Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Random Asianess: The Rest Stop

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

If you’ve ever driven down The Golden State Freeway, I-5 in California you’ve come across rest stops. They’re a place where you can stop your car, catch a little rest, use the rest room, empty your dog and walk around a little before you go on. Caltrans puts these places up every so often on the freeways in California. I suppose they are in other states as well.

But if you’ve ever used them you know that they’re pretty basic. There a restroom facility, usually pretty large and clean (well, functional at least). There’s a place to walk the dog and sometimes, if you’re lucky they might have vending machines. If you’re super lucky there might even be some entrepreneur with a catering truck, that is, if he can avoid Caltrans and the CHP. But that’s about it. Not much to write home about if you will.

This week my family drove National Highway 5 to Yilan. That is about a one and one half hour drive. The drive is remarkable because in the midst of it is a 12 km or 7.5 mile tunnel that crosses under the mountains that we drove through last week. [“Random Asianess: The Cross Island Highway,” November 1, 2010]. This isn’t as scary as driving over those mountains after dark, until you consider the millions of tons of dirt, rock and trees over you, or the air quality inside a tunnel.

The other remarkable thing about this freeway is the rest stops. Like Caltrans, the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau (TANFB) erects rest areas. The idea of course is to promote safe driving. But these rest areas are beautiful. As a man, prior to marriage I never really saw rest stops all that often. I’d drive until I needed gas and then use the rest room at the gas station. But since marriage and children I often get to view rest stops, this trip was no exception.

We stopped in a Service area. This is a little different than a rest area because you can get mechanical services in addition to the regular amenities. In the rest area, in addition to the restroom facilities you are able to find a store, a food court, ATMs, A monument, a freeway information person, and a TANFB office.

The information booth person will tell you the quickest way to get where you’re going from where you are. He’ll tell you which freeway you’re on and what obstacles are ahead, the points of interest along the way, as well as a lot of other useful information.

The restrooms are clean and well lighted as is the rest of the rest stop. The restaurants have a choice of foods available from small restaurants. We decided to have lunch there. My daughters ate Chicken Fingers, Onion rings, French Fries and soda. My wife had a type of chicken, in a broth and I had Fried Fish, Kelp, Togan, (A type of smoky flavored Tofu), Seaweed Soup and Rice. It was a lot better than a soggy vending machine sandwich without condiments and tepid water, which is what I had last time I ate in a California rest area.

The Restaurant Entrance
The freeways are well maintained and safe. The speed limit most of the time is 100 kph or about 65 mph. (62.5 mph for you purists who always write and correct me.) The freeways are all toll roads and cost $40.00 NTD ($1.25 USD) to travel 30km. From Yilan we paid $120 NTD. ($3.75 USD).

You know, it occurs to me that I really ought to be charging "Taiwan:  Touch Your Heart" the tourism bureau for all of this free publicity.  But I guess before they'd be interested I'd have to prove that I'm not the only one reading it.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwan Travelogue:  The Cross Island Highway
Random Asianess:  Driving in Taiwan

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