Wednesday was our last full day in Amarillo. I spent the afternoon packing the trailer. Donna went to the pool and swam laps. We made plans to visit the iconic Amarillo attraction, the Big Texan Ranch Steakhouse. The Lee family owns Big Texan and they recently bought the Amarillo Ranch RV Park. They offer a free ride from the RV park to the steakhouse.
As you approach Amarillo on I-40, you’ll see signs advertising a free 72-ounce steak at Big Texan. The gimmick is this – you must eat the whole entree with included side dishes or you pay $72 for the meal. Donna made a reservation at the RV park office for the limo ride to Big Texan. Our driver showed up at 5pm – we wanted to arrive early for happy hour before dinner.
The exterior of the restaurant is a typical touristy facade.
Once we went inside, the place reminded us of Lambert’s (Home of the Throwed Rolls) in Missouri. We were seated family-style at a large rustic table. We started out by sampling the beer brewed on site. Donna went for a pecan porter that she absolutely loved. I had a sampler flight with their Rattlesnake IPA, Whoop your Donkey double IPA, a palate cleansing honey blonde lager and finally the Whiskey Barrel Stout.
The double IPA and the stout were good beers. For dinner, Donna ordered the prime rib plate and a second pecan porter. I went for the baby back ribs and a pint of Whoop Your Donkey. The menu says the baby back ribs are dry rubbed – well they were, but they were also slathered in barbeque sauce Kansas City style. The ribs were tender and good, Donna’s prime rib was exactly what she expected from a steakhouse – excellent. Everything is bigger in Texas and these entrees were enough for two meals and more – we took home leftovers.
While we were there, a guy took the 72-ounce steak challenge.There are rules of course. There’s a one-hour time limit. He was seated front and center, spotlighted at a table on a raised platform so he could be seen. If anyone got up there with him, he would be disqualified. He was told if he got up or threw up, it was game over. On the start signal, he started chewing as the crowd cheered.
Our waitress told us that at least one person per night has a go at the big steak – as many as five or six on Friday and Saturday nights. She said about one out of ten guys eat the whole thing and about one in eight women finish it. Her take on that was that fewer women make the attempt – those who do are pretty sure they can do it. I can’t imagine ever stuffing down four and half pounds of steak.
Ozark spent most of her time in Amarillo watching the big, boat-tailed grackles strut around our site. The birds would walk past every day with Ozark either perched on the dash watching them or on the back of the sofa. Eventually she would doze off and dream of catching them.
On Thursday morning we hit the road. The surface on I-40 was rough in places through the city, but once we hit the outskirts of town it improved. West of Amarillo and into New Mexico I-40 is mostly smooth sailing.
We climbed through rolling hills. We gained elevation every mile of the way. The terrain changed from shortgrass prairie to sagebrush country. I liked seeing the table-top mesas and rock formations in the distance. When we were taking the limo ride back from Big Texan, we shared the ride with a couple from Alabama. The had been out west and were heading back home. They remarked how happy they were to be back in tree-filled landscape. As we drove through New Mexico, Donna remarked how happy she felt to be back in the southwestern desert.
We stopped in a small town called Santa Rosa where we heard of a couple of boondocking possibilities. We checked them out and parked in one of them – a paved lot on the main drag. Donna went for walk to the Blue Hole – a natural swimming hole 60 feet in diameter and 81 feet deep in a county park about a mile away. I tried to find a level spot on the lot – there wasn’t one. I found beer and a bag of ice in a store nearby.
When Donna returned from her walk, we decided to move on another 40 miles to the Flying C Ranch. This is a tourist trap gift shop and Dairy Queen in the middle of nowhere. They offer free overnight parking in the lots surrounding their store. We found a quiet spot on the west side of the property in a partially paved gravel lot. It’s very level and we set up next to a stand of trees.
We’re at an elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level. As the sun set, it cooled off quickly outside. We slept with windows open and enjoyed the cool, fresh air.
We’re up early this morning. We’ll head up to Santa Fe today. We haven’t booked a site there, but we’ll find something on our way.