76 fuel pumps, 41 bathroom stalls and a beef jerky bar: Welcome to Wally’s – News – Journal Star

PONTIAC — The drive between Peoria and Chicago can be long, dull and devoid of convenient, clean places to use the restroom.

A new travel center in Pontiac purports to provide a solution to that last potential problem. Among other things.

Wally’s opened its first location earlier this month, at Interstate 55 and Illinois Route 116. It bills itself as “Home of the Great American Road Trip,” and a family-friendly one at that.

That friendliness extends to cleanliness, in the form of more than 40 bathroom outlets Wally’s President/CEO Michael Rubenstein assures will be hygienic.

“What’s the No. 1 thing that usually decides where to go on a road trip? Who has the cleanest bathrooms,” Rubenstein said.

Wally’s women’s restroom has 20 stalls, with floor-to-ceiling walls and doors. The men’s room has 10 similar stalls and 11 urinals.

“Just the size and openness of the bathrooms is really situated to the family traveler and to anyone looking to stop and have a good bathroom experience,” Rubenstein said.

The rest of the Wally’s experience includes 30,000 square feet of dining and shopping, as well as 76 fuel pumps outside.

Food options include bars for coffee, popcorn and beef jerky, as well as a carving station. None is part of a national franchise — all the food outlets are Wally’s-specific.

An 8,000-square-foot retail space offers proprietary shirts, hats, mugs, outdoors supplies and the usual items one might find at a truck stop.

But Wally’s isn’t a truck stop. That doesn’t mean truckers aren’t welcome, but Wally’s isn’t set up to accommodate tractor-trailers.

The differentiation from truck stops is by design, according to Rubenstein.

“They have showers on site and a separate truck entrance,” he said. “The maneuverability around a truck stop can be a little daunting for the family in the minivan, going down the road. That’s who we’re targeting.”

Originally from southwest of St. Louis, Rubenstein and Wally’s Chairman Chad Wallis have driven I-55 numerous times between their home area and Chicago. They noticed a family-oriented travel center didn’t appear to be along the route.

Pontiac checked a lot of boxes regarding an initial Wally’s location, Rubenstein said.

It isn’t too close to Chicago or St. Louis. Local officials were welcoming. And it’s along Old U.S. Route 66, which passes through Rubenstein and Wallis’ hometowns.

“The mother road of U.S. highways,” Rubenstein said. “It wasn’t intentional by any means, but when it kind of came together, it really made sense and got us excited.”

The investment in the Pontiac Wally’s is north of $20 million, according to Rubenstein. The current company headquarters is in Houston. That area is home to Buc-ee’s, a Texas-centric travel-center chain that offers similarly spotless restrooms.

Rubenstein acknowledged the Buc-ee’s-Wally’s comparison but suggested his concept has more of a Midwestern flavor. A second location is planned, as are others in major Midwest travel corridors.

The coronavirus pandemic helped delay Wally’s debut, first set for early July. But an apparent, COVID-inspired public preference for highway trips instead of

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Claire’s California Kitchen | Lewiston Sun Journal

You know what they say about time? Yes, and it has flown away, I have been writing my column for 10 years! Lots of carrots have been peeled under my watch, apples chopped and onions sauteed. Little children have been brought into the fold who enjoy cooking as much as I do, very rewarding for a former teacher.

What is a mainstay of the home kitchen, SOUP! Even on hot summer days a bowl of soup can be just the ticket! This is a recipe for Vegetable Minestrone. A minestrone is a hearty Italian vegetable soup made with whatever is left in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer! And, if you have a quantity of zucchini from your garden you, are all set. Bon Appetit!

Vegetable Minestrone


3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 celery stick, sliced

1 leek. sliced

3 potatoes, peeled and sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

6 cups veg. stock

14 ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 handful broken spaghetti

1 can cannellini beans, drained

9 ounces spinach, chopped

1-2 zucchini, chopped


paprika, salt and pepper to taste


First, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add carrots, onion, celery, leek and potatoes. Then cover and heat until softened. Add chopped tomatoes, stock and pasta. Add garlic. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until all vegetables are tender. Add beans,  greens, zucchini and parsley and continue until all is tender. Season to taste. Paprika adds a little kick, we all need that on occasion!

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Create Your Own Garden Journal

The garden journal is an important component of the garden planning process. It allows the gardener to revisit last year successes and failures. This evaluation reduces the chances of repeating the same mistakes, helps create a healthier garden environment and helps reduce expensive gardening mistakes, especially for beginning gardeners.

A journal does not have to be anything fancy and can range from a simple school notebook all the way to an elaborate leather bound journal. Some gardeners even use technology to design a one of a kind garden journal that does everything for you accept plant the seed. The key to the journaling process is to pick one that works for you and one that you will really use.

Whether you are a beginning gardener or starting a new garden, the first step in this process is to draw out the garden space. Some individuals find it helpful to do the drawing to scale but that really is not necessary. The important component is that the dimensions of the garden are noted.

Do not limit yourself to the traditional idea of ​​what a garden is. All gardens need to be planned and this includes container, mulch, and straw bale gardens along with hanging baskets, and flower pouches. Keep in mind though; that the information described below is geared for land-based gardens and in doing so will need to be adapted for other types of gardens.

Once the garden space has been drawn out, the next step is to add environmental information. The north, south, east, and west directions need to be placed on the garden drawing. General wind direction and how the sun hits the garden space during the growing season also needs to be noted.

Weather conditions are another component that needs to be added during the growing season. This includes temperature, moisture level or rain amount and any natural disaster that may have affected the garden space. Including this information will help the gardener deal with microclimate issues and help them make a more precise determination of the success of the garden.

Another environmental feature that needs to be added to the garden journal is the health of the soil. This includes pH level, soil type and any nutrient problems. This information is easily obtained through a kit that can be picked up at any local extension office.

External features surrounding the garden space also need to be added to the drawing. This information is very important since shadows from buildings, vegetation, and fences can affect the garden space. Also, noting plant material that is around the garden can help reduce the chance of plant incompatibility. A prime example of plant incompatibility is that of the tomato and the black walnut tree.

Once the garden journal has been created, the next step is deciding how much you need.

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