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Rest Area Competitions

August 11, 2010

Taking family vacations was always a highlight of my childhood. The smell of a new car still brings back memories of the rental cars we’d use to drive up and down the east coast. I still love the novelty of staying in hotels. There’s just something perfect about stretching out on a queen size bed after being in a car for several hours. I was also a fan of rest stops and always thought it was great that states had designated places where you could get out, walk around, use the bathroom and grab a snack from the vending machine.

Not far from where I am, there’s an old rest stop on I-85 that they’ve closed and I heard from a friend that a lot of states have begun closing all but a few of their rest areas to save money. In my opinion, the states of our great union are missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime: the opportunity to show off their chops. At the border of each state there is always a welcome center and rest stop, and I always judged a state by this center. Was it large? Small? Well-kept with flowers and a playground? Or was it sort of dank, with messy bathrooms and half-empty vending machines?

But what if each state tried to show visitors about their state in its welcome center rest areas? They could put food and drinks special to their state in the vending machines. Florida could have a roller coaster. Colorado could have a mountain climbing wall. North Carolina could have Cheerwine and Moon Pies in the vending machine. Chicago could sell huge pizzas and Maine could have cheap lobster dinners.

Really, I think they’re missing out on a great chance to one-up each other and prove that people should spend their time and money in their state. How fun would it be to drive into Tennessee, and the first thing you see is a welcome center offering the chance to play Guitar Hero and try your hand at playing the blues? Or you arrive in Iowa and you get to play a game of baseball (a la Field of Dreams) and eat free corn on the cob. It would certainly be a nice way of welcoming people and proving that your state is better than the rest (although we all know North Carolina is the best state of all 50).

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