You’re on a road trip, contentedly cruising along, and the feeling hits you or someone else in your vehicle. You need a restroom. Now.
One of this blog’s objectives is to provide information you won’t find anywhere else. Which brings me to a topic that affects everyone, but is seldom discussed: What do you do when nature calls? Especially, what do you do if you’re miles from anywhere?
Here are five tips for road trippers:
1. Know each person’s preferences.
Just as answering nature’s call is a very personal thing, so, too, is where someone is comfortable answering that call.
I admit I’m fine using just about any place where I can’t be seen as a men’s room. My grown-up daughter, on the other hand, must have a clean bathroom with a flush toilet. Most people, my wife included, are somewhere between those extremes. Any time you’re on a road trip with a family, group or just one special person, everyone needs to know everyone else’s preferences and respect them.
2. Know your choices.
What are the bathroom choices for road trippers?
- Rest areas on major highways. My daughter says no, she finds them creepy. She may be more selective than most people. By the way, I have an app on my iPhone called Rest Areas that shows their locations on a map and lists their facilities. Warning for Californians: Many state rest areas are closed “for repairs” for long periods of time. This tends to affect the longest stretches of interstate highways in the desert, the worst being from Indio to Blythe along I-10. I’ve never encountered this in other states.
- National/state park visitor centers. These generally have clean restrooms. Often, the restrooms are available when the center is closed.
- National/state park campgrounds and picnic areas. Many have outhouses rather than flush toilets.
- My daughter recommends Starbucks. I don’t drink coffee, so I use McDonalds if I’m in a city. I’m sure you have your own preferences. Gas stations and convenience stores vary; some have restrooms, and some don’t. You’re more likely to find acceptable restrooms at gas stations/convenience stores outside major cities.
3. Know your routes.
What’s available on your road trip route? If you’re planning to drive from Tonopah to Ely, Nevada, on US 6 (pictured at the top of this post), there’s absolutely nothing for 163 miles! The longest stretch of interstate highway I know without gas is on I-70 from Salina to Green River, Utah. There are a couple of rest areas, but they may be for westbound or eastbound traffic only.
Long stretches without restrooms are common in the West, less so east of the Rockies. Look on your map for cities and towns. They’ll typically have available restrooms.
Be sure you’re familiar with available facilities along routes you travel frequently.
4. Use available restrooms.
Use the restroom whenever you’re someplace that has one. This includes meal or gas stops. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom before setting out in the morning. Another tip: Give your body time to process your morning coffee before setting out for the day.
5. Plan ahead.
Planning for restroom stops is an essential part of road trip planning. Please follow Tips #1 through #4. You’ll be glad you did.