The Land of the Free and the Home of the Big Gulp

Utahns pride themselves in the natural beauty of their state. The Rocky Mountains, forbidding in their jagged majesty yet comforting in their powerful embrace, cast spectacular shadows over the carefully settled desert valleys. Inspired by such awesome surroundings, many residents revel in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, running, and camping. Overall, Utah’s people are exceptionally healthy with the state placing fifth in the United Health Foundation’s annual health rankings.

With its history as the home of the LDS people, Utah enjoys the nation’s lowest rates of alcohol and tobacco use. Some critics claim that Utahns’ teetotaling ways prevent them from having fun, but nothing could be further from the truth. Just because most abstain from racier substances doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a good high every now and then. Visitors just need to know where to look to join in the local customs.

During my initial visit to Utah in 1990, the first business I set foot in was a 7-Eleven. Tom picked me up at the airport and in an apparent rite of passage took me to a nearby gas station for my first sugar run. Inside the store I was confronted by the longest, widest, tallest candy aisle I had ever seen and a soda fountain that stretched the entire length of the store. I noticed a curious arrangement of oversized mugs at the end of the counter but didn’t think much of it at the time. I soon learned that these “jugs” were an integral part of many Utahns’ lives. Ownership entitled the bearer to dirt cheap refills at virtually any convenience store in the state, and wherever I went, I encountered thirsty yet budget-conscious citizens who coddled their jugs like infants.

During our three years living in Utah, I drank only fruit juice and refused to let Tom buy a jug of his own. As a result he was relegated to the ranks of disposable cup buyers and their measly 44-ounce maximum. Ten years later I have mended my ways. I am now a regular visitor to the Alpharetta Qwik Trip, which boasts its own formidable beverage bar even though it resides 1500 miles east of the Rockies.

In a fit of “when in Rome” behavior, I shelled out a cool $5.99 last week for my very own 64-ounce jug. (No, I won’t be taking it around the world.) I opted against the 100- ouncer since the clerk said I’d need a forklift or much bigger biceps to get it into my car. I now enjoy membership in an elite society of soft drink afficionados and chronically parched construction workers who acknowledge each other with an approving nod and secretly evaluate each other’s vessels while filling up.

This lovely young lady—my sister in soda—didn’t think twice when I asked her to join me outside the Holiday Mart for a photograph this morning. Her jug was a particularly vibrant shade of yellow and adorned with surfboards and Woody cars. My navy blue version emblazoned with psychotic clowns paled in comparison.


In case you’re interested, I don’t have any statistics regarding candy, but it is a well-known fact that Utah ranks first in the nation in Jell-O consumption.

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4 thoughts on “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Big Gulp

  1. mama,
    i just wanted to say that i love the way you write cuz you use the “BIG” words that i can understand…lol

  2. Having grown up in Utah, your description of what we as a family call the “MUG CLUB” brought back great memories of taking all our mugs down to the Holiday Oil gas station and filling them all up.

    Mine was the orange mug!! :)


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