Wonderful or Overwhelming?
Continuing our trek to Florida for Kim’s EXIT Realty convention at the end of October, we left the land of all things Santa Claus in Indiana and pointed the van in the direction of Tennessee.
We crossed over the mighty Ohio River and into Kentucky headed to an overnight stay in the driveway of our longtime friends Joe and Suzy in Mt Juliet, Tenn. just outside of Nashville.
We were gunning to get through Kentucky and across the Tennessee state line there before dark, but with the days getting shorter, and a lot of miles to put behind us, we didn’t quite make it. After a couple failed attempts to find our friend’s rural home in the dark, we finally pulled into their driveway.
After a couple minutes of long overdue hugs, they tossed us in their car and off we went to enjoy some local craft beers and burgers at Nashville favorite – M.L. Rose’s – at their Mt. Juliet location.
After a great night catching up while sipping good beer and munching on signature burgers, and quiet sleep in the van, we said our goodbyes, and headed down the highway south, deep into Tennessee.
Wouldn’t you know, our travel route through Tennessee for the day would take us right past a Buc-ee’s gas station and convenience store.
What the heck is a Buc-ee’s?
If you haven’t heard of Buc-ee’s and you are a traveler, then you “ain’t” been around, my friend. Well, to be honest, we’d never been to a Buc-ee’s until this road trip.
Naturally, we first heard the hype of the chain watching van lifers, RVers and travelers on social media.
After our visit a few days before at the famous IOWA 80 – World’s Largest Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa, would Buc-ee’s even be a contender for best road trip fill-up, stop n’ shop?
Other than seeing a few of our favorite YouTube channel personalities dancing around their vans wearing adult size furry Buc-ee’s onesies, or getting gasoline at endlessly long, covered fuel pump islands, we didn’t really know what to expect.
By the way, Buc-ee’s advertises themselves as having the “world’s cleanest bathrooms!” We’d have to check it out for ourselves as well.
We’re all for awesome knickknacks!
The huge chain of convenience stores opened for travelers in 1982. The company prides itself on providing a clean, friendly, and in-stock environment for their customers 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year.
Their 50-plus locations offer various foods, snacks & drinks, plus eclectic themed T-shirts & knickknacks.
We pulled off I-40 at the Genesis Road exit in Crossville, Tennessee and wound our way to the Buc-ee’s. It’s about halfway between Nashville and Knoxville.
This particular Buc-ee’s is the chain’s first Tennessee location and the chain’s 50th store. It just opened in June of this year.
With the endless stream of cars and pickup trucks circling around the complex we timed it right and somehow snagged a parking spot near one of the entrances of the massive 54,000 square-foot store.
We sat in our van for a few minutes staring through the windshield. Individuals, couples, families, and Buc-ee’s employees were zooming past, all coming and going somewhere.
After a couple deep breaths, we made our way past the outdoor display line of BBQ smoker grills, aluminum E-Z Feeder deer feeders, and Buc-ee’s emblazoned bagged ice cube freezers to the front entrance.
We were in shock the second we walked through the doors
So many people! So much noise!
The decibel level of hundreds of people talking, the sound of cash registers ringing, the piped-in Country music playing and kitchen staff yelling “Brisket on the Board” at unexpected intervals was an experience likely only replicated a long time ago. We would suppose it could have been at some ancient medieval marketplace where they yell a lot.
Judging by the number of vehicles in the parking lot, we suppose the crowds were to be expected. If you don’t like crowds, heading down the road to a Love’s Travel Stop, Pilot Flying J truck stop or maybe that lonely BP gas station is a better option for your mental health.
Admittedly, all first-time visitors are probably going to be just like we were. We stood just a couple paces inside the doors. Our mouths were wide open with blank expressions on our faces as our heads slowly scanned back and forth attempting to have our brains process what we were seeing and hearing.
To say we were totally overwhelmed would be an understatement.
Buc-ee’s – If they don’t have it, you probably don’t need it
It’s the kind of place where if you have a hungry craving for it, Buc-ee’s likely offers it. Every type of beverage, every type of snack food imaginable, every kind of jerky and meat stick, dozens of various hot and cold sandwiches, fresh salads, yummy pastries, and desserts are available.
Further into the heart of the store there’s the homewares, pillows, kitchen gadgets, wall décor section. There is a sporting goods, deer corn, hunting supplies, and fishing pole section. And wind chimes. They sell wind chimes, too.
