Ryann Ford’s photographic treasure, The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside is a visually stunning celebration of America’s early love affair with touring on the open road. Memories abound in this one-of-a-kind collection. The book was inspired by a road trip Ford took from California to Texas where she discovered the unique, sometimes quirky, and occasionally exotic rest stops that were so much a part of the historic roadside landscape. With her curiosity aroused, she researched the subject and discovered that these iconic bits of Americana were rapidly disappearing.
The Last Stop is the culmination of several years spent locating and photographing these monuments to a bygone era. The pictures are starkly beautiful with the architecture set against desolate landscapes. One of the most striking features is the absence of cars and people at sites that were once a center of road-weary travelers and dusty vehicles. Each image engages the eyes, the mind, and the imagination and though there is reluctance to leave the scene, the reader is compelled to turn the page and discover what next awaits. The text that accompanies each photograph is merely a thumbnail map paired with the name of the location, highway, and latitude and longitude lest it distract from the strong reality of each photograph.
A forward by Joe Ely titled Lord of the Highway sets a thoughtful tone for the book. A Brief History of Rest Stops by cultural historian Joanna M. Dowling, a leading authority on the subject, provides context for the photographs that follow. However, it is Ford’s extraordinary gift for capturing the lonely beauty of her various subjects that is spellbinding.