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The 10 Best Rest Stops in the U.S.

Nothing ruins a road trip like dingy rest stop that makes everyone itch for a shower. Inversely, could a great rest stop save a road trip? These are 10 of the best rest stops and truck stops that can be found in the U.S.

1. The Iowa 80 Truck Stop

The world’s largest truck stop can be found off of I-80, on exit 284 in Walcott, Iowa. This stop has pretty much anything a road tripper might need. In addition to plenty of fast food restaurants, there’s a movie theatre, laundromat, showers, a trucking museum, and church services on Sundays. The 100,000 square foot stop currently sees around 5,000 people per day.

2. South of the Border

This stop is located off of I-95 in Dillon, South Carolina. Here, you can find six different restaurants, ranging from casual dining to a steakhouse. The Border, as it’s known for short, also has the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the United States, which is open every day. Plus, there’s Pedroland, an amusement park with a ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cards, mini golf, and an arcade. There’s also an inn and a campground if you need to stay the night.

3. Buc-ee’s

Jennifer Woodard Maderazo, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This chain is a Texas staple, with twenty-two locations in the state. They feature convenience stores with huge restrooms, tons of gas pumps, and delis. The New Braunfels location won Cintas’ 2012 America’s Best Restroom Award. The store is 68,000 square feet with 80 soda fountains and conveniently contains a total of 83 bathroom stalls.

4. Little America

At first glance, Little America (at Exit 198 off of I-40 in Flagstaff, Arizona) doesn’t even look like a rest stop. It’s a gorgeous 500-acre hotel with a golf course, swimming pool, fitness center, and business center. There’s also a travel center on the property with a gas station, and the convenience store is open 24/7, fully stocked with books, groceries, CDs, DVDs, and souvenirs. Plus, there’s the Little America Grill, which serves everything from rotisserie chicken to breakfast foods to 50 cent ice cream cones. It’s open until at least 10:30 every day.

5. R-Place Restaurant

If you’re hungry while passing Morris, Illinois on I-80, this is the place to stop. R-Place is a 24/7 eatery that serves baked goods and American cuisine. It also has its own food challenge! The restaurant serves a 2-pound hamburger—half of which is meat and the other half is cheese, bun, and two toppings of your choice. To win, you must eat the entire thing within one hour without leaving the table. R-Place's food is so popular, they even cater.

6. Sapp Bros

poulsbo, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While travelling on I-80, you might come across a Sapp Bros. Travel Center. There are sixteen locations between Salt Lake City, Utah and Clearfield, Pennsylvania. In addition to being a rest stop, the company also provides 24-hour roadside service. Six Sapp Bros. locations have their most popular restaurant, Apple Barrel, which serves reasonably priced American cuisine.

7. Tamarack Tourist Information Center

Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use

Tamarack is located on Exit 45 off of I-77 and I-64 in Beckley, West Virginia. It has a standard food court and provides tourist information, but it also contains a fine arts gallery, a theater with live performances, a conference center, and stores selling local products. Half a million people stop at the center every year.

8. Jubitz Truck Stop and Travel Center

This stop, which FOX Travel Channel named the “World’s Classiest Truck Stop,” can be found off of I-5 in Portland, Oregon. The Portlander Inn is on the property with 100 rooms for those who are too tired to keep driving. For quicker visits, there’s a restaurant, convenience store, and 80-seat movie theater. Jubitz also has the Ponderosa Lounge with pool tables, TVs, dance lessons, video poker, and live music on weekends.

9. Bear Lake Rest Area and Overlook

According to The Travel Channel, this is the rest stop with the best view in the U.S. It is located off of Route 89 in Bear Lake, Utah, and it provides a great spot to check out Bear Lake and its surrounding mountains. Plus, there’s a hiking trail for those who want to see a little more. (Of course, there's also parking and bathrooms.)

10. Trail’s Travel Center

This center is off of I-35 in Albert Lea, Minnesota. In addition to a couple of fast food restaurants, there is a restaurant and a tavern with the largest whiskey selection in southern Minnesota. Truck drivers who stop there can find a movie theater, wi-fi, and church services on Sundays.

