Big Bend Travel Plaza, one of the first independent truck stops along I-10 in North Florida, is the oldest one still in operation. It is also the home of a curious roadside figure known locally as “Johnny Donutseed.”
Made of fiberglass and standing about 10 or 12 feet tall, much like the folk hero who inspired him, this Johnny’s legend has grown a bit, and some travelers claim him to be closer to 20 or even 30 feet tall. He doesn’t quite reach those heights, but what does appear to be true is that he originated as a Johnny Appleseed Restaurant statue, likely traveling from a now defunct location in either Holland, Pennsylvania, or Fredicksburg, Virginia. There is still a Johnny Appleseed location in New Market, Virginia, and the same statue still stands out front, but with the usual apples in place of coffee and a donut. There is a third matching statue that made a trip to Bedford, Virginia, where he holds court from the grounds of an apple orchard.
Johnny’s transition from apple pusher to donut dunker was done by turning his tin-pot hat into a trucker’s cap, painting his vest to match the colors of BP (the gas company at the Big Bend Plaza), turning an apple into a donut, and adding a big coffee cup.
Still shoeless and sporting a ponytail and tattered britches, Johnny Donutseed watches the traffic speeding by on Highway 59 to this day, quietly spreading the joyful idea of “coffee and a donut.” Hell, maybe it’s even an apple donut.
Know Before You Go
I-10 exit 217, just south on Gamble Rd/Hwy 59