Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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Stops Along the Way

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Photo Credit: Bob Grumbine

I love road trips. As a child, I travelled with my family cross-country several times by car. While my memory of these events fades just a bit more every year I get older, pictures, stories and movies help me to remember those times.

A hold-over from my childhood vacations is the love of truck stops, coffee shops, rest areas, motels, tourist traps and other unique establishments. Here are a sampling of such locations I have visited, plus two I never had the chance to see.

Bowdarks Bus Stop Restaurant
Martin Springs Road, South Pittsburg, Tennessee
Interstate 24, Exit 143

Status: Not Visited, Demolished — Visit with Street View

Link: 80's Movie Locations
Link: Fast Rewind Filming Locations

Long abandoned before dawning new life in John Carpenter's Starman, Bowdarks was a fictional place occupying a typical roadside stop. For many years after the location was used for the film, drivers on Interstate 24 passing Exit 143 could see the building, Bowdarks neon sign and all. The structure has now been leveled—it stood just beyond the "fireworks" sign (pictured). However, the gas station/fireworks store next door, clearly visible in the movie, is still open for business.

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures — Bowdarks Bus Stop Restaurant, Starman (1984) by John Carpenter

The Red Onion Grill at Jimmie's Auto/Truck Plaza
6375 South State Road 53, Madison, Florida 32340
Interstate 10, Exit 262

Status: Visited, Active — Visit with Street View

Link: Official Site

Perfectly visible to drivers on I-10 for the past ten years (at least) is the glowing red neon of the Red Onion Grill sign at Jimmie's Auto/Truck Plaza. A place I enjoy on trips now and then, the Red Onion Grill is a 24-hour diner with great cheeseburgers and more. I especially like the sign that simply says "Restaurant" in a retro typeface. I was disappointed when it disappeared in late 2008 and thought that pictures were all that remained. Fortunately, Jimmie's was only remodeling and the sign, pictured below, reappeared on top of the new fuel island's roof in 2009.

Photo Credit: David July — Restaurant, Red Onion Grill at Jimmie's Auto/Truck Plaza, 6375 South State Road 53, Madison, Florida, 08 May 2009

Florida Rest Area 20122
Interstate 10 Westbound, Mile Marker 318

Status: Visited, Active — Visit with Street View

Link: Photograph

Without a doubt, 20122 is my favorite rest area in Florida. Situated in the midst of the Osceola National Forest, this rest area embodies everything I remember from travelling cross-country as a kid. The look of the place, the smell, the informational signs — all so familiar.

Florida Rest Area 20172
Interstate 75 Southbound, Mile Marker 382
Status: Visited, Active — Visit with Street View

Link: Photograph
Link: Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park

A close runner-up for best Florida Rest Area, 20172 is just south of Gainesville but offers the opportunity to feel as if you were in the middle of nowhere. With all due respect to Gainesville, this part of Florida is certainly no megalopolis but the nature-enriched scenery of this stop makes it worth the time. A special feature of this rest area is the ramp and observation plateau (pictured) overlooking the often fog-filled plain of the Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park. Pay attention to the signs and stay on the trail as rattlesnakes frequent the area.

The Hawthorne Grille (previously Holly's)
13763 Hawthorne Boulevard, Hawthorne, California 90250

Status: Not Visited, Closed/Demolished — Visit with Street View

Link: Cougertown
Link: Road Side Peek

A favorite local diner of Hawthorne residents since the 1950's, The Hawthorne Grille, formerly named Holly's is best known to the rest of the world as the coffee shop diner featured in 1994's Pulp Fiction. I would have loved the opportunity to see the classic architecture of the building and take photographs, but unfortunately the structure was razed several years ago. An Auto Zone retailer now stands on the lot.

Hell's Half Acre
Hell's Half Acre Road, Highway 20/26, 40 Miles West of Casper, Wyoming
Box 80, Powder River, Wyoming 82648

Status: Visited, Closed/Partially Demolished — Visit with Street View

Link: Official Site (archive: page one, page two)
Link: Roadside America Article and Field Report

In the middle of Wyoming exists what many call the "baby" Grand Canyon, Hell's Half Acre. The land in this region is very flat and so the combination of high winds and the gigantic depression in the land make the area super windy. In addition to the beautiful scenic outlook, there is local business featuring a small motel, campground, gift shop, bar and cafe. The campground is a pleasant stay, especially to wake-up at dawn to watch the sun rise over colorful and jagged canyon. The motel was demolished in 2006 but the restaurant/gift shop still stands, albeit boarded up. I also remember a rest area (pictured) down the road that had a wishing well in the restroom lobby. You could drop coins down the tube and listen for them to hit the bottom, some hundred feet below.

