We first heard of Buc-ee’s a couple of years ago when we were staying at a campground outside of Houston. A nephew who lived nearby came for a visit. It was during that visit when he asked, “Have you been to Buc-ee’s yet?”
My first thought was he was talking about a souvenir shop for Tampa Bay’s football team. Okay, maybe not—not in Texas. Then I thought it might be a famous rodeo with wild bucking broncos. Maybe it is a western-themed amusement park featuring Bucky the cowboy, or could it be an all-u-can-eat steakhouse? You know, the kind of place Texas is famous for. A place where you can get your meal for free if you eat the whole cow.
As I pondered the question, Grammi and I turned to looked at each other. We had no idea what he was talking about. “OH MAN! You have to go to Buc-ee’s”, he said, “it’s the biggest convenience store in the world.” What? A convenience store! I would have never guessed he was talking about a convenience store.
As it turns out, the state where everything but the campgrounds are bigger has super-sized the convenience store and turned it into a destination. Typically, with a hundred or more gas pumps and a store the size of a super Walmart, Buc-ee’s has taken the convenience store to a whole other level. It is known for its discount gasoline prices, savory brisket sandwiches, kolaches, large selection of jerky in a variety of flavors, and beaver nuggets. They have many other food and snack items to choose from, as well as, apparel, home decor, camping supplies and so much more. I suppose they have anything and everything a person might want.
We did not stop at a Buc-ee’s during that trip through Texas. Truth is, it is not really a convenience store—they are spaced too few and far between to be convenient. It is more of a travel center with around forty stores in all of Texas. Buc-ee’s is expanding across the southeastern United States. In February of 2022, they opened their first store in Florida. It is located along I-95 near St. Augustine.
We have regretted not stopping at a Buc-ee’s ever since we missed out in Texas. It was hard not to notice all the hype then. I remember the billboards along the highway in Texas telling how far it was to the next Buc-ee’s. I can still see in my mind’s eye all the people wearing hats and t-shirts with a logo of a bucktooth beaver in a red cap and the word Buc-ee’s printed across the front. And later, when telling people we drove through Texas, they would always ask if we stopped at Buc-ee’s.
So when we departed the Golden Isles in Georgia, we set our navigation app for 200 World Commerce Parkway, St. Augustine, FL. We were finally going to check out a Buc-ee’s. It was a little bit out of the way to our next camping spot, but not too much. We felt it was worth the extra few miles to see what all the hype is about.
It was no surprise when we arrived to a busy and crowded store. The vehicles moving around the parking lot and fueling stations were like bees swarming a hive looking for a place to land. We needed to fuel up and began searching for an available pump to pull up to. With 104 fueling stations, you would think that would not be a problem—but it was, especially since we were towing the travel trailer. Apparently, people think it is okay the leave their cars parked at the pump while going inside to browse the store. Anyway, we got the fueling done, then circled around the lot a couple of times and found a spot to park far away from the hustle before going inside.
Holy cow! It was something else inside. For a convenience store or travel center or whatever you want to call it, it had it all. It had all things Buc-ee’s from hats, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and so on. I walked around in awe. I’m not sure, but I bet you could even find baby formula there. I know I saw onesies and bibs for infants. There were cases piled high with jerky. There were cases and cases of cold drinks and a station for self-serve fountain drinks. There were pre-made sandwiches for a quick grab-n-go and a team of employees sedulously slicing and chopping brisket for fresh made sandwiches. There were snacks everywhere you looked. Anyone with a sweet tooth would have no problem finding their favorite confection. Coffee, donuts, I mean the list just goes on and on.
We bought a couple bags of beaver nuggets—a crunchy corn puff with a brown sugar and caramel coating. I wished we had bought more. They were addicting. We did not buy the souvenir t-shirt or hat. I thought we might, but we didn’t. We bought kolaches, brisket sandwiches and a few other things and in the far corner of the parking lot, we set up our chairs, rolled out the awning and ate lunch right there in the parking lot while watching a steady flow a traffic come and go. Buc-ee’s was certainly an interesting place. I understand the hype now. We will be sure to stop any time we pass one again.
We continued on to Rodman Campground. It is a state park near a dam that created the Rodman Reservoir. As part of the now defunct Florida Barge Canal Project, Rodman Dam remains despite efforts by environmental groups to have it removed to restore the Ocklawaha River to its original condition. However, they are faced with strong opposition because over the past 50 years the reservoir has evolved into one of the best places in the country to catch trophy bass. As one of the deeper bodies of water in Florida, anglers come from far and wide to fish it. Much of the area’s economy now depends on the many fisherman that come to the area.
After getting the camper set up, my friend Brent and I went fishing at the dam. We cast right into the swirling water next to the dam’s outflow. We caught some fish, but not what we were hoping to catch. During certain times, striped bass congregate at the dam. It is one of the few places in central Florida where I know to catch striped bass. We hoped to experience the fierce fight of a striped bass, but it was not to be on that day.
We stayed at Rodman Campground for two nights. Other than fishing and bike riding, we took a drive to nearby Salt Springs. Salt Springs is the largest campground in the Ocala National Forest and the only one with full hook-ups. Swimming in the spring is a popular summer activity. Grammi and I agreed it would be a good place to camp with our family one day.
After 17 days staying at five different campgrounds in three states, it was time to go home. It was nice to be out and about in our camper again sharing our adventures with friends. It was fun times. Now it is time to prepare for the next adventure. Stay tuned, we have more camping and travel planned for the very near future.
So until next time…Happy Days and Safe Travels.