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Behind the Lens: The Rest Stop That Inspired a Book on Highways in America

Photos and musing from our photographer.

(Ryann Ford Photography)
There’s no denying 20th-century America’s love affair with the car.

It was the perfect vehicle for Americans’ wanderlust, spurring the construction of paved roads along scenic routes across the country. Gas stations sprang up next to major thoroughfares not long after, as did motels and rest stops.

Most of the thousands of rest stops erected were unremarkable, meant only to provide a quick place for a meal and a nap. But some were special, built with a nod to their location or the local history. Texas photographer Ryann Ford has documented more than 100 of these remarkable rest stops in her book, The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside.

One in particular “pretty much inspired the whole project,” she says. Ford had read about the impending demolition of one in Flower Mound, Texas. She drove out to capture it on film before it was gone for good.

The shelter’s supports were painted to look like the Texas flag and its roof resembled longhorns. It inspired her to document more stops.

David Kidd is a photojournalist and storyteller for Governing. He can be reached at
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