A Low-Keyed Week in the Texas Panhandle - Amarillo TX

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October 6th 2015
Published: January 26th 2016
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Those who have read my blog, Wichita KS – Much More Than Cowboys and Cattle Drives, already know about the computer gremlins that haunted me near the end of 2015 and can skip to the next paragraph. For those new to my blog, welcome. A long story made short found all my MS Word blog files and my accompanying picture files deleted, so this blog is atypical of my standard product. It is brief and concise and is without pictures. My apologies, but regardless of the unadorned nature, I hope to provide potential travelers with some useful information that might make their trip more fulfilling. Thanks for reading, and please examine some of my pre-September 2015 blogs for a more representative sample of my work.

On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, I departed Lake El Reno RV Park In El Reno OK for the Fort Amarillo RV Park & Resort in Amarillo TX. I have passed through Amarillo with merely a brief stop for food and/or fuel but have never as much as stayed the night. My research indicated there weren’t a lot of high caliber attractions in the area, but I was interested in seeing what the city was about and hoped to find some unpublicized “diamond in the err, plain.” I started with a stop at the famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. Most people have encountered the Cadillac Ranch at some point in their life if only through a picture of the handful of vintage Cadillacs buried in the ground nose first. The attraction is definitely unique and worth a half hour stop to stretch the legs.

My next stop was the Texas Pharmacy Museum which is located in the basement of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, School of Pharmacy building on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campus in Amarillo. Whew! Numerous pharmacy museums can be found around the United States, and the Texas Tech facility is one of only a handful to be affiliated with a college or school of pharmacy. The hours of the museum are limited (plan accordingly) and, unfortunately, on the day of my visit the curator of the facility was off work due to an automobile collision. Her replacement did the best she could, the collection appeared to be comprehensive and I just might incorporate another visit into an overnight stop on my way through town.

My next stop was at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum, also in Amarillo. The museum is buried in the depths of a huge RV dealership, but painted lines on the pavement direct the visitor to the museum portion of the complex. My expectations were held in check as I assumed this was a ploy to suck customers into the sales cycle; however, I found a large number of immaculately restored RVs and was never approached by a salesperson. The variety was incredible – pop-up to motor coaches – and the unit manufacture dates covered the forty years from 1936 to 1976. The manufacturers varied from those that are still in business like Fleetwood, Airstream and Winnebago to those obscure and long forgotten manufacturers like Kenskill, Alma, Bethany and Flxible (sic) Clipper. There are 15 units in all, and the stop is well worth the time and effort for the RV traveler but for the motel traveler probably not so much.

As I had noted earlier, one of my goals was to check out the countryside in the Amarillo area so I set out for a scenic drive. I began by heading east on I-40 and turned north on TX 207. It just so happened that adjacent to the exit ramp (southwest corner of the junction) is a VW Slug Bug Ranch ala the aforementioned Cadillac Ranch. I found the cited web site only after the fact, and it took a couple of googles to get ‘er done! It’s worth a stop to stretch the legs if you have no plans to stop in Amarillo. I headed north (and NE past Stinnett TX) on TX 207 to Spearman TX where I had planned a stop at the J.B. Buchanan Windmill Park. I have seen a few other windmill parks and this is definitely one of the two stellar exhibits I have seen.

I continued on to Perryton where I turned south on US 83 towards Canadian TX. When I reached the Canadian River, I made a stop at the Canadian River Wagon Bridge. The 1916 steel truss bridge, at 4,235 feet, is the longest pin-connected bridge in Texas. Although 16 feet wide, by 1953 it had become too narrow for “modern” vehicular traffic and users became embroiled in arguments over who had the right away and who should back off the bridge, so the Texas Highway Department built a $1,000,000 concrete and steel bridge spanning the river within a few feet of the old Wagon Bridge. Interested citizens renovated the bridge by laying a wooden planked floor and installing side railings to create a walking bridge across the natural habitat of the river. Pretty cool and a great stop to stretch the legs. I continued on US 83 until I reached the junction of US 60 where I turned west toward Pampa TX, I-40 and ultimately Amarillo.

As I have noted, I’ve passed through Amarillo numerous times, but my stops have been brief – fuel and a quick meal at most. I have seen the billboards hawking the free 72-ounce steak and have always found The Big Texan Steak Ranch intriguing but have never taken (as opposed to had) the time to visit the eatery. Now, I TOOK the time. When I was in my thirties I have, according to the server, eaten between 34 and 38 ounces of prime rib at an “all you can eat” establishment but doubt that I ever could have devoured 72 ounces PLUS all the trimmings. The story of how the temptation evolved (see hyperlink) is really an interesting story. I, as is usual, sat at the bar and struck up a conversation with an older over-the-road trucker who is a Vietnam and Marine Corps vet no less, is nearing retirement and is based out of Phoenix. We swapped phone numbers and agreed to get together sometime when we’re both in “The Valley of the Sun.” Oh, yes, I ordered a 16-ounce ribeye which was delicious, but I ended up walking out with a “people bag.”

The Texas Panhandle ain’t no Idaho Panhandle folks, but I had a pleasant drive, got to stop at a couple of neat attractions and accomplished my mission – I got to see the Amarillo countryside. I found a cool diner I can picture in my mind but have no recollection of the name or the location. I guess that’s a part of the hazards of losing one’s preliminary notes and photos through a computer/operator malfunction. For those who pass through Amarillo on a regular basis or for those who use Amarillo as a stopover, there are a couple of interesting attractions to try to work into the schedule and one great eatery that shouldn’t be missed; however, Amarillo is not in any way shape or form a destination city for the average tourist. That having been said and since Amarillo is readily accessible to those of us who regularly travel east and west across the southern United States, there are other worthy attractions, such as Palo Duro Canyon, which I chose to save for a future visit.


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