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I-94 Exit 347​ N 42 31.412' W 87 56.980' Kenosha

A Stop for Day or Night

        Welcome to Wisconsin. The Kenosha rest stop (actually located outside of Pleasant Prairie) has the distinction of being one of several stops designated as welcome centers. A welcome center is a rest stop located at a state border. These tend to be somewhat larger and offer more services than other rest areas. They also preserve the old rest area tradition of having rack after rack of tourist materials.
         This rest stop is located just north of the Illinois border, and is in a very busy area adjacent to the Kenosha outlet malls, a BP truck stop, several fast food restaurants, and a hotel. The area has been considerably built up over the last decade or so. This is the first exit, and the first rest stop, available to visitors from Chicago and other points south.
        Like all rest stops, this one is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Crews come in to clean, manicure the lawn, do repairs, and replenish supplies, but the site never closes, nor does the pavilion. At night the service counter, which is open and staffed during the day, is locked up. Yet racks full of classic rest stop literature remain. These are classic advertising magazines and leaflets from The Dells, various cities, assorted festivals, and un-named tourist traps. It's all here, just like in the days of old.
         Day or night, this place is brightly lit, and open to the public, with cars in the lot, and visitors using restrooms or accessing the vending machines.  There is never a point at which this stop is deserted. This part of the highway is the main route between Milwaukee (about a half hour north) and Chicago (about an hour south). At night this road flows with a constant stream of trucks.
        There is something special about these places at night - the way the traffic never stops,and the people always seem to be coming and going, even in the wee hours of the morning. Summers are busier, with casual drivers in the front and the ever present trucker in their own special area in the back, secluded from the highway. The cathedral glass front and bright interior lighting are a welcome sight to tired night time travelers. Everything takes on a different feel at night. Even the humble trash receptacles are photogenic. These shots were all taken in the early fall, just as the leaves were starting to drop. The yellow/orange sodium vapor lights make the orange fall leaves seem to glow. A light rain was falling, which gave even more character to the scene. These places never close - ever. So in December a visitor might arrive to find snow (carefully cleared from walkways) on the ground.















Amenities

  • 75 car and 27 truck parking stalls
  • Men's and women's restrooms
  • Handicapped accessible
  • Diaper changing facilities
  • Drinking water
  • Vending machines
  • Tourist information
  • Weather information
  • Telephones plus TTY
  • Picnic area and tables
  • Pet exercise area
  • Children's play area
  • Bicycle rack
  • Recycling areas

Features

  • Kenosha Area Visitor Information Center located on site.
  • Accessible from both directions.
  • Current rest area opened in 1991, the site layout was enlarged and reconfigured.
  • Specially designed building, replacing the original Department of Conservation/Tourism building.
  • Double restrooms to minimize disruption during cleaning.
  • "Welcome To Wisconsin" sign photo op
  • Reflecting pool and fountain on site.
  • "The Name 'Wisconsin'" Historical Marker located on-site.
  • "Cordelia A. P. Harvey" Historical Marker located on site.

        During the day, the place has quite a different look, with walkways, picnic areas, a couple of historical markers, and a staffed welcome center.
        There is parking for cars out front, and trucks around the back. It also features a dog walking area, recycling center, and a small playground.
        A map of Wisconsin is laid out in red brick on the walkway near the pavilion, and a Welcome to Wisconsin sign is prominently displayed near the road, as a greeting, and for photo ops of travelers.
        There is even a small pond, probably for drainage, though signage warns against fishing or swimming. Lawns are always clipped short for aesthetic reasons, but also because the deer tick and Lyme disease are recorded in the state.
        A number of trees grace the site, mostly planted with the stop was built almost thirty years ago. They have matured and provide ample shade. There appears to be no original growth, though the surrounding areas are relatively well wooded. Though this site is out on the road, the area has become a bit built up, largely due to the outlet mall, and to the services that have grown up around it.
        In addition to being the border between two states, this is also the overlap of the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. The Chicago METRA commuter train service comes up to Kenosha, making it an outlying bedroom community of the Chicago area.
        Land here is getting to be at a premium, and though there is no noticeable urban sprawl, there are no farmland here, with most of the land being developed or being held pending development.







