Road Trip Junk Food

Road trip junk food.

Sunday, my husband and I drove back to Charlotte from our daughter’s university. We had a friend’s son with us; he went down there with us, because he was visiting the university. Soon after we started our trip home, I told my husband we would need to stop for food somewhere along the way, because I hadn’t eaten breakfast.

That’s when we started energetically discussing our favorite gas station food stops. Yep, gas station food stops. Y’all can laugh, but occasionally, I like to sample gas station food.

First, we talked about Buc-ee’s, a chain of travel centers/convenience stores based in Texas. Buc-ee’s has opened locations across the south over the last few years, so we see their cartoon beaver mascot on highway billboards across several states. I have been in a Buc-ee’s once, in Loxley, Alabama, and I was a little overwhelmed, to tell the truth. Maybe it was because it was new, but there were far too many people. In defense of Buc-ee’s, however, they handled the crowd very well. There were lots of gas pumps and all kinds of tshirts, themed souvenirs, and different kinds of food. I have a friend here in Charlotte who swears Grandma GG’s Pepper Jelly sold at Buc-ee’s is his all-time favorite. Apparently, it’s hard to find in their stores, because it’s so good, so when he finds it, he stocks up. Buc-ee’s offers lots of different t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring their beaver logo, but it seems they are best known for their clean restrooms, brisket, jerky, and fudge. Unfortunately, on this trip, the only one we passed was way too busy for me to risk going in. Maybe next time. *For more information about Buc-ee’s, click here.

We then talked about Sheetz and Wawa, both based in Pennsylvania. There are no Wawa stores in North Carolina, but we have quite a few Sheetz stores located north of Charlotte. I’ll get back to Wawa in a minute. Sheetz is a longtime family favorite. My daughter and I love Sheetz and have been known to take a day trip to the one in Troutman, just north of Charlotte. We always laugh that we are road tripping to a gas station for food. We were introduced to Sheetz when a club soccer mom (I’m looking at you, Meredith Walker!) suggested we meet there during a tournament break several years ago. My daughter fell in love with the place. Made-to-order junk food? Yes, please! I love their tater tots and hot dogs, and my daughter loves the popcorn chicken. They also offer great burritos, tacos, and salads, but one of my favorite things to get there are the Sheetz Gobbz, a prepackaged small whoopie pie. Yum. A friend from Pennsylvania (props to you, Sara) made some gobs for me years ago, and an addiction was born. The Sheetz brand item is called Gobbz, and they’re pretty awesome…not as good as the ones Sara makes, but good. I highly recommend you try Sheetz if you find yourself in the vicinity; also, their bathrooms are always clean too. *To see more about Sheetz, click here.

As for Wawa, it’s another popular gas station/convenience store with made-to-order food based in Pennsylvania. The only one I’ve ever visted was in Ocala, Florida. I was visiting a college friend for a few days, and when she stopped to put gas in her car at the Wawa, I suggested we get some food while we were there. I would be lying if I said I remember exactly what I ordered. I know I ordered a cold hoagie, but I don’t remember which one. I do remember that I liked it. We sat outside at a picnic table to enjoy our meals, and I remember feeling like it was a positive experience. I’ll need to try Wawa again. To see more about Wawa, click here.

As I said earlier, we talked about Buc-ee’s but opted not to stop there on this trip. Our friend who was traveling with us extolled the virtues of the food at QuikTrip (QT), an Oklahoma-based chain that we have all over the Carolinas and in lots of other states. I have been in QT many times, but I never noticed that they have made-to-order food! How did I miss that? We decided we would get some food at QT. My husband won’t eat junk food, so while he put gas in the car at a QT, my friend and I walked inside to order. We located the ordering kiosks and started making our selections. I think our friend was a little surprised at the sheer number of items I ordered. Heck, I was experiencing something new, so I said, “Let’s order lots of different things! I want to check them out! We have a long ride; might as well enjoy some junk food!” And order we did. What did we order? We had a Cuban grilled cheese, a sausage biscuit, a brisket taco, brisket mac & cheese, a Buffalo chicken grilled cheese, a chocolate shake, a vanilla shake, an Icee, and a few other random snacks. Oh yes, we did! My personal faves were the Cuban, the brisket taco, and the brisket mac & cheese. Also, I never met a milkshake I didn’t like. We “feasted” on junk food for miles! I even sent my daughter a video showing her how much stuff we had ordered, and she called me, laughing. One thing I can say: QT knows food. Everything we had was delicious! To see more about QT, click here.

We have QTs all over Charlotte, so I called a friend with whom I often lunch and asked her if she knows about the food at QT. She said she does know. I said, “Seriously? We should grab lunch there one day.” Who would ever think the “ladies who lunch” would grab junk food from QT? Well, it will happen. I’m craving that Cuban grilled cheese. Maybe I will introduce her to Sheetz with a quick day trip to Troutman.

School Trip

This week, my 14-yr-old daughter and the rest of the eighth graders from her school are going on a trip for two nights. They go to a conference center a few hours away.


In fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, they visited camps. Well, most of them did. In fifth grade, my daughter went with them to a camp, but I think it was one night. It wasn’t her favorite night, and frankly, it wasn’t mine either. I was one of the overnight chaperones, along with another mom.

