I never expected to get lessons on rodents of the genus Castor–AKA the humble beaver–while visiting a tourist trap, but here we are and you are about to read of beavers real, ancient and imaginary.
We were in Mississippi when we saw a story on TV about a place called Buc-ee’s (pronounced Buckey’s, for you northerners). I’d never heard of it, but the TV report made it seem quite intriguing. The first thing I learned about Buc-ee’s is that their mascot happens to be a beaver. That was puzzling because I expected their mascot would be a buck, and I said as much to Ben. Ben pointed out that it made sense because beavers have buck teeth. Hmm. I’ve never noticed beavers having a serious overbite, so in the interest of Journalistic Integrity, I researched beavers. Here’s what I learned. Beaver front teeth are actually chisel-shaped. They grow constantly and the upper and lower teeth jut out because of their structure.
The teeth make contact in such a way that they become honed to sharp edges. The uppers do not hang over the beaver’s bottom teeth, as is commonly portrayed. If they did, the beaver teeth would eventually become super long like those people who let their fingernails grow so long that they can’t do anything for themselves. Beaver teeth also look like they need whitening strips, as their teeth are bright orange. This is not because beavers are lazy about oral hygiene, it’s because beaver tooth enamel is rich in iron which colors them orange. The iron content renders the teeth strong enough to gnaw through just about anything. In my search for beaver authenticity, I also learned that in the Pleistocene era beavers were–well, giant. I mean like ginormously big in comparison to today’s beavers. Depending on how Buc-ee Beaver is portrayed, he’s either way bigger or way smaller than the Giant Beaver of ancient times. International Beaver Day happens to fall on April 7. This post won’t reach you in time to celebrate, but you can prepare for next year’s Beaver Day celebration by clicking on this link: International Beaver Day Beaver teeth are generally misrepresented in size and color in all cartoon/clip art images, and don’t get me started about why we call protruding teeth “buck teeth.” A buck is not a beaver, and vice-versa.
Anyhow, back to Buc-ee’s, which has nothing to do with inaccurately portrayed beaver teeth but has everything to do with accommodating the voracious appetites of travelers in southern states. Buc-ee’s is a tourist rest stop of epic proportions. Unlike conventional travel plazas, commercial trucks are not welcome at Buc-ee’s, so there are no semis cluttering up the landscape. The news show also mentioned that Buc-ee’s was known for its barbecue, and that people traveled for miles to find one of the several stores scattered through the south.
On the freeway to Gulf Shores, I spotted a sign for Buc-ee’s. We had to stop. We pulled off at the designated exit, followed the signs and there it was, a New Jerusalem intent on fulfilling every tourist’s desires, liberally decorated with Buc-ee the Beaver’s face. This particular facility covered 53,250 square feet of real estate with 120 gas pumps, a long line of TESLA charging stations and a retail building that is bigger than your neighborhood Wal-Mart Superstore. The amount and range of merchandise is mind-boggling, like if Menard’s, Shell Oil, Cracker Barrel, Bass Pro, Pottery Barn, Kroger, Petsmart and Bob Evans decided to merge into one store.
Highly distractible persons such as myself don’t do well in such places. The visual overload paralyzes my brain and I ping-pong from one display to the next, marveling over pig-shaped wine corkscrews one minute and glow-in-the-dark tent stakes the next. Ben is more disciplined than I, to a point. He can focus, but is prone to impulse purchasing. I will veer off to something different but Ben will buy the glow-in-the-dark tent stakes I find. In essence, we are exactly the type of people the store is trying to entrap. The smell of Texas-style barbecue permeates every corner. When a fresh load of meat comes out, the employees shout “Fresh brisket/pulled pork on the board!” Everything is packaged for grab and go, so you either like your food Buc-ee’s way or you don’t. There are many healthier options for food like salads, fruit and such, but we grabbed our brisket sandwiches and house made potato chips. Go big or go home, we say. Ben loved the brisket. I thought it was really good for commercially produced meat, same with the sauce, but I like things spicier and messier. There are no eat-in facilities, everything is designed to be eaten in your vehicle. Barbecue for the middle of the road, so to speak.
If you’re on the road and you see a sign for Buc-ee’s, you really should stop by. It’s like visiting NYC’s Empire State Building or South Dakota’s Wall Drug; touristy but worth the time to contemplate humanity as people swoop up merchandise and snap photos of themselves waving foil wrapped brisket sandwiches in front of the Buc-ee truck. Ben and I walked back to our rig clutching our Buc-ee’s swag. For the record, here is what we bought: A Buc-ee’s rubber ducky (for my kayak); a T-shirt for Ben; a Buc-ee’s face silicone trivet to keep our coffeepot from sliding off the counter; a corkscrew shaped like a pig as a gift for our neighbor who owns a pig, and of course, chopped brisket sandwiches, 2 for Ben and 1 for me, and a serving of Buc-ee’s chips. Ben spotted a group of girls trying to get a selfie in front of the Buc-ee’s sign and veered off to offer assistance. He took several snaps for them as they took turns posing fun, then sexy, then silly. He looked really pleased when they fawned over him for being “so nice.” Then we went in the rig to devour our barbecue. Even the Red Dogs got a snack of Buc-ee’s “sweet potato doggy snicky-snacks.”
In Alabama we made two side trips to the Buc-ee’s located in Leeds so that Ben could fulfill his barbecue addiction. Another Buc-ee’s is in construction near Huntsville, AL, directly on our regular winter route south. The chain started in Texas 1982; Buc-ee’s is advancing east and north in it’s quest to capture the loyalty of interstate road warriors.