How many times have you heard, "If they can land a man on the moon, then ...?"
Well, here is another. If they can land a man on the moon, then they can keep the rest areas open in the state of Virginia.
First of all, today (July 20, 2009) is the 40th anniversary of the first person (Neil Armstrong) to step foot on the moon. It remains an inspiring feat, a quintessential example of what can be achieved. In total, 12 men have walked on the moon, but none since December 1972; except, perhaps in his own mind, Bill "Spaceman" Lee.
Back to earth. So, the state of Virginia is closing rest areas. I have long promoted state welcome centers and rest areas as relatively untapped sources of travel information; essential tools in the travel skills toolkit. Not only an area to rest, literally, but also somewhere to get travel deals. The people (usually volunteers) working at rest areas often had access to lower hotel rates than anywhere else--even lower than the coupon guidebooks distributed in the same centers.
Rest area workers also give keen recommendations for authentic, local dining (usually diners or dives!) and off-the-beaten-track attractions and scenic drives. Perhaps you would argue that such information can now be found on the net. Indeed, there are countless blogs (hey, I resemble that remark), boards, databases, and websites; best of luck poring through them to find what you are looking for. I know that I would rather ask a knowledgeable, competent (YMMV), local person than consulting my GPS or other device.
Besides, your iPhone cannot relieve you, if you know what I mean. Well, at least, there's not an app for that yet. Relief, of course, is the main purpose of rest areas. Virginia is not closing all of their rest areas; only 19 of the 42. As you are passing one of the closed rest areas (RIP), good luck making it to the next open (for now) rest area to relieve yourself.
Hey, Guv Kaine, has the state considered a pay-for-relief program?
© 2009, Charles McCool