Running on Full

Tourism, as defined by Webster, is the constant search for bathrooms within a large variety of settings. At least I think that is how Webster defines tourism. Honestly it has been a long time since I cracked open a dictionary.

Sometimes it is incredibly easy to pee. Like in the back country where few to no toilets means pretty much every space has been peed on. One exception to that rule can be found within the Mount Rainier trail system which features a partially walled but other otherwise completely open toilet. The views are amazing. Your only company are the marmots.

Maybe the most welcoming rest stop ever

Cities though operate at the other end of the spectrum. General rule of thumb is the bigger the urban setting the harder it will be to find a spot to pee. Even places like McDonald’s will likely require you to remember a number code or some other silly challenge before being allowed a stop at the golden throne. I probably shouldn’t complain though less they decided to swap out the number code with a Sphinx like riddle (OK, before you go to the bathroom tell me, what is white in the morning but brown by evening?).

Vermont of course has the nicest bathrooms. Recyclable paper towels, clean interiors a hint of syrup in the soap; pretty much everything needed to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Their highway rest stops are even more impressive. Quaint even. One welcome center we visited offered rustic wooden rocking chairs that overlooked an impressive wooded mountain valley. Besides maple syrup, the gift shop also sold an impressive amount of hand crafted objects. There was a rough looking but otherwise sturdy feeling barn immediately adjacent to the shop. The stop felt more like a destination than a quick place to pee.

Weathered barn at the Vermont rest stop

Nevada has the worst rest stops ever. Cinder block squares surrounded by broken glass and desert. You do not linger at a Nevada rest stop. Arizona rest stops are much nicer but, and this is an important detail, you do risk being bit by a rattle snake if you wander too far off the path. At least that is what the signs tell you.

The Midwest approach to rest stops falls somewhere between the continuum of Vermont and Nevada. For example, food options are usually limited to vending machines with clear signage indicating that the host state is not responsible in any way for you actually receiving a snicker bar at the end of your transaction.  To further discourage possible litigation these signs also let you know that some charity is responsible for maintaining the condition of these machines (it is assumed that this charity also gets a share of the vending profits but, come to think of it, that is not something explicitly spelled out). They may even offer a small, joyless outcropping of playground equipment somewhere at the edge of the dog walk park. But plan on going elsewhere for your syrup.

In between rest stops we also checked out some colleges. The Heinz Memorial Chapel at Pittsburgh University
Cool mural at Pigeon Bagel in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Yummy bagels but no public bathroom in these Covid lingering times.

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