Staying Sane on I-15

There is something exhilarating about being on the road. It’s empowering to hear that rumbling sound of rubber against asphalt, to feel your hands clutching the wheel—or at least that’s how every road trip begins.

But near the middle of the journey, many travelers find themselves restless for the road trip to end. This feeling intensifies with every interruption—like stops for fuel and for bathroom breaks—which can dissolve the adventurous mood of the road trip completely.

Solution? Turn your stops into adventures and experience a little more of the United States. To help out road-weary travelers, I made a trip from Provo, Utah, to Los Angeles, California, to find the best stops down Highway I-15.

Scipio, Utah

If you take the first exit in Scipio (eighty miles south of Provo), a gas station appears almost like a mirage in the middle of central Utah’s mountains. At first I wasn’t expecting much, but off to the side of the gas station is the most bizarre thing—a petting zoo! Admission to the large pens of animals is only $2, and best of all, you get to feed the animals for free! In this petting zoo you will find all kinds of animals—from those commonly found on the farm to more exotic creatures like peacocks and emus.

Beaver, UT: The cheese samples are so good, you can’t stop with one!

Beaver, Utah

As you continue further south on I-15, you will reach the town of Beaver. At first glance, Beaver may seem like any other small town, but three minutes off the freeway is one of the best cheese factories in Utah: Dairy Farmers of America’s Cache Valley Cheese. After arriving, I found my right hand wrapped around an ice cream cone and my left hand clutching some of the most delicious things in this world: cheese curds. Stacks of them are sold in big barrels around the store. So many people come through each day that you’re lucky if the factory doesn’t run out. In addition to cheese curds, there are several varieties of cheese and other dairy products. The factory even has its own taste-testing area, so you can find the perfect dairy product for you.

Cove Fort, Utah

This outpost was built and settled by the Hinckley family in the late 1800s. They were instructed by the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a halfway point between Fillmore and Beaver. Cove Fort was exactly that—thirty miles from Beaver and thirty miles from Utah’s old capital of Fillmore, a perfect rest area for horses and weary travelers. Cove Fort is a square stone building that sturdily sits amidst dry yellow prairie grass.During an hour tour around the fort, you’ll learn some of the fort’s building designs—like how the large entrance door is made of wooden slabs but the center is hollow and filled with sand. This arrangement helped protect the fort: if bullets or arrows penetrated the wood of the door, they would be slowed by the grains of sand. Cove Fort, an oasis of information in the center of the mountainous desert, offers fun facts for a refreshing break from a long car ride.

Yermo, CA: This is the diner that sits on the west side, separate from the main restaurant. Grab those cinnamon sticks here!

Yermo, California

In the middle of the desert of Yermo, the sign -announcing the city limits appears out of nowhere: Calico Ghost Town. Despite its utter lack of poltergeists, Calico is still an interesting place to visit. Calico is the perfect name for this place because of the colorful mountain rocks and dirt that surround the town, making it look like a calico quilt. The town itself contains decayed remains of what used to be a bustling city; it is preserved to give a glimpse of its lively days in the late 1800s. The entrance fee is only $6, and the experience is well worth it. You are able to ride a train around the restored mining town and learn about what took place in the gaping caverns and mines that look as though they were ripped into the mountainside. Some other fun activities include exploring mines and trying your hand at panning for gold.

The best place to cool down in Yermo is at Peggy Sue’s Diner, located ten minutes from Calico. You travel through time from Calico’s rustic town in the late 1800s to a bustling 1950s restaurant surrounded by “diner-saurs”—the owner’s little joke to describe his quirky fetish with the brass dinosaur statues that are placed around the property. Peggy Sue’s has a beautiful garden area, where the owners leave bags of dried bread for customers to feed the ducks and other animals near the pond. But the food they serve their customers is the best feature of this diner. The cinnamon sticks are warm and unbelievably soft with whipped buttercream frosting on the side for dipping; make sure you get your own order!

Baker, CA: The world’s tallest thermometer.

Baker, California

Baker boasts ownership of the tallest thermometer in the world. Across the street from this attraction is one of the best of the Mad Greek chains in the West, according to many Californians. The place is built like a massive temple, with Greek statues and olive trees. I ordered a strawberry shake and a delicious gyro heaped with lamb, and I felt like I was eating with the gods.

Though the food is less godlike next door at the Alien Jerky store, you’ll still want to stop by to check out their 25 different flavors of jerky that you can sample before you buy. But beware the Colon Cleansing jerky: one hour and two water bottles later, I finally extinguished the fire that had erupted in my mouth.

Barstow, California

The last stop before reaching LA is Barstow, California. Barstow is a unique area to refuel and rest those glazed-over eyes. Right off the freeway exit, there is a McDonald’s and a souvenir mall built into a mock train station. The seating area for McDonald’s and the other restaurants are all placed in train cars at the side of the station. The surroundings make it feel like you’re on a train as you chomp on your fries and burger.

I journeyed inside the souvenir part of the station and found myself in a mini Seattle Pike’s Place Market. There are shops that contain all sorts of collectibles and knickknacks amidst the fun, high-energy atmosphere. After this break I was back on the freeway and only two hours away from LA. After experiencing the excitement of all these stops enroute to LA, I found myself wanting to do one thing: hit the road again.

—Kristen Hutchings