Kathleen Norton

Ohio: The Buckeye and Best Bathroom State

Posted on: May 31, 2011


Best rest stops in America

When a couple’s marriage is as “mature’’ as the tie-dyed jeans in the back of their closet, the couple wonders: We’re OK so far, but can we go the distance?

And there is only one way to find out. They must get in a car and drive 1,000 miles together and when the trip is over, if one of them has not pushed the other out into the path of a tractor-trailer, they know everything will be OK.

I should know. I just took a road trip like this with my blushing groom of 30.5 years and I am happy to report that we  survived all that time together under one sunroof.

Oh, all right. The truth is we barely survived. We hated the books on CD that we’d brought along. We left the best snacks back on the kitchen counter. And we were sick of our music choices before we got out of New York.

But the bottom line is, we did survive, and there is only one reason: The State of Ohio. Not the entire state, mind you, though I’m sure it is a very fine state in many ways.

Toledo, they say, is just lovely in springtime.

But Ohio, we discovered, has the best GD (gosh-darn in Ohio-speak) rest stops if you happen to be driving along Route 80, which New York Baby Boomers can take to get to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Every time one of us got a bit cranky and our minor bickering was about to ignite into something bigger, one of these little bits of highway heaven appeared.

We’d never seen anything like it. They were huge, spacious, sparkly clean, offered lots of food and were full of cheery non-New Yorkers who asked us where we were from and where we were going.

They saved the day. They probably saved our marriage. Mostly, they saved us from Pennsylvania, which, frankly, has no business being that wide.

Yes, Pennsylvania gave us the Declaration of Independence and inventions like bubble gum, the Big Mac, the Slinky and TV Guide, which if you put them altogether would be the ultimate American Survival Kit.

But take it from me, Pennsylvania is no fun when you are stuck in a car and your only reason for being in Pennsylvania is that you can’t avoid Pennsylvania if you want to get to Ohio.

I’ll admit that the signs we saw for a town called “Jersey Shore, Pa.,’’ did amuse me for a number of miles being that I am a Jersey girl.

“Copycats!’’ I chortled. “Maybe they thought that little pond over there was the Atlantic and they really were in New Jersey!’’

Oh, I was clever. At least that’s what I pronounced a great number of times. My husband, however, was staring straight ahead at the road and gripping the wheel.

Just as we were about to pull off to the side of the road so we could safely continue our “discussion’’ of my cleverness, we crossed into Ohio and pulled up to one of those glorious rest stops.

They saved us from ourselves more than once on the way out.

On the way back, I practically cried when we crossed back into Pennsylvania again and faced nothing but ordinary rest stops for the remainder of the trip.

Luckily, we had been bolstered up enough by those Buckeye road palaces to make it all the way back home.

So thanks, Ohio. I don’t care if most Americans can’t find you on a map.

These two travelers could not have made it without you.

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7 Responses to "Ohio: The Buckeye and Best Bathroom State"

Good to know! Now we’ll have a goal of getting to OH (if I can make it through PA) by our 30th. I’ll remember to hold the water pill in PA!

See, we didn’t know how wise we were when we traveled for 5 weeks on our honeymoon. We traveled highways, but had stars in our eyes.

Honeymooners excluded!

We drove the width of Pennsylvania one year on our way to Florida and drove by a chicken farm that began in the Philadelphia ‘burbs and ended somewhere in Wyoming. Febreeze hadn’t been invented yet. After that, we stuck to burgers at every food stop.

I am from Pittsburgh, and my husband and I make trips from Dutchess Co., NY, to western PA periodically to visit friends and relatives. Since my ancestors have been in PA since 1682, I look at a trip across the state as a trip down my family tree, as my ancestors moved through most of the counties that route 80 crosses, so PA’s wideness doesn’t bother me so much as it bothered you (if you ever drive across Texas, you’ll find that PA is not nearly as wide as you thought it was!). However, I want to point out something else about PA’s rest stops. I realized a while back that on Route 84, at the rest stops in PA, the signs say things like, “Please walk your dog in the designated area,” “Please do not dump household trash,” etc. As soon as you cross over into NY, the tone of the signs changes. “Walk your dog in the designated area. Violators will be shot.” “Do not dump household trash. Violators will be hung at dawn,” and so forth (well, maybe not *quite* that drastic–but there’s a definite change in tone!). Perhaps this can be fodder for another column. By the way, regarding your column on June 5, we have been making this trip since 1975, and I don’t recall anything that could be categorized as “pit toilets,” whatever that means.

In all fairness, I-80 has been a truck route for decades. It has an enormous support system for virtually anything you might want (and some you might not — uh huh) at many of the exits.
Names like Buckhorn, Bloomsburg, Snowshoe, etc. are happy associations for me, as I know these are a great place to stop for gas, food and lodging. Rest stops are for you if you merely need to stop and rest and stretch your legs.

If you get some distance between you and the interstate, you will find the folks in Pennsylvania to be utterly different from East Coast people. I feel like every time I go home to Pennsylvania, my blood pressure drops about twelve points.

I’m sure the gentle people of Ohio are similar. In the regions of Pennsylvania and Ohio, the base of most of the population is historically farmers; they don’t suffer fools gladly, but they’ll give you the shirt off their back if you really need it. Unlike the “citified” folks of much of the East Coast, they don’t assume you’re an enemy up front.

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