After another convenience store stop to refill my water bottle with ice and water, have an indoor nature break, and to refuel, I began thinking about the modern day oasis. There’s many a night when I feel the need, the need for speed (or at least my slow version of it) and also get hungry, in other words, have a snack attack. Plus, I simply must get out of the Texas heat and humidity, and these little shops fit the bill. It occurred to me that these places and the people who run them are an important and overlooked part of the biking experience. The clerks, often young from India, Bangladesh, Mexico, and many other places play a crucial role for the bike casual rider and weekend warrior alike. So I thought it was high time to sing their praises.
My Water is Hotter, So Ice Is Nice
In the hot Austin, Texas summers, ice is a necessity. Even though I use some allegedly insulated water bottles, the water heats up pretty quickly. When I’m getting low on the go juice and pass one of the myriad of convenience stores, I pull over. Usually I’ll ask if it’s ok to refill, and they almost always say yes. Sometimes they want you to pay, but I just buy something. That’s the expectation. But sometimes I just want to take care of my business then move on, and the clerks oblige. I think they take pity on cyclists and pedestrians. Unlike many car drivers. They are often the only watering holes for miles, so we can all be grateful for that.
It goes without saying that the tasty goodness the shelves, freezers and coolers hold are not always the healthiest choices. But it’s good to strive for getting down the gulletwhatever calories you can in order to keep biking (anything with chocolate). One time, a guy stocked Pickle Juice for me and other riders. (They had a big jar with pickles for sale, and once a clerk have me a cup of the brine ) Anyway, if you don’t like what you stuffed in your bike jersey, or already ate it and need more calories, you can find something. There is less healthier fare, like nuts, seeds, bananas or health bars, and thimgs cost more than a grocery store, but that’s the price you pay for convenience.
One possibly overlooked benefit of stopping at a store is if you’re bonking pretty hard, you not only need to eat, drink and rest. You also need another human being to lay eyes on you and determine if you actually might need some medical attention. A convenience store clerk, especially one you know, may likely remember you.
Sometimes they’re on long-distance or international calls to family while working, so aren’t available for a chat. They occasionally have a lot of work to do like inventory it a line if customers. Most of the time they are happy to have a chat because their jobs can also be quite boring. If you’re experiencing heat exhaustion and want a reality check, or just want to know about the small town you’re in, chat up your clerk.
#1 and #2
In most cities, it’s illegal to relieve yourself in public. Here in Austin, the 11th biggest city in the US, there is still green space to pull over and conduct the evacuatory arts. But sometimes you simply need a bathroom especially if you’re a woman or to poop. Convenience stores to rescue! You sometimes really do have to buy something to conduct the business at hand, or plead to be allowed past the annoying Closed sign on the door. But these shops are often the only place to relieve yourself without a public indecency charge, so that’s pretty important. I just realized this section probably should have been first on the list.
Last but Not Least
Some clerks are curious and ask about my bike ride. They are usually impressed with my biking prowess, or at least say they are. In general, they’re nice and polite guys. There aren’t that many dour convenience store clerks. Surely, they have bad days, too. Overall though, I find them to be gentleman. And after dodging rude and inattentive cars, avoiding the glass and other debris the City of Austin loves to keep scattered throughout its bike lanes, and just slogging 20 miles through the global warming swamp, a convenience store is like that mirage in the desert: a welcome refuge.
Thanks to all the convenience store clerks, urban and rural, who’ve helped me on my bicycling journey. Be nice the next time one helps you!
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