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Gas Stations, a love letter

Cy Whitling

For most people gas stations are a necessary nuisance. We visit them only when we must, and we’re nearly always unhappy when we do. Think about it. When was the last time you went to a gas station for any other reason than to fill your tank or empty your bladder? We pull in, complain about the price of fuel and fill up, maybe visit the restroom, usually decorated with crudely scratched profanity. On the way out grab some peanuts and an extra large soda, it’s only 89 cents and it guarantees some other gas station business at your next bathroom stop. Just avoid the crusty corndogs spinning slowly in the roller grill’s unnatural light. My dad says they’re made from ground up roadkill and he would know.

Too often we are content to tolerate gas stations and move on, mostly ignoring them. I think gas stations are more important. My little sister would agree, but that’s just because we have accidentally left her at a couple.

Someone once said that every great road trip starts in your driveway. That may be true but for me the trip really begins at the gas station. There is nothing like the feeling as you pull out with a full tank and only the road ahead of you. Driving away from a gas station the world is your oyster.

Gas stations could just be pumps, sitting in an parking lot with nothing but a card slot and a nozzle but they’re not. Instead they usually have stores attached, and not just any store. Where else can you buy toenail clippers, beer, ibuprofen, butterfly knives, a wolf shirt and twinkies, all under the same roof? This smorgashborg of products is what really makes gas stations indispensable. As I leave for any trip I invariably forget something. Never fear, there will be a gas station somewhere between home and the trailhead.

The gas station is the last place to gorge on real food before the trip devolves into the realm of backpacking dinners and endless Cup Noodles. On the return trip gas stations are often the first stop in my extended “Back to Civilization Buffet." Coming back from a few days of backpacking food gas stations are a five star french restaurant, the flavor of their product matched only by its perceived nutritional value. Snickers are basically cheaper Cliff bars right? And that glorious, spinning slushy machine produces something akin to a Tropical Blast flavored protein shake.  In addition to all this, gas stations do, sometimes contain a machine that I think could just be the epitome of the American Dream; the F’Real milkshake maker

I first experienced this incredible invention deep in eastern Montana, and my life has been forever changed. For the uninitiated I will outline the glorious process. First, the customer selects their flavor from the aggressively branded F’Real Fridge. After opening the foil lid the cup of solid frozen shake is placed in the shining grasp of the futuristic F’Real Blender. At the push of a button the cup retracts into the machine where the shake is ground to your desired thickness. Don't stick your arm up there, I don't know how they grind it up so quickly but I imagine they use something like an industrial strength buzzsaw roter-rooter. Bored waiting for your shake to finish? Just watch the built in TV! The commercials run for the duration of the process. Finally the blender spits out your shake and you are ready to go on living your same old life that is now somehow different, forever changed by F’Real.

There is no doubt in my mind that the gas station is one of the better things to come out of America in the last hundred years. As you fuel up for your next adventure, or rehydrate in the aftermath of your latest epic, remember tip your hat to this great institution that has done so much for you.