My twenty-five favorite rest stop walks

Palm_Springs_rest_stop_3918B[1]I spend a lot of time at rest stops. Those blue road signs promise relief and a break from driving. It’s really nice when they add “Next rest xx miles” so I can plan ahead. Can I hold it? Yes. No. Maybe. Can I stay awake that long? I hope so. But will the rest stop be open? On my recent trip to Tucson, half the rest stops in Arizona and California were closed. Come on road guys. Don’t promise relief and not deliver, especially when there’s no visible reason why it’s closed. I can’t tell you how many times I have scanned the roadside thinking maybe I’ll have to find a secluded tree or bush.

Most of the rest stops I have seen look pretty much alike: parking lots, buildings with Men and Women signs on the sides, picnic tables, dog walk area, maybe maps and soft drink machines, maybe a coffee concession. Sometimes people camp out front with backpacks, bedrolls, dogs, guitars and signs begging for money.

People walking around rest stops often have that disoriented look we all have coming out of movie theaters, a kind of wow-where-are-we-everything’s-so-bright-what-just-happened look. I have come up with a list of walking styles I have seen—and done—at rest stops throughout the American west. Perhaps you have seen them too. I welcome your additions in the comments.

(I know where the hyphens go, but I’m too lazy to add them. Consider them implied.)

  1. The oh my god I forgot how to walk walk
  2. The hunched over it’s freezing here walk
  3. The oh shit it’s raining walk
  4. The ah, sunshine leisure walk
  5. The I really don’t know where I am walk
  6. The hey, wait wait wait dog walk
  7. The don’t judge just let me smoke walk
  8. The I’m on the phone don’t anybody talk to me walk
  9. The oh my god I have to go so bad walk
  10. The I don’t want anybody to see me in my pajama bottoms walk
  11. The shuffling in my flip-flops walk
  12. The toilet paper stuck to my shoe walk
  13. The I see you with your need-money-for-gas sign but I’m not going to look at you walk
  14. The you scare me so I’m going to walk really fast walk
  15. The I’m so late hurry hurry hurry walk
  16. The shaking my hands because the blow dryer doesn’t work walk
  17. The slow can’t I just live here walk
  18. The I’m looking at the river because I don’t want to get back in the car with you walk
  19. The watching the ground for snakes in the desert walk
  20. The coffee coffee coffee walk
  21. The I can still feel the car moving walk
  22. The I meant to trip like that walk
  23. The swatting mosquitoes dance walk
  24. The where did I put my car walk
  25. The it’s my turn to drive get out of the way walk

BTW, the rest stop above is on I-5 near Palm Springs, California. Bet you couldn’t tell by looking. Happy travels.

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I stands for . . . I-5

Photo courtesy Photobucket.com (Can’t shoot when I’m driving!)

I stands for I-5, the interstate highway that stretches between the California-Mexico border to the Washington-Canada border. It’s the road that seems to connect everything for western Oregonians heading for Portland, Corvallis or Eugene, and for me, it’s the road home to San Jose.

We don’t have a freeway here on the Oregon Coast. We have Highway 101, maximum speed 55, mostly one in lane in each direction with lots of curves along the ocean and through the redwoods. You can get to San Jose that way, but I-5 is more efficient. The trick is getting to it. From anyplace on the coast, it takes at least an hour of windy roads over the coast range to finally get to the open farmland of the Willamette Valley and the freeway. I have driven it in sun, snow, rain and fog, and I’m always glad to finally enter I-5 Suddenly I can drive fast, with multiple lanes to pass the many trucks, Rvs and slow-movers. I can just hear my car saying, “Hooray!”

I-5 is designed for long drives. It has rest stops every so often where one can use the restrooms, walk the dog, and eat a picnic lunch. Sleeping is also good. At many of the stops, people sit near the bathrooms holding signs asking for money. Some play guitar. many have dogs with them. They claim to be homeless, out of gas, in a jam. I never know whether or not it’s true.

The freeway also offers lots of billboards and informational signs that tell us how far it is to the next cities and what restaurants, gas stations and special attractions can be reached off the next numbered exit. The road is so straight most of the way that we need something to keep us awake. Radio stations in the rural areas tend toward Christian and right-wing talk shows. One could listen to an entire audio book–or write one–while cruising I-5.

It’s 700 miles from South Beach to San Jose. I spend most of those miles on I-5. I know the landmarks well: the Apple Peddler restaurant in Sutherland; the wild animal park in Winston; the casino and antique stores in Canyonville; the great Best Western in Roseburg; the Heaven on Earth restaurant; the truck stop with the porn theater; the rest stop at Rogue River; the series of mountain passes leading to Siskyou Pass, elevation 4310; the Welcome to California sign with its yellow poppy on a blue background; the agricultural inspection station; Yreka;Weed; Mt. Shasta; Lake Shasta; Redding; Corning; Willows where I eat at the Black Bear restaurant; Sacramento, where the traffic clogs up; Stockton, and Tracy, where I exit to 205 to 580 to 680 to 280 to Dad’s house in San Jose, arriving exhausted from fighting the Bay Area traffic.

It’s a long drive, which I have made approximately 40 times, mostly alone, since we moved to Oregon almost 18 years ago. That first trip with the rental truck that kept breaking down was something to remember. It occupies a whole chapter of my book Shoes Full of Sand. And when I went back the first time to visit, I brought so much stuff, my mother thought I was leaving my husband. I don’t pack light.

These days, I go back two or three times a year. I fly sometimes, but it takes so long to get to the Portland Airport that driving seems more efficient, and it’s definitely more fun. Sometimes I think I actually live on I-5. When I drag my suitcase into my room at the Best Western in Yreka, which is exactly halfway, I often feel that I am finally home.

I stands for I-5.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and I is for I-5. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon
G Unleashed in Oregon
H Childless by Marriage
I Unleashed in Oregon
J Writer Aid
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what J stands for.