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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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Fake It Until You Make It: 10 Artificial Ruins
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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The love of ruins, sometimes called ruinophilia, has for centuries inspired the creation of clever fakes—a host of sham facades and hollowed-out castle shells found on grand English, European, and even American estates. The popularity of constructing artificial ruins was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries, but architects occasionally still incorporate them today.

Why build a structure that is already crumbling? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the popularity of counterfeit ruins was influenced by two factors—a classical education that enforced the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, and the extended tour of Europe (known as The Grand Tour) that well-to-do young men and women took after completing their education. Travelers might start in London or France and roam as far as the Middle East, but the trip almost always included Italy and a chance to admire Roman ruins. More than a few wealthy travelers returned home longing to duplicate those ruins, either to complement a romantic landscape, to demonstrate wealth, or to provide a pretense of family history for the newly rich.

Here are a few romantic ruins constructed between the 18th and 21st centuries.

1. SHAM CASTLE // BATHAMPTON, ENGLAND

Sham Castle (shown above) is aptly named—it’s only a façade. The "castle," overlooking the English city of Bath, was created in 1762 to improve the view for Ralph Allen, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as to provide jobs for local stonemasons. From a distance it looks like a castle ruin, but it's merely a wall that has two three-story circular turrets and a two-story square tower at either end. The castle is not the only folly (as such purely decorative architecture is often called) that Allen built. He also constructed a sham bridge on Serpentine Lake in what is now Prior Park Landscape Garden—the bridge can't be crossed, but provides a nice focal point for the lake. Today, Sham Castle is part of a private golf course.

2. WIMPOLE FOLLY // CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND

Building a structure that looks as if it's crumbling does not preclude having to perform regular maintenance. The four-story Gothic tower known as Wimpole Folly in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, was built 1768-72 for Philip Yorke, first Earl of Hardwicke and owner of the Wimpole Estate. Owned by Britain’s National Trust, the ruin threatened to truly crumble a few years ago, so restoration efforts were needed. The last restoration was so well done it won the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage. The Wimpole Estate is now open to the public for walks and hikes.

3. CAPEL MANOR FOLLY // ENFIELD, ENGLAND

Capel Manor at Bulls Cross, Enfield, England has been the site of several grand homes since the estate’s first recorded mention in the 13th century, so visitors might be tempted to believe that the manor house's ruins date back at least a few centuries. But that sense of history is an illusion: The faux 15th-century house was built in 2010 to add visual appeal to the manor gardens, which have been open to the public since the 1920s.

4. ROMAN RUIN // SCHONBRUNN PALACE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The Roman Ruin was built as a garden ornament for the 1441-room Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, one of the most important monuments in Austria. The ruin was once called The Ruins of Carthage, after the ancient North African city defeated by Roman military force. But despite the illusion of antiquity, the ruins were created almost 2000 years after Carthage fell in 146 B.C.E. The ruin’s rectangular pool, framed by an intricate semi-circle arch, was designed in 1778 by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, who modeled it on the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, which he had seen an engraving of.

5. THE RUINEBERG // POTSDAM, GERMANY

One of the earliest examples of artificial ruins in Germany was the complex of structures known as The Ruinenberg. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, had a summer palace in Potsdam, near Berlin, that was said to rival Versailles. In 1748 Frederick commissioned a large fountain for the palace complete with artificial ruins. The waterworks part of his plan proved too difficult and was soon abandoned, but not before designer Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff constructed the ruins. The complex includes Roman pillars, a round temple, and the wall of a Roman theatre. Since 1927 the site has belonged to the Prussian Gardens and Palaces Foundation, Berlin-Brandenburg.

