Amarillo, The Big Texan, And What We Should Have Done

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 23386 – 1192

Here’s The Haps:

So there are a lot of places in Texas we wanted to see, we saw, and still want to see. We went to a place that used to be on the old Route 66 and moved to the I-40 frontage road which runs roughly along the same path. Some of my readers may not know about Route 66 but it was a very famous highway here that ran from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. It’s known for its quirky roadside attractions. The route was decommissioned as a US Highway quite a few years ago when the Interstate Highway system took over but people loved its quirky attractions and it remains. You can find information all over the Internet about it and many people, my wife’s cousin being one of them, have pieced it together and driven it all the way. It’s kind of a thing in itself, really. Gift shops all along the way have replicas of the original highway signs. I can’t think of too many roads that people are so nostalgic about. There was a TV show about it when I was very little where two guys driving a Corvette and working odd jobs drive up and down solving crimes and having adventures. This post is not about any of that, really, however. Except for the Nat King Cole song that I really like which is at the end of this post.

Since we were going to be tourists we did some unabashedly touristy things like staying at The Big Texan Steak Ranch Motel. They are a huge complex with a horse hotel, an RV park, and cabins and Airstreams to rent. The restaurant is home to the 72-ounce Steak Challenge. There was a time I might have tried it but I really would rather enjoy my food. The challenge is to eat a full steak meal, to include a 72-ounce steak (a little over 2 kilos), a baked potato, a side salad, 3 large shrimp, and a bread and butter roll in under an hour. There have been 92,541 attempts and 10,281 winners. One of the winners was a female competitive eater named Molly Schuyler who ate 3 of the meals in 20 minutes. Wow. Not for me.

Free shuttle service to and from the RV park

Now, I did have a steak there and it was done to perfection but it was only an 18 ounce and to be really honest, the seasonings weren’t that great. At least not to my taste. What it may have lacked in flavor the place made up for in atmosphere, though. As with every — really — every, place we stopped in Texas, the people were the nicest people on earth. Even the ones who looked grumpy and mean turned out to be charming and helpful. Everywhere in Texas we went it was like that. Of course, we were tourists but still…

The decor in the room was great. It looked rugged and western but there were plenty of outlets and USB ports and the check-in and out process was pretty much fully automated.

They encourage graffiti on the white door. There were visitors from all over including Spain and Germany.

Unfortunately, the bed was not as comfortable as maybe it should have been, but still, this was a great way to start our travels in Texas.

One of the things that we didn’t do but didn’t really miss much was visit an art installation called Cadillac Ranch. An eccentric millionaire got together with some local artists and buried 10 Cadillac cars halfway into the ground. I saw it when I was in Texas on business in the 90s, which is when I took these pictures. I guess it’s one of those “see once” types of attractions. Both times we were through there it was kind of cold and windy to walk out in a wheat field to look at some wasted, graffitied cars so we decided to skip it. Here are a couple of pics from when I visited years ago.

We weren’t missing anything much, really.

The one thing we do want to do is go back and see the Palo Duro Canyon. We regret not knowing about it or we might have planned our trip differently. The second largest canyon in the country and very different from the Grand Canyon, we want to go back and spend some time there. They also put on a musical in the summertime about the history of Texas. By everyone’s accounts, it is worth seeing and it’s the kind of thing we really like to do.

So this was day 1 of our trip and yesterday was day 2. Next post will be day 3 which was a real highlight in my mind. But now, take a trip with one of my Mom’s favorite singers, Nat “King” Cole.


  1. I definitely remember Route 66 — It is much the same as old Highway 1 going to Florida. Is Route 66 still well maintained and easy to drive on?

    If you manage to eat all that food at the steak challenge, do you get another one for free? There used to be an ice cream shop called “Darbys” at Miami Beach, Fla., that had this gigantic sundae and if you ate a whole one, you got another one for free — My son, Michael did it and was sick for days after.

    You are a better man than I am if you were able to eat an 18-ounce steak. My limit is about 6 to 8 ounces.

    • I don’t think they give you a free one but they should. I don’t know how the competitive eaters do their thing, really. Most of the winners were not that from what I can tell. I do love a good steak, just not four and a half pounds of it in an hour, lol.

    • Awww…It’s a really big country. The tagline for the Texas Tourism Board some years back was, “Texas, it’s like a whole other country.”

  2. Great stuff, Herb! Y’all’re (were) near our stompin’ grounds. Howdy! You should definitely get to Palo Duro Canyon, and make sure you go when you can see the SHOW (musical stage production) ~Ed.

  3. I was always known as the big eater in my family (I burn calories like crazy because I cannot sit still) but rejected a birthday gift from one of my brothers who wanted to sponsor me to a 72 ounce steak challenge in my early 20’s. I was too smart to ruin a good meal. But when I was around age 50, my oldest son bet $50 I couldn’t eat a 48 ounce steak dinner special on the menu at Jax in Issaquah. I did not take his money but took the challenge because my sons seemed to think all my siblings were exaggerating about old eating stories. It was easier than I thought but I am more embarrassed than proud of it.

  4. A former neighbor of ours rented a Mustang, drove Route 66, then wrote a coffee table book about it. I assumed the literal route was still intact from that, but it makes sense that things just ain’t what they used to be.

    • I believe there are whole societies and clubs devoted to helping folks find and drive most of what would have been the old route. I know in Amarillo it’s the frontage road to I-40 but I don’t have a lot of knowledge other than that. Traveling is so much different now, than then, too, I think.

  5. Nat and I were born in the same city and state and lived ten minutes from my relatives until he relocated. Nathaniel Adams Cole was born in Montgomery on March 17, 1919. Cole’s childhood home was moved from its original location and placed on the campus of Alabama State University. Under renovation, the home is available for curbside viewing only. 1333 Hall St. (corner of Harris Way & Pineleaf St.), Alabama State University campus.

  6. That is not only Nat King Cole, but my favorite kind of Nat King Cole, fronting the King Cole Trio in the years before he hit the big time as a crooner and was merely one of the greatest jazz pianos in the business.

    I made one trip to Texas, to visit relatives/friends in both Dallas and Ft. Worth. I would like to see more of it!

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