My mother’s friend Dana has very specific tastes. She lives two and a half hours from Baltimore and DC, and refused to stop at any but a handful of specific gas stations whose bathrooms were deemed acceptable, or at least not quite as bad as the rest of ’em. This is how I became, at a young age, a pit stop snob.

Cleanliness doesn’t bother me. I want food not involving a bun, strong coffee and easy in, easy out. Hard to find all three at once, but I try. We all need goals.

The rules:

1. Any stop without gas is pointless.

2. The Ulster rest stop is exactly as far as I can go if I have a morning coffee in Albany before leaving. They have a lovely summer farmer’s mini-market come June.

3. The Plattekill rest stop is exactly as far as I can go if I have a morning coffee in Brooklyn before leaving. They have hands-down the best food stop on either stretch, a Cafe with a full bakery spread, sandwiches, surprisingly large salads and very thin crust personal pizzas. I haven’t tried the latter, but they look really good, which isn’t something one often says about rest stop food.

4. The Modena rest stop on the other side has a dangerously leaky roof (car-sized puddles so big I wondered if a roof that porous would stay up long). However, the bathrooms on the second floor are only a few feet from the top of the parking deck, the quickest pit stop by far. Very important.

5. The Thruway Web site is no help. Though they do point out a Denny’s in Angola near the PA line I-90, which makes me jealous.

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