Rest Stop Wanderings

I have spent a good portion of my life traveling from one place to another for one reason or another. I have seen many cities, plenty of the countryside, and every place I have traveled in the world offers it’s own idea of a rest stop for travelers. I guess it’s the old cliché that when one isn’t looking for a place to pee there are options for stopping everywhere and when you really, I mean really got to go there isn’t a place in site. Personally, I was raised to use my resources while traveling but sometimes one needs to sit down and think about one’s business. As much as I love the state of Texas, I have noticed that once you get off the beaten path in the middle of nowhere that a rest stop for the public doesn’t really seem to exist. Trust me, I spend hours driving hundreds of miles on country roads every week and I know where I can pull over and when it is best to wait. I usually plan my trips around pit stops, especially as I get older, but more on that later. A wise man once told me that I should never pass up a restroom or the opportunity to use one because you never know when the next one will come about.
Life before GPS, Google Maps, and cell phones was interesting, a person had to memorize where the rest stops were at since they were never any rest stops listed on the maps I was using. But what if you were traveling into unknown territory? Whenever I travel it’s done in a car of some sort. I don’t fly. In the beginning this would irritate my wife. Why? I’m really not sure, maybe she liked the close to instant satisfaction of getting to her destination in the shorted amount of time possible. But that isn’t why we are here, I could write 1,000 posts on the discussions (arguments) we have had about travel arrangements, maybe later. I enjoy it when I’m driving. I travel at my own pace, enjoy the scenery, and see my surroundings on my way. Sometimes when riding my Goldwing I find myself lost in the ride and find myself wondering what in the hell the hurry is all about when getting to a destination. The destination will still be there when I get there. When I travel alone not being able to find a rest stop is not a problem because I’m a person who will make a pit stop when my body says to make a pit stop.
I mentioned above a few times that I drive everywhere I go. It’s just the way it is in my life. In fact, I can remember being younger (much younger) and taking the road trips with my family going all over the United States. Maybe that is where I get it from, who knows. I was never, and I am never now, afraid to take a journey. When I was in the Air Force living in Japan I found out very fast that there isn’t any such thing as a rest stop. Nature was your rest stop. I lived off the base way off the beaten path of American influence. I had to basically learn to drive all over again because when I first got there I thought all the Japanese had lost their freaking minds the way they drove. I had to adapt pretty fast. What better way to adapt to the new driving environment then to just get out and explore. Being this was at the northern tip of northeast Japan it was obvious that I was in farm country. Being fro southeast Texas I was no stranger to this kind of living. Nor was I a stranger to farm equipment, large and small, sharing the roads with all the rest of the cars and trucks. You will see me call the way they drove as backwards, don’t take offense to this, all I really mean it is opposite to what I knew, such as driving on the left side of the road as well as the right hand side (steering wheel placement) drive vehicles. An example of the challenge for me was re-learning to drive a standard (stick) because now I was having to shift with my left hand and the tree pattern for shifting was opposite as well. Let me get this back on track here. The only way to get comfortable driving the “new to me way” was to just get out and drive. In four years I would have to venture to say there weren’t many roads in Japan I didn’t travel. Oh, wait, there are no rest stops, period. But fortunately I never got caught taking in the scenery and “watering” the grass when I needed to. The biggest shock I saw up in the country was this Japanese gentleman taking a shit on the road. When he was done he scooped it up, placed it in a bag, took a bottle of water to rinse the spot down, and then he got in his car and left. Probably took less than 30 seconds. I never had to resort to popping a squat on the road luckily.
