If you've been reading here for any length of time, you might know that I didn't grow up in this Southern town where we now live.
I grew up in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, surrounded by lots of farmers and Amish people and woods and streams and cows.
So when I went off to college I chose a small, private school not too far away. I made friends and discovered our new college culture involved all sorts of things previously scorned - like cartoons and afternoon naps. It also involved frequent Sheetz runs.
Sheetz is a Pennsylvania-based gas station chain with a restaurant inside. You order your food at touch-screen computers so that it is all "Made to Order (MTO)." Food that is prepared in a gas station might not sound so wonderful, but Sheetz has nailed it - specialty drinks, entrees that are flexible and include a wide variety of condiment/topping/veggie options - and it's one of my favorite quick places to eat.
So when I moved here, to this tiny Southern town nearly 13 years ago, and there wasn't a Sheetz anywhere around, I soon went into Nachos Grande withdrawal. When my husband and I started dating and I suffered from a bout of homesickness, he would drive me across the state border after a small Sheetz opened there. We'd get slushies and subs and eat in the car, and that taste of home made everything better.
Because for me Sheetz is a bit of home. It's where I ate meals while road tripping. It's where I filled the gas tank of my first car and shared nachos with friends during all nighters in college. It's where I met friends after high school and grabbed slushies on hot days.
After detouring for Sheetz on every possible road trip for the past 13 years, Sheetz is finally coming to town. It's being built about a mile from our house - and it's opening in just two more days. It looks big and bright and beautiful, and I can't wait.
Some might say it's just a gas station. It is that, but it's more. It's the memory of friends and family and summer refreshment. It's the feeling of safety when seeing the bright lights and big red sign from a strange highway.
Just a gas station? Nah.
It's just a bit of home.
Only two more days to wait.
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