I was young college student living with her aunt in El Paso, Texas. My mother was in the Air Force and had been stationed all the way in Virginia. I had not followed her simply because I wanted to stay in my special high school surrounded by all of my friends. Then I continued to go to the local University out of convenience. I had not seen my mother in months!
Imagine my surprise when my mother calls me up and asks me if I want to take part in a run for a cure for cancer. Since I was extremely unhealthy, overweight, and hate exercise I agreed … as long as I did the shorter run.
The run would be happening in Florida of all places, during the winter. I was ready for the warmth that would bring. But ever the procrastinator most college students are at the beginning of their educational careers, I had not told my mother to buy me plane tickets. I wanted to make a road-trip with all of my friends.
At first most readily agreed, they were as excited as I was. Then one by one like all untrustworthy teenagers they dropped out. At this point it was too late for me to be able to find a plane ticket. I begged and pleaded with all of my friends; I needed just one to be able to make the journey with me. I was uncomfortable driving alone.
It was the when I should have been leaving I called my mother to tell her I would not be making it. Then at like the fairy godmother of some horribly timed fairy tale one friend called me nearly at midnight. She was able to go. I could not have been happier but I hated her since we would be leaving at 4 in the morning. She lived an hour in the opposite direction of me so I had to get up and be at her house by 3 IN THE MORNING.
I packed as fast as I could.
I was packed in record time ( we were only going for a week). I went to bed excited for the prospect of finally heading out…I got back up and texted my mother the update to the situation then went straight back to bed. The next morning I was at my friends house and we were on the road in record time. Yet another mistake I had made came to light 2 hours later at our first gas and restroom break. She did not know how to drive.
For those who have never been on a road-trip before driving after 3 hours gets exhausting, painful, and essentially dangerous. We were on a time crunch. The original plan had been to drive non-stop to be able to make it on time the other person slept and rested. From El Paso to where we needed to go was a 25 hour drive minimum. That is without resting or stopping. Most of Texas is dry desert and has no scenery which makes it worse. I knew in that moment that is how I died.
Fueled by determination, a large coffee, and what I have come to call the Mexican stubbornness in my family I trudged on. I was going to get to this run even if I had to walk there. It was smooth sailing for the most part. My partner had fallen sound asleep. The only companion I had was the radio playing the same Brittany Spears CD on replay and a purple slide phone plugged in to yell directions at me.
As the hours piled on I was hyper aware of myself when it came to watching the road. So of course I did not realize we were low on gas until the light came on and there were no signs of life ANYWHERE. I began to reverently praying to God, “let there be a gas station soon … please!”
All of a sudden all these billboards advertising something called Buc-ee’s kept showing up. Some had funny dad jokes on them. I hoped that meant an exit with civilization was coming up. We were in a part of Texas where taking an exit could still mean an hours drive to the nearest little town. I took note of the exit it mentioned and kept an eye out. One by one the exits passed me and my worry only increased. There were no mentions of towns that would be coming up other than the next ones that were hundreds of miles away. I was scared. Yet without fail every 3 miles there would be another Buc-ee’s advertisement. Suddenly like the slow rise of sunlight at dawn I saw neon lights.
The small circular sign slowly rose into the inky blackness that was the void I had been gazing and praying into for hours. It did not get bigger … just taller. I felt like it was all some cruel sick joke to have something so teasing yet so unattainable. I just hoped we make it on time. Finally the exit appeared. I was apprehensive since there still were no signs of a town anywhere, but the tall pole holding the circular sign containing a cartoon character was my only ray of hope and I had to follow it no matter where it led. As I exited the highway steadily climbing the small hill all Texas highway exits have I began to get the bigger picture of what I had just found.