I also found myself driving in few other countries like South Korea, Turkey, Iceland, Greenland, Italy, Spain, Iraq, Kuwait, Germany, and some others I’m forbidden to ever acknowledge. Lets just say I have seen my share of international crappy roads in wartime and in peacetime. What I learned is that I should never skip an opportunity to use the rest room when it’s available. Due to laws and the indigenous people one never knew what to expect if one was caught whipping it out to piss in the wind. It always seemed prudent to follow the lead of the local people. I just watched what they did and that became the new normal. Hell, most of the places I traveled through I found the open road was their rest stops. It was nothing to see cars and trucks pulled to the side of a major road and there be two or three tents put up, a camp fire, and people making their own way. I saw this allot in the Middle East. I never attempted it. I was afraid of the unknown. Most of the places I was at weren’t real “American friendly” if you smell what I’m stepping in here. There were just things that were dumb ideas and not worth any of the risks that may have been involved. I recall a funny time, at least I thought it was funny, also amazing in a way because it was the first time I had ever seen it. I was in Kuwait and it was really fucking hot, I thought I knew heat, but this was fucking hot. How hot you ask? It was hot enough that during the heat of the day one could cook things in their shorts. Did I mention it was fucking hot? Anyway, I drank water all the time. One didn’t sweat much because it was so dry and arid that it just evaporated instantly, just leaving the salt residue behind. A person knew if they were hydrated by the color of his/her own pee. You knew if your pee was dark and had a stink that you were becoming dehydrated. You knew that if it was light in color or almost clear that you were doing it right. One day in the middle of the afternoon I was traveling in the water truck returning to the base and really need to go. I pulled over off the road and went to the passenger side so I was “hidden” from view of passing drivers. At first, after unbuttoning my pant and pulling myself out, the hot breeze felt decent. Within moments the direct sunlight and hot wind began to burn like fire. Imagine if you were in the dark all the time and when you came to the surface the light, wind, and heat just knocked you on your ass. Yes, that hot. In a hurry, I began to pee in the sand. Like any male, young or old, I was trying to write my name. When the pee hit the sand it didn’t even puddle, it just instantly dried up and blew away in the blowing dust. First time for me seeing that little phenomena, not the last by a long shot though.
I spent a fair amount of time in the deserts of New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona while in the Air Force as well. Each place with it’s own travel challenges. Anyone who has traveled on the I10 or I40 corridor knows what I’m talking about. There isn’t shit out there, and there isn’t even shit between where there isn’t any shit. It was always long stretches between civilization. Population was so scarce that most places just said fuck it to speed limits and put up Drive Safely signs everywhere. Most of the driving out here was monitored by aircraft because it was so vast. Rest stops? Not too many. Don’t even think about breaking down if you are off the main roads because it could be days before you see another human being. Some state’s idea (excuse) for a rest stop basically looks like the picture below, a porta-potty or two, a trash can, and maybe a tree. I found that traveling north from my location really only goes to prove my point. Once I was out of sight of any given city or human population it seemed as if there was just a road leading somewhere, nowhere, or anywhere. I understand it takes “funding” to have rest stops. I also understand it seems to be pretty low on the totem pole as far as being a priority. Which is the irony of it all, states want you to travel to them as a destination or thru them on the way to your destination, yet most of the states I have traveled to or thru are not very accommodating to the motorist. If it were then most states would take care of their roads as well. Think about this, I ride my Goldwing from Houston Texas to Sturgis South Dakota every year in August for the bike rally. I have to drive thru Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota to get there and then do all of it in reverse to get home. I usually drive the 1350 miles straight thru, only stopping to pee, grab a bite, get fuel, and grab a nap for a few hours at a nice rest stop in Nebraska. Usually I get there in about 24 hours, sometime longer if it is up to my wife. Sometimes she drives a “chase vehicle” with my trailer just in case but she usually arrives at least 10 hours behind me.
I usually don’t let the lack of or the poor condition of rest stops deter me from driving anywhere. I like driving and riding way to much for that. Trust me, I make do. In fact, in the last two years I have driven to Ogden Utah and back six times, to South Dakota and back three times, and to Orlando Florida (and further south) and back twice. Plus, to El Paso Texas twice already this year. Only two of those long haul trips were not for pleasure and all but four of those trips were done on my Goldwing. I have pretty much every rest stop or pee location ingrained in my mind for those trips and it never fails, if I don’t stop I have made a mistake. I guess, if nothing else, I will leave you with this lesson in life, never be to “good” to pee on a tree or squat in the bushes. It’s not worth it to be uncomfortable, it really isn’t. Also, always, and I mean always for you hard headed ones, pee before you leave the house, you won’t regret it. I will write a few more posts about my travels in some future posts.