RVers Love This Unusual Buc-ee’s Tradition
One of the reasons people travel in RVs is to see things. They see epic places like The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. On the way to the big stuff, there are plenty of small sites that capture the public’s attention, too, like the World’s Largest Frying Pan, historical markers, and The Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas.
RVers also frequent truck stops and travel centers in between these attractions. Many travel centers have an extensive list of amenities for the weary traveler, such as diners, showers, laundry facilities, and restrooms. Many can be used as an overnight stop as well. RV trip planning apps give users the ability to search for those specific types of fuel stations because of their importance to RV travelers. A Buc-ee’s travel stop seems to have them all, which is why RVers love this unusual Buc-ee’s tradition.
Is there a Buc-ee’s near me?
Most travelers just want to know, is there a truck stop near me, and do they have the right type of fuel. In other words, you probably won’t find a tour of America’s truck stops in any trip photo album unless that pit stop is a Buc-ee’s.
Do a quick search of Buc-ee’s on Facebook, and you will find many photos of people posing with their RV in front of that particular travel center. A similar search will not reveal the same fascination with other travel centers. So why that one?
The answer: it’s an attraction in and of itself. Though that is the correct and straightforward answer, it is not a satisfactory one for this writer. It brings up more questions than answers. The comprehensive reasoning as to why a chain of fillup stations became a photo op for RVers requires a step back in history.
Everything is bigger in Texas
Everyone knows the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” The saying is not a product of large toast, big hair, huge hats, and a penchant for larger than life characters. Texas is big, larger than many countries. According to TheStoryOfTexas.com,
“Texas has a total area of 268,820 square miles (696,241 km²), ranking just behind Alaska in terms of size. But Texas has over 60 times the population of Alaska! With some 24.3 million people, Texas is second only to California in terms of population, with three cities—Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio—among the top ten most populous in the United States.”
The idea and joke that everything is bigger in Texas can be seen in opening comments before the annual meeting of the Association of American Nurserymen as far back as 1906. The speaker told the story of a Texan telling a New Yorker that they had pumpkin seeds as large as New York pumpkins. The fact that people were cracking jokes as far back as 1906 demonstrates that people already thought of Texas as having large things.
The earliest publication of the phrase, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” actually appeared several years after that 1906 meeting. In 1913, a writer for the New York Tribune wrote,
“Everything is bigger in Texas than anywhere else, it seems, so naturally New Yorkers are quite out of scale.” Texans slowly embraced the saying, and by the 1950’s it had gone from an idea to the full-on cliche that everyone just seems to know.
Texans do not like to disappoint when it comes to the many myths and legends help about their state and its people. So as the tale grew, so too did Texan’s toast, hair, belt buckles, buildings, and businesses.
The history of Buc-ee’s
In 1982, Arch “Beaver” Aplin befriended the bank president of the branch he worked at in Lake Jackson, Texas. The president gave him a $250,000 loan to open up his first store in Lake Jackson. The peculiar name of the store is a combination of Alpin’s nickname, labrador retriever, and the Ipana toothpaste mascot.
The first convenience store would prove to be a wise investment decision. Over the next two decades, more Buc-ee’s sprung up, and the name would become known throughout Texas. Of course, merely owning a chain of successful travel centers was not enough. It was a Texas chain, after all, and everything is bigger in Texas.
In 2012, Buc-ee’s brand built the largest convenience store in the world. The store is in New Braunfels, Texas, on Interstate 35. It is 68,000 square feet, which is about 30% of the size of a typical Walmart. Within that spacious, convenient store, there are 83 toilets, 80 fountain dispensers, 4 Icee machines, and 31 cash registers. The gas station has 120 fueling stations (60 pumps).
Fuel stop becomes a destination
Just like the World’s Largest Frying Pan or Ball of Twine, the world’s largest convenience store is one of many oddities that draws those traveling the open road to make a pit stop. It wasn’t long before people started to consider Buc-ee’s a social media “rite of passage.” People stop to snap a photo with their rig while fueling up at one of the 120 fueling positions and later upload a video tour of the world’s largest gift store.
People tend to get excited about Buc-ee’s on a fandom like level. A customer and RVer, Darcy Volden, said,
“You’re not official until you do your very first fuel up with your RV at Bucee’s.”
The Traveling Pisces chronicled their first visit to Buc-ee’s on their YouTube channel. Check out their video below to see the size and vast array of products in the convenience store.
It helps that in 2012, Buc-ee’s New Braunfels won an award for cleanest restrooms in the U.S. With travel centers and gas stations notoriously having less than appealing bathrooms, everyone wants to see what the best has to offer.
Buc-ee’s has since expanded to other states. The next time you are asking that common RVer question is there truck stop near me, it might be worth it to check for a Buc-ee’s. If you want to take a peek at the largest one and send a photo to your friends, you are going to have to travel through Texas, where everything is bigger.
Levi Henley is a freelance writer and has also been full-time RVing with his wife and pets since 2015.