Photographer documents America’s forgotten rest stops and uncovers historic beauty on the road

Most tourists seek out the exotic or well-known attractions when they hit the road. But for one Austin-based photographer, it was the mundane that inspired a series of snaps worthy of a second look.

Ryann Ford began wondering about rest stops when she moved from California to Texas almost seven years ago. As a freelance photographer who focuses primarily on architecture and interiors, Ford was excited by the structures contrasted against the landscape.

“I was traveling all over Texas to do these different assignments and I started noticing these little rest stops, some were really cute teepees and or converted oil barracks,” Ford told FoxNews.com.

After doing some research, Ford realized that locating these small and historic rest stops would be a challenge.

“I saw a lot of news articles about how many of these areas were being closed off. A lot of people don’t really think about this but during the recession, rest stops are one of the first thing to get cut from state budgets—surprisingly they can cost thousands of dollars to maintain between mowing the grass and keeping them clean.”

Ford discovered that many rest areas were razed and replaced with fast food joints or done away with altogether. Undeterred, she set out to capture as many of these places as possible before they were shut down. 

Taking a week off every few months, she traveled the country with her mother as her trusty navigator. Despite being armed with the most current maps, Ford was disappointed to find many stops had been demolished upon arrival. Still, she found plenty of surprises along the way.

“I was so fascinating to learn about how prominent architects were picked or why certain areas were chosen,” Ford said. “My hope is that the project documents and memorializes a unique time in American history where it was about the journey, not just the destination.”

Her  journey has taken her over 20,000 miles through 17 states with an impressive collection of 150 plus rest stops. And now her nostalgic goal is paying off. After a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, the photographer now plans to put a book together next year. She received many heartwarming notes from baby boomer funders who applauded the idea.

“I really did not know what to expect from this…so I was excited to see people care and these images bring back so many emotions. I get so many emails from people saying ‘Oh, I remember playing around there as a kid!’ or ‘My family stopped here for a picnic years ago.’”

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