Monday 11 February 2008

Why is St. John's County Public Highway Rest Area So Much Better than the Pay Rest Areas Found on Florida Turnpike?

St. John's County Rest Area
I-95, FL USA
Mile Market 331, Northbound

Where is it?

This somewhat sprawling rest area features a slew of picnic tables and other recreation-based stops (I believe I saw a few charcoal grills?) on property. The main building, which looks like a Spanish villa, contains the bathrooms, as well as some vending machines and such.

Go inside the main villa building and down its main hallway. The bathrooms are on each side of the hall, men's to the right, women's on the left.

What's it like?

These are pretty Teutonic facilities, but they also house a bit of charm -- which is more than can be said of the Ft. Drum and Port St. Lucie rest areas visited on the Florida Turnpike, which were pretty horrific for the most part.

The bathrooms here are shaped as a sort of "U," with the entrance forming the base of the letter. Once inside, visitors can go either to the left or right, which leads into two chambers, each containing a similar setup of urinals, toilet stalls and sinks.

Unlike the Ft. Drum and Port St. Lucie rest areas, the walls here consist of clean white tiles with blue accent tiles (a pleasant touch that reminded me, strangely enough, of the comfortable toilets found at Big Boy Diner in Altamonte Springs, Fla. and the main lobby toilets of Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Theater in Orlando). Floors are covered with a slightly drab brick-colored tile. Fixtures, all standard white porcelain, are clean and in tip top shape. Metallic walls divide the stalls and urinals.

Naturally, what's most surprising about these facilities is how much more comfortable and better-kept they are over the Ft. Drum and Port St. Lucie rest areas, which are on the Florida Turnpike, which I visited earlier this year. Even more surprising is the fact that the St. John's rest area is on a public, free highway, which you don't have to pay a fee to access, unlike the Turnpike stops, which requirement payment for access.

Common sense leads me to believe that the facilities you pay for should be more luxurious and the free ones more shabby, but that's not the case here. I guess I just don't understand the way the American tax dollar gets spent, and I certainly don't think a blog on toilets should really be the place to start hypothesizing.

Regardless, I can say that after visiting these facilities, I only felt more disappointment for the Ft. Drum and Port St. Lucie rest areas -- especially considering that this is an election year.

Marks out of 10:

7. Not bad at all -- and certainly much better than the Ft. Drum and Port St. Lucie rest areas.

Comments to the Management:

Perhaps you should talk to the Turnpike crew and see if you can suggest some strategies to help improve the quality of their facilities. They sure need it and it sure looks like you've got the problem solved here.

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