In most places around the country, gasoline prices are dipping. You know what that means – summer’s here and the time is right for piling the kids and/or the dog into the car for a road trip.
We were on the road this past week, and deep in the heart of the Lone Star state we wheeled in to a truly awe-inspiring site: the Buc-ee’s truck stop/convenience store just north of New Braunfels, Texas, between San Antonio and Austin.
Buc-ee’s is a chain of stores found along the highways of Texas. They sell typical convenience store junk food, some hot kolaches and fudge and their own brand of beef jerky, hot peanuts, etc. They also sell a wide variety of knick-knacks, cheap Texas souvenirs and similar crap. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
But this Buc-ee’s we visited, it was friggin’ massive! It was at least the size of a Walmart and sure enough, my research tells me at 68,000 square feet it is truly the largest convenience store in the world (Wikipedia is your friend). It also has 60 gas pumps, about 78 toilets and 250 employees.
This is the largest store in the Buc-ee’s chain and I’m told when it opened in May there were cars stretched up and down the frontage road just waiting to get in there. People in Texas love Buc-ee’s for some reason; everywhere, I see people wearing t-shirts with the logo featuring a goofy cartoon beaver. Instead of a Disneyland or Six Flags shirt; like Buc-ee’s is the destination tourists really want to make pilgrimage to.
Anyway, back to the crap they sell in the store. There’s a huge rack of CDs, mostly country music, but because it’s Texas the selection is considerably more choice than your typical roadside truck stop. You got yer George Jones, yer Willie Nelson, some Ray Price and even a disc of Johnny Bush. A Dolly Parton disc and wow, even Robert Earl Keen! Unfortunately, there’s Pat Green too.
There were some copies of the great series from New West Records, Live From Austin TX – glorious audio tracks of performances from the great “Austin City Limits” TV show. Here’s Willie Nelson on the show, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, even the Texas Tornados (which IMO is the best of the series). You don’t have to go to Buc-ee’s to find these; your friendly neighborhood record store ought to have a good selection, or you can shop online.
There are also discs from Icehouse Music, a company that rack-jobs music from Texas, Americana and roots artists. That’s the label where you can find the great Johnny Bush (he wrote “Whiskey River” for Willie) and his autobiographical Kashmere Gardens Mud, as well as the incredible two-disc tribute to Guy Clark This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, which features Robert Earl, Willie, Joe Ely, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and many more.
Some years ago I picked up a CD at a truck stop, California Jukebox by the Flying Burrito Brothers. Now this isn’t the Gram Parsons-Chris Hillman Burritos, it’s the 21st century version, with John Beland and Gib Guilbeau and featuring guest shots from David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Sonny Landreth and even original Flying Burrito steel guitarist “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow. It came out in 2001 from the last incarnation in a long line of imitation Flying Burrito Brothers. It overcomes low expectations and it was a pleasant surprise for me – dig one up if you can. It’s on Icehouse Records, apparently no relation to Icehouse Music above.
Well, this tirade has arrived at a place far from where we started – that’s a nice summer road trip. So, for your summer road trip, here’s a soundtrack for ya.