Day 36 of Miami to Alaska Family Road Trip: Cadillac Ranch and the Oddest Restaurant in Texas

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Roadside oddities are part of what makes family road trips fun so when we learned that our Texas travels on day 36th of our adventure would take us through the colorful Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, we simply couldn’t resist making this place the first of our two awesome pitstops in Texas this day.

Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, also nicknamed CarHenge, is the name of a empty cow pasture near Amarillo, Texas that features 10 Cadillacs that are half-buried nose-first.  The Cadillacs are part of a public art installation created by the art group Ant Farm in 1974 and owned by local millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, who also commissioned the project.

Even though the property is technically privately-owned, visitors are encouraged to enter the ranch, take photos and even join others in painting graffiti on the cars.  If you don’t bring your own can of paint, don’t worry because someone will either hand you one of theirs or you can simply pick one of the half full cans you’ll find littering the ground.  They are everywhere.

If the photos posted here of Cadillac Ranch seem familiar it’s because you’ve seen it referenced in the Walt DisneyPixar film Cars.  The fictional town of Radiator Springs features a “Cadillac Range” on a map in the movie and throughout the film rock formations shaped like the upended cars can be seen as horizon backdrops.  Cadillac Ranch represents the second day in a row that we run into a Route 66 landmark that has a direct reference to the Cars movie.  (See yesterday’s post here).

We loved Cadillac Ranch so much that I decided to celebrate our time there with a plank.  I’m pretty sure I was the first fool to plank atop one of the Cadillacs because I almost fell trying to do so and the pieces of the car I had to lie on nearly pierced my chest.   The best time to take photos of the Cadillacs is in the late afternoon.

The Big Texan and the Gentleman Eater

Just moments after we left Cadillac Ranch we stumbled upon the Big Texan Steak Ranch, an over the top-looking restaurant that at first glance blares “tourist trap.”  You can’t help but have that impression from a restaurant whose exterior features a giant Texas boot, a dinosaur-sized plastic cow and a huge sign saying “Home of the Free 72 oz. Steak”.  On most other days we would have skipped this type of restaurant but given that we were in big loud Texas and that we were hungry, we decided to take our chances.

The result was THE oddest and funnest restaurant experience of our road trip.

To start off, on the side of the Big Texan is a fleet of white Cadillacs outfitted with Longhorns on their hoods (think Boss Hog of “Dukes of Hazzard”).  One of the drivers told us the restaurant offers free Cadillac service to and from the restaurant for guests who stay in nearby hotels.

Inside, the restaurant has an arcade-style shooting range, a terrific western-themed gift shop and, of course, an authentic-looking, two-story Wild West-style dining area.  (If the Lone Ranger were to ever get married in a movie this is THE place where that scene would be shot).  The dining area also features the musical talents of its own Big Texan Opry, a group that serenaded us with “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

In the middle of the restaurant, right outside the kitchen area, is an empty dining table atop a wooden platform.  We thought the empty table looked oddly, loudly even, out of place until our meal was interrupted by wild rooting for a man who suddenly sat to eat at the table and who began to take the restaurant’s world famous 72 oz. steak challenge.

A food challenge was on!  Now THIS was fun!  As delicious as our Filet Mignon, ribs and burgers were, we left them behind at our table to see if England’s own The Gentleman Eater could finish his meal.  To win the challenge (only 8,800 out of 48,000 have done so in 50 years) this British version of Man vs. Food would have to devour a 72 oz. steak, a salad, a baked potato and three shrimps in less than an hour.

Everyone in the restaurant rooted “Eat it!, Eat it! Eat it!” as my own son Jonathan peppered the Gentleman Eater with question after question about what he was doing.  Forty minutes later (the Man vs. Food guy did it in 29 minutes), the Gentleman Eater completed the challenge.   I thought my son had been annoying him with questions but when I approached him the Gentleman Eater said that Jonathan actually helped him keep his mind off the food by entertaining him.  (See the accompanying YouTube video for the full story).

Road Trip Tip of the Day

When staying at hotels it’s always best for you to elevate your bags in order to prevent insects (or worse, roaches) from hitching a ride on your luggage.  Some hotel chains have luggage racks in the rooms to help you do this but if they don’t, simply improvise by putting your bags on a table or chair.


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