A stop for welcome

        I love computers and the Internet; but in many ways they have diminished much of what we enjoy in life. One great example of this is what has happened to tourist information centers at rest stops. Such centers are rare these days, and have become much smaller. At one time, highway rest stops were monuments to mobile literacy. This is one such stop. In addition to all of the brochures, magazines, leaflets, and papers given out, this rest are is staffed with welcome center ambassadors. These are locals who know and love their state, and are familiar with this area. This area is staffed during regular business hours, and on weekends in the summer.
        The welcome counter is locked up with much of the literature locked away after the attendants leave. The items are free, the site is generous with its literature, and leaves many items out overnight; but precautions always have to be taken against vandals.
        Many tourist services are available for the full 24 hours that the facility is open. Free maps, regularly updated monitors that show local weather and traffic conditions, and rack after rack of advertisements and tourist guides inform and entice the traveler. There are literature racks on both sides and both ends of the building, as well as a counter full at the center of the building. There are also bulletin boards, maps, and safety warning in the entryways.
        The wide variety of tourist guides and advertisements come from a number of sources. The maps are given out by the state, and have a photograph and hello from the governor. Many other guides, like that to the state parks, campgrounds, and public recreational areas are also provided by the state, either the DOT, or the department of tourism.
        Much of the rest comes from various city or county government tourist boards, as well as the various chambers of commerce. Local festivals and fairs leave notices. Milwaukee has a particularly large presence here, between Summertime, the fair, the breweries, museums, and assorted festivals.
        There are many private advertisements here as well, including a huge number of leaflets for various businesses and tourist traps up in the Wisconsin Dells. These guidebooks and advertisements make great mementos, even from the places that don't get visited.
        Unlike the bunker style of many of the more remote rest stops, the huge glass front bay, and high airy ceilings make this quite an open space. Also unlike some of the more remote stops, this location is not so concerned with being green. With a large mall nearby, and city services coming out this far, this rest stop is able to hook nicely into the standard city water and sewer system, as well as to the power grid. Though not wasteful by any means, there is less need for the use of energy saving and water saving technologies. Massively constructed of steel, concrete, and brick, this structure will remain for decades or longer.
        Like all rest stops, the Kenosha stop has a number of vending machines. Two banks of machines grace the main concourse, offering soft drinks, candy, coffee, and assorted snacks. Like anything purchased on the road, they are expensive, but a welcome find if you are on the road and in need. proceeds go towards the maintenance of the facility. Like all of these areas, this location is spotlessly cleaned, with crews coming out regularly to clean, stock, and repair.
        Such machines tend to be very popular with children, but less so with their parents. So expensive have vending machine products become, that these machines now take credit cards, through a cell phone connection.
        While it is pleasant to get out of the car, stretch the legs, and grab a can of Pepsi from a convenient vending machines, a cooler in the car will pay for itself in just a few road trips - perhaps by the end of the first. The money saved can then be cheerfully spend on all of the wonderful tourist attractions whose brochures fill the walls.
        Also available is a change machine, possibly for those who do not have credit cards. The vending area at the front of the site is in pretty clear contrast to all of the free materials available throughout the rest of the facility. The good news is that there is a lot of competition here, including a mega market a few miles down the road. Still, for some the convenience of the easy on and easy off nature of the classic rest stop is worth paying a bit extra. No lines, no need to hunt around for what you want, and no problems with parking.
        Convenience costs, but sometimes it is worth the price.





        It's not every day that you see a mammoth hanging from the ceiling, or even a part of a mammoth, like a skull. Mammoths once lived in this part of the country, and their remains are found from time to time.
        This particular mammoth skull is hanging around to enlighten visitors about the nearby Schaefer and Hebior mammoth finds, in local Kenosha county, and about the exhibits of these finds at the nearby Kenosha natural history museum.
        This skull may be gone by the time this web page is being viewed. Such displays of local points of interest come and go, tending to be on loan from their owners in order to get publicity.
        If you are a young person, you may have to ask your parents or grandparents what these are. They are long extinct, like the mastodon whose skull is hanging from the ceiling in the photo above. These are pay phones, which at one time could be found everywhere dotting the American landscape. Emergency numbers may be dialed for free. Anything else requires a quarter. Long distance calls may cost even more.
        At one time, these were a necessity, particularly for travelers on the road. They have largely been supplanted by cell phones. Pay phones today are rare, and almost never seen. As past generations learned, these phones are built like tanks, and are very nearly indestructible.
A Stop to Park

