Socialist rest stops

Last week, I mentioned I recently visited Boston. And what a city! Think San Francisco with a lot of history. And, yes, the tour of Fenway Park was staggeringly cool. While there in ole Beantown, I got a wild hair to drive up to Vermont and have a look. Once I discovered that the distance from Boston to Burlington was only 220 miles, or the distance from Reno to S.F., I was gone.

A major impression I got while driving through the mountains of Vermont was “Wow. This place knows what to do with a rest stop!” In fact, these joints were so much more than rest stops. They were truly visitor centers, and they were nothing short of terrific. Big, handsome, roomy buildings, filled with loads of brochures from resorts, attractions, hotels, motels, etc. Rest rooms that were clean, well-maintained and warm. Free coffee, just help yourself. Video displays of cool things to do or see in the state. Vending machines filled with both total junk and stuff that could almost be called food. Just really impressive facilities and very friendly places to stop, stretch and take a break. Places that seemed happy you dropped in.

What makes it all work is the state worker right there. One person at a work space, there to answer questions and, more important, make sure people don’t act like assholes and make a mess. You know how people are. So the employee is a key part of making a really good rest stop like these work and work with smooth consistency.

Of course, I couldn’t help but contrast these gleaming visitor centers to ours in Nevada. And honestly, our rest stops in comparison are straight out of Uzbekistan. Here in Nevada, we offer a sheltered but usually chilly place to pee, and that’s pretty much it. If you’re lucky, the plumbing will work. If you’re lucky, there will be some incredibly cheap, quasi-abrasive toilet paper. And if you’re really lucky, the dapper gent sleeping off a massive bender in the corner of the head won’t wake up when you’re washing your hands. Assuming there’s any water to wash your hands.

But no free brochures for lodging and services and fun activities. No free coffee. No cool video shows. No pleasant person to answer questions. No way to get any clue whatsoever that the state of Nevada has something to offer. Just a Spartan bathroom, maybe some picnic tables and a lawn, and a place, on occasion, to unload your RV waste.

For a state that makes a lot of income via its visitors, we could stand to make some serious improvements in our rest stops. I know times are tough, and the state is scrounging for money big time. But we all know how important first impressions are. And the first impressions we’re currently making at our crummy little rest stops are pretty doggone bleak indeed.