I love road trips. I adore looking out on endless dusty concrete highways. I crave the smell of cow dung and orange orchards. I count down the days until I can bust out the latest Mary Higgins Clark book on my cassette player and rock out as I set my cruise control to a swift seventy-three.
The best part of a road trip is not the McDonald’s every three miles, the license plate game, or the roadkill. The best part of a road trip—by far—is the gas stations. No, I don’t have a fetish for spending $68 to fill up my station wagon. I just love the crazy assortment of random things I always find as the perfect gift for someone I know. Here are some of my favorite pit-stop gifts:
It’s a childhood remedy I try to repress … Lake Tahoe … family vacation … twelve people … two bathrooms … After seven pieces of jerk chicken, a half-pound of coleslaw, and three slices of key lime pie, we all had to go. For the next four hours, the bathroom was a scary place to enter. My friend told me about magical drops you drip into the pot to eliminate all odors. One fateful drive, I found them. It was like the Holy Grail for my nose and the yellow-daisy wallpaper in the guest bathroom.
I once stopped at a Union 76 Station for gas, churros, and trashy magazines. Just as I was about to pay and bounce, I saw the most perfect and amazing gift—the Popener. The Popener is a beer-bottle opener decorated with the picture of Pope John Paul II. It’s the quintessential juxtaposition of gas station kitsch meets Christian holy idol.
Dumb Key Chain
I have quite a few single lady friends who cry about never getting laid. They whine about how they are never going to find “the one.” (Put a cork in it, fatty.) Anyway, on my way to my most recent “thirty-nine all-over again” birthday party out in Stockton, I stopped at a gas station and picked up this key chain:
Jackie Kennedy Dress-Up Magnet
Everyone loves a refrigerator magnet. Every American loves Jackie O. Now you can have her half naked on your icebox. You can dress her up in a bathing suit or sleek blue suit with various accessories. I have found this dress-up magnet to be the perfect stocking stuffer for horny dads, politico-know-it-alls, and little girls.
I love, crave, and regret junk food. My philosophy is, if you don’t pay for it, the fat and calories don’t count. A perfect last-minute gift is an old breadbasket lined with a dish towel and filled with these classic gas-station goodies: snowballs, a quarter-pound hot dog, a six-pack of powdered donuts, some peanut praline packs, pepperoni pizza combos, Hershey’s hugs, and a bunch of other heart-attack-waiting-to-happen snacks.
Photo source: PearlsFlowers.com
Meerkat Stuffed Animal Toy
Sometimes you have no choice. You have to venture to The Rack. The rack we all despise, hide, and cry when we see … the rack that should be illegal in all stores (not just the gas station store)—the stuffed animal rack. I once found a plush meerkat (a small mammal that’s a member of the mongoose family) for my pal. I think she hated it, and I hated myself for buying it, but everyone secretly loves something warm and fuzzy to cuddle with at night.
It sucks to be a sixteen-year-old driving dad’s hand-me-down 1998 Toyota Yaris. For the men (or women) in your life that can’t afford pimped-out rims (or get a date) in order to make their car (and ego) more macho, get them some truck nutz. “Truck Nutz™ are a high-quality, novelty, automotive accessory that hang from any bumper and let folks show the world their Nutz.” Don’t we all want to see as many nuts as we can out on the open road? (I know I do.)
The gas-station quickie marts have yet to fail me. For every friend and family member, for every occasion, I have been able to find a personal, unique gift. While you may consider some of this stuff junk, think about your loved ones. One person’s trash is someone else’s treasure.