Sunday, February 14, 2010


305 - 723 (10720 - 11138)

Today I travelled into the Texas Panhandle. And I thought Kansas was flat!

I really enjoyed this stop at a rest area, and the sign declaring "Watch For Rattlesnakes." Note the terrain to the left. That is pretty much the Texas Panhandle.

First I had to get there. I took blue highwys, skirting the Oklahoma border toward Wichita Falls. This is the Petrified Wood Station in Decatur, Texas. It's no longer a functioning gas station but the owners have maintained the place for years. Legend has it that outlaws Bonnie and Clyde stayed a night in the bungalows behind the station. Petrified wood and field stone from nearby fields was gathered to decorate the place. It's quite a sight.

It was Sunday, but I expected some activity in what I thought was the somewhat large city of Wichita Falls. I swear I did not see a soul in the downtown area, what there was of it. I was in search of the World's Smallest Skyscraper.

Built during the 1920's oil boom by a traveling con-man/promoter, the building is only four stories tall. No one noticed that all the plans, promotional literature, etc. had tiny decimal points in all the crucial figures. i.e. 4.0 stories was taken as 40 stories. Not only is this tiny skyscraper only 4 stories tall, but each story is only a fraction of the size of a true story level. This was part of the con. The plans were scaled in inches instead of feet. The result...a 4-story building only about 10-ft. x 16-ft. The project was oversubscribed by a huge amount, upon which the promoter skipped town.

I had decided while in Seattle that I was going to follow Route 66, the "Mother Road" or the "Main Street of America," as best I could as I crossed the Southwest.

Built in the 20s and 30s, the often romanticized Mother Road ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. It is riddled with countless tourist courts, motels, service stations, garages and diners. It inspires in many a feeling of nostalgia, as it has since been supplanted by the interstate system. Surely travelling the Mother Road would be an experience, a feeling, a perception, a mystery that could only be resolved by driving the pavement itself. This is, after all, an adventure.

I caught my first glimpse of Old Route 66 east of Amarillo, in Shamrock, Texas. I got these photos of the restored Conoco Tower, an art deco landmark. It is sort of a church for Route 66 worshippers, with its spire topped by a bizarre abstract diety.

The original structure included a roadside restaurant called the U-Drop Inn Cafe. The building is now used by the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce as a tourist office.

I loved this leaning water tower in Groom, Texas. Though there is lots of speculation why it leans so; like one leg was too short, or a tornado blew it over. But in fact it was planned that way, making for a good gimmick and lots of traffic at the now defunct truck stop and restaurant there when travelers stopped to inquire.

You know I always have my eye open for the "Worldest Biggest..." and this one did not disappoint. Here is the Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere, also in Groom, Texas. It is 190 feet and supposedly can be seen from a distance of twenty miles on a clear day.

My destination today was Amarillo, Texas, and in particular, The Big Texan Steak Ranch. Okay, it is a kitschy tourist trap, but kitschy tourist traps can be fun, and the Big Texan certainly was.

Once a Route 66 icon, it is now on I-40. The place is a treat unto itself. They've got a fun little gift shop full of TaT, and weird things all about (a huge rocking chair, a huge boot, and a huge cow, for example), and an extensive collection of taxidermy and kitsch. The staff was extremely friendly, all dressed in cowboy/cowgirl garb, even strolling cowboy muscians. The manager came by to see how things were and we ended up chatting for like 10 minutes. This place even has limos that go to the local hotels to bring folks in.

The Big Texan is best known as the home to the Free 72-oz Steak (featured on Man vs. Food). If you can eat the steak (4.5 pounds!), a baked potato, shrimp cocktail, salad, and roll in a hour, it is free (fail: pay $72). Apparently some 48,000 people have tried, and about 8,000 have succeeded. No, I did not try, though I watched someone working on one.

I pointed out to a couple staffers as I left that they must have a special hotline to the area cardiac hospitals. One guy laughed, telling me the limos they once used were retired ambulances.

Had a great beer, Buffalo Butt by Rahr & Sons Brewing Company. Legend has it that back in the 1840s, when a cowboy said a nice, cold beer was the only thing that could make him forget the often-viewed sight of a bison's rear end, the local brewmaster vowed to create Buffalo Butt beer. Fortunately my brew didn't require months on a dusty trail gazing at a buffalo's posterior to be enjoyed.

Tomorrow I am going to Amarillo's famous Cadillac Ranch, and then follow Route 66 into New Mexico.

Happy Valentine's Day, Cheri!


  1. As falls Wichita, so falls Wichita Falls...

  2. As I've gotten older, it seems like the commentaries of my daily life are reflected triplet phrases... TMP (Tosco Music Parties), TMI (too much information), etc.
    In this case... EMR (eat more rattlesnake).

    -John Parham