I drove from Michigan to Utah and back over the past two weeks. Twenty-six hours each way. I got to stop at a lot of big gas stations. I’m not sure you can even call them gas stations anymore! You can purchase gas, but you can also purchase coffee, soda, slushies, made-to-order breakfast, lunch, and dinner, some clothing, and so much more. They have these brand new, clean bathrooms. Some have showers. They really are amazing places! I mean, these are not your Mom and Dad’s gas stations!
All of these are on the highway. So it’s mostly a collection of all those folks who travel the highways and byways of our great country. A cross of truckers, retirees, the new van people, and folks who still don’t trust airplanes. I was taking my dogs out on vacation, and one of them was too old and too big to fly. So, we had to drive.
What I noticed on my drive west was the farther you get west, the better the big giant gas stations are! I know there are a ton of Buc-ee’s fans out there, but don’t sleep on Maverik’s, Wawa’s, Sheetz, Racetrac, Casey’s, and Kum and Go. As you come east, the gas stations get worse. Speedway in Michigan and around the midwest is really good, but once you get past Ohio, the gas stations suck. Why are gas stations better south and west? It doesn’t really make sense.
I got home and, the next morning had to stop at one of these big new gas stations in my own town. That’s when it hit me. These gas stations are the high-end coffee shop of the blue-collar workforce! I do not say that disparagingly. I say that with some affirmation. I saw all these hard-working folks getting ready for their day. Big cups of coffee, energy drinks, breakfast burritos, lottery tickets, and a full tank. (By the way, don’t sleep on big gas station breakfast burritos!)
The comradery of these folks was much more lively than I’ve seen in any stuffy Starbucks!
I was driving my suburban dad Pickup Truck, wearing my Friday casuals with a trucker cap on, so I almost didn’t stand out. I had the feeling that many of these folks stopped at this same gas station every single morning they went to work. Many probably came back for lunch and maybe even stopped on the way home if they needed something.
Neighbors and work peers swapping stories from the games the night before. Giving each other grief over some mistake someone made on a job. Asking for favors and help. It was the corporate water cooler of their day. But with a much more robust and colorful network of folks.
These big giant gas stations have it figured out. They figured out all these hard-working folks need a place to congregate before their day gets started. They need a place where they can use a clean restroom. Maybe sit for a bit and make a call. Access to wifi. Grab a bite of lunch or a cold drink in the afternoon.
I’m a big fan of the blue-collar Starbucks. I like the vibe. I like the people. I like the energy.