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Stop and See ‘The Thing’ at Bowlin Travel Center

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.


Bowlin Travel Centers operates ten locations in New Mexico and Arizona, and the Arizona location on I-10 and exit 322, 17 miles east of Benson and about 40 miles east of Tucson, excels at marketing. The location is famous for ‘The Thing,’ a roadside attraction that it touts on billboards up and down the interstate.


The intrigue draws people in and encourages them to stop. I’m not going to ruin the suspense by telling you what ‘The Thing’ is, but if you really want to know, you can hop over to the Wikipedia page that gives you the details. One reviewer said, “Just had to stop after seeing all the billboards on I-10…The Thing attraction has been featured on TV, books i.e.: Weird Arizona: Your Travel Guide to Arizona's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets.” Another said, “If you don't stop, you'll never know what the buzz is all about!”


Bowlin is a gift-focused travel center group, and this location offers everything from Native American handmade jewelry and pottery to t-shirts and unique mugs. One reviewer said, “We went to shop. They have a wide variety of gifts, trinkets, and beautiful jewelry…Great place to find that one of a kind gift.”


The location also offers a Dairy Queen, c-store and, of course, fuel. I also can’t say enough about the service. This location is currently undergoing a remodel, and I can’t wait to see the results. It is a fun stop and you should check it out if you’re passing by on I-10. 

/// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Membership, visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.


Photos Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.