|U Drop Inn in Shamrock, TX|
We broke up our drive from Tulsa to Amarillo with a stop in Shamrock, TX, home to the landmark U Drop Inn diner / Conoco station, which apparently featured in the Pixar movie, Cars. A sweet old lady who had exactly the same accent as my grandmother, who also grew up in the Texas panhandle, sold us postcards at the visitor center and gave a glowing recommendation to Vern’s Steakhouse just across the street. We opted for Taco Bell, saving ourselves for steak at the Big Texan later that night.
The Big Texan motel is right off the I-40, just before Amarillo. I had been looking forward to the Texas-shaped swimming pool all day, only to be disappointed when the check-in girl told me it wasn’t open until May. Why that was so when it was ninety-one degrees outside was unclear. The good news was that we could check into our room early. The bad news was that it was 2:00PM and we were by the side of an interstate with nothing to do all afternoon except entertain ourselves at a roadside motel. The inside of our room was painted concrete block with swinging, saloon style doors to the bathroom, which featured a fringed, ultra-suede shower curtain. It was another lesson in the fleeting value of irony, and, after a quick tour of the gift shop, we were left with no choice but to belly up to the bar at the adjacent Big Texan steakhouse.
|the Big Texan Steakhouse & Motel, Amarillo, TX|
After an aborted attempt to drink a glass of rosé from Lubbock, Texas, and success with two home-brewed honey blonde beers, we sat down to an early dinner in the steakhouse. We were just in time to see the last fifteen minutes of a man attempting to eat a seventy-two ounce steak in under an hour, the reward for which would be the steak was free. He was seated at an elevated table in the center of the room, just under the watchful eye of the grill cook. Our server subsequently told us this was so the cook, Cookie (I swear), could watch out for barfing. This was a disqualifying offense if done at the table, but acceptable if done in the parking lot. It also explained the two small garbage pails sitting on the stage.
With ten minutes to go, the contender was declared disqualified due to vomiting. Thankfully, we were being serenaded by a roaming trio of elderly men doling out The Yellow Rose of Texas for tips when the penalty occurred and failed to notice. Staged barfing aside, the Big Texan was delicious. I went to bed with a lead belly, anticipating our arrival in the west the next day.