:
California? Well, I don't remember specifics there. There's one really skanky one out in the desert. And somewhere along I-8 they had a couple of rest areas that were CLOSED, which I think ought to be against the law and punishable by death. I mean, really: if you can't keep the thing going, what the hell are you doing with those federal highway dollars? Oh, wait! You're doing this:
Yes, lovelies: this is our border security at work. Miles and miles of this. We saw a ton (read: shitload) of Border Patrol vehicles. Now, we're used to the border patrol checkpoints around El Paso, where they ask you if you're a citizen and if you have anyone else in the vehicle and then, this trip, have you roll down the windows so they can take a look.
"Anyone else in the vehicle with you?"
I wanted to say, "Nobody living. Just my dead mother, back there with the stuffed rhinoceros."
Wouldn't that have been GREAT? But you don't make jokes with the Border Patrol. They do not, as far as we can tell, have a sense of humor. Pretty much like Men in Black, but with crappier costumes. Uniforms. Whatever. They look way silly. I wanted to tell them, "Quit with those boots! And that belt--please!" But they would have shot me, so I let it go.
These are my favorite signs. I love them. I can just see the driver realizing that his rig has turned on him, has Had Enough of This Shit and has bolted, whinnying and slinging spit, slipping the reins and barreling at full speed off into the sunset. He pumps frantically on the brakes, to no avail, shouting, "Whoa, Nelly!" And the truck is going, "'Nelly'? Nelly my ass, you bozo. How's this for 'Nelly'?" And he snorts and picks up speed, careening towards the canyon wall.
And then this magically appears, and the truck goes, "Huh? A ramp for me? They actually built me a ramp of my very own? Oooooh!" And suddenly the world brightens, and all those hours and miles of bad gas (you know those truckers fart all the time in there) and jimmied speedometers and overweight loads fall away, and the truck turns onto the ramp as a wild horse to a pristine pasture. And all is well.
That's what I always think, anyway. I love those signs.
Here's us somewhere desert-y. Oh! I remember (snort! "remember") Between Phoenix and Tucson--I remember because the woman who came up and offered to take our photo has lived in Tucson since like 1969 and loves it. Beats the hell out of me why she loves it, but there you go. She was sweet, so maybe there's more than just those ersatz Whole Foods Markets (Tucson has two, and neither of them is a real Whole Foods but is, instead, a transmogrified Wild Oats, which is to The Real Whole Foods (as in the flagship store in Austin, a behemoth of several floors and A Chocolate Fountain and, oh! a salad bar to die for!) as a Geo Metro is to a Rolls Royce).
[Whew. Had to dig for that one.]
A while back I bought a bunch of packages of Dilbert magnets. I'm not sure why. They amused me. I brought them home and punched them out and put them all over the refrigerator, in that special Frig as Art Gallery kind of way central to the kitchens found in, oh, trailer parks. I moved them around and arranged them in artful configurations. And then got tired of them and thought, "What the hell am I going to do with all this crap?" I thought to donate them to the UU Garage Sale (this weekend, in case you're in town), but the whole bunch of these would bring in, what? Fifty cents? And then I had the Brilliant Idea to take them with and use them to Beautify Rest Areas. Yes! So, at each of the many, many, many rest areas where we stopped on our travels, I took a character and a word balloon and stuck them on the door of the stall (generally the handicapped stall, as those have the most room and are least likely to force my clothing to come into contact with any actual surfaces, of course). Sometimes the doors were not metal, or not metal-for-magnets, and I'd have to improvise. Like on the hand dryer. Or the trashcan. You know.
But, all across Texas and New Mexico (home of the Giant Underground Latrine of Hell, which I imagine lies under the entire STATE, which will someday sink into a pit of----augghhhhh!) and Arizona and California, there are Dilbert Moments.
I hope people laughed. I did. Making it sometimes difficult to aim, hovering as I was.