The kids weren’t allowed to take snacks, which can make for unhappy little girls. I will admit it: I took a few “not messy” snacks for them. I knew those girls weren’t going to eat the dinner they were served. Shhhh!

The cabin was fine. It was a cabin. The bathroom was even fine. The mattresses, however, were those thin mattresses covered in plastic. They make noise every time someone rolls over.

I woke up every single time someone rolled over that night. I could hear them every time. And every time, I thought someone was falling out of a bunk. So not only did I wake up, I woke up in a panic, thinking I needed to buffer someone’s fall. It made for a terrible night’s sleep. I was happy to leave the next morning before they started activities, and my daughter wanted to leave with me. I told her she had to stay for the day.

In sixth grade, they went to another camp for two nights. Of course, the night before, my daughter fell at soccer practice and injured her thumb. My husband brought her home around 9pm. Urgent Care was closed, and I needed to get her to a doctor before the field trip the next day, so we went to the emergency room. She got x-rays, but a radiologist wouldn’t see the x-ray till the next day. (The X-ray below is not her hand.)


I did a stupid thing. I sent her on the trip with the thumb in the splint from the ER. While she was gone, I got the call from radiology that it was not broken, but I should have kept her home. She was miserable the whole time. I shouldn’t have made her go. I will always feel guilty about that.

When the seventh grade trip came around, she had a horrible looking spot on her knee. I took her to the doctor the day before the trip and found out it was a staph infection for which she needed to be taking antibiotics. This time, I made the right decision: I kept her home.

Now, it’s time for the eighth grade trip, and this is supposed to be the fun one. They can take snacks. They can take their phones. They can take stuff. They aren’t required to stay with their advisory group. Fingers crossed she stays healthy enough to go, because she is actually looking forward to it.

A friend said yesterday that she is going to miss her daughter while they’re gone. While I always enjoy time with my daughter, I am going to welcome the opportunity to be lazy. No school pickup. No practice pickup. No driving all over town.


It is good for my daughter to have to fend for herself sometimes. This trip is a taste of that. Yes, she will be with friends and teachers, but they will be staying on their own. It’s good for them.

This summer, my daughter is going on a two-week trip to Iceland with a group of teenagers. I’m excited for her, and I’m a little jealous at the same time. Iceland looks beautiful in photos. My friends who have been there tell me it’s incredible and unlike anywhere else they’ve ever been. She will have the time of her life, I’m sure. She will be making memories that will last a lifetime.


I was the same age when I went on my first big trip out of the country with other teenagers. She will be 3 1/2 months shy of her 15th birthday, and that’s almost exactly how old I was when we flew to Mexico City, then traveled on to Cuernavaca, Taxco, and Acapulco…back when you could go to Acapulco. I know we returned on March 6, 1982, the day after John Belushi died. Everyone was talking about it on the flight home.


Taken right after we arrived in Mexico City, at the National Cathedral

That trip was an incredible learning experience for me and for my friends. I’m sure we came back with a mutual respect for each other and a respect for other cultures. We were exposed to more than we would have been exposed to as regular tourists. We learned a lot. We even learned how to haggle with vendors in the market in Mexico City…our first experience with that. That’s where we bought the sombreros pictured below. That haggling experience came in handy last summer when my friend, Jennifer, was purchasing something from a street vendor in Puerto Rico. He told her a price, and she was ready to pay when I stopped her and “haggled” with the vendor as best I could in Spanish. I’m sure he spoke English, but it was fun to try my hand at Spanish.


This photo is from our hotel room in at the Hotel Reforma in Mexico City…wearing our new purchases

In addition to learning about each other and a different culture, we learned a lot about ourselves. We learned how to handle homesickness…cry it out, and then the tears turn into laughter. We learned about sharing a bathroom and mirror space with four other teenage girls. And we looked out for each other. I was actually physically ill for a good part of the trip…Montezuma’s Revenge and a terrible upper respiratory illness…coughing the whole time. My friends helped me. Among other things, they supplied the Pepto Bismol I had for breakfast the day I woke up with Montezuma’s Revenge.

The pictures below are also from our Mexico trip in 1982. The one on the left is our waiter at a pizza parlor in Acapulco. Note he is posing next to the beer menu…there was no drinking age in Mexico in 1982. We might have taken advantage of that. The photo on the right is the cute waiter at our hotel in Mexico City, Manuel. I thought he was adorable.



The coughing was terrible and constant. The Montezuma’s Revenge was short-lived, thank goodness. But the memories are forever.

Anytime teens are away from their parents for more than a few hours, they learn something. Hopefully, while she is on her school trip this week, mine will learn something about keeping her own belongings separate from everyone else’s. This summer, in Iceland, I hope she learns something about getting those belongings together and being ready to move on at a moment’s notice. I hope she learns more about how strong she is…mentally and physically.

This week, while she is gone, I hope I take some time to be selfish…just for Wednesday. Just one day of total selfishness…doing what I want when I want. Thursday morning, I will be excited to host some friends at my home, and that afternoon, my “baby” will come home.

While I’m looking forward to a couple days to myself, I’m already looking forward to her return, and I hope to hear all about the fun school trip.

I guess I need to make a Target run to get some snacks for her to take!

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