Semi-trucks lined one side and cars another. This supposed gas station that I had stumbled upon in the dark in the middle of nowhere Texas was larger than the main Walmart Super Center (which supported a major border city) back home. I was baffled, shocked, and tired. The last fumes of my car were exhausted into driving to the nearest open gas pump of what I was sure was a mirage at that point. Not only was the size of this thing baffeling but my issue was the fact that we were well into the night hours. There was little to no traffic at this point outside of the plethora of semi-trucks forced to use the I-10 route through Texas to make cross country deliveries. Yet here at night, in the middle of NOWHERE, the amount of cars to trucks was comparable to that of Los Angeles. Who were all these people?
I took my phone and tried to find the nearest city…anything that would explain the amount of people congregated at this time of night, on a week night, at a gas station in nowhere Texas. I found nothing. I shook my passenger awake, declared break time, and got out of the car to begin pumping gas. That was when I begin to notice another odd thing. The little cartoon character on the sign was everywhere, not just on the property of the gas station. I saw people wearing shirts, bumper stickers, hats, and even shoes with the character on them! It was like being in Wall-E with that one mega-store that ended up owning everything (personally I always thought Walmart would take over). The pump stopped I moved my car to one of the parking spaces, around back! I went into the store area, I would need coffee and a snack to continue the trip. I was greeted by the bronze effigy of what I am assuming now is a cult deity.
The pronounced name on the lower plaque read Buc-ee Beaver. I had a name to a very plucky face. I continued on ignoring the warning signs of the large grills with the beavers face embossed on them and strolled past some lawn chairs of questionable taste. I entered what I thought was a gas station but in fact was a town in and of itself. There were clothes that ranged from bikinis to snow suits for all ages; both items made no sense for the dead of winter in a desert. There was cast iron goods, leather goods, homemade eco friendly goods, kitchenware, dinnerware, cosmetics, and toys. I just wanted gas, coffee, snack, and a restroom break. Somehow I had traveled into the 5th dimension and ended up at what looked like an intergalactic trading post. In the far back a full blown cafeteria the likes of which I had dreamed of as a high school student dominated the space. Food seemed to reach the cieling.
We ended up walking around to stretch our legs for a little while. Grabbed a bite to eat, took a couple of pictures, and then headed back on our merry way. For a long time that was the only time we had seen Buc-ee, in our return trip he seemed to have vanished.
Years later I was again greeted by the sight of Buc-ee, this time with more knowledge. Seems that Buc-ee’s is a convenience store much like Walmart and Target. I STILL WANT TO KNOW WHY IT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! I guess I will never know.
Turn a Picture Into a Drawing: Gimp!
There are a couple of ways to do this in gimp. I am by far not a professional so my results look like they are done more with chalk than with pencil. I will show you how I achieved the affect on the picture.
- Open gimp.
- Click on File then Open. Find the picture you want to use.
- Accept any conversions necessary.
4. Time to crop out anything we don’t need. Use the tool located next to the star and stick tool. It works like paint from Microsoft works. You are going to drag the box around what you wish to KEEP. Then click inside.
5. Next on the bar that holds File continue to the right and click on Colors. Find and click Posterize. This controls the number of colors allowed in the picture. I set mine around 10. Enough for details, but not too many.
6. Then back on the bar find Filters. In Filters there will be a choice of Artistic. We want to use Cartoon. This will be used to darken lines and shadows. You can play around with how you want yours set up, for my cartoon character I wanted everything as heavy as I could get it.
7. We will be repeating this step but this time in the Artistic menu we want to click Cartoon (legacy). This will take those lines and shadows we enhanced and make them black like chalk or ink. Play around with the levels to find one that you like.
8. The final step is getting rid of all those colors. Click on the Colors menu and go down to click on Saturation. Here instead of increasing the level you want to drop it to nothing. This will get rid of most color. Going in the opposite directions takes the color and makes it more vibrant and vivid. Again it is whatever you like better.
9. Gimp saves to a gimp style file called xcf. To save your new photo go to File and click Export as. At the top rename the picture and add the file type. For example mine was “Buc-ee drawing.jpg”. Take notice of where you are saving it to as well, don’t lose your work!