KOA Kampground at Devils Tower
Devils Tower National Monument Road, Devils Tower, Wyoming 82714

Status: Visited, Active — Visit with Street View (road to location only)

Link: Official Site
Link: National Park Service Information

Basking in the shadow of the United States' first national monument, 1267 foot Devils Tower, this KOA is one campground that manages to maintain its integrity whilst being adjacent to a very popular tourist attraction. In the middle of Wyoming's Black Hills region, the KOA features pitch-black night skies, hay rides along the Belle Fourche River and next to Devils Tower and nightly outdoor, campfire-side showings of Close Encounters of the Third Kind which prominently features the monument.

Barringer Meteorite Crater
Meteor Crater Road, Flagstaff, Arizona 86004
Interstate 40, Exit 233

Status: Visited, Active — Visit with Street View (road to location only)

Link: Official Site
Link: History
Link: Private Tour Photographs
Link: NASA Photographs

Also featured in the aforementioned Starman, the Meteor Crater site is more of a specific destination than a casual stop-off locale. In addition to the awesome viewing platform, there is a snack bar with decent hot dogs (since replaced by a Subway Restaurant), theatre, gift shop and a museum featuring historical documents, photographs and bits from the crater itself.

Salt Flats Rest Area
Interstate 80 Westbound, Reference Post 10, East of Wendover, Utah
Status: Visited, Active – Visit with Street View

Just over an hour and a half west of Salt Lake City (home to the most scenic Wendy's restaurant I have visited) are the salt flats rest areas. This simple stop-off has all the standard features of any other rest area, plus an elevated viewing platform (eastbound side) and easy access to the salt flats themselves. Harder than walking on beach sand, the salt flats are deceptively large. As you start to walk out toward the mountains, those skyscraping landmarks seem to only get further away. Home to automotive racing and testing, the salt flats are an excellent stop for just about anyone.

South of the Border
US 301/501, Dillon, South Carolina
Interstate 95, Exit 1

Status: Visited, Active – Visit with Street View

Link: Official Site
Link: Roadside America Article and Field Report
Link: History and Billboard Gallery

Known to anyone who has driven Interstate 95 in the south, South of the Border seems to go out of the way to make their expansive facility as corny as possible. For hundreds of miles, cartoon mascot Pedro adorns billboards with puns and kitsch sayings inviting you to join him at his restaurant, motel, campground, gas station, amusement park, gift shops and fireworks store. Following complaints, including one by the Mexican Embassy to the United States in 1993, owner Alan Schafer gradually replaced the billboard character's stereotypical "Mexican-speak" with more politically correct messages ("...these baby boomers do not have a sense of humor," he said). I was always partial to "Chili Today, Hot Tamale!" which I am pleased to say survived the updates.

Photo Credit: Bob Grumbine
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
Photo Credit: David July

Two Comment Bubbles five Comments

  • The Masked Blogger

    What a cool post! Thanks for the retro road trip. :)

  • AnnMarie

    I love Road Trips (without a three year old of course). I don't foresee any kid free road trips in my immediate future (unless I flee from impending insanity) but maybe I'll get to visit some of those places one day...

  • Tery Spataro

    Very cool! I love road trips too traveling south to Florida when I was kid was so much fun. Beautiful blog!

  • andy

    Por qué en el 2008 todavía no hay un traductor de verdad?
    " is the salt flats rest area== es la sal de pisos área de descanso." Qué diablos significa en español?
    Mandan naves a tomar fotografías por todo el sistema solar y no pueden traducir como corresponde del inglés al español!!!!!!!!!!

  • David July


    Estoy de acuerdo con usted en que por ahora el idioma de traducción de software debería hacer un mejor trabajo. De hecho, espero que este mensaje es traducido correctamente. No estoy seguro de qué software o servicio de internet que utilizó, pero Google traduce "salt flats rest area" a "salinas área de descanso".

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