Friday evening as a front marched across Texas, firing up storms and anxieties, I was racing north of Austin, hedging my bets: How close to home could I get while avoiding the worst of the storm, which might have included strong wind and hail?
I was swiping between a weather radar and Google Maps, watching the red line and my blue dot to calculate a safe place to pull over. As luck would have it, Buc-ee’s in Temple was perfect. I could refuel, park my car under the large coverings, then linger inside while the worst of the storm passed over.
In theory, anyway.
So, after an hour spent at the store, here are the 10 most fascinating things I encountered and/or learned:
1. The gas tanks won’t explode if lightning strikes nearby and knocks the power out.
Just after topping off, lightning struck very close — like at the perimeter of the parking lot. And for a brief second, in utter darkness with a deafening boom reverberating through every molecule surrounding us, we all thought the end was upon us. The entire place went dark. But, nay. The lights inside came back on quickly, and the gas tanks just kept pumping, everyone was OK. Woosh.
2. Buc-ee’s has a $125 bottle of cabernet for just $80.99.
In the middle of the small wine section, there’s a display with about seven bottles of Nickel & Nickel 2016 cabernet sauvignon. Wine.com had it listed at $125. James Suckling gives it a score of 94 and has this to say:
“This bottling has an earthy edge with black-truffle, blackberry and cassis aromas leading to a very suave, plush and quite powerful palate that delivers a long, flavorful finish. Pure cabernet sauvignon.”
Who knew? Get all in it, Buc-ee’s.
3. The restrooms are an ode to our civilization.
I think my passion for the clean restrooms at Buc-ee’s stems from having young kids and taking them on road trips. I can’t tell you how hard it was to find a clean restroom 15 years ago. Things were seen that can never be unseen, no matter how hard I try. Buc-ee’s has collectively lifted the bar for restrooms, at least at gas stations in Texas. I’ve always wanted to interview the person who sat in a meeting one day and said — no, demanded — “We’re going to change the game when it comes to gas station restrooms.” (Please email me.)
I have no idea who the merchandise buyer at Buc-ee’s is, but I honestly wish I did. I feel like they’d be cool to hang with. This is solely based on the flock of ceramic chickens they’ve invested in. These capons, leghorns and roosters are a curious display of strength and color. There are maybe three dozen for purchase in a small corner of the shopping area, and I want them all. One will not do, the flock needs to stay together.
5. Pickled quail eggs.
Need something new for your charcuterie tray? I jest! These are gross (looking, at least). Almost ruins the whole chicken display. Why did we do this? Who voted on it? I want a recount. And I do not want to hang out with this buyer.
6. A tobacco and patchouli scented candle.
Your house can now smell like that hippie friend of our parents. Or that friend of your son's. Or San Francisco. Either way, I like it! There was a unique cornucopia of scents, which wasted a good amount of time and, in the end, was really hard to turn away. (Saving my money for chickens.)
7. I actually do need reading glasses.
While just being silly, I tried on a pair of glasses from a circular display. There was a pair that resembled Dwight’s from The Office. Cool, right? I put them on and pulled up my phone to take a selfie, and my phone was a whole other color scheme. Everything was bright and crisp! I switched over to a text and the words were like “POW! HERE WE ARE!” Guess I need glasses. $#%*! I was just being SILLY!
8. Holiday shopping.
There’s truly something for everyone here. From Willie fans to Michael Scott fans. There’s certainly a lot for people who harbor strong feelings about ice chests and cold drinks. And the dining section has adorable, succulent-shaped candles and a variety of cookbooks. You could knock out your entire holiday list here. And you should.
9. Pure sugar.
Need something to occupy the kids on the drive down to the coast this spring break? Buc-ee’s has it: You can fill a giant straw with sugar from a giant dispenser. I say just skip the plastic and hold the kids' heads under the dispenser. Throwing in the towel is fun sometimes.
10. Chocolate-covered beaver nuggets.
Yep, true story. You can now get beaver nuggets covered in milk, dark or white chocolate. I personally don’t imbibe in beaver nuggets often, so I didn’t try any. I’m sure they’re fantastic, though. How could they not be?
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Final Thoughts: Driving in a plasma ball is exhausting. Napping pods?
As it turns out, that storm line was trotting northeast, hovering over I-35 for most of the evening. So, while I missed the leading edge, the next two hours of driving was like being trapped inside a plasma ball. The prairie was pitch dark, then every few minutes, lightning would spread across the sky in a blinding display, like a bratty 4-year-old palming the plasma ball and just holding his hand there. Then the 10 seconds it took for my pupils to adjust while driving 60 mph (everyone was driving much slower) in the rain were a wee bit stressful. I missed Buc-ee’s. They need napping pods.
Alas, I made it home. And read a book with my new glasses (honestly, the first time I’ve read at night in a year). But, no chickens. This time.