If you’ve ever taken a road trip to Death Valley or California’s Eastern Sierra, you’ve probably driven by this former gas station hawking dried meat treats along Highway 395 in Olancha CA.
Hand painted billboards along the highway tempt drivers as they get closer to the white brick building plastered with colorful stickers and huge JERKY signs.
Jerky and Red Bulls tend to make up a large part of my road tripping diet, so places like Gus’s are always a welcome sight to see while I’m on the road.
Restroom breaks are also important, so if I can knock out two things at once, I’m going to do it.
Gus Niepagen opened his jerky stand at the southern end of the Owens Valley in 1996. A native of Argentina, he used to own a produce store in Lancaster, CA, where he met an “old Mormon dude” who advised him to learn how to make jerky. One day while traveling along Highway 395, he found an empty 1920s-era gas station, bought it and made it into Gus’s Fresh Jerky. A bag of elk, buffalo, turkey, venison, pork, salmon, beef teriyaki or “cowboy hot” will set you back $12 but you might as well just buy 3 for $33, cause one bag just ain’t gonna cut it.
If jerky isn’t your thing, you could always pick up some Grade A local honey…
…which come in a wide variety of sizes and flavors, including: clover, sage, desert wildflower, cactus, mountain wild flower and orange blossom.
They also sale an interesting selection of dried fruits including: apple rings, banana chips, cantaloupe spears, chili mango, cranberries, dates, mango, figs, papaya and pineapple.
But wait, there’s more! They’ve got nuts, lots of nuts, including: roasted almonds, chili lemon pistachios, chili peanuts, garlic/onion pistachios, habanero pistachios, jalapeno pistachios, peanut brittle, salted cashews, salted pistachios and trail mix. Since opening his first store in 1996, Gus has been living the American dream. He now owns a total of four stores in three different states (California, Arizona & Nevada) and a thriving online business hawking his tasty treats. Don’t be a jerky, stop in and get some instead, you won’t be disappointed.