“I ate apple pie and ice cream – it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.” Jack Kerouac, from his novel “On the Road”

I got a second opinion from another member of the family about the condition of a convenience store and its bathroom.

Last weekend wife Jennifer and I spent Saturday in Kansas City as longtime friends of ours were in the area and we met for the afternoon and evening.

On the way home, I thought this would be a good chance to get Jennifer’s take about the Speedy’s Convenience Store at the Interstate 29 and U.S. Highway 169 intersection in St. Joseph, Missouri. The fuel brand name is Sinclair.

A few weeks ago, my son and I were returning from a concert in Kansas City. We stopped for fuel at same the station. After the tank was full, we both went inside for something to drink the rest of the way home.

“Dad, this place has a very clean bathroom,” he told me.

It wasn’t said to be funny or sarcastic. He actually meant it. Seriously.

If the condition of a bathroom gets the attention of a 17-year-old to tell his father, it must be impressive.

Of all the things he could have talked about, like the concert, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing the next day, something he wants to eat (but I pay for), he chose to comment on the bathroom and the convenience store in general.

He wasn’t wrong.

Like Kerouac and the pie, the more I looked at where I was the more I was impressed with the inventory, cleanliness and comfort from space to lighting. I haven’t seen every station along Interstate 29, but this one could win awards.

We even told the woman working behind the counter our compliments while paying for our drinks and snacks. (Yes, I did pay.) The woman was genuine with her answer and said the owners’ strive to keep the top-notch condition.

I grew up on summer road trips and rest areas, gas stations and other amenities are not like they are today. In the early 1980s, the stops I remember were good only for gasoline and some snacks. (My parents brought snacks from home.) The stations were rather simple.

Today, in some places, you could walk out with legitimate Christmas gifts for friends. Maybe even the Christmas tree.

Commonly used by my family for hotel rooms, the “bare feet test” is a tool in the box. “Would I feel comfortable in this room with bare feet,” is the motivating factor to determine a room’s condition.

I probably would go bare feet in that men’s room. (I know, cleanliness is a very subjective matter).

Depending upon where and how often you drive, there are places to claim to have the “best.” There’s a stop on I-80 east of Des Moines that claims to have the best hamburger. I stopped there for coffee, once. I wasn’t hungry at the time. I am curious if it is best hamburger. Maybe next time.

Years ago, there was a convenience store near Ottumwa on U.S. Highway 34 that claimed to have the cleanest bathrooms as stated on a billboard. We stopped there, too, and Jennifer said it was in excellent condition.

With August on the calendar, there may be families who are venturing out for a few days on the road before school starts. Those stops may make or break the trip.

Years ago, I was part of a group that spent a weekend in Chicago. We stopped at the rest area on Interstate 80 eastbound near Adair. Another traveler had his bag pipes and played from one of the picnic benches.

There is something proper, yet haunting, about the sound of a bag pipe.

Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised at stops along the way.

Sometimes you hear them. Other times you feel them, even with your shoes on.

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