I made the punishing three-hour drive through endless miles of desolate
Texas wasteland (otherwise known as nature) between Longview
Station to a horse show for my eldest and most expensive daughter,
Ally. Just outside the fair city of Madisonville,
there arose out of the horizon the towering Buc-ee's sign. A visit
to Buc-ee's is an event that I find almost as disconcerting as a horse
Whenever my family stops at Buc-ee's, the kids rush for the doors
like it's Christmas morning-if Christmas was held in a cavernous gas
station convenience store and Santa was a massive hillbilly rodent,
the Buc-ee's mascot-a beaver, I've been told. But Buc-ee's isn't just
any gas station convenience store. It's like a redneck Neiman Marcus.
One of the main draws of Buc-ee's is the immaculate condition of the
entire facility, something I truly appreciate. Unfortunately, this
attracts other people besides me, hordes of other people. And while
I am thankful to have a men's room available on the highway that doesn't
look like a murder scene, there is a certain sterile, assembly-line
quality to the place, like a medical research facility, but with pecan
logs and Corn Nuts.
To maintain this disarming cleanliness, Buc-ee's employs a fleet of
janitorial staff, the Buc-ee's Secret Service, each armed with a broom
and dust pan. These ubiquitous employees lurk around the property
watching your every move, making you feel guilty about your own germs.
A parking-lot diaper doesn't have a prayer at Buc-ee's.
When you walk into Buc-ee's, the cashiers closest to the doors purport
to greet you with a friendly "Welcome to Buc-ee's!" but the so-called
greeting usually comes across as a 500 decibel accusation. "You mean
you haven't bought anything, yet?!!!!"
Along with this eardrum-shattering welcome, your nose is immediately
assailed with marvelous aromas. Apparently, the Buc-ee's policy is
only to sell food that is cheap and completely void of any nutritional
value, which means it's delicious-and will likely kill you.
As I was trying to avoid being trampled near the fudge display, the
employee behind the counter, adorned with shower-cap, plastic gloves,
and a hazmat suit, insisted that I choose a sample. The Buc-ee's fudge
counter is like the Baskin Robbins of fudge. The choices are endless,
and a little ridiculous. Green fudge, really? I nervously hesitated
as the fudge lady wielded her fudge slicer like a battle axe and awaited
my choice. I finally chose a flavor that sounded edible (the soft
praline), and received my precious sliver. Unfortunately, she expected
money if I wanted any more.
The only exceptions I've found to the mouthwatering choices at Buc-ee's
are the Beaver Nuggets, which taste like a cross between Kellogg's
Corn Pops and packing peanuts, and the jerky. Apparently jerky has
become chic these days, and Buc-ee's has a veritable jerky boutique.
I always thought jerky's sole purpose was to keep cowboys alive in
the desert. Maybe I'll give jerky another chance the next time I have
a hankering for heavily seasoned zombie flesh.
A visit to Buc-ee's is never complete without at least one restroom
visit. Even if you don't need to "go," you go for the spectacle, if
nothing else. The men's room at Buc-ee's is like an airport hangar,
and it's clean enough to eat off the floor. (I think they serve nachos
in there.) The only complaint I have is that the 200 urinals are packed
so closely together that you're wearing the deodorant of the guy next
to you when you step away.
On the way out of Buc-ee's, amid my relief, I'm always amazed by the
staggering selection of merchandise emblazoned with Buc-ee the beaver's
smiling (or horrified glaring) face. They have everything from baby
bibs to underwear. Yes, gas station underwear! The last time I bought
underwear at a gas station . . . . Well, never mind.
I recently read that more Buc-ee's stores are in the works, and because
of my family's fondness for stopping there, it looks like there will
likely be many more visits in my future. So I guess I'll put on my
big boy, gas station underwear and order some jerky.
© Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" August
15, 2017 column