Steak, big fat juicy steak, cooked to perfection at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo was the promise and reward for full day’s journey.
On September 1st, 2013 we left Gallup, New Mexico riding across most of the state to arrive at Amarillo, Texas. Wherever possible, we traveled along Route 66, which parallels I-40. We clocked over 430 miles (692 km) upon our arrival in Amarillo just after dusk.
Riding through New Mexico is a treat, it is a landscape of vibrant colors, azure blue skies, endless mountains, cliffs, canyons and buttes. For most of the journey, we were actually riding through Indian reservations in towns such as Thoreau, Grants and Laguna. These are quiet little towns still locked in a way of life that vanished from mainstream America decades ago. The family run business is still king and mega malls are conspicuously absent.
We made a brief stop at the Continental Divide Navajo Trading Post at an elevation 7,275 ft. The actual continental divide runs some 700 miles north and south through the Americas. It is a geographical line that determines whether rainfall drains into the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Rain that falls west of the divide, drains into the Pacific and rain that falls east of it drains into the Atlantic.
Compared to chillier days in Northern Arizona, we were sweating buckets in New Mexico. As we rode through New Laguna, the temperature was at least 115F (46C) and the mid-day sun had baked the roads to even higher temperatures. Frankly, I do not mind this dry heat, since it is the cold which I can’t stand. A ride through the hot desert allows one to enjoy a certain freedom unencumbered by heavy leather jackets, vests or chaps.
Our afternoon ride through a virtual pizza oven was about to end as we approached Albuquerque. Once again, the monsoon clouds were forming and it was rain ahead. Nature was playing out like a broken record with its needle stuck in the rain track. It was only a matter of time before we would have to dawn rain suits and deal with another torrential downpour.
A massive rainstorm found its mark just east of Albuquerque. True to desert form, the rain does not phase in gradually, rather it is like a curtain of water with an “instant on” switch. Elaine and I pulled over to the nearest gas station, put on our rain suits and made our way back to the Interstate for a cautious ride with poor visibility. It took a few short minutes before the 100F weather dropped at least 25 degrees.
Once we got near Tucumcari the weather eased off, the sun was shining and the temperature climbed back to a very comfy 100F. This great weather would last all the way to Amarillo. We arrived an hour or so after dark and it was sweet. An evening ride in a dry 100F heat is a great experience, not too hot, not too cold, just right.
We arrived at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo around 7:30 pm. Over a decade of yearning to try out Route 66’s most famous steakhouse was finally satiated. Yes, it’s everything I could have imagined and more. This place serves up roadside culture and kitsch in Texan sized portions. This place is even larger than I imagined, it is the size of a commerical aircraft hanger.
Since the 1960’s, the Big Texan’s most effective roadside billboards repeated the mantra of a free steak dinner. They promise patrons a free 72 ounce steak, provided it is eaten in 60 minutes or less along with the side dishes. Many have tried, few succeed and I knew I was not up to the challenge. A 12 ounce steak is my limit and mine was delicious. I can highly recommend this place to any steak lover and Route 66 traveler.