Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
—-The Beatles, Blackbird
A lot of people wax enthusiastic about Buc-ee’s. These are giant, giant convenience stores, now mostly set along Interstate Highways in Texas as immense gas stations.
Most people rave about their clean bathrooms. In 2012 the New Braunfels Buc-ee’s won the Cintas Best Restroom Contest. When I was in college, a long, long, time ago, I ran a gas station in the middle of nowhere (sadly, it’s long closed now) during the summers and vacations. I would open up the small bathrooms ’round back at closing and hose them down good. That seems enough for me.
A typical Buc-ee’s has 60 gas pumps, 80 soda fountains, and 31 cash registers. You order your food from tablet-equipped kiosks and your selection is cooked (probably microwaved) to order. When I worked at that gas station in the 70’s I had two pop machines and a couple of shelving units full of candy, but … well, I mostly sold a lot (and I mean a lot) of cold beer.
There was one guy that would stop by every day, purchase a longneck bottle of Dr. Pepper out of the machine and a small bag of beer nuts. He would pour the sugar-coated nuts into the bottle of Dr. Pepper – some would always foam out. After selling him these for a few years I decided to try the concoction myself.
It wasn’t as good as I had hoped.
So, finally, after hearing so much about Buc-ee’s and seeing the beaver shirts – even eating a bag of beaver nuggets that someone gave me, I decided to stop at a Buc-ee’s and see what the hoopla was about. I don’t remember where I was coming from but I pulled off the interstate and parked along the grassy border (full of people letting their dogs shit) and walked in.
I was not impressed. It was huge… but simply more of the same. The restrooms were clean, I’ll give them that. I bought a fountain drink, and the ice was cold – so no complaints there. But it seemed to be so big and so tacky that it went beyond amusing to obnoxious. Actually, it was worse than that – it was boring.
When I walked out to my car the villainous bird in the photo was giving me the evil eye. He was hopping around looking for dropped Beaver Nuggets or any other misplaced sugary snack.
He gave me the creeps.
I won’t stop at the truly huge Buc-ee’s, but then I don’t like shopping malls, either.
On the other hand, the smaller ones can be downright pleasant. I’m usually only in search of a drink and a restroom, so there’s that. But you can find truly fresh fruit, and there are those Beaver Nuggets. When I bought my first bagful, I ate half and then threw the rest away. It wasn’t that they were bad. They were too good. I had to stop, or I’d have been hooked for life.
Buc-ee’s does have the best restrooms, but if I’m traveling down I-35 I try and hold out for a stop in West at the Czech Stop. If I’m on I-45 I try and schedule my trip so I’m going through Corsicana during business hours for the Russell Stover Candy factory outlet. Nothing like the smell of chocolate when you get out of your car in their parking lot! Unless it’s the smoked meats at Woody’s Smokehouse in Centerville, another I-45 stop.
Thanks – I always like to stop at the Czech Stop – Russell Stover though – too much of a risk of sugar overdose while driving.