As a kid growing up in the days of Howdy Doody, the Beach Boys and Hank Aaron, traveling long distances over two lane highways was how we did it. There were no super freeways sided by feeder roads lined with cookie cutter restaurants, chain hotels and shopping centers. We always took the “scenic” route through one small town to the next, and we loved it. After all, we had no choice.
One of the highlights of traveling in those days was always stopping for gas and treats at Stuckey’s with its shelves full of pecan logs, sweet-sweet divinity, jellied fruit slices and sugar and spice pecan halves that actually took the skin off the top of your mouth if you ate too many. Oh my . . . those were good times.
Today there is a Texas equivalent to the old Deep South tradition made famous by Mr. Stuckey right down to the never ending array of quirky roadside billboards counting the miles until your final destination. It’s called Buc-ee’s and it’s become a real Texas attraction for all ages.
Based purely on my childhood memories, Buc-ee’s is Stuckey’s on steroids. Though smaller Buc-ee’s locations are found throughout Texas, the mega stores in Madisonville, Wharton and Lulling are my favorites by far.
From the addictive Beaver Nuggets to traditional chicken salad sandwiches and wraps, Tex-Mex and southern favorites are there to be had in the market style display cases and on shelves, in self serve coolers and hanging on pegged racks as far as the eye can see. Bags of old style candy and jars of pickled tomatoes and candied jalapenos are set near aisles of Buc-ee beavered souvenirs and mementos from the great State of Texas.
Buc-ee’s in Madisonville was wall-to-wall shoppers on the day I stopped by. The mass of travelers were filling bags, baskets and arms with goodies for the upcoming holiday. They were lined up at the registers and the soda fountain walls. Order numbers for meals were being announced non-stop from the overhead speakers as good old Country music filled the air. It was organized chaos and everyone seemed to relish in it. We were at Buc-ee’s and lovin’ it.
A steady stream of folks came and went in one of Buc-ee’s most widely promoted attributes . . . the cleanest restrooms in Texas. Signs along the road for miles had announced that the biggest reasons for visiting Buc-ee’s were #1 and #2, and that even your Mom would approve of the facilities. No lie . . . she would have.
For me a visit to Buc-ee’s is a flashback to a slower time when dad did the driving, special treasures and treats were found at a stop along the road, and traveling was simpler. It’s a great getaway and as one of the billboards reads, “You can hold it!”.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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