Carny Road

Two icons along Route 66 point to a third.

Sticking up like a wart on the flat windy Texas Panhandle, where dust is a commodity spread liberally along the armpit of Oklahoma, a leaning tower teeters, posing for shutterbugs intent on absorbing the Mother Road’s charms. It turns out the water tower was purposely tilted off kilter by a truck stop entrepreneur. The truck stop burned down. Could an upright water tower–which would hold more water–have saved the flaming truck stop? The tower is not talking.

Down the road on the other side of the highway, Carhenge, aka Cadillac Ranch, is a monument to eccentricity, a statement that willingly gets hijacked by spray paint, over and over again, proving that folks who stick their heads in the sand with their tails in the air will end up with junky tattoos.

The water tower and Carhenge, are visual cues for westbound travelers to get their taste buds watering for the steak house on the close edge of Amarillo. The Big Texan Steak Ranch gives you a 72-oz steak free if you can eat it in an hour, with shrimp cocktail, salad, a baked potato the size of your head, and roll with butter. That may not sound like a big prize, but like the snake who swallowed a pig, you won’t need to eat for six months.

It takes damn near sixty minutes to devour the decor, whilst eating a modest lunch in a dining room that is part dance hall, part wallpaper museum, part arena.

Intimidated by the tale of the champ–a 120-pound woman holds the record for consuming the 72-oz steak, salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato and roll in less than five minutes–we each ordered a 9-oz ribeye dinner and made two meals from it, took our doggy bags, tucked our tails and drove west.

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