If you’ve traveled by RV in the last decade, you know that RV rest areas are disappearing. These permanently shuttered pit stops dot America’s highway system. But a few of these concrete sentinels continue standing tall as symbols of another time in America. A new photo book called “The Last Stop” shares their stories and preserves their legacy before they disappear altogether.
Offbeat RV Rest Areas Explained in “The Last Stop”
As RVers we have all the conveniences of home when we roam. But even the most hard-driving need an occasional pause from the blacktop at rest areas and welcome centers. Oftentimes when we find ourselves a hundred miles in the middle of nowhere and in desperate need of a break, a highway rest stop suddenly appears on the horizon. When architecture at resting places can be seen from a mile away, pulling over for a few minutes isn’t a hassle. It’s irresistible.
If you’ve ever noticed the covered wagon picnic shelters near White Sands National Monument, or the Texas picnic shelters along I-10 that resemble giant covered wagons, you’ll love this stunning new photo book.
“The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside” is the culmination of a seven-year project by California photographer Ryann Ford. Each page spotlights the most unforgettable RV rest areas of the American West built during the 1950s and ’60s.
From oil well structures built on the roofs of rest area bathrooms to picnic shelters shaded by giant metal teepees, its easy to pull over and stay a while at these funky RV rest areas. As we look around, we can get acquainted with the biggest symbols. That’s when we find ourselves wondering: did rest area architects have a bigger purpose in mind besides bathroom breaks? Apparently, they did.
The Story Behind Those Funky RV Rest Areas
“Regionalism is one of the most distinct and historically significant embodiments of the rest area program. It reached its pinnacle in the late 1960s and can be seen most powerfully in the Midwestern and Southwestern states. This design movement was a kind of regional branding that sought to define “local.”
In the West, regional design met the grandeur of the landscape. It acted as a powerful tool for communicating a sense of place.” – A Brief History of Rest Stops, by Joanna M. Dowling in “The Last Stop.”
The Last Stop is much more than a coffee table book with gorgeous photos. It’s so notable that the September 2016 issue of Oprah Magazine gave Ford’s work a thumbs up. The publication says the book “just might make you nostalgic for family road trips.” Through stunning photography and fascinating narrative, The Last Stop tells why so many RV rest areas look the way they do and why they’re disappearing before our eyes.
Every day more mundane gas stations and look-alike fast food restaurants appear along the highways. Every year, more of these old iconic rest stops will disappear. It won’t be long before they go the way of legendary Route 66 or other icons of mid-20th century American road trips.
The review copy Ford sent to RV Life made one thing clear: Learn why this small slice of road trip history matters, before it’s too late to enjoy these pit stops on your next adventure.
Pick up a copy of “The Last Stop” for yourself on Amazon.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.