On Sunday I went to Buc-ee’s. And it was about as ridiculous as you’d expect.
You did not know this, but there are tourists who make a point of stopping at Buc-ee’s beause it’s so quintessentially American you can’t believe it until you experience it for your own self.
I am one such biped. I’d been awaiting the opening of this particular Buc-ee’s in Athens, Alabama, for months.
It did not disappoint. You would not find anything like it anywhere on the planet except in the American south. It screams all y’all and is full of those items that loud people go for. My personal favourite is the chocolate-covered, rainbow-coloured sunflower seeds on whose package it says, proudly, “Made in the USA.” I snorted. Who else would come up with this, let alone produce it then sell it to willing customers?
Only Buc-ee’s, the quintessentially American gas station with roughly 700 gas pumps, is who. OK, I’m exaggerating. The one I visited only has 120. That’s one hundred and twenty individual gas pumps. And yes, on that Sunday afternoon there were people lined up at most of them. Where did all these people come from? Your guess is as good as mine. The entire region has fewer than half a million residents and is sort of half-way between Nashville and Birmingham. This ain’t where population density was invented.
When I exited I-65 there was an off-ramp straight from the highway to the parking lot that allowed me to avoid stopping or even yielding to any incoming traffic. Like the highway exit had been engineered expressly to get me to that parking lot as fast as possible. A coincidence, surely?
Buc-ee’s is, as previously noted, a massive gas station with massive car wash facilities and massive store that sells everything from pulled pork sandwiches to stuffed animals to livestock feeders, knickknacks of all kinds, cheap cigarettes and of course backyard BBQs.
And everywhere that damn beaver.
Buc-ee’s boasts the cleanest restrooms in America. Also in the world. I’m not sure exactly who went around the world to check on this, but — ever the conscientious journalist — I went to test the beaver loo and can confirm it was a-sparkling, as were the counters, floors and walls. Someone else called Buc-ee’s employees red-clad human roombas and while that’s slightly dehumanizing it’s also… not wrong. You can’t turn around without someone wiping the counter you were just looking at.
The company says its convenience store in New Braunfels (Texas, obviously) is the largest convenience store in the world at 66,335 square feet. That’s because the rest of the world is sensible enough not to call such an enormous building a convenience store. We call this a fucking warehouse.
Buc-ee’s doesn’t care about the rest of the world. It just cares about being bigger and better than it. Including having the longest car wash in the world, at 225 feet. That one is not to far outside Houston (also Texas, also obviously), and there is no word on whether such a long-ass ride washes your car better.
Buc-ee’s doesn’t care about that either. Or, no doubt, about the very disturbing car-wash dream my visit inspired. Gah that was awful.
Buc-ee’s does however seem to care about its employees, judging by the salaries it pays — advertised outside the store like it’s one more thing you can buy.
It cares about selling you a rack for your firewood, some Oakley shades, cheap (but surprisingly decent) coffee, more snacks than you can fit in your trunk, and big — nay, enormous — smiles.
That’s probably the best thing about Buc-ee’s. The people are super-duper friendly.
It turns out, dear diary, that being friendly is big, too. But in a very good way.