The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Column: Rest area blues


October 18, 2017

Everyone who has ever been on a road trip is surely to have stopped at one of numerous and often times convenient state operated rest areas.

They are a great way to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, sleep for a few hours, or let the family pet take care of some business.

I travel every once in awhile for a Trojans football game, but also make a few personal trips here and there and always find myself at a rest area. I’d like to say that all of them are similar, but that is not really the case. A recent quick trip through Utah showed me just how different they can be.

I had recently been to ones in Montana and Idaho that were absolutely stunning. Sure it’s just a bathroom, but Montana has ones where you can have your own private room for me that is a big deal. It makes me all sort of nervous to have random interstate people walking in the room while I’m doing my business. There are a lot of normal people at a rest area, but it also brings out some real freaks who always make the weirdest noises and make everyone around them uncomfortable. I’m sure I’ve probably encountered numerous serial killers over the years without even knowing.

The state of Idaho is also on point with their facilities. I stopped at one that was like an art museum and it made me feel important just to use the bathroom. At one point I thought about taking off my shoes before I entered the building like I did in grade school when I went over the “fancy” house in the neighborhood. I also felt comfortable using the water fountain, which is something I thought I’d never do at a rest area. At one near Coeur D’Alene, there was a group of people handing out free coffee and cookies. I for once felt important. I savored that coffee like it was a $5,000 bottle of wine from an Italian cellar.

After such grand experiences, I was reminded just how bad they can be in Utah where they don’t give any effort at all. There signs say they have a “Joint” rest area, which in a nutshell is just the bathroom of a truck stop. I’m not sure if they are trying to save money, but it is honestly just a gas station. There is no place to sleep or for a pet. I can’t believe they find this okay to call a rest area. Utah is home to probably the worst drivers on the planet, so they should at least provide better places to stop for those driving through. Thanks Utah for giving me a bathroom that I could have already stopped at if I needed gas or food. You are so kind with your gesture. Kind of funny how Montana and Idaho care about people traveling and Utah --- not so much. I get the point that businesses don’t want people to just come and use the bathroom and this allows them to, but it is just being cheap. And on that I really don’t care because some of these gas stations have hot dogs on the roller that have been there since 1972 and this probably causes more people to need a rest area.

And where can you walk a dog at packed truck stop? Poor little “Spot” needs a nice break too.

About 500 words into this column, I realize that I’m talking about restrooms and that is kind of weird, but for anyone who travels, a nice rest area sure is a blessing.


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