Amarillo by Morning’, the Cadillac Ranch, and a Texas Musical in the Palo Duro Canyon
Late last July I was pondering my life’s purpose on a lazy Sunday afternoon and a show called Texas Bucket List came on. The episode I watched featured the Amarilllo area, most notably the Palo Duro Canyon and Texas the Musical which is performed in the Palo Duro Canyon. I immediately wanted to go see both for myself, but it was late in July, funds were low, and the show only runs June through August. However, I decided it was something I should do next summer (which is now this summer) whether I could talk someone into going with me or going solo. I started to scheme a plan, and it fell into place this past weekend. My sister Gaylyna’s girls stayed down here after our cruise in May. I talked my Dad and his wife Joan into meeting my sister (who I talked into driving from outside of Tulsa, OK) in Amarillo where we could get the girls back to the loving arms of their parents, as well as see The Palo Duro Canyon and Texas the musical.
It’s a nine hour drive from my apartment in The Woodlands, and six hours from my sister’s house. Dad, his wife Joan, my nieces, and I left Friday night and drove to Wichita Falls. We arrived there a little after midnight having hit some traffic on 45 and around Fort Worth (imagine that). We left about 8 Saturday morning for the remaining three and a half hours to make it to ‘Amarillo by mornin’ (badumpum).
We met my sister, her husband Jonathan and my nephew at The Big Texan Steak Ranch for lunch. If you are not familiar, this is the place famous for the “Free 72 Ounce Steak” if you can eat it in one hour, plus a salad, bake potato, and roll. None of us tried that, but a couple of guys from New Mexico did.
They were about thirty minutes into it when we left, so we didn’t see if they made it or not. They did have a great support system of family cheering them on. For the record, I had a 9oz ribeye. It was pretty good, I could lie and say it’s the best steak I’ve ever eaten, but I’ve had better at Outback and Salt Grass, and even by my brother. That’s not taking anything away from the food, but I hate when people say “it’s the best you’ll ever eat” then when you try it, it’s not.
If you like tourist traps (I do) and have some spare time, check this place out. They even have a roving cowboy singer who’ll sing some Mary Robbin’s if you ask him too. I think his name was David, because his name tag said so. They have a large gift shop, fudge and dessert stand, bar, and shooting arcade gallery. It’s the kind of place Clark Griswold would stop at when taking the tribe cross country, I did remark to my sister that it reminded me of the scene from Dodge City in Vacation. It’s a fun place!
Big Texan Steak Ranch Flickr Album
David the Singing Cowboy
After lunch we drove 13 miles west to the Cadillac Ranch. If you’ve never heard of it, click on this link for a detailed explanation. If you just want the Cliff Notes, a guy with a lot of money to burn, and with the help of some hippies, buried some Cadillac’s halfway in the ground along Route 66. People come from all over and paint graffiti on the cards. We had to have our shot at them, although we showed up with no spray paint. I did have a silver sharpie with me that worked great, until our marks of hippie participation were soon painted over before we even left. This is also a tourist trap, but FREE, original and eccentric enough to be worth your time if passing through Amarillo.
We checked into the Best Western in Canyon, Texas a little after 3pm. If you’re going out this way, I recommend staying here. It’s new, has big rooms, ceiling fans in the rooms, and AC’s that work! We cooled off for a bit, and it gave a chance for Dad and Joan, and I to give our respective birthday presents to my nephew who turns 4 in a few weeks. Since we won’t be able to be at his party in Oklahoma it was nice to see give it to him in person. He’s in the super hero and Hot Wheels phase right now and that what his presents from Dad and Joan entailed, mine was all super hero.
Gaylyna’s family and I (Dad and Joan wanted a little rest before the musical) headed out to the Palo Duro Canyon which is about 15 miles from the Best Western. As with any beautiful place, the pictures don’t do it justice, but I humbly submit some I took. A short distance from the entrance is a scenic lookout where we stopped and took pictures. Then we drove on down into the canyon and looked around for a bit. I wish we had allotted more time for this, but it gave us a penchant to come back and do some camping here.
The Pioneer amphitheater were Texas the musical is performed is located in the Palo Duro Canyon. We parked about 6:15 and it was just short walk to the entry. Immediately we were greeted by several staff members who were genuinely friendly and seemed like they really enjoyed being there. I think most of the staff and cast members are from the area or go to nearby West Texas A&M University. We signed the guest book, they give a prize out for whoever comes from furthest away, they said in the history of the musical no one from the continental United States has won the award (Although the lady from the Philippines who won on our night did not appear to be visiting from her home country, but rather with her husband visiting from wherever they live in the US…).
We did the backstage tour which was really informal and led by a sophomore from WTAMU, she told us about the history of the show, and showed us around backstage. I don’t have the program right in front of me, or I would mention her by name. We were able to see a lot of the set pieces, props, horses, and observed the dancers practicing on stage.
They don’t open the amphitheater until 8pm (the show starts at 8:30pm), so we had a little time to kill after the backstage tour. They have a side stage where several of the cast members played covers from Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharp and Magnetic Zeros, The Lumineers and several others. My only complaint is there was not much seating, so after standing around for a bit, we opted to leave that area and find a place to sit down.
Our seats for the show were really good, in the left section. The best seats are right in the middle, but I opted to save us a little money and go one section over. They run about $27 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $23 for kids 12 and under. No pictures or video is allowed during the show, but I do have some pictures of the amphitheater before the show and during intermission. The storyline to the musical follows the typical western, the cattle baron battling the upstart bar wire loving farmer, and throw in a conflict with the Indians over the land. While most of the action takes place on stage, the canyon backdrop is used as part of the show. There are a lot of horses in the show too. The cast is great, made up of mostly college students, but did have people from all ages in the show. The show has great patriotic ending with a fireworks show. I wish I had some cool pictures to show, but I followed the rules. If you click on the link to the Texas Bucket List video, it gives a lot better feel for the show and the area.
If I were 18-20 and just finding out about this place, I probably would be trying to figure out how to enroll in WTAMU and get involved with the show during the summer. I don’t know if the cast and crew get paid anything, but they all looked to be happy and enjoying themselves.
The show ended after 11pm, and the cast lined up after the show for pictures and autographs. My nephew had put up a good fight, but was asleep by this point. The fireworks at the end of the show didn’t even wake him up! After a long day we didn’t stick around too long, I did thank several of the cast members I passed on the way out for the great show.
We made it back to the hotel just before midnight.
Texas the Musical Flickr Album
Some GoPro footage strung together. If you want to start a GoFundMe to buy me a steady cam mount, I won’t be mad at you.
Sunday morning we had breakfast which was included at the Best Western, said goodbye Gaylyna’s family and started the long drive. We made it to my apartment about 5:30pm, Dad and Joan still had another hour and a half home, so I said goodbye to them and the day was complete.
While the trip was very short, it was nice. I really enjoyed it and would love to go back and spend some more time there, and even see the show again. I was glad my sister’s family, and Dad and Joan indulged me for such a long drive with short time.