We may not always recognize it, but we are living in a golden age of fishing. Part of that is because many of our fisheries are healthier than ever. Additionally, much of our equipment is light years ahead of where it was even a decade ago. The final foundation of that three-legged stool of excellence doesn’t involve fishing directly – rather, it’s because we are living in an era of convenience store exceptionalism.
If you’ve fished long enough, then you are likely a stop-and-rob connoisseur. If we were smart, we’d go to Costco or Wal-Mart or the local grocery store before our fishing trips and stock up on reasonably priced rations. But most of us are neither particularly smart nor particularly thrifty – we’ll spend $10 on a single tungsten weight, then get up at 3am to drive 200 miles to stand all day in the rain. Because our hobby has addled our brains, we tend to eat crappy food on the road and in the boat.
You may be the exception, the rare angler who enjoys a bit of fresh organic produce while chasing basses, but most of us favor carb-loaded items not susceptible to the ravages of time, changing climate or shrink wrap. Let he who has not eaten a 10 year old Moon Pie cast the first stone.
We also use lots of gas in our tow vehicles and boats, which means at least one, sometimes two gas stops in a day. In the past, it has been a crapshoot if you wanted to fill your gas tanks and fill your belly in the same place. Oftentimes you’d be left with the choice of a can of Dinty Moore beef stew, a Bit-O-Honey bar dating back to the Nixon administration, or some (non-frosted) Pop-Tarts. Now, though, we have options that put even the best supermarkets to shame. Of course the ultimate in this regard is Buc-ee’s, but unless you live in or transit Texas, that’s a long way to go for one-stop-shopping. Fortunately, there are other regional options as well. Here in the mid-Atlantic, we’re blessed by the trifecta of Sheetz, Wawa and Royal Farms. All have made-to-order sandwiches, more drinks than you even knew existed, and representation of all 12 food groups. There’s a Wawa outside the entrance to Leesylvania State Park on the Potomac whose constituency at 5am consists of one-third anglers, one-third commuters, and one-third miscreants headed home from the club. That has always been my gold standard, but Royal Farms and its exceptional fried chicken is tightening up the race.
During this past weekend’s fishing trip to Conowingo Reservoir on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, I had the good fortune of traveling a road which had a Wawa within a half mile of a Royal Farms just a short distance from the lake. It was an embarrassment of riches, but at the same time, it threw me into an existential crisis of which one deserved my business. I split the baby by stopping at Royal Farms on the way there, and Wawa on the way home. If there’d been a Sheetz nearby, I’m not sure what I would’ve done.