Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself.
If you know me, you know that I’ve driven cross-country more times than I can remember. I’ve gone east-to-west, west-to-east, north-to-south, south-to-north, and south-to-north-to-west (and even that reverse). After my husband and I spent 18 hours driving from south Florida to central Ohio, I swore I’d never repeat that. Famous last words, of course. While we haven’t hit the 18-hour mark again, we have done 15 and 16 hours. Each time, of course, I say it is the last time.
There is no way we could drive straight through without a few stops. Florida and Georgia are famous for their huge billboards advertising hotels, oranges, pecans, peaches, gator petting, the world’s best BBQ, and more. We usually ignore such signs and stop at the travel centers we know—Love’s, Speedway, TA, Pilot, etc—for gas, chocolate, and pit stops. Mike pumps the gas, and I buy the chocolate. The pit stop is for Mike and Riley because germophobe that I am, well… Please excuse my being a bit indelicate, but I don’t use public restrooms. I’m not sure whether it was my mother’s constant, “You’re going to catch some disease!” or the flies that were holding an international conference in a rest room stall outside of Zacatecas, but I have developed a bladder of steel.
I bring this up because a little over a year ago, I noticed a sign with a huge, bucktooth beaver announcing the “World’s Cleanest Restrooms.” About 25 miles south of Warner Robbins, Georgia, I saw the beaver again. All along the road, “Buc-ee” popped up with questions and pronouncements: “Ever had beaver nuggets?” “You can hold it!” “Your throne awaits!” “All three food groups! Ice. Beer. Jerky.” and so many others.
After reading recent friends’ posts about stopping at Buc-ee’s, we (Well, I, really) decided that we needed to check it out.
In 1982, Arch “Beaver” Aplin opened his first convenience store in Lake Jackson, Texas. He named the store by combining his childhood nickname (Beaver), his dog’s name (Buck), and Bucky the Beaver of Ipana Toothpaste fame. Buc-ee’s was born.
In the early 2000s, Buc-ee’s started to expand both in number and size. By 2018, there were more than 30 in Texas. As of January 2022, there are 42 Buc-ee’s with six of them in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The company has plans to add travel centers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado, and South Carolina. The two in Tennessee (Crossville and Sevierville) should open this year.
The original Buc-ee’s is still open, but successors of the 3000-square-foot store are larger….a lot larger. Averaging 40,000 square feet, the travel centers have dozens and dozens of gas pumps (over 100 at some of them), huge car washes (the largest at over 250 feet long), and over 1000 parking spots. By the way, Buc-ee’s is for cars, only. Signs at every entrance proclaim, “NO 18-wheelers,” and you won’t see any in the lot. In addition to possibly damaging the blacktop and holding up traffic, the big trucks do not quite fit the “family-friendly” image for which Buc-ee’s strives.
Later this year, two Tennessee Buc-ee’s will open with the one in Sevierville (east Tennessee) coming in at a whopping 70,000 square feet.
Are You Hungry?
Inside Buc-ee’s, though, is the really good stuff. While there are gifts, clothes, toys, and home goods at Buc-ee’s, the real draw is the food. And, there are plenty of choices. Like jerky? You’ll find more than 10 types on the jerky wall. How about kolache? There are more than 15 sweet and savory varieties. Spiced/sugared nuts? The smell of those sweet pecans, peanuts, and almonds fill the air. There’s a wall of soft drinks, icees, and coffee offerings.
But, barbecue is king at Buc-ee’s. In the center of the action (and store), you’ll find the Texas Round-up where employees chop and slice brisket to make fresh sandwiches. Buc-ee’s hired award-winning pitmaster Randy Paul to develop the chain’s BBQ and teach employees how to cook, slice, and chop it. We watched as employees slapped about a cup of chopped brisket on large buns and wrapped them for hungry diners.
If you don’t like barbecue, you can also get sausage (on a stick), turkey, or pulled pork. In addition, employees at the huge deli counter will make Reubens, pastrami, club, fried chicken, or any number of other sandwiches fresh-to-order.
To round out your lunch, grab a bag of freshly made chips. Prefer something sweet? Pick a fudge, candy, ice cream, cookie dough, caramel corn, or any number of other sugared treats. While you’ll find some name brands in there, Buc-ee’s makes and sells its own products.
Take the very popular Beaver Nuggets. Similar to Corn Pop Cereal, Beaver Nuggets are one of those terribly addictive snacks. They come in different flavors (salted caramel, chocolate coated, spicy, etc) and are crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth good….or so I’ve heard. No offense to Buc-ee’s, but the name turned me off.
Let’s Talk About the Thrones
The pride and joy of Buc-ee’s are the restrooms, and they have won numerous “awards” for being the cleanest gas station restrooms in America. In addition to offering more privacy in both the men’s and women’s rooms, each one has an attendant whose only job is to keep the restrooms clean. Because swarms of people filled the Warner Robbins Buc-ee’s when we visited the other day and because I couldn’t walk much on my broken ankle, I didn’t get to check out the restrooms. Perhaps, someday I will.
We both found Buc-ee’s interesting. The prices that we saw were quite reasonable (79 cents for a huge drink…. $5-8 for sandwiches…. average of $4 for snacks like pie cups, sugared nuts, beaver nuggets, etc), and the entire place was clean. If you need ice, you can grab a small bag for 69 cents and a large one for 99 cents. Even the gas was about 10 cents less expensive than the gas stations we saw at the previous exit.
Mike and I agreed that we’d stop again when I can walk around more. Until then, if you love the beaver nuggets, let me know all about them.