Highway rest stops might be our most underrated piece of Americana. They celebrate our vast country's freedom of movement, each one designed with a unique little nod to whatever place we happen to stop in. The best rest stops were not always designed as food courts crossed with jumbo convenience stores. Once upon a time, you might pull off a Texas highway for a picnic under a shelter shaped like longhorns. Today, you're more likely stop at something that looks like a shrunken mall outside Orlando to pick up the same Frappuccino you can get in Dubuque and maybe a Lightning McQueen keychain. And then forget you were ever there.
A century ago, of course, road trips were a bit weirder. When the US first built its expansive system of highways in the 1920s, rest stops were simple safety areas designed for motorists to take much-needed rests (the distances weren't longer back then, but the cars were sure slower and the roads less sleek). By the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps turned them into full-on roadside parks.
The post-war interstate era brought with it rest stops designed to make the driver feel like a part of the local environment. Tables were set at strategic viewpoints, and restrooms designed to reflect the surroundings. Stops at these unique rest areas became as much a part of the American road trip as fast-food lunches and the license-plate game.