If there were a rite of passage into the Texan tribe, surely it would be the 72-ounce steak challenge at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. Could anything be bigger, or more Texan? To an Irishman raised on Western flicks like myself, the very name Amarillo conjures up images of tumbleweeds, rattlesnakes, and yodeling cowboys.
This isn’t Canadian’s first rodeo. In fact, this summer will be the 126th edition of Canadian’s Fourth of July Rodeo, making it one of the state’s oldest.
The swagger and self-reliance that inspired our forefathers to strike out on their own in 1836 has shaped Texas ever since, including its music.
Bison graze just beyond the main road as we enter Caprock Canyons State Park northeast of Lubbock. They loom large, dark, and shaggy against the tawny open range on a late-September afternoon. It looks like a scene out of the Old West.
Those who take time to explore the “Hub City” will find a notable wine scene, thanks to the High Plains’ bounty of vineyards, an influential music scene, and a fascinating selection of museums. Few cities honor their heritage as enjoyably as Lubbock, home to museums focused on Buddy Holly, windmills, agriculture, and—a favorite top destination nominee for a number of TH readers—the National Ranching Heritage Center.
The view from High Lonesome Lane is remarkably empty. The narrow dirt road cuts through the southern High Plains, traversing the Rita Blanca National Grasslands in the northwest corner of the Texas Panhandle. An occasional hackberry tree or windmill breaks the prairie’s distant horizon. Grazing pronghorn, startled by the rarity of a passing car, dart along broken stretches of sagging barbed-wire fence. It’s conceivable to imagine what this territory would have been like in decades past, including when drought-ravaged settlers left their homes to escape the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
A six-foot steel sculpture of a corkscrew marks the entrance to McPherson Cellars in downtown Lubbock. Inside, the modern theme continues in a sleek tasting room with dark walls, polished floors, and local artwork.
The room where artist Georgia O'Keeffe lived in Canyon south of Amarillo was so tiny it held only an iron bed and a wooden fruit crate. Sparse suited her because she preferred to sit on the floor to paint and draw.
Amarillo is a frequent stopover for travelers bound for Texas and beyond, so it’s fitting that the city is home to the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum and its celebration of the history, spirit, and quintessential vehicle of the family road-trip vacation.
In the heart of Amarillo’s downtown, you might expect to find Tex-Mex and barbecue—but not Continental fare like English trifle, shepherd’s pie, and standing rib roast. But this Texas café has a decidedly European twist. The original owner, Jonathan Early, named the café On Her Majesty’s Service to honor his English roots. Three years later in 1992, restaurateur Mary Fuller bought the eatery, and now folks just call it OHMS Café.
I'll have a bottle of Crazy Water, please.” Well, actually, I’ve already got one. Mine looks to be from about the 1940s. But I’d really like to find a much older one, like the corked medicinal bottles that were sold in the 1880s, not too long after the water at Mineral Wells was found to have some rather unusual qualities.
In our September 2013 issue, Amarillo writer Beth Duke explores the story behind the city’s popular downtown restaurant OHMS, which offers a menu rich with dishes from France, England, Italy, and beyond. Though lots of people associate Amarillo with big steaks and Tex-Mex (and restaurants that specialize in those genres are abundant and excellent here), we’ve found a few places we’re eager to try next time we’re on a Panhandle adventure.