Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A rest in time: Photographer preserves iconic rest areas

It never fails. You are cruising down the highway and suddenly the call of nature strikes.  You desperately search the landscape for any opportunity to stop. 

For many, travel plazas are a welcome relief. Where you can fill up your vehicle, take care of business and maybe grab a snack before you return to the highway. Modern conveniences are great, but travel back in time to the birth of highway and interstate travel and the rest stops look much different.

You may have had opportunities to spot them; these retro rest stops dot the roadsides all around the country. Each of them represents cultural and architectural influences of the times. From oil derrick replicas to teepees and even stops in the shape of a longhorn head, they all provided a great service: A place where travelers could get out of their car, eat a picnic, and take a break from the fast lane.

Time is not on their side, however, as many of these rest areas are falling into disrepair or demolished and replaced with travel plazas.

Ryann Ford, a photographer from Austin, Texas, is trying to keep these iconic images alive. In her new book, The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside, she takes readers on a fantastic trip capturing over 75 images of rest stops along America’s highways, including stops in Kansas.

“The Kansas rest stops were some of my favorite rest stops to shoot,” Ford said. “My favorite stops to shoot are the old, vintage-looking stops that haven’t yet been refurbished.  They offer some great examples of mid-century architecture.”

Between Newton and Wichita on Interstate I-135, you’ll find a rest stop that Ford documented. 

Photo courtesy of Ryann Ford
This particular rest stop’s architectural style has also been documented by the Federal Highway Administration along I70 in Geary County. This photo is from the 1960s.
Photo courtesy of the Federal Highway Administration
Two hours to north of Newton is a rest stop Ford said she thought was very interesting near Homewood.
Photo courtesy of Ryann Ford
[The Homewood stop] offered more than one architectural style, which is really rare; usually each stop only has one style of picnic table.  I’d love to know the history behind the Homewood stop - the table with the pointed roof almost looks Asian-inspired.  I also love how each table has its own hand-pump water fountain and grill, all you would need for a great roadside picnic!” 

Photo courtesy of Ryann Ford

She also headed to western Kansas and captured a rest area near Rexford. 
Photo courtesy of Ryann Ford

And farther south, in Wright, she found a vintage sign encouraging visitors to not litter.
Photo courtesy of Ryann Ford

All of these images and more can be found in Ford’s book , The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside, which was published after a successful Kickstarter campaign. It can be purchased at www.thelaststopbook.com

Ford’s work has been published in
New York Times MagazineThe Wall Street JournalThe Atlantic and NPR. To see more of her photography check out www.RyannFord.com

Do you have a favorite rest stop? Tell us about it in the comments. 

1 comment:

  1. The photographs are just amazing. Loved them. The content too is pretty strong.