Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Wally('s) World

In preparation for writing this post, I combed through more than a decade of previous posts and was shocked - truly dumbfounded - to discover that I had never written a post specifically dedicated to Buc-ee's. I'm honestly a little embarrassed that I never gave this chain of convenience stores/gas stations, founded by Texan Arch "Beaver" Aplin III, its due. 

I've mentioned Buc-ee's a few times, but these are the only two blurbs I could find going back 2,000+ posts:

(March, 2014) On the way home we stopped at the brand new GIGANTIC Buc-ee's in Waller, TX and bought ice cream treats to tide us over until we could stop at Chick-fil-A for dinner 45 minutes later. I also thought about buying bananas, sushi, gummy bears, a Buc-ee's shirt with a Ferris Wheel on it, a bow (and arrows), an antique clock, a cell phone car charger, grill utensils made out of antlers, and a purse shaped like a mermaid. Seriously, that place has everything.

(February, 2015) When we first moved to Texas we drove past a billboard advertising the delicious beaver nuggets sold at Buc-ee's convenience stores and travel centers. For obvious reasons, we made no plans to visit Buc-ee's.

As it turns out, beaver nuggets are not actually nuggets made from beavers, but caramel and butter-glazed corn puffs. (You can see where things got confusing though, right?) Turns out most Texans adore these tasty treats, so much so that many seem to regularly adjust their travel plans/routes to include stops at Buc-ee's.

From what I gathered when we first visited a year ago, Buc-ee's carries just about everything one could possibly think of or need...including a little taste of home in the form of Wisconsin's Finest Cheese. So now I travel like a true Texan (though in a smaller vehicle than most): along a route specifically chosen for its proximity to a Buc-ee's. Except I'm not stopping for Beaver Nuggets…I'm stopping for Wisconsin's Finest.


Back to present day...

The funny thing is that this isn't actually a Buc-ee's tribute post either...this is a Wally's tribute post.

I didn't even know Wally's existed until this summer. We were driving across Illinois, from Chicago toward St. Louis, in a caravan with my sister and her family in one car and my parents in another car. In preparation for everyone needing a bathroom break, my sister - in the lead car - texted to inform us that we'd stop at the nearing Wally's. I honestly thought she was referring to a Wal-Mart, so I was surprised when we followed her as she exited where I couldn't spot a one. 

Turns out she meant Wally's, "Home of the Great American Roadtrip."

I couldn't believe the similarities to Buc-ee's: spotless, family-friendly restrooms (with rows of stalls that go on for days); in-store Wi-Fi; a carving station; a gourmet coffee and beverage bar; a beef jerky bar; a popcorn station; spacious and well-lit parking lots; a seemingly endless number of fueling stations; retail items to satisfy just about every shopper who might ever walk through the door; and last but not least, a furry mascot...who also happens to be a beaver.  

It sounds silly, but stopping at Wally's was such a fun experience for me, I think because it felt familiar to one of our regular roadtrip stops in Texas but on a Midwestern scale. (Everything is bigger in Texas, included Buc-ee's. Wally's is, size-wise, like Buc-ee's "little brother," though the two are unrelated in terms of ownership/management.) I took pictures, browsed all of the food and drink options, shopped the retail area, and brought home a Troop Beverly Hills shirt I didn't need.


So if you're ever in Pontiac, Illinois or Fenton, Missouri, check out Wally's. And if you're ever...well, anywhere...in Texas, check out Buc-ee's. You'll be able to find bananas, sushi, gummy bears, store-specific merchandise, a bow (and arrows), an antique clock, a cell phone car charger, grill utensils made out of antlers, and a purse shaped like a mermaid at both, but if you want beaver nuggets, Buc-ee's is the way to go.

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