Posted May 14, 2009 by Kate Hamman
There was a time when taking a road trip meant something more than speeding down a super highway at lightning speeds to reach the next destination. Before the fast-paced interstates sliced through the country, people would take long, leisurely vacations along smaller roads that gave a real taste of the places they passed through. Route 66 and all of its bizarre attractions was as much about the journey as the destination, and Amarillo, a spunky town in the panhandle of Texas, was as major a stop then as it is today.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch: The sign may read "Home of the free 72 ounce steak," but some things are really too good to be true. Not that the steak isn't free. It is. So long as you can eat all of it within an hour while sitting on stage in front of an entire dining room full of people. It's a hard feat to accomplish, but among those with the beefy bragging rights are an 11-year-old boy and a 69-year-old grandma. If you fail, however, it will cost you the hefty price of four-and-a-half pounds of steak. Those choosing to err on the safe side will also find a full menu of smaller Texas entrees plus all the fixins at a much more reasonable rate. Normal-sized steaks start at $16.25, and then work their way up from there.
The Big Texan Motel: If you drive by the enormous cowboy welcoming you off the highway and into a cozy place to hang your hat, then you've gone too far. Decorated to resemble old Western storefronts—complete with corral doors to the bathroom—this comfortable, albeit a little worn and dusty, motel makes you feel as if you've stepped into a John Wayne flick.
Cadillac Ranch: If you've ever contemplated what a Cadillac would look like with its hood in the sand and tail fenders pointing to the sky, then you and Stanley Marsh, creator of the Cadillac Ranch, have something in common. The automobiles, once talk-of-the-town vehicles, are now artifacts just like the famous route they sit beside, and make quite the spectacle along the desert horizon. Anyone with a keen sense of car curiosity can tour this funky little roadside attraction for free.
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(Photo: Brian Fisher)