store is in a location that Terry and I drove past often for years.
on what most of us might consider a secondary major highway of
sorts. Not a real highway. Stop lights and forks in the road.
Often just a single lane in either direction. Still, connecting
major cities, built on historical pathways route.
and I hadn’t driven past it in at least five years, and possibly
a handful more than that. Not much had changed, including a hand-painted
store sign out front that included a line that began:
“Last stop before…”
need to establish something to ground this next bit. So, please
sources will list the generic distance between Orlando and Tampa
as 84 miles. Same resources, San Diego to Los Angeles is 120 miles.
Cleveland to Pittsburgh? About 134 miles. Many of the roads you
would travel on suggested directions between those destinations
are highways, but some are not. Driving time estimates range from
90 minutes to 2 hours.
sources used to establish those details list the distance between
our shop’s parking lot and the place it’s the last stop until
as 88 miles. While we pause for a moment so you can bring those
thoughts together, it’s likely time for our fairness to the other
side assessment of things.
you’ve ever driven along a thruway or turnpike, you’ve seen signs.
Last exit before toll. Next rest area 45 miles. Warnings about
something coming up that you might want to note. Not necessarily
in any way scary, but often worthy of consideration.
you’ve ever experienced the joys and wonder (and sometimes boredom)
of stretches of road across the United States, you know that a
sign warning you that there won’t be any gas available for a while
means there will be absolutely no gas after this next station
for a really long distance.
regardless of it being food or gas or alcohol or lottery tickets,
there deserves to be some thought given to a place that wants
you to know the road ahead is lacking. That, in summary at a really
basic level, is fair.
you know… is it?
almost become conditioned as drivers and passengers. When a big
sign on the side of the highway says the next rest area is at
least a half-hour away, we consider whether or not we need to
stop to use the facilities. When driving across a desert or virtually
uninhabited run of road, and the warning is there will not be
gas available for a long time, we look toward the dashboard and
check the gauge.
here we are, with a little shop saying this here is the last stop
for a while. A traffic light follows the parking lot by about
a half-mile. Pass the light and find about two hundred yards beyond
it a stretch begins with a grocery store, fast-food restaurant,
diner, sub shop, coffee shop and drug store. And, you know, that
didn’t take long to come across other stops.
long time ago, I spent some time kicking around thoughts about
a roadside stand and fries in a completely different place in
a completely different state:
driving along a local route… one of those roads that, while
I suppose it qualifies as a main road, you wouldn’t think of
using unless you had a need to be there. Basically, when driving
it unintentionally, it is exactly the type of road that confirms
all fears that you’re lost.
gas station is located at an intersection, with little else
nearby. It’s a minimum of a half-mile in any direction from
that intersection to find a store, restaurant, or any other
place of business. Half-mile. Minimum. We’re talking houses
and lots of trees. Perhaps some livestock. I would not be surprised
if most of the residents nearby allow pigs, goats, horses and
such inside their homes.
at that intersection, across the street from the gas station,
is a small piece of open land. And on that land, on this day,
is a hot dog cart. It’s a pretty fancy setup. Two or three canopies
are in place, along with a couple of tables and chairs. And,
leaning off to the side, is a sign:
Our World Famous French Fries
sign can say whatever you want it to say. While I questioned every
possible element of this roadside stand being world famous, there
was a funny twist. I was writing about those fries. I have friends
and family that live not only around this country but also in
several international locations. Technically speaking, people
from multiple countries had heard about these fries. Apply the
world famous label with your own definition.
now we have the last stop store. Have the owners itemized their
inventory, driven the two hours and 88 miles, and checked every
potential stop along the way to see if they are the last hope
for finding some items? The sign isn’t specific. Just claims to
be the last stop. Maybe they are the last stop where some specific
item or particular brand could be found for some time.
and directions and the paths both traveled and not. Experiences
differ. They always differ, even along the same routes. And there’s
no guarantee of what you might encounter if you drive a bit further
into the unknown before turning.
smell the roses. Order the fries. Appreciate the journey.
if nothing else, when a sign is offered to remind you, think about
the restroom and check the gas gauge.