Add to this area a huge selection of men’s and women’s clothing, jackets, tee shirts, blouses, hoodies, flip flops, shoes, boots, and hats.
They have hundreds of kids’ toys and games, puzzles, and of course thousands of stuffed Buc-ee’s Beavers of every size displayed in full-size vintage pick-up trucks.
You want Buc-ee’s logo merchandise? Oh boy, do they have the merch! Bumper stickers to playing cards and shot glasses. If they can put the big-toothed smiling cartoon likeness of “Buc-ee’s Beaver on something, they have. They might have had disposable diapers with the Buc-ee’s logo on the butt if memory serves us right.
But is it “Buc-ee’s clean?”
First order of business was finding the restrooms and seeing if they are indeed the “World’s cleanest.” JK’s experience in Buc-ee’s reminds him of a restroom in an upscale hotel/casino in Lake Tahoe, CA he once visited. He remembers being creeped out that the restroom was fully staffed by whited-jacketed old men.
The restroom area at the Crossville location was massive, brightly lit, spacious, and spotless. And yes, a restroom attendant was on duty to make sure the toilet paper and multiple paper towel dispensers were always full.
Buc-ee’s restrooms are kind of the same as that hotel, except there wasn’t a guy in a white jacket standing by the sink handing out terrycloth towels to dry your hands on.
The Buc-ee’s restroom floors looked to be mopped frequently and free of fly-away paper towel scraps by the trash receptacles. The sinks were wiped down and the toilets sanitized. The stalls are in private rooms, the sink areas partitioned.
In 2012 Cintas Business Services Company ran a survey and confirmed Buc-ee’s cleanest restrooms claim.
Giving Buc-ee’s food a try
Located in the center of the Crossville store is an open-air hot food station where a large kitchen staff prepares and assembles Buc-ee’s famous barbecue pork and Texas beef brisket sandwiches.
Whole slabs of smoked brisket seemed to appear out of nowhere, landing onto a large central wooden cutting table.
Upon the meat’s arrival the employee in command of the brisket table would yell at the top of her lunges above the din of the massive crowd inside the store, “BRISKET ON THE BOARD,” while raising the pitch of her voice on the end of the word “board.”
Within a second, the other half dozen members of the BBQ kitchen team would echo her words back in unison with the same rising tone, emphasis, and volume.
This ritual continued during our visit, as cooks scooped pulled pork and chopped brisket onto dozens of fresh burger buns laid out on trays.
Another wraps and labels the hot sandwiches and places them in a heated display case where the hungry masses can grab as many as they want.
It was a rookie mistake on our part
We grabbed a couple foil wrapped sandwiches from the self-serve “Brisket” display section to eat back in the van.
Being Buc-ee’s newbies, we didn’t look at the actual foil package label. We only later discovered the sandwiches we had grabbed were not Texas beef brisket but pulled pork.
Coming from Martin County, the pork and bacon Capital of Minnesota, the pulled pork was okay, but not as good as home. Plus, we were kind of disappointed we grabbed the wrong sandwiches.
Another Buc-ee’s item that everyone raves about are the warm candied cashews. These sweet and salty treats are made in-store (you can watch the process) and definitely made for a yummy “back on the road again” driving snack.
Try some Beaver Nuggets
We bought a small bag of Buc-ee’s “Beaver Nuggets.” Try to say that without smiling.
These are another snack several van life YouTubers claim, “are to die for.” They are basically caramel coated puffed corn. We weren’t too impressed.
Although our gas tank was full, Buc-ee’s Crossville location has 120 gas pumps to choose from. Crazy! Buc-ee’s isn’t a truck stop, so you won’t have to jockey around big rigs to get fuel. Large motorhomes and RVs should have no troubles maneuvering in and out.
Finding your way back to the highway is not a problem either, as there are plenty of direction signs. Large arrows and Interstate 40 markers are painted directly onto the pavement throughout the property to point you in the right direction.
It’s a travel and tourist must see
It was great to experience another famous road tripper’s destination stop while working our way towards northeast Florida. Plus, we got to cross off another place on our van journeys bucket list.
With all that there is to eat, shop for and see inside the huge store, and if you are not on a tight travel schedule or budget, you could easily spend an hour or more checking it all out and filling your shopping cart full of Buc-ee’s stuff!
Until next time, safe travels and Merry Christmas!
Find out more about Buc-ee’s. Click here: https://buc-ees.com/