Amarillo, TX: Route 66 –

I don’t follow Route 66 as much as I had hoped, in fact, there isn’t much left traveling from Oklahoma City to Amarillo. It is mostly I-40 with a few stretches of the original highway. There isn’t a whole lot going on this section of the iconic highway. In such, I don’t see many of the venues that the highway is known for. However, there are many things to explore during my brief visit to Amarillo.

Cadillac Ranch

Erected in 1974 (relocated in 1997) by a group of artist known as the Antfarm is the Cadillac Ranch. At some point earlier in life, I see this curiosity on a TV show. It calls to me and remains on my mind to visit. Decades later, I finally get to see it.  As if a great pilgrimage, I want time at the monument alone.  Assuming early morning is my best bet, I leave before daybreak to get here.

It is amazing how small the 10 Cadillac’s, 1/2 buried, look from the road. If you aren’t specifically looking for them, it would be easy to drive by without noticing. As planned, Murphy and I alone watch the sunrise over the tail fins.

Curious Craig - Sunrise at Cadillac Ranch
Sunrise @ Cadillac Ranch

Somewhere along the line, the decision was made to turn this it into a public art display and allow spray paint on the cars. As with most things, giving the public a little rope is not necessarily a good thing.  Everything in the area is tagged with paint and parts of cars are beginning to disappear. Roof, doors, and trunk lids are gone from a couple of the cars.

For something that has been on my bucket list forever, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed. I would have preferred that the public art display remained in its original state, but that’s just me.

 Palo Duro Canyon

I would have never heard of or stopped at Palo Duro Canyon had the Yodeling Cowgirl not insist I stay here instead of in Amarillo. I stayed at the rim of the canyon looking down into the 900-foot gorge. The Canyon features 30 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. The brochures of this Canyon usually feature red rock formations (hoodoos) and one that looks like a lighthouse. The lighthouse is the trademark of the canyon. To reach it, however, requires a 6-mile hike. After visiting the Cadillacs, it’s mid-morning before starting the hike. Temps are now in the upper 70s and rising quickly.

Curious Craig - Palo Duro Lighthouse Path
Lighthouse Rock Trail

At the trailhead are a large thermometer and warning signs of extreme heat/ dehydration and a reminder that more deaths to humans and pets have occurred on this trail than any other in the park. I don’t know how many that actually is but it’s a bit concerning.  Several sunscreen dispensers throughout the park are a nice touch.

Curious Craig - Lighthouse Rock Palo Duro
Lighthouse Rock (From beyond the official trail)

The hike is over a well-marked path and has little elevation change.  I stop frequently to take photos and it takes a little over an hour to reach the trails end.  At the trails end, you can no longer even see the lighthouse.  A more favorable observation point requires a much tougher climb scrambling over rocks and silty soil. I had a minor wipeout on the way back down.

Curious Craig - Canyon-Summit.jpeg
At the top of Lighthouse rock trail.

By the time I begin the hike back, temps are in the 90’s, but it’s a dry heat as they say. Regardless, I am feeling the effect and glad to get back to an air-conditioned car.  Speaking of cars….

Back to Mecca

Despite being underwhelmed by the Cadillacs, I am still called by them.  After the morning hike, I return to the ranch as I want to see them in a different light and watch people paint. It is enjoyable watching the folks interact with the display, it’s amazing how much the painting changes it less than 8 hours.  It did give it a whole new meaning and I leave feeling better about it than before.  I’m glad to see it in both lights, and I would go again in a heartbeat.

Curious Craig - Cadillac Ranch Afternoon

Big Texan.

It’s as iconic as they come. You can’t miss the signs along Route 66, mostly I-40 now. Free 72 ounce steak. To get this free steak you only have to eat 5lbs of meat (cooked to order) 3 fried shrimp, baked potato, salad, and roll.

Curious Craig - Big-Texan-1.jpeg

I was glad to see a contender step up to the plate, a big plate. My server had mentioned they get 3-4 attempts daily and they never complete it.   The chef shouts out that the steak is up and the challenger is seated at an elevated table in the center of the restaurant.  Patrons or encouraged to take photos then the large red LED counter starts counting down from 60 minutes.

Curious Craig -Big Texan Steak Challenge

My measly 16oz Duke cut steak arrives and it was all I could do to finish that and I didn’t even get the shrimp.  With 20 minutes remaining on the Steak Challenge counter, I settle up and go to explore more of the place.  Quickly stopping to check in on the contender and he’s making great progress.  After a couple words of encouragement, I plan to come back and see if he makes it.

Adjacent to the restaurant is an arcade type venue. At once I notice, Zoltar, the fortune telling machine from the move Big fame.  There is an old time shooting gallery the likes of which I have not seen since childhood. I saddle up literally and take 25 shots for a $1.  There are various other little dioramas just begging for a $1. It is all wonderfully Americana kitschy and touristy.  I love it.  I become so engrossed in the walk down memory lane that I forget all about the steak challenge, having no idea if the fella completed the challenge.

In hindsight, I would have ordered this monstrosity just for the novelty of it. If you can’t finish the feast, they charge you $72 and you can take the leftovers home.  My meal cost $32 bucks anyway, leftovers would have been another 2 meals easily.

Got my Kicks

After only a day in the area, I got a taste of the Old West and Route 66 that I was craving.  My only regret is I didn’t see it all in its heyday.

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