Vol 9 – Route 66 and the Big Texan
We had an early breakfast with Carol, our B&B host in Ozark and quickly packed up the car to get on the road in order to take in some of the scenic drives around Ozark, Arkansas. We followed advice from the locals to see the Ozark Forest, however this meant that we were going a bit out of our way. When we saw the name of the scenic drive that we were to take, the extra mileage didn’t matter to us – the Pig Trail Scenic Drive called us!
Photo: Hill People dwellings – note the multiple cars and implements in the yard!
The road was just as it sounded – shaped like a pig’s tail – something you needed a barf bag for. Luckily I was able to hold it together while Kathleen drove pig trail as if she were in Nascar. I think I was a bit green because I was concentrating so hard on spotting hill people. We did find some places that certainly looked like hill people dwellings (need to have a minimum of 4 cars and 2 appliances in your yard I figured). When we would spot a qualifying house, Kathleen would pull over and I would take photos. She wouldn’t let me get out of the car for fear of someone coming outside with a shotgun upset that I was taking photos of their house…probably a wise move to stay in the car.
The Pig Trail was great, and it dumped us in Fayetteville – the birthplace of Bill and Hilary Clinton – according to the sign as we entered the city. However, we never saw another sign about it again as we drove through the town. We crossed on over to Oklahoma and it was there were we had planned to pick up the ‘mother road’ – Route 66. I didn’t know much about Route 66 except what Disney had taught me through the movie Cars, and I have to say, it was rather accurate. Route 66 seemed more like a ghost town than anything. I was surprised to find out how much of it is no longer in existence. Disney was correct, it died off with the creation of the interstate highways. What this left was little 5 mile sections that would go through towns and then dump you back on the interstate. There were some sections that simply followed the interstate as if it were a frontage road. Then there were some sections that were simply gravel roads. As we drove through towns they seemed like ghost towns at times. Gas stations and motels were boarded up , weeds in the parking lot, signs falling apart…it was all a bit sad if you ask me.
However, there were some towns that were still keeping Route 66 alive – mainly full of curio shops selling a bunch of memorabilia which was also a bit disturbing to me. I know that tourist gift shops have to exist – but it just felt like they were trying to re-sell a piece of history instead of really trying to be authentic. A gift shop won’t get me to exit off the interstate, but a good diner will. We came across the Rock Café in Stroud, Oklahoma and we stopped in for lunch. The Rock Café has been in existence for 80 years and was still doing a thriving business cooking up the best home-cooked burgers around. The owners were friendly and they had a large guest book full of international visitors driving Route 66.
We had a long 500 mile drive today so we hopped back on I-40, making a few Route 66 photo stops along the way. We tried to go to the Barbed Wire museum along Route 66, but it was closed by the time we got there at 5PM…bummer. So we powered through Oklahoma towards Amarillo Texas. As we entered the panhandle of Texas it looked pretty much as you would think, a few windmills, flat and desolate. We must have been a bit loopy from a long days drive as we both thought that the town of Panhandle, TX was a hilarious name – some goofy ‘Who’s on first’ comedy bit came to mind…
“Where do you live in Texas?”
“Great, but where do you live?”…see what I mean?
As the sun was going down we pulled into Amarillo and our highly advertised stop for the night – The Big Texan Hotel. For the last 200 miles we had seen signs about The Big Texan Steak house and hotel. Their claim to fame was a 72 oz. steak…let that sink in for a moment…72 oz is 4.5 pounds. Here’s a way to visually think about it – it would be like 18 Quarter Pounders from McDonalds. If you eat the steak in under an hour, then you get the steak for free – a $50 value. Kathleen and I pondered if $50 free dinner was really worth a quadruple bypass or not. A good question considering the cost of insurance these days!
As we pulled into the big Texan it was pretty much everything you would think it would be…huge and tacky in a silly way. Perfect for after long day of driving! We got a room at the Big Texan hotel…complete with a pool shaped like the state of Texas and a horse hotel…I’m not pulling your leg, there was also a horse hotel/stable out back. Luckily there was vacancy and we didn’t have to stay at the horse hotel, but in our very own Texas themed cowboy room.
The hotel itself was a western town façade, but the room was even better. The room didn’t have curtains; it had wooden barn-door type shutters. The bedspreads were cow hide and the door to the bathroom area was not a door, but saloon doors instead. Finally, the shower curtain was a big Texas flag…I always love a good theme.
We quickly unloaded the car and went straight on over to the Big Texan Steak House to check out what all of the fuss was about. The place was huge and even had a giant cow outside…there was no missin’ this brightly painted place with oversized animals in the parking lot. As we walked in – it was what you would expect…a tourist trap…but in the right state of mind and one cold mug of beer later, it was a ton of fun. As we waited for a table to come available, we sat and had a cold mug of beer and then worked off some steam at a shooting range. Not a real shooting range of course – but a goofy kids game/shooting range. Soon our wait was over and our oversized beeper was lighting up notifying us that a table was ready. We were led into a huge dining room – it must have seated about 300 people at least. In the middle of the dining room on a raised platform sat the Big Texan 72 oz Table and a countdown timer set at 60 minutes…this is where the challenge took place. Not only did you get to clog your arteries, but you got to do it on a stage with everyone watching.
When our waitress came by, we asked her if anyone tried the challenge yet tonight and she said – “Yes, you just missed someone try it, but he didn’t finish it. Would you guys like to give it a go?” I decided not to go into details about my crappy insurance coverage, so I just told her no thanks, not tonight. Kathleen would look over every new person that was seated in the dining room and we’d try to predict if any of the people would be challenge worthy. Unfortunately no one ever tried the 72 oz challenge while we were sitting there eating dinner. I tried to talk Kathleen into it – but she ordered the 6oz steak instead…wimp. I had the Texas sized chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and tons of gravy. We opted out of the chocolate cake for dessert as it was literally a ¼ of a complete cake – as if someone had made a 3 layer cake and cut it into 4’s to serve it…who eats like this?!!!
The food was good, the beer was cold, and the atmosphere was certainly entertaining. A good way to end a long day of driving! Now off to bed in our cattle beds!
Photo: Me and the Big Heffer…I’m the one at the bottom!