In deference to my Jersey readers (and because I'm not above a cheap joke), let me please note that I do not mean cruising the Jersey Turnpike in the style of former Governor Jim McGreevy.
But I have indeed been cruising the Jersey Turnpike of late, thanks to a couple of field trips at school, both of them to Philadelphia. As the bus passes by the exits of the Turnpike, I am struck in particular by the names on the rest stops. Rest stops on the Jersey Turnpike are a creature unto themselves, featuring acres of parking, rows of gas pumps, and at the center of it all a sprawling large building filled with bathrooms, a travel store, and culinary opportunities. Most look like they were built in the 1970s, which is to say that the architecture is remarkably ugly. Landscaping is virtually non-existent at these locales. But the rest stops serve their purpose and can easily (if not elegantly) meet your traveling needs, whatever those might be..
Perhaps most amusing about them, however, is the fact that they are named after important personages; truly impressive historical figures who happen to come from the Garden State. So as you cruise the Turnpike, you will see signs for the Walt Whitman Rest Stop; the Clara Barton Rest Stop; the Woodrow Wilson Rest Stop. And it is this fact that amuses me so much.
I picture Walt Whitman, holding a double cone of ice cream and standing by the Carvel counter at the rest stop named in his honor. Does Clara Barton treat the wounded at her rest stop? Are people lying about in cots, victims of traffic waiting for a transfusion of blood and the calming balm of her hand on their brow? And I know for a fact that at his own rest stop Woodrow Wilson is horrified at the sheer number of common people taking a leak and failing to wash their hands afterward.