American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Truck Stop Oases on the American Road
As a travel writer, I embrace all sorts of transportation options, from boats and bicycles to horses and trains, but most of my favorite memories revolve around the open road. Whether venturing to Disney World with my mom, touring the California coast with a childhood friend, or exploring the country with my husband, Dan, I’ve always relished traveling by car – or motorhome. What’s not to love about it? There’s the ever-changing scenery, the odd roadside attractions, the eccentric people, even the truck stops with their region-specific gift shops.
In fact, during the year Dan and I lived in our home-on-wheels (essentially, a pickup truck and travel trailer) along the byways of America, we learned to appreciate those ubiquitous oases for the modern-day traveler. Of course, as a woman, I’ve encountered some strange, often unnerving characters at these 24-hour locales, especially late at night, when it’s even more necessary to stay alert in poorly lit, isolated places like the parking lots of truck stops and rest areas. But, despite the potential dangers that other travelers might pose, Dan and I have long relied on America’s truck stop chains, including Flying J, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Petro Stopping Centers, Pilot Travel Centers, and TravelCenters of America – not to mention all the smaller, non-chain stops along the way.
Although not all of them are open 24 hours daily, most are convenient one-stop shops for a wide array of travel supplies, from snacks and medicine to audio books and automotive fluids. Besides public restrooms, you’ll often find shower facilities, video arcades, coin-operated laundries, on-site restaurants, and automotive services. Many truck stops allow overnight parking – for 18-wheelers as well as recreational vehicles. So, in lieu of pricey RV camping, travelers can dry-dock their self-contained motorhomes and trailers, unhook their smaller vehicles, and explore nearby attractions. Dan and I did just that at a truck stop in Flagstaff, Arizona – it was a convenient way to venture into the quaint downtown shopping district, without having an unwieldy trailer along for the ride.
Of course, you should always check with the management before leaving a motorhome or travel trailer unattended in a truck stop parking lot, and I’d advise against staying away from your property for too long. Truck stops aren’t nearly as secure as most RV parks. As with any place that caters to transients, you should practice caution at all times. I’ll admit, too, that sleeping amid the all-night hum of idling trucks takes some getting used to. Ultimately, you might decide that staying overnight in a truck stop isn’t worth the money you’ll save from forgoing a traditional RV park. But, even if you don’t stay the night, you’re bound to find other necessary items and services at America’s ever-present truck stops. You’ll certainly be hard-pressed to miss them, especially along major interstates and highways, and if you ever find yourself exhausted, hungry, and low on gas, you might be glad to spy those looming signs up ahead, especially in the country’s more isolated regions.
To find a truck stop along your route, consult Truck Stop Info Plus, an online directory of truck stops throughout the continental United States. As with any third-party website, however, be aware that the information may not be up-to-date, so you should call the individual truck stops, just to be sure they’re still in operation. The same goes for printed publications like The RVer’s Friend, a North American diesel/parking directory that offers listings by city and by interstate. While it can be an incredibly helpful resource for those in need of overnight parking, dumpsites, diesel fuel, showers, restaurants, and other amenities provided by America’s truck and travel plazas, it’s never a good idea to rely solely on one source of information when planning a road trip. Even Dan and I have been led astray at times by outdated books, websites, and road signs, and believe me, it’s never fun to exit the highway in search of a refuge, only to discover that the truck stop has long since closed and the next highway entrance ramp is miles and miles away.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.