Thursday, May 29, 2014

Live Free But Don't Stop to Pee

                                 Inside the West Gardiner, ME rest area on the Maine Turnpike.

Circumstances beyond my control led to a trip north on the Maine turnpike. It had been years since I’d even been on it. Every Maine pilgrimage I’ve undertaken in the last decade was accomplished without the aid of the interstate.

Maine was green and blooming, Jethro Tull was in the CD player, and hot coffee was my best friend after a short night’s sleep. Coffee drinking result in rest stops. My first turnpike stop was at the Gray Service Plaza. Maine rest areas are very different from those we encounter in New Hampshire. There were gas pumps. There wasn’t a liquor store. The building was fairly new and attractive.  The bathrooms were clean, shiny, and smelled nice! They had free WiFi! It was glorious. In West Gardiner I stopped again, and found another new building with an octagonal roof. Inside was a fabulous exhibit of Maine artists and crafters. There was a Starbucks and a few other fast food vendors, as well as a small convenience store. The bathroom was large, well lit, well ventilated, and smelled clean. These plazas made an unhappy trip far more pleasant.

The Hampton, NH  rest area on I-95. 

A few days later I headed south to visit the family plot in Massachusetts. I stopped at the rest area on I-95 in Hampton. It was Memorial Day, and all the weekend travelers were heading home. The siren song of the giant highway liquor outlet beguiled many a weary holiday traveler with the promise of cheap booze for the trip home. That’s what there is at the Hampton rest area; a giant liquor store and a smaller store selling goods made in NH. Sandwiched in between are some ancient, dank, rest rooms, painted evil shades of tan and yellow, poorly (if at all) ventilated, and reeking of 10,000 years of flatulence. One stall had sodden bathroom tissue on the wet floor that featured a large puddle of liquid right inside the door.

There were no gas pumps. No coffee. No art exhibit. No WiFi. No sparkly clean, well-ventilated, pleasant smelling bathrooms.

                         The Southern Vermont Welcome Center on I-91.

Our neighbors in Vermont also have numerous attractive rest areas on their interstates. They all offer FREE coffee for travelers. All have free WiFi. The rest area in Sharon (north) has a Vietnam War memorial, and a hydroponic botanical garden. The Hartford (south) rest stop features displays of various aspects of VT culture, including agriculture. They want you to love Vermont so much that you’ll come back, maybe even permanently.

                                        The Sharon, VT rest area

The number 2 industry in New Hampshire is tourism. The top half of the state is almost totally reliant on the tourist industry. One would never guess that from our highway rest areas. They do not say, “welcome.” They do not say, “Thank you, and come back again.” Our idea of a cultural display is an alcohol outlet and some stinky bathrooms. Thanks for visiting NH! Do your kids like Jack Daniels? We’ve got fun for the whole family!!

Competition for tourist dollars is fierce in northern New England. Our neighbor states have chosen to make investments that enhance the travel experience of their tourists. Here in NH, we seem to think that folks are dying to come here to experience our failing infrastructure and buy booze. We refuse to invest in our state parks, our roads, our bridges, and our rest areas. We seem to think that some nice mountains, lakes, and rivers combined with minimal upkeep and deferred maintenance in our parks will keep ‘em coming back for more.

That, too, is emblematic of NH culture. Kick the can down the road, and when it lands in a pothole, pay the pound of cure.

The US infrastructure ranks 25th in the world. In 2002 we were in 5th place. Switzerland is #1. I’ll spare you the whole list, but it is worth noting that Barbados has a higher ranked infrastructure than the United States. Barbados spends 0.8% of its GDP on the military. The US spends 4.35% of our GDP on offense. This is why we can’t have nice things.

According to Top States for Business, 2013, the #1 state for infrastructure is Texas. NH is in 45th place. According to that same study, NH ranks 40th for cost of living, 13th for business friendliness, and 18th for the cost of doing business. Since the recession, Texas has invested heavily in infrastructure and education. The states that have made those sorts of investments are recovering jobs faster than the states that did not.

Job growth over the last 12 months has increased by 1.54% in Massachusetts, the fastest growing state economy in New England. Maine isn’t far behind, at 1.35%. Rhode Island comes in at 1.32% (they rank 21st in the nation in manufacturing), Vermont at 1.29%, NH at 0.83%, and CT at .05%. We’ve always been able to count on being a state that rebounds quickly. The NH economy has always been one of the fastest growing in New England. Those days appear to be over. We’re lagging behind states that we are usually ahead of, like Maine and Vermont.

I’m not suggesting that Vermont’s economic growth is a result of having attractive highway rest areas – but they are an indicator of what VT is doing that NH is not. Vermont is investing in both its people (education, health care, increased minimum wage) and its infrastructure (roads, bridges, telecommunications). States that are investing are thriving. NH is doing the opposite.

We all know that New Hampshire is a pretty great place to be, but that isn’t the message we’re broadcasting to the visitors who come to our state. This is something we can control. “Live Free But Don’t Stop to Pee” should not be a contender for our new state motto.

© sbruce 2014
Published in the May 30 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 


Steven J. Connolly said...

Its clear Susan The Bruce that you're spending some quality time with your true lineage and class of Jewish supremacy. That of the toilet.

Both Maine and Vermont have sales, income tax and un-proportional fuel taxes in addition to fees and high property assessments that are extorted out of the population.

Nice rest areas indeed.

Ninbus said...

Steven J. Connolly ought to get HIS head out of the toilet (or choose the precinct).

What on earth does he mean by 'Jewish supremacy' as it related to the article in question?

Perhaps some of the 'big words' in the article confused him...

I'm just sayin'

Dickie Tilton said...

Another bigoted, redneck, Right-Winger heard from. Sad to think that my Home State is becoming known by such vile throwbacks.

Anonymous said...

SUSAN why don,t you take your negativity and move to MAINE . You might be happier there and we could getrid Iof you

susanthe said...

Anonymous - Mensa will not be calling you.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the comment by Connolly. Why would anyone even think something like this? Hope he hasn't pro-created.

Steven J. Connolly said...

"The Jews are trying to destroy all other cultures as a survival mechanism. The only NAZI country in the world is Israel."- David Duke.

It's unfortunate Susan The Bruce that somehow you can't understand economic reality and why NH is the "Live Free or Die" state.

It's clear that your advocating higher taxes and larger government with your progressive ideas.

It's also a lie.

susanthe said...

Do you think your antiSemitic ravings will be an asset in your campaign for Grafton County Commissioner?

Are you drunk when you post, Steven? Surely as big an intellect as you pretend to be would have better grammar - and be able to post on topic.

That my very existence infuriates you so is a source of merriment for me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, really? "The jews are trying to destroy...." blah blah blah. Many of my relatives who were injured or imprisoned in WWII warned me when I was a young child of another rise of "insanity". Who would have thought it would be right here in the US of A??

Anonymous said...

"They want you to love Vermont so much that you’ll come back, maybe even permanently."

We definitely don't want to send that message in NH. We have enough of those damn Free Staters moving here already. We don't want to encourage them.