         Because this stop is located in an area adjacent to many other services, it is not the usual isolated fast in/fast out rest stop. Also, unlike most stops in Wisconsin, it is accessible from both sides of the freeway, rather than having a mirrored stop for traffic bound in the other direction. The same exit used to access the outlet malls, also gives access to this rest stop, as well as a gas station, fast food, and some other facilities. This is a great place to stop and relax after a hectic day of outlet shopping, or to stop and get one's bearings upon reaching the Wisconsin border.
        Getting back on the freeway there is a choice between an easy on, or going out and taking the shared ramp. Both ramps have long smooth returns to the freeway so that acceleration can be achieved.
        Once at the site it has the usual division between parking for cars, and for trucks and other larger vehicles.
        The front area, meant for regular passenger cars, is well provided with wide walkways, planters, and trash receptacles. It is well lit at night, and well maintained year round. The front lot holds 75 cars,with a capacity of 27 truck in the back lot. The back lot has easy in and easy out stalls for trucks, so that no backing is necessary. Passenger car parking is standard angle parking.
        Traffic comes and goes all day, and well into the night. This is one of the state's busier rest stops,in part because it serves both directions of freeway traffic, and also due to the business of its location, and the fact that it is the first stop on the Wisconsin side of the border.The area is well populated with restaurants,  smaller strip malls, and an assortment of little shops due to the proximity of the border. For ssome reason, a whole slew of cheese shops has sprung up here. It appears that everyone in Illinois wants to buy Wisconsin cheese.
         There is in truth a lot of different shopping to do here, thanks to the anchor of the outlet malls, and this area has become a real draw. Technically, this is the township of Pleasant Prairie, but everyone in the area associates it with Kenosha, which is several miles east of here, on the shore of Lake Michigan. 




A Stop to Eat and Play

         When the kids get tired of asking if you are there yet, and have stopped asking you to pull into the local tourist trap and buy things, they may want to stop and burn off some energy. This is a small playground for little kids, but might help get the restlessness out of them. If that doesn't work, there are grounds to run around on, and if there is a picnic lunch in the car, there are benches and tables to stop and eat for a while.
        All picnic benches are permanently mounted on concrete bases. Many are covered with small shelters to protect from the Sun or the elements, and most have walkways leading directly to them. The benches remain year round.
        All in all, this makes a great picnic stop, not too different from a city park. Everything is well maintained, and the site is well provided with waste receptacles.







Commemorative
        Every rest stop has a historic marker, and usually also a memorial dedicated to some person or event. The Kenosha stop has one of each, right near where cars come in and park. Many rest stops also have native specie gardens, though the Kenosha stop does not.
        The signs are sited on little pebble strewn plots, surrounded by brush. They are mounted on substantial wood frames, designed to look rustic, as are the markers themselves.
        One Kenosha memorial honors Cordelia Harvey, who set up hospitals for recuperating veterans of the Civil War. The other gives some background of the early days of the state,and suggests several possibilities about how Wisconsin got its name.
        The markers add points of interest, give travelers a sense of travel, and of the places through which they pass, and enhance the park like quality of the stop. They were both added shortly after completion of the stop, in 1991. The Wisconsin marker dates from 1994, and the Cordelia Henry marker is from 1998.

A Stop for "Rest"
        It must be admitted that the DOT of Wisconsin really knows how to build a rest room, even in the middle of the countryside.
        These areas are well tiled, spotlessly clean, and well lit. There are two sets of rest rooms, so that even during cleaning a restroom will always be available for either (or any) gender.
        The high narrow windows allow for some natural light, but insure privacy, and lesson the opportunities for vandalism that the 24 hour cycle of these stops sometimes encourages. This type of construction also makes these places less expensive to heat and cool.
         Changing stations are provided in all rest rooms, and all are constructed with no soft or porous surfaces making for easy cleaning. The men's room has a small trench under the urinals that is well drained and designed to allow for wet mopping or hosing off of the main tile floor.
        Photos were taken during the day and at night. So dependent are these on artificial illumination, that hardly any difference can be seen, except that the windows are white during the day,  instead of black.
        Rest rooms area located at opposite ends of the building, and never close. They are accessible through unmistakable and impressively framed archways. Each archway leads to a pair of restrooms, one of which may be in the process of being cleaned, while the other stays open.
        Being adjacent to a large shopping mall, and within the limits of Pleasant Prairie, this stop has access to regular city sewer and water. it thus has no need for the special sinks and heads featured at some of the more remote rest stops.