Today I learned that at least three states are planning to close their highway rest area
s due to recent budgetary problems. Virginia will barricade
half their rest areas. Vermont I understand plans to demolish several of the buildings.
Why does the closing of a rest area mandate closing the building or barricading the lot? Okay, the state can't afford the maintenance services, sewer and electric. Shut them off. Lock up the building and leave. The parking lot, presumably, still works and will work for some time without routine maintenance
The thing is, the operative word is rest. Get off the road. Get out of the car. Take a walk. Need to take a leak? Most rest areas come equipped with these things called trees, and they have served both man and woman ever since there were men and women. Realistically we don't need architecturally interesting (or ugly) pavillions with an army of flush automatic-flush toilets and vending machines. We need a place to safely pull off and to pull back on. And quickly get back on.
When I was a boy rest areas weren't anything like what they are today. We didn't have neatly tiled bathrooms, we had a slit latrine
. You had a stall, a light bulb, and sometimes toilet paper
(travelers often brought their own. You wanted a drink? No problem. Over there stood a well, and a hand pump
, the same kind that served American farmers for a century and are occasionally in use today. Yeah, the water sometimes came up a bit rusty and flavorful, but it was wet and I assure you that double-flitered, purified bottled spring water is not necessary to wet your whistle. Bottled water
didn't exist until the 1980s and to this day I see no reason to pay for something that comes out practically free from any tap. We can live without flush toilets and softened water. Consider it a trip back in time.
So if Ohio finds it necessary to shut down a few rest areas during a time when our budgets are shrinking like testes in a blizzard I have no problem with that. But don't block them or start spending money tearing things down. Put up a sign saying this area is no longer maintained or patrolled by the state, but if you want to park there you may. The sign will cost less then the barricades. It will also cost a lot less then a wreck caused by a sleeping driver.