Between Extremes of Park & Gas Station {Tennessee}

You know those days when you find yourself going from one side of the extreme scale to the other in a short period of time? It leaves you feeling a little disoriented, off balance, and torn between anxiety and restful. This was one of those days that started off with a visit to a beautifully serene visit to a state park and ended with sensory overload at a gas station.

Frozen Head State Park

When we moved to Tennessee, we set the goal of seeing every state park in the state. We have now seen 24 of the 57 state parks here. The day started with a visit to Frozen Head State Park in the east part of the state.

Even though spring has come to other parts of the state, here in the state park the buds of new leaves have just barely started to poke out along the branches. But the rocks have a layer of bright green moss which gave the whole park a little mystical feel to it. Small waterfalls could be seen on the side of the creek.

This park is smaller than most the others ones we have visited where all trails begin at the same place and they offer fewer amenities. But the park is all the more lovely because it’s not as busy as other parks.

Buc-ees Gas Station

After our hike through the state park we started on our way home where we saw a billboard advertising the new popular Buc-ees Gas Station. Started in Texas, this chain has made its way to Tennessee. This is the first Buc-ees to come to Tennessee and it is wildly popular. We had heard about Buc-ees and seen people wearing their merchandise so we decided to stop and check it out for ourselves. We pulled off the highway only to join a line of 50ish cars along the ramp, all heading to Buc-ees. The line of cars took up the whole off ramp and continued down the street and around the corner to the gas station…what kind of gas station is this?!?!

We pulled into the parking lot and looked out at the two long rows of gas pumps with pumps enough for 100 cars at once to fill up. We entered the side door and found ourselves in the largest most busy gas station ever. We asked the police officer at the entrance where the restrooms were and he told us to go past the clothing and home decor sections then continue past the food court and they would be on the left. There was a line into the restrooms and two employees acting as traffic directors into the stalls.

We wandered through the food court where they had sections for tacos, bakery, and jerky and also a grab and go area with salads, sides, chips, and things like that. But the main area had plenty of BBQ options. You know you’re in the south when a food court has 4 different kinds of BBQ meat sandwiches on one side and rows of specialty fudge on the other side.

There is a regular gas station section on the far side of the building, but that was far less used by the masses of people that were there. Not only was there specific Buc-ees merchandise on sale everywhere, there was even a meet and greet opportunity with Buc-ee himself.

Maybe we just happened to go at a busy time or maybe it’s this crazy all the time. But for better or worse it seems to be the new favorite place to visit.

It was a day of extremes for sure between the natural beauty of the state park and the wild commercialism of Buc-ees Gas Station. Though incredibly different, both places were very fitting for the day in their own way. You just can’t go wrong with a walk through the beautiful landscape of a state park and then finish off the day with a great BBQ brisket sandwich.

Looking for some more interesting stores here in Tennessee? Then check out these:

Moon Pie General Store

The Lodge Cast Iron Store

Goo Goo Clusters Factory

Thanks for coming along on this day of extremes from Frozen Head State Park to Buc-ees Gas Station. May the day give you the balance of hiking and BBQ.

34 responses to “Between Extremes of Park & Gas Station {Tennessee}”

    • It was wild- like a mix between a shopping mall and a theme park all thrown into a gas station. It was a little anxiety inducing for me but it is the new big thing around here.

  1. What a varied day out from the blissfully peaceful scenic state park to the buzz of the petrol station. I’d never heard about them until I read this. Presumably they have a large car park as otherwise cars would be blocking up the pumps whilst looking around inside! Would you consider it to be more like a motorway service station?

  2. It never ceases to amaze me, the kind of thing that gets crazily popular when I think, I wouldn’t even want to go there, not ever! I suppose it’s a way of realising you’re getting old, when you’re amazed by what people like.

    • There’s nothing like a crazy busy of a tourist spot to bring out the curmudgeon in me and this place did that for sure. But the hype about it worked apparently because after hearing so many people talk about it and seeing all the billboards for it, we just had to see it for ourselves.

  3. You certainly had a day of extremes and contrasts! I had no idea TN had so many state parks, maybe that’s common across the country, but it seems like a lot. What a satisfying sense of accomplishment you’ll have after visiting all of them. The gas station is quite unique, and serves a purpose, but like you, I prefer the forest.

    • It seems like a lot of state parks compared to other states. But it has been a fun goal to work on to see them all. I think we have seen all of the ones in the middle part of the state where we live, so now we’re slowly visiting all the rest of them. The gas station was an experience, but now we can say we did it and we don’t have to wonder about it 🙂

  4. 57 state parks! It’s amazing that you’ve already seen 24 parks in one state alone. I think a lot of people never get to see that many nature parks in their life. The Frozen Head State Park looks wonderfully serene and devoid of people. I too love moss-covered stones and feel that they create a mystical ambience. That gas station sounds horrific, I would probably feel anxious for days after that. But, just like you, I would have to go and see it at least once. My curiosity always prevails and this is certainly a curious place. Their food court makes for a good stop for sure. I love the line: “You know you’re in the south when a food court has 4 different kinds of BBQ meat sandwiches on one side and rows of specialty fudge on the other side.”

    • Thanks Leighton 🙂 If nothing else, the trip to the crazy gas station offered some good BBQ and good fudge to take a little of the anxiety edge off. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think it is somewhere I would spend a lot of time. It was really like they had stuffed a shopping mall and a theme park inside the confines of a gas station. I’d much rather moss covered rocks and gentle waterfalls of the park.

  5. I’ve always said that going to Buc-ees is an event! I’ve never seen one with a line to the bathrooms, though, so maybe it’s just the newness and everyone is getting their Buc-ees experience. The state park looks wonderful. We love hiking anywhere that has water. Have a happy Tuesday, Meg. (BTW, I’m comment through reader because your site wouldn’t let me post a comment.)

    • An event is right- my goodness it was wild! I think part of it is the novelty factor because it’s so new. But when you have to have two employees directing traffic in the bathroom that’s a little much. We have really loved trying to see all of the state parks. That’s weird about the commenting…I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for letting me know 🙂 Happy Tuesday to you too Kellye!

  6. Hi Meg,
    What a crazy busy day. Puts a whole new perspective on the mini marts that are in Western Australia. My husband would love that place!

    Have been absent for a while as I’m in the UK again, taking care of my mum after my dad finally passed away. A very sad and confusing time for her. Also lots of other family dramas happening and have not had the inclination to blog, hopefully I will get back to it.

  7. I love your goal of trying to visit every state park in your home state. I’m always a fan of parks that aren’t very busy. This looks like a beautiful place to explore, especially in the spring with all the snow melt.

  8. I’ve been to Bucees before (in Texas) and it’s so wild. It’s definitely an experience, though for me I think once was enough.

  9. OK, so my question is this: is the food there somehow better than regular gas station food (which is pretty much at the bottom of all food lists)? If not, and it’s just an oversized convenience store, then I applaud their marketing department for elevating a big gas station chain to a must-see destination!

    • The food was definitely better than regular gas station food- it was more like theme park food-good but not so good to equal the cost of it. But their marketing team really deserves high marks because it was crazy busy with people like us who had heard so much about it and just had to try it out.

    • It must be the only place that you can buy a tent, a tshirt, and a great BBQ sandwich all in one place 🙂 It seems to be moving north pretty fast so you might get one soon!

  10. What a lovely post! It’s amazing how sometimes the most mundane experiences can lead to unexpected beauty and reflection. I loved how you found beauty in the contrasting landscapes and the unique features of the gas station. It’s a reminder to appreciate the small things in life and find joy in unexpected places. Your photos are stunning too! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

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