We spent the last few days zipping along the interstates from Texas to Florida, and one of the biggest surprises has been the impressive rest areas in these states. These aren’t just ordinary pit stops with yucky old bathrooms. These are scenic parks with entertainment for all ages!
We first took notice of these incredible motorist havens at the Navarro Rest Area on I-45 in Texas. The building was very stately, and the history exhibits inside were worthy of a museum. Heck, even the bathrooms were elegantly decorated with really nice tile!
Outside there was a fantastic playground for kids that would make any community or school jealous. Further south on I-45, the Walker County Rest Area had an equally impressive playground (gotta give those kids a REST!). Inside, the history exhibits told the whole history of Texas.
Behind the grand rest area building there was a beautiful pond!
Texas isn’t the only state with impressive rest areas. Driving east on I-10, an early morning stop at the Vinton rest area in Louisiana proved to be a fabulous opportunity for taking photos. It was located next to a large pond, and morning mist hovered in the air like a thick blanket.
A local fisherman suddenly showed up and began casting his line. Who knew a freeway rest area could double as a local fishing hole?!
Louisiana is the beginning of alligator country for eastbound travelers. When we saw a warning sign at this rest area, we knew we had left the west far behind!
What a surprise it was later to find that this rest areas (which is technically a “Welcome Center”) has reviews on TripAdvisor!!
When we arrived in Mississippi we stopped at their first rest area and were given an incredibly warm southern welcome. I was offered a cup of coffee by some very lovely ladies at least five times! Outside, the flowering trees were in glorious bloom.
Some of these rest areas make good overnight stops. Several were laid out like campgrounds with spacious individual sites for the weary, and a few had RV dump stations too. All had free wifi.
This “supersizing” of rest areas seems to be spreading east from Texas, and apparently Alabama is making every effort to keep up with its neighbors. When we got to their rest area it was closed for renovation — and the project looked immense!
We finally arrived in the Sunshine State yesterday, and Florida lived up to her motto and gave us blue skies. She also lived up to her reputation as a vacation destination when we walked into the building to find a party atmosphere. We were each handed a cup of cold Florida orange juice, and we found ourselves surrounded by families with kids. All of them seemed to be headed to Disney or the beach. There were props for photo ops with astronauts and beach scenes, and there were displays and games galore.
We noticed one family messing with a video display, and suddenly realized they were getting a pic of themselves overlaid on a Florida backdrop that they could email or share on Facebook right from there. It was a selfie photo station!!
We had to try it too! We chose the sand castle backdrop with the bucket of water spilling on our heads. We hit the button for the pic, and then entered our email address. Bingo — it emailed us a Florida vacation brag pic!
Mark found the “Florida Recharging Station,” a bright yellow beach chair to get you in the mood for sunshine and beaches.
By the time we left that Florida I-10 rest area we felt like we were on vacation!
We drove straight to the beach on the Emerald Coast, past all the surf shops and spring breakers at the bars. It sure didn’t take long for us to get into the swing of things on the beach, what with happy kids and grownups playing in the waves all around us, and savvy seagulls eyeing us up for snacks.
We kicked off our shoes, and took a walk in the pure white sand next to the crashing surf. Wow! It felt so great to be in shorts again!!
It was a long drive, the weather in Texas took us from freezing to dripping wet, and the terrible roads in Louisiana sent us flying (truly, the rig was airborne at one point!), but the southern hospitality at the rest areas helped us recover, and the sunrise this morning was totally worth it!!
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