June 12, 2018
Route 66 cuts across the Texas Panhandle, a part of the state I had never been in before. It’s only about 170 miles, so there are fewer Route 66 attractions. But these attractions were pretty cool!
Leaving New Mexico, we headed toward Amarillo, Texas, where we planned to stay overnight at a Best Western hotel.
We had been experienced temperatures in the upper 90s across most of the southwest, but on June 12, the thermometer soared to 104°F (40°C)!
We got off I-40 at Exit 18 and took about a 5-mile stretch of road (the original 66) through Adrian. When you get there, you will find a sign and a café marking the halfway point of Route 66 between Santa Monica and Chicago!
There are signs marking this midpoint. To take a photo of this sign, we pulled over and I got out of the car to cross the road, so that I would get a better shot. Due to the heat, the asphalt on the road was actually melting! Consequently a little asphalt got stuck on the bottom of my sandals.
There is also a store…
…the Midpoint Café…
…and a (defunct) motel that had seen better days!
Fortunately, Amarillo was only about 50 miles down the road, because it was already 6:00 pm and we were getting hungry. We hoped there would be a place to eat within walking distance of the hotel. We passed the most interesting Route 66 attraction in Texas – Cadillac Ranch – because it was so hot, planning to go back and see it the next morning when it would be cooler.
We checked into our Best Western hotel, and found out that they offered free shuttle service to a famous steakhouse called The Big Texan. Actually, it was just a driver in a big black car, and we only waited a short time for him to return from shuttling someone else over to the restaurant a few miles away.
The Big Texan is not exaggerating – it’s huge!!
It would be hard to miss, driving by – there is an enormous steer in the parking lot. This is me standing next to the big guy.
We met this quintessential Texan in the parking lot who agreed to pose for a picture with his longhorn adorned automobile.
Past the giant steer is a Wild-West-style row of store fronts. Actually, it is a hotel apparently owned by the Lee brothers who own the restaurant.
A somewhat battered sign told the history of the place: Bob Lee opened the Big Texan steakhouse in 1960 along the historic Route 66. However, 10 years later, I-40 was built, bypassing Route 66 and Mr. Lee suffered a dramatic loss of business. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – he rebuilt the Big Texan next to the freeway where cars whizzing by at high speeds would have a full view of the place. Needless to say, the Big Texan has enjoyed huge success since then and has become an “international icon.”
Danny and Bob Lee Jr. hold a deep appreciation for Route 66, without which there would be no Big Texan today. The cowboy-dressed dinosaur in the parking lot represents fond memories of giant dinosaurs the boys saw when their family took a Route 66 road trip.
Another sign advertises the Big Texan as the “home of the free 72-oz. steak.” What was that about??
It was past 8:00 pm and still the huge interior was filled with hungry people. It was quite noisy, but we were seated at the end of a long table, far from the center of things.
The interior is lined with the heads of various large game animals – probably someone’s hunting trophies at one time, with longhorns attached underneath. The waiters wear cowboy hats (of course)!
There are digital clocks on the wall, which periodically count down from 60 – and when it gets to 10 seconds, voices join in, like a countdown to the beginning of a new year.
This countdown is to see if someone will win the free 72-oz. (a little over 2.04 kgs) steak. Those who have strong (and large) stomachs that are up to the challenge can pay $72 for a 4 1/2 lb. steak, which is served to them along with the usual accompaniments of potato and vegetable. That person has exactly one hour to eat the entire steak and the vegetable and potato. If he (or she – the “winners” are not always men!) succeeds, the restaurant refunds their $72. We asked the waitress about this. She says that a few people try each day, but only one or two a month actually succeed. There is a display case showing the world record, which went to a woman – Molly Schuyler, who (normally) weighs only 125 lbs. (57 kgs.)!
Here is a prime example of why so many Americans are obese, we thought as we ate our $15 beef dishes. I cannot imagine stuffing that much food into my digestive system in one day, let alone one hour! People must get sick afterward! Dale and I calculated how many meals a 72 oz. steak would make for a normal meal – figuring about 4 oz. (113 grams) per person, that would be enough for 18 meals!
Besides the busy restaurant, there is a store and a game room, and they also have fudge for sale, so I bought some (not the best I’ve had, but good).
At about 10 pm, the chauffer came to pick us up and take us back to the hotel. (I gave him a tip although I had been told it wasn’t necessary.) As we were on our way back, the sky had filled with dark clouds and thunder announced a storm coming. It was raining hard by the time we got back to the hotel.