AMY KIRK: Rest stops: Another great reason to take your camera along
One of the things I love about traveling across the great state of South Dakota early in the morning is the spectacular views that are worthy of photographing, especially when I need an alibi for pulling off the road to take a potty break.
What looks like a tourist taking a picture to passersby is just a smokescreen for a woman waiting for the chance to pee as soon as they're out of sight and before another vehicle comes into view. Once my morning coffee is no longer comforting and I need a potty stop, I lose confidence that I'll have enough time for roadside relief. It was during one of these sketchy moments that I discovered hanging a camera around my neck makes a great disguise for what I'm really up to.
I'm not opposed to using public restrooms, but using country-style ones is so ingrained in me that it's difficult to be inconvenienced by time and money-wasting convenience store restrooms stops. That's why the most important things I pack in the car on any road trip are a thermos of coffee, hand wipes, hand sanitizer and my camera.
Normal women would hold out for a public restroom facility at a gas station or restaurant, but if my car doesn't need fueled up, I don't like being guilted into buying a pack of gum, snacks, a pop or a newspaper just to be considered a customer so I can use the store's restroom. Making such purchases goes against my tight-hide (cheapskate) morals, and I don't like convenience store delays, either.
My standards for modern restroom comfort and conveniences are pretty low. Open-air style restroom vistas not only beat any scenery in a gas station bathroom, it's more sanitary, used less frequently, fresher smelling -- but mostly I get back on the road quicker. I don't have to be wary of dropping my keys or phone in the toilet or worrying about setting them or my purse down and driving off without them.
The problem with being OK using places near a road is that it's hard to know where those discrete places to stop are when traveling in areas I've never been before, and there's always the question of whether or not I can be seen, or if I'll have enough time to use the outdoor facilities before other travelers approach. Hidden areas are much harder to come by on non-interstate highways in South Dakota east of the Black Hills. There are no thick tree groves or rock outcroppings to hide behind, no steep roadside banks or hills to duck out of sight where I can stop with 75 percent confidence that I'll not be discovered partaking in bladder relieving activity. Many a time I've passed up what looked like would've been a good spot because I didn't want to turn around to go back.
Even though I know drinking coffee causes my bladder-pressure agony on road trips in unfamiliar pit-stop territory, I am not willing to eliminate drinking coffee in exchange for comfort. Coffee-drinking is part of my driving regimen.
Whenever I'm headed out on a long road trip early in the morning and all the coffee I've had is knocking on my bladder's door, I can't help it. I have to stop and take some scenic pictures.