photo©Bangor Daily News
Doing freelance work keeps me on the road more and more every year. I try to divide the traveling equally between driving and taking the train, that way neither method gets too monotonous. Whenever driving, I inevitably run into some sort of bizarre rest stop situation or hazard that, at least occasionally, seems right out of the twilight zone. Part of good highway traffic safety is planning for the unexpected. Here’s a list of 5 things you don’t want to see at a highway travel plaza, ever.
#1 : Cops
When you’re approaching a rest area and you get into the turning lane, you’ve usually got a mile or so of clearance to see what services they offer. If at this point you see cops, flashing lights, or any sort of backed up traffic, safely put on your turn signal and get back on the highway. Especially if it’s late at night, as most of my drives home tend to be, you want a smooth ride home. Plan out a few different rest stops that have good services that are along your route, that way you can switch it up easily if you see a situation you don’t want to be in.
#2 : A sign that reads “No Gas Next Rest Stop”
This wouldn’t be such an issue if most of these signs were more than 5 miles before the rest area in question. However, most of the time you’re within a mile of the area and then you find out there’s no gas. This is another reason it’s good to plan out your rest stops in advance, allowing for a safe point that determines when you need to fill up next. Then if that particular station has no gas, you instantly have a fall back position.
#3 : A sign at the bathroom entrance that reads “out of order”
Seeing a sign at the front of the bathroom that says “wet floor” or “being cleaned” isn’t so bad. Usually those are issues that one can work around. However, I suggest you tread very carefully if you should encounter a sign that reads “out of order”. At that point you really don’t know what you’re getting into. First look down and make sure the floor isn’t wet. If it is, I would think about finding another option. The same thing goes for if you hear or see any leaking pipes. Even small plumbing issues, especially ones pre-empting a close of the entire bathroom, have the potential to become very hazardous very quickly.
#4 : That odd man who has his hands in the chain link of the closed gift shop
You may have already seen this one before. The gift shop is obviously closed, the lights are off, the gate is down, and yet, there is an odd man with his hands in the chain link staring into the emptiness. He may even be muttering to himself. If the gift shop is closed, it’s after 9pm. If it’s after 9pm, it’s dark out. I recommend avoiding oddly acting characters while going into and out of highway rest areas at night. I have met some nice people randomly while in line at Starbucks, though it was always during the day. Perhaps at night everyone is just trying to get home, I recommend following suit.
#5 : A Huge Line At The Only Coffee Place That’s Open
photo©Alabama Local News
This is another one you may have already encountered. It’s late, at least past 10pm, and you’re looking for some more energy to finish the drive. You stop at a seemingly empty rest area because you need that last cup of coffee to get you safely home. You come through the doors and then you see there’s only one coffee place open, with two people working, and the line is backed up. There may even be soda machines nearby, but that’s a far step from a fresh cup of coffee. Although this is something you never want to see, I recommend waiting in line and getting your coffee. No matter how far you are from your destination, you’re tired and you have stopped. Sometimes it’s simply being off the road for 5 or 10 minutes that helps us finish the journey. So spend those 10 minutes, or 15, waiting in line for a warm cup of coffee. It will always make the ride home that much better.
By Jeanne Longhorne
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