Until my March trip to ToyLanta I had never heard of Buc-ee’s.
On the way down to begin our trip, as we passed through Richmond, Kentucky on Interstate 75, my lovely wife let out a sqee, the likes of which she usually reserves for spotting a Sephora or something related to SpongeBob, The Walking Dead or the playwright, Tracy Letts (four things which rarely exist in the same spot).
It was a Buc-ee’s store under construction. Apparently Mel was well-acquainted with the chain of humongous convenience stores through YouTube, and she was really excited at the prospect of eventually visiting one, even though this one was clearly, not quite ready to open yet.
A couple of state lines down the road, and with plenty of warning from frequent billboards, we came upon the Buc-ee’s in Calhoun, Georgia, not far North of Atlanta, so we were able to go in and see what all the fuss was about.
Let me explain what Buc-ee’s is. Technically, it’s a convenience store. However, they’re located and laid out sort of like a truck stop, only it seems that they don’t go out of their way to welcome trucks. They are HUGE, maybe one-third to one-half the size of a Walmart. They tend to have between 80 and 120 gas pumps.
And the big attraction is…they have the cleanest restrooms currently available anywhere on the planet Earth. Seriously, they are the number one place to go number one, or two. The stalls are private and clean and as soon as you leave one a team of forty or fifty people rush in to sanitize it.
The chain was founded in Texas in 1982, and in recent years they have started expanding beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.
They are tourist attractions as well. People will get on a bus and ride for hours just to pull up at a Buc-ee’s, relieve themselves, and partake of some of the ridiculous amount of foodstuffs, clothing, toys, and various knick-knackery available at Buc-ee’s twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all year long forever and for all eternity.
The food is pretty darned impressive. They have their trademark brisket, pulled pork (fine if you like it–personally the smell of pork cooking nauseates me) plus they have roasted nuts, a beef jerky bar, a fudge bar (very nice), Dippin Dots, a bakery and a whole range of their own brand of snacks, including “Beaver Nuggets” or “Buc-ee’s Nuggies,” which, to be honest, don’t sound that appetizing to me. The kitchen (which is out in the middle of the store), the fudge and beef jerky bars and everything in the store is open 24 hours a day. Let me quote their website here…
Fresh hot food is available made to order 24 hours a day. At our travel centers, breakfast starts at 4:00 AM and ends at 11:00 AM. At our travel centers, made to order lunch items are available starting at 11:00 AM. We also have fresh homemade grab and go items available 24 hours a day. Our jerky, bakery, fudge, and Dippin Dots counters are always open!
They have a mascot, Buc-ee Beaver (inspired by the Ipana Toothpaste Beaver, who was just before my time), and he is seen in plush form and on hundreds of items ranging from shirts to shoes to hats to bikinis to chips, dips and soda and maybe even on home pregnancy tests.
When we came upon the Buc-ee’s in Calhoun, all the plush they had in stock was little keychain Buc-ee’s.
Fast-forward a couple of months, and Mel and I were looking for a quick weekend trip that would be less stressful than riding the Amtrak to New York for 31 hours in Manhattan. We’d heard that the Richmond Buc-ee’s had opened in April, and we love the shopping and hotels in Richmond and nearby Lexington, so last weekend we drove down Friday after Mel got off work–and it was a wonderful afternoon to drive–and checked into the hotel, waited two hours and drove to Buc-ee’s after 10 PM.
Why so late? Well, I didn’t mention it much, but Buc-ee’s can get a bit crowded in the daytime. Buses filled with day-trippers who have loaded bladders, and damned near ever single person who saw one of their five hundred or so billboards on the Interstate all converge, and…it was more crowded than going to Yankee Stadium on free bobblehead day.
And we’re still nervous about this pandemic thing. So we wanted to see what it was like late at night, since they are open 24/7. Turns out it’s much more pleasant, but hardly deserted. Basically we drove almost three hours to wait until after 10 PM to go to a place to pee and buy fudge, and it was worth the trip. Take a look at these photos and see for yourself.
The amazing thing is, these photos just scratch the surface. I didn’t get many photos of the food bars or kitchen. If you’re crazy like us, and want to drive three hours to go pee, from Charleston, head West down I 64 until you get to Exit 96 in Kentucky. Then follow the Route 267 until you hook up with Interstate 75 South, and in twelve miles get off ext 83 for Buc-ee’s. It’s open 24/7. Try to go late at night, if you can.
Holy cow — THAT’S a “convenience store”? That’s impressive as heck! WOW!