6. PARC MONCEAU // PARIS, FRANCE

Elegant Parc Monceau is located in the fashionable 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Champs-Elysees and Palais de l’Elysée. In 1778, the Duke of Chartres decided to build a mansion on land previously used for hunting. He loved English architecture and gardens, including the notion of nostalgic ruins, so he hired the architect Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to create an extravagant park complete with a Roman temple, antique statues, a Chinese bridge, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill, a minaret, a small Egyptian pyramid, and some fake gravestones. The most notable feature of the park is a pond surrounded by Corinthian columns, now known as Colonnade de Carmontelle.

7. HAGLEY PARK CASTLE // WORCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND

The ruins of the medieval castle at Hagley Park in Worcestershire are definitely fake, but they were built with debris from the real ruin of a neighboring abbey. The folly was commissioned by Sir George Lyttelton in 1747 and designed by Sanderson Miller, an English pioneer of Gothic revival architecture. The castle has a round tower at each corner, but by design only one is complete and decorated inside with a coat of arms. The grounds, which also feature a temple portico inspired by an ancient Greek temple, some urns, and obelisks, are now privately owned and not open to the public.

8. TATA CASTLE RUINS // TATA, HUNGARY

French architect Charles de Moreau (1758-1841) was a scholar of classical Roman architecture known for his ability to counterfeit impressive ruins. Nicholas I, Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, hired him to work on Tata Castle and to create the ruins of a Romanesque church for the palace’s English Garden. Even though the ruin Moreau created was fake, he built it with the stones of a real ruin, the remnants of the early-12th-century Benedictine and later Dominican abbey of Vértesszőlős. A third-century ancient Roman tombstone and relief were placed nearby.

9. BELVEDERE CASTLE // MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in the mid-1800s, and their plan for creating romantic vistas included the construction of a folly known as Belvedere Castle. The Gothic-Romanesque style hybrid, overlooking Central Park’s Great Lawn, was completed in 1869. Although the folly was designed as a hollow shell and meant to be a ruin, it eventually served a practical purpose, housing a weather bureau and exhibit space. The castle also provides a beautiful backdrop for Shakespeare in the Park productions, evoking the royal homes that play prominent roles in the Bard’s works.

10. FOLLY WALL IN BARKING TOWN SQUARE // LONDON

In a borough known for its real historic buildings, the ancient wall found in London’s Barking Town Square might look centuries old. It’s not, and ironically, the wall is part of the square’s renovation efforts. The wall was built by bricklaying students at Barking College using old bricks and crumbling stone items found at salvage yards. Known as the "Secret Garden," named after the children’s book about a walled garden, the wall was designed to screen a nearby supermarket and was unveiled in 2007.

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Theo Rindos
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Graphic Designer Visualizes America's Major Rivers as Subway Routes
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Theo Rindos

Mark Twain spent his early years navigating America's winding waterways, but the steamboat pilot-turned-author was also a fan of modern transportation: He was one of the first passengers to ride the London Underground's longest tube line—the Central Line—when it first opened in 1900. Needless to say, Twain would probably be a fan of the map below, which visualizes U.S. rivers as subway lines.

A map depicting U.S. rivers as subway routes, by graphic designer Theo Rindos
Theo Rindos
 
 
A map depicting U.S. rivers as subway routes, by graphic designer Theo Rindos
Theo Rindos

Created by graphic designer Theo Rindos (and spotted by CityLab), the map is inspired by Harry Beck's original London Tube map from the 1930s. It's based on data culled from the U.S. Geological Survey, Google Maps, and Wikipedia.

"I have always been fascinated by transit maps and river systems, and I thought, 'Why not put them together?'" Rindos tells Mental Floss. Beck's design style "has been kind of a staple for many city transit systems because it's so easy to understand and is so beautiful. The rivers of the United States are complex, and I wanted to see if I could achieve a similar outcome."

The source of each river is denoted with a solid-colored circle. White circles indicate where these waterways converge and split, and neighboring cities and towns are marked as "stations." That said, the map doesn't feature every single U.S. river: It includes ones important to the transportation and shipping sectors, but for aesthetic reasons, Rindos opted to leave out awkwardly shaped rivers and turned smaller ones into bus routes.

You can purchase Rindos' map here, or visit the designer's website to learn more about his work.

[h/t CityLab]

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