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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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One Day, You May Not Have to Take Your Laptop Out at the Airport
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TSA security lines might be a little less annoying in the future. According to Condé Nast Traveler, the agency will soon test new airport scanners that allow you to keep your liquids and laptop in your carry-on bag during security screening, a benefit currently only available to those who have been accepted into the agency’s PreCheck program.

The ConneCT scanners have met the TSA's "advanced technology detection standards," according to the company that makes them, Analogic, meaning that they can be tested out at airports across the U.S.

Computed tomography scanning technology is regularly used in hospitals and research labs for everything from diagnosing cancer to studying mummies. The imaging technique uses x-rays that rotate around whatever object is being imaged to create 3D images that provide more detail than those created by the regular x-ray scanners currently used to inspect carry-on luggage.

The ConneCT scanners have been in the works for 10 years. The devices have x-ray cameras that spin around the conveyor belt that holds your bag, creating a 3D image of it. Then algorithms help flag whether there's something suspicious inside so that it can be pulled aside for further screening by hand. They've already been tested in airports in Phoenix and Boston, but haven't been used on a national level yet.

But don't expect to see the high-tech scanners at your local airport anytime soon. According to the TSA, they have to undergo yet more testing before any of the machines can be deployed, and there’s no timetable for that yet.

Until then, as you're packing your liquids, just remember—you can always just freeze them.

[h/t Conde Nast Traveler]

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Big Questions
What Are the Northern Lights?
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Over the centuries, many have gazed up at one of the Earth’s most fascinatingly beautiful natural wonders: the Northern Lights. In the past couple of weeks, some lucky American stargazers have gotten the chance to see them from their very own backyards—and could again this week, according to Thrillist. But what are they?

Before science was able to get a read on what exactly was happening in the night sky, ancient tribes had their own theories for what caused the jaw-dropping light show. Many early beliefs had roots in religion, such as that the light was a pathway souls traveled to reach heaven (Eskimo tribes) or that the light was an eternal battle of dead warriors (Middle-Age Europe). Early researchers were a bit more reasonable in their approximations, and most surrounded the idea of the reflection of sunlight off the ice caps. In 1619, Galileo Galilei named the lights the aurora borealis after Aurora, the Roman goddess of morning, after concluding they were a product of sunlight reflecting from the atmosphere.

Today, scientists have come to the general agreement that the lights are caused by the collision of electrically charged solar particles and atoms from our atmosphere. The energy from the collisions is released as light, and the reason it happens around the poles is because that's where the Earth’s magnetic field is the strongest. In 2008, a team at UCLA concluded that “when two magnetic field lines come close together due to the storage of energy from the sun, a critical limit is reached and the magnetic field lines reconnect, causing magnetic energy to be transformed into kinetic energy and heat. Energy is released, and the plasma is accelerated, producing accelerated electrons.”

"Our data show clearly and for the first time that magnetic reconnection is the trigger," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, a UCLA professor of Earth and Space Sciences. "Reconnection results in a slingshot acceleration of waves and plasma along magnetic field lines, lighting up the aurora underneath even before the near-Earth space has had a chance to respond. We are providing the evidence that this is happening."

The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the winter, due to the Earth’s position in relation to the sun (shorter days means darker night skies). And by the way, it’s not just the North Pole that puts on a show—there are Southern Lights, too. There are also aurora borealis on other planets—including Mars—so rest assured that future generations born “abroad” will not miss out on this spectacular feat of nature.

Haven’t seen them yet? Traditionally, the best places to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights are in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, northern Canada, and Alaska. Maybe you'll get lucky this week and sneak a peek from your very own window. Check out Aurorasaurus for regular updates on where they are showing.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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