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Places Visited:

2004Travelogue # 18 Amarillo & Route 66
Amarillo Ranch RV Park.
Amarillo Texas

Places of Interest:
Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo Stockyard and Auction Arena,

7/5 Today we moved 150 miles down the road, to Amarillo, TX. We pulled off I-40 at Exit 74, into the Amarillo Ranch RV Park. (806-373-4962/866-244-7447) We had a spacious, hard-gravel pull-through, FHU with 50 amps, as our place of residence for the next few days.

Our evening event was dining followed by the "Opry" at the infamous Big Texan Steak Ranch. We have passed its roadside billboards, which go for miles on both sides of Amarillo, for 40 years when traveling to Colorado. Tonight we checked it out.

When seated, the hostess handed us our souvenir menus, which resembled huge $100 bills; printed in bold-type on the front was its claim to be the "Beef Capital of the World, and the Finest Eating Joint in Texas". One question asked of Bob Lee, the owner, when he opened the Big Texan on old US-66, was about his slogan of having the "biggest steak in Texas". How did he choose 72-ounces to be the size of that steak? He said he found a cowboy who had one of the biggest appetites he had ever seen, sat him down and started feeding him steak. When he was finally full, Lee calculated how much steak he had eaten. "All total, he'd eaten 72-ounces so, that's how big I knew my biggest steak had to be." And as they say, "the rest is history." Now was our time to see if someone could eat a 72-oz steak with all the trimmings in one hour, and thereby get the meal for free.

Since 1959, more than 5,000 people have eaten the big steak and 35,000 have tried. When Lee started the 72-ounce challenge, the price for the meal was $9.95, it increased to $29.95 in 1979, to $39.95 in 1989, and finally to $50 in 1994. As we were seated, we noticed a man working on one but he soon gave up. Shortly afterwards, two more men stepped up for the contest. They sat on a small stage in the center of the knotty-pine dining room and enthusiastically dug into their dinner. We don't know how it ended because we were off to the Opry!

Leaving the dining room, we walked through the western arcade shooting gallery near the restaurant lobby and bar area. We exited a backdoor, and entered the adjoining tent, for the Big Texan Opry. Every Tuesday is variety show and talent- contest night. Upon entering the tent, we noticed sturdy porch swings scattered around the periphery. We settled in one near the back of the tent and watched the show "Just a Rocking" ala John Anderson.

7/6 When having fun, chores tend to be postponed but today, while we were still in Texas, I needed to get the Saturn inspected. The sticker expires in August and we won't be back in Texas until October. I found a place that did the inspection but Potter County is only one of only two counties in the State that don't do emissions testing. I'll have to resubmit the car for inspection in the fall when back in the Dallas area.

7/7 After a few household chores this morning, we decided to try one of the Route 66 diners for lunch. On the northern side of Amarillo, Route 66 changes to 6th Street, which we followed looking for the Golden Light Café. While doing the search we passed a print shop, wheeled in and asked if they could print some business cards for us.

In the "RV business", everyone has business cards to give to people they meet along the way for purposes of staying in touch. We have procrastinated on this but today we got the job done. Gaye, the creative design lady, helped us choose the copy and format. Within 15 minutes, she created four design examples, and said our choice could be printed and ready for pick-up in a couple of hours.

Still needing lunch, we asked Gaye her opinion, within the 6th Street area, about places to eat. She nixed the idea of the Golden Light Cafe but recommended The Blue Sky for good burgers and fried onion rings. Even with that information, we still wanted to see for ourselves so, we continued for about a mile on 6th Street searching for the Golden Light. We saw many unique, small shops, numerous antique stores and finally the Café but it looked a little too rustic and didn't pass the "ant test".

However, we nailed it with The Blue Sky, a one-of-a-kind, bright and airy restaurant, serving huge burgers, fried onion rings, fried jalapeno rings, and wonderfully rich Blue Bell ice cream milkshakes. I'd never tried fried jalapeno rings so, now was my chance, I'd be adventurous. The jalapenos were sliced, dipped in a batter and fried, like we prepare fried okra. The portion was huge; I had about 5 or 6, looked at Peggy and said, "These are the hottest damn things I've ever eaten, no way can I finish these!" After my eyes quit watering, I took them to the counter and asked the manager if he could possibly substitute these jalapenos for a few French fries, and he did so most willingly. No more fried jalapenos for me…ever!

After lunch, we browsed some of the antique shops on 6th Street. While at the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, I spent time in the Tom Lovell Studio exhibit, taking notes of the names of his reference books for his paintings on the West and Native Americans. In one of the antique shops, I found one of these books, on Native Americans. In the same shop, I also found a signed hard-back copy of "Route 66 the Mother Road" by Michael Wallis that was in excellent condition. I discussed pricing with the young lady and she willingly negotiated so, we left with two wonderful books for our library for $15.

After lunch and picking up our business cards, we followed 6th Street east, and looking north, we saw grain elevators, railroad tracks, and stockyards. We turned, bounced over four or five tracks and were in the heart of the Amarillo Stockyard and Auction Arena. It was dead quiet at 5 pm. We parked and went into the Auction Arena building. The Arena was empty but we stood on the red dirt floor and looked up at the rows of stadium-type chairs in a semi-circle around us. Here, cattlemen bid and sell over a 100,000 head of cattle a year. The Auction is every Tuesday and is one of the largest in the State. Inside this building there is also a small café decorated with cowboy and rodeo gear but it's locked tight this afternoon.

Continuing east and out-of-town on Route 66, the Highway becomes two-lanes, nearly deserted, forgotten and beat-up. We noticed here, at the town's edge another old road joined 66, forming a triangle and there we found the remains of an old motel. A high rusty fence surrounds the property; cedar trees and weeds have grown so tall, leaving it nearly invisible from the highway. It was in total disrepair and abandonment. Out front, on Route 66, attached to a steel-pipe pole was a rusty old sign with the barely recognizable words, Triangle Motel…Once upon a